Historical Moments of Sailor Circus
1949 – The Sailor Circus was founded in 1949 by Bill Rutland as part of the Sarasota High School gymnastics program.
1950 – Due to increasing popularity and audience attendance, in 1950 Sailor Circus moved to Sarasota High Schools football field, erected center poles, and added aerial acts performing in open air.
1952 – James A. Haley, an official of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, secured permission for this student circus to use the world famous copyright title with the addition of one word. From then on Sailor Circus was called “The Greatest “Little” Show On Earth.”
Also in 1952, Warner Bros. Pictures filmed a 30-minute short subject in color, which was shown in movie theaters throughout the country. This began the national and international fame of the Sailor Circus.
1964 – Three high school performers appear as guests of the “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour.” Performer Donna Meyers becomes the youngest girl in the world to complete the double summersault on the flying trapeze.
1967 – Sailor Circus gets its permanent home on Bahia Vista Street in 1967. Five circus acts are featured on “The Mike Douglas Show.”
1973 – Sailor Circus travels to Fairbanks, Alaska, for a six-week
1976 – Sailor Circus appears on the “Today Show” with Barbara Walters in 1976, in addition to performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
Construction of a new permanent facility is completed in 1981. This facility allowed an expansion to the four-ring circus we have today, enabling year round practice, rain or shine.
1985 – Sailor Circus spends 43 days performing at Mitsui Greenland Park near Fufuoka, Japan.
1988 – Merle Evans and the “Windjammers” begin an annual tradition with the Sailor Circus, performing each January in our arena. Sailor Circus goes to Lima, Peru for a five-week performance tour.
1994 – Five more buildings are added to campus to house props, provide dressing rooms, and a showcase museum of Sailor Circus history.
1997 – Sarasota Sailor Circus Foundation, Inc. is established to ensure the continued success of Sailor Circus and provide financial support to our students who continue their education.
1999 – Sailor Circus celebrates its 50th anniversary!!!
2004 – Sailor Circus is no longer a subsidiary of the Sarasota County School Board, and now falls under the operations of the Police Athletic League of Sarasota County, Inc.
2006 – Sailor Circus launches a capital campaign in 2006 to raise funds for a complete renovation of their arena and facilities.
2011 – Circus Sarasota inherits Sailor Circus Program
2012 – Newly renovated offices house the Circus Sarasota Family