Arena for Sailor Circus in Sarasota
The Sailor Circus Arena was renovated in 2019

The Oldest Youth Circus In America Lives In Sarasota

For 70 years, Sarasota's Sailor Circus has thrilled audiences as one of the most unique extracurricular activities for local students in the world.

For over 85 years, Sarasota County has been dubbed Circus City, USA as longtime home of the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. It seems only fitting that the spectacular "Circus Capital of the World"  would also be home to the oldest youth circus in America too. The Sailor Circus originated as a small Sarasota High School gymnastics class back in 1949 and within the next few years its popularity continued to flourish with additions like open-air aerial acts, catapulting them to another level. In 1952 the youth program even secured permission - with the help of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus official James A. Haley - to claim the title "The Greatest Little Show On Earth". That same year Sailor Circus also appeared on the big screen when Warner Bros. Pictures filmed a 30-minute subject, in color, further securing their new title and helping them to begin their journey of national and international fame.

In 1967 Sailor Circus moved to its permanent home on Bahia Vista Street where it  continued to achieve recognition all around the globe through television appearances like the Today Show, and limited traveling performances to places like Alaska and even Japan. In the following years, they continued to grow, renovate and expand as they went from being a subsidiary of the Sarasota County School Board, eventually being taken under the stewardship of the legendary Circus Sarasota. Today they continue to preserve and encourage the circus arts as part of the Circus Arts Conservatory, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the mission to enrich, educate and entertain audiences of all ages.

Inside the Sailor Circus Arena in Sarasota
The Circus Arts Conservatory unveiled renovations to the Sailor Circus Arena in 2019

To celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2019, CAC unveiled the completion of its $4.5 million, year-long renovation of the historic Sailor Circus Arena, the first of the CAC’s visionary expansion plans. The rennovations expanded the facility to over 28,000 square feet of indoor space, nearly 3,000 seats, rennovated restrooms and professional catering and concession space. The 40-year-old facility was transformed into a state-of-the-art performance center and premier space for formal and corporate events.

inside the sailor circus arena in sarasota
The new Sailor Circus Arena can seat nearly 3,000 for the "Greatest Little Show on Earth"

This world-renowned youth program prides itself on engaging children, from 4th to 12th grade in Sarasota and surrounding counties, and allowing them the opportunity to gain self-discipline, bolster confidence and truly experience everything that the circus performing arts have to offer. Each year, students undergo rigorous, interdisciplinary training, for countless hours each week, along with dedicated coaches and volunteers, to create performances that are considered a major attraction on Florida's Gulf Coast. They have even expanded to include summer camp options for local or traveling youth who want to give the circus a try. Over the last six decades, thousands of dedicated students have completed the Sailor Circus program and the oldest youth circus continues to live up to its title as "The Greatest "Little" Show On Earth".

Related Topics: