“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Venice in Sarasota County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)

The Circus in Venice

The Circus in Venice Marker image. Click for full size.
By Julie Szabo, January 19, 2008
1. The Circus in Venice Marker
Inscription. Among the number of circuses that have called Sarasota County home, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (RBBB) is the largest and the one that has had the longest association with Venice. Its roots go back to a small show the five Ringling brothers established in 1884. The winter quarters was in Baraboo, Wisconsin, home of the Ringlings. Bridgeport, Connecticut, winter quarters of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, became its second home. In 1927, John Ringling brought the circus winter quarters to Sarasota, where it remained until 1959.

No longer needing the acreage it had in Sarasota, but still needing a rail connection, RBBB moved the winter quarters to Venice in 1960. The 30-year lease provided that the circus would occupy 15 acres of undeveloped airport property with an option to renew for an additional 20 years. The rent was set at $1000 per year, with adjustments to be based on the federal cost-of-living index. Since the circus no longer performed under the "Big Top," construction soon began on a 55,000 square-foot, 5000 seat arena. Adjacent structures housed staging, costumes and wardrobe space.

On November 29, 1960, a crowd of more than 10,000 greeted The Greatest Show on Earth when it arrived at the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Station for the first time. The Venice High School Band played and Mayor Smythe
Side 2 Of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Julie Szabo, January 19, 2008
2. Side 2 Of Marker
Brohard, atop a new Venice Fire Dept. truck, led the parade of officials, performers and animals to the new winter quarters. For the next thirty-two years, the circus was the major tourist attraction for the city. As circus employees made the Venice area their permanent home, they contributed to the city's circus reputation.

Ownership of the RBBB circus changed in 1967 when the Ringlings sold it to Hoffeld Corp., which was owned by Roy Hofheinz and brothers Irvin and Israel Feld. The following year Irvin Feld established Clown College to pass the skills of the clown masters on to the next generations. The faculty included legendary Lou Jacobs, Frosty Little, and Bobby Kaye.

Deteriorating railroad tracks threatened the circus's stay in Venice. In 1992 the Seminole Gulf Railroad announced abandonment of the ten miles of track into Venice and the RBBB closed its winter home in Venice.
Erected by Sarasota County Historical Commission.
Location. 27° 4.835′ N, 82° 25.998′ W. Marker is in Venice, Florida, in Sarasota County. Marker is on Tamiami Trail South (Scenic U.S. 41), on the right when traveling south. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Venice FL 34285, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker
Marker, trapeze in background image. Click for full size.
By Julie Szabo, January 19, 2008
3. Marker, trapeze in background
, measured as the crow flies. 337th Army Air Field Base (approx. half a mile away); Venezia Park (approx. 1.2 miles away); Fred Albee Municipal Airport (approx. 1.3 miles away); Triangle Inn (approx. 1.4 miles away); The Venice-Nokomis Bank (approx. 1.4 miles away); Eagle Point Bell (approx. 1.4 miles away); Colonel George Kumpe Bridge (approx. 1.4 miles away); Venice Railroad and Depot (approx. 1.4 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Venice.
Regarding The Circus in Venice. The trapeze and buildings are still standing.
Categories. EntertainmentRailroads & Streetcars
Old Circus Buildings image. Click for full size.
By Julie Szabo, January 19, 2008
4. Old Circus Buildings
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Julie Szabo of Oldsmar, Florida. This page has been viewed 2,600 times since then and 52 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by Julie Szabo of Oldsmar, Florida. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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