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


Sarasota, Florida; March 18, 2014   –  Sarasota’s Sailor Circus celebrates its 65th anniversary when the legendary show presents nine performances from Thursday, March 27, through Saturday, April 5, at the Sailor Circus Arena near downtown Sarasota.

President Truman held office; Volkswagen made its American debut. It was 1949, when three pennies would get you a first-class stamp, and seventeen cents would buy a gallon of gas. People sang Gene Autry’s new song, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”; and, they could listen to it at home using the latest high-tech phenomenon: the 45 RPM record.

Here in Sarasota, by 1949 we had earned our “Circus Capital of the World” moniker, having been home to The Greatest Show on Earth® for over two decades; and, our town was already recognized as “an arts community.” Three events in 1949 enhanced that reputation. One was the first public performance by the Sarasota Symphony. A second milestone was the opening of the Sarasota Art Center; and, a third cultural institution took its first breath: Sailor Circus.

Originally part of Sarasota High School’s physical education program, Sailor Circus has evolved over sixty-five years into an internationally-recognized circus arts training program. Boasting thousands of alumni who have distinguished themselves in the trades, the professions, and the arts, Sailor Circus continues to offer a unique curriculum that melds athletics with performing arts, and molds spirited youngsters into disciplined and skilled young adults.

Over the decades it has garnered national acclaim as America’s longest-running youth circus: a legacy of the talented elementary, junior high and high school students who comprise the cast and crew of “The Greatest Little Show on Earth!”

“The public will be treated to a masterful, exceptionally entertaining circus,” comments Pedro Reis, CEO of The Circus Arts Conservatory, the non-profit organization that oversees the Sailor Circus.  “Our students are not just learning circus arts: they are also learning discipline and teamwork while engaging in important confidence-building activities. At the same time, they’re continuing their academic studies and maintaining their grades: a daunting challenge. Their reward?  Applause from the thousands of local residents and visitors who fill each performance to capacity every year.”

Meanwhile, the 100+ students featured in Sailor Circus, from 8 to 18 years of age and representing Sarasota and Manatee Counties, are trained and coached by another group of people unique to the area: the professional circus performers whose families have called Sarasota “home” for decades.  One such individual is Steve Smith, Sailor Circus Academy Director. His 40-year career includes a 10-year stint as Director of the fabled Ringling Clown College; a producer of shows for Walt Disney World and Royal Caribbean Cruises; and, guest director of New York’s Big Apple

Circus.  His academic gravitas is the result of a fine arts degree from Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama.  “Performing is my passion; but, so is teaching,” explains Smith; “and these dedicated young circus entertainers share my appetite for performing. They often train 20 to 30 hours a week, after school and on week-ends, honing their skills on unicycles, learning the art of clowning, flying on the trapeze or walking the high wire.”

This season’s engagement of Sailor Circus, entitled “LEGACY,” reflects the confluence of two celebrations. The 65th Anniversary of Sailor Circus is one such celebration, representing Sarasota’s distinctive eight-decade circus heritage of which The Sailor Circus is a part. The other celebration is the Patterson Foundation’s “Legacy of Valor” Campaign, for which The Circus Arts Conservatory is a partner. As a result, the patriotic red, white and blue Sailor Circus “LEGACY” theme pays tribute to the U.S. Military and to our nation’s veterans.

Tickets for Sailor Circus are available now at the Sailor Circus Box Office (2075 Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota); seats can also be reserved by calling 941-355-9805 or logging-on to www.circusarts.org.  Ticket prices are $16.00, with discounts for children under 12 and for groups.

SAILOR CIRCUS 65th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION Engagement Fact Sheet Spring, 2014

Sarasota’s famed Sailor Circus celebrates its 65th
Anniversary with a star-spangled engagement entitled “LEGACY.”

Thursday, March 27 through Saturday, April 5, 2014
Performance Schedule:
Thurs., March 27 – 7PM
Fri., March 28 – 7PM
Sat., March 29 – 12 Noon and 7PM
Sun., March 30 – 2PM
Thurs., April 3 – 7PM
Fri., April 4 – 7PM
Sat., April 5 – 12 Noon and 7PM

(Note:  On Saturday, April 5 at 5PM a special pre-show reception is planned for Sailor Circus Alumni including past performers, production staff and crew, coaches and volunteers. This special, separately-ticketed reception includes beverages, light appetizers, and tickets to the 7PM performance.)

Sailor Circus Arena
2075 Bahia Vista Street, Sarasota, Florida 34239
(Near intersection of South Tamiami Trail and Bahia Vista Street)

$16.00 and $10.00 (Discounts available for children 12 and under)

(Tickets for the special Sailor Circus Alumni Reception on Sat., April 5 at 5PM, are $30.00)

Sailor Circus Arena Box Office (2075 Bahia Vista Street, Sarasota) ? On-line

at www.circusarts.org ?  By phone at 941.355.9805 ?  For special group

discounts call 941.355.9335.

The Sailor Circus Academy is an educational program under the direction of The Circus Arts Conservatory of Sarasota: a proud partner of the Patterson Foundation “Legacy of Valor” Campaign honoring veterans, inspiring patriotism and embracing freedom.