Sarasota’s unique Sailor Circus Academy offers fertile opportunities for local and regional reporters wishing to cover and present a variety of positive news and feature stories. Such opportunities are particularly timely as Sailor Circus (America’s longest-running youth circus) celebrates its 65th Anniversary with performances entitled “LEGACY”, from Thursday, March 27 through Saturday, April 5, 2014.
For your consideration, here are several feature story ideas; many more ideas also reside under the Sailor Circus Academy “Big Top” near downtown Sarasota. We would be delighted to help you develop one of the following stories; or to work with you as you let your creativity run wild.
SIXTY-FIVE YEARS OF SAILOR CIRCUS ALUMNI – Many of the students who appear in Sailor Circus pursue careers in the circus. Many Sailor Circus alums also have distinguished themselves in other endeavors. Just a few of the notable Sailor Circus Alumni include former Florida Senator Mike Bennett; former Sarasota Mayor Lou Ann Palmer; Kristy Landers Niedenfur (Miss Tennessee USA, 2014); U.S. Army Captain Chrissy Campbell; and local pediatrician, Dr. Sam Quartermaine. Many of the Sailor Circus Alumni will be attending a special 65th Anniversary Reception and performance on Saturday, April 5th. Meet the people who have been the faces of Sailor Circus for generations!
LEGENDARY CIRCUS STARS ARE INSTRUCTORS AT SAILOR CIRCUS ACADEMY – For more than 80 years circus families have been living in Sarasota, contributing to the development and reputation of Sarasota as one of America’s foremost arts communities. One result of their prominence in our community is that many professional circus performers serve as instructors and coaches at Sailor Circus Academy. Among the luminaries who teach at Sailor Circus are Dolly Jacobs (“Queen of the Air” and co-founder of The Circus Arts Conservatory); Kathy and Lee Merritt, aerialists known professionally as The Rolls Duo; and Willie Eddleston, a trapeze artist and aerialist who has coached for 64 years! Other circus professionals who have worked with Sailor Circus students have included Nik Wallenda, Bello Nock, and La Norma Fox. Seeing the interaction between the passionate professionals and the eager students is one reason that Sailor Circus has been unique to our community for more than six decades!
THIS YEAR’S SENIOR CLASS – The students in Sailor Circus range in age from 8 to 18 years; and, they represent both Sarasota County and Manatee County. It is always with mixed emotions that Sailor Circus says “farewell” to its graduating high school seniors. Among them, this year, are Nick Slimick, a versatile athlete who has been training for 8 years and excels in a variety of circus skills including the flying trapeze; Khera Smith who has been with Sailor Circus since the age of eight and who is, indeed, pursuing a career under The Big Top; and Josiah Bichler, a Sailor Circus Academy unicyclist and juggler who hopes to be an FBI agent or a pilot, and who has been awarded a $54,000 scholarship to Embry Riddle University. Several members of the senior graduating class are currently training with Nik Wallenda to debut professionally in a Wallenda performance. Meet the high school students who are graduating; or speak to the younger performers to hear their stories and aspirations.
CHANGE IS COMING TO THE SAILOR CIRCUS ARENA – The blue-and-white striped Sailor Circus Arena is an iconic structure adjacent to the Sarasota High School campus, just south of downtown. The arena’s utility and comfort, however, are hampered by a lack of air conditioning, inadequate dressing rooms, and a scarcity of amenities that the public and performers have come to expect from a performing arts venue. When The Circus Arts Conservatory (formerly known as Circus Sarasota) took over stewardship of Sailor Circus in 2011, one goal was to embark on a campaign to make the arena more functional and more comfortable. A capital improvement plan is in the works; and, CEO Pedro Reis and Board Chairman Mitch McKnight (a civil engineer by profession) are eager to talk about their vision for The Sailor Circus Arena.
BE A PERFORMER – The elementary, junior high and high school students at Sailor Circus Academy are learning to juggle, ride unicycles, be a clown, perform on Roman rings, fly on the trapeze and walk on the wire: talents that often require years of practice and perseverance. Did YOU ever wonder what it would be like to learn one of those skills? While we cannot promise that you’ll “fly through the air with the greatest of ease,” we can give you the chance to see and feel what it would be like to be a Sailor Circus pupil and performer. The experience is guaranteed to give you a new appreciation for the talents and the skills of the students who participate in the Sailor Circus Academy!
VOLUNTEERS! – As a non-profit performing arts organization, The Circus Arts Conservatory and Sailor Circus Academy rely on the help of volunteers who serve as ushers, sell novelties, build props and make costumes. Some of the volunteers are parents of the Sailor Circus students; other volunteers are circus fans who enjoy “the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd;” and, others are professionals whose expertise includes law, accounting, marketing… and performing! Learn more about the people who, behind the scenes, have helped make Sailor Circus so successful for the past 65 years: the volunteers!
CURRENT STUDENTS MAKING HISTORY! – Two long-time students of the Sailor Circus — trapeze flyer Jacob Swe and catcher Alec Bryant –have recently made history thanks to their jaw-dropping triple somersault on the flying trapeze. The two students have caught the triple somersault several times during their trapeze training at Sailor Circus. When commenting on this record-breaking stunt, 16 year-old, Sarasota High School junior, Jacob Swe said, “I am now considered the youngest person in youth circus history to successfully perform the triple somersault on the flying trapeze. It’s all thanks to Alec Bryant, who is one of the youngest performers to catch the triple, and Mike Redpath at Sailor Circus for coaching me.”
*Photos & Video available upon request