By Kevin Venardos
My name is Kevin Venardos of the Venardos Circus, which will be coming to the Alabama Contemporary Art Center in Mobile for performances from February 1 – 14.
You may have seen the recent news that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is closing down operations in May. For 5 years, I served as the Ringmaster of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus and it provided me with some of the most wonderful memories of my life as I performed in front of millions across the country and lived on the famed circus train. I was selected from an open call, and the experience is most certainly the very reason I continued on, now almost 20 years later, and created my own “Venardos Circus.” I believe in the power of dreams, even when you feel like David up against Goliath. The circus has always been a magical world for me and even though the biggest, most famous circus of all is closing its doors, I want to continue to share the magic of what the circus is all about with audiences. That’s what I hope to bring to Mobile audiences next month.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus is an American institution that has delivered inspiration, hope, and joy to millions of people for more than 146 years. Along the way it has survived world wars, recessions, depressions, republican AND democratic administrations, and the management of several different owners. It has proved beyond any doubt that the Circus, like the human spirit, is simply unstoppable.
I do respect the Feld’s business decision. It reflects their priorities and their values for THEIR company. They have zero moral or professional obligation to continue if it doesn’t make sense for them. (I am eternally grateful for the incredible years I spent riding that train with my Dad, wearing a top hat… that was a gift I could never have bought with all King Midas’ gold. The Felds made that possible.)
However… interpreting their decision as some kind of proof that Circus is NOT a sustainable business is, in my view, simply untrue. Joy is in demand. Hope and inspiration are needed everywhere. And live experiences are as vital today as ever. Crossing those American miles and DELIVERING such a product within margins requires innovation and teamwork as markets change… But make no mistake, where there’s a will, there’s ALWAYS a way.
The decision to soldier on with any endeavor in the face of adversity comes down to values; what is really most important to you? Do you love doing it enough to keep going when it’s hard? Even painful? Does it do something useful for other people? Does it make the world a better place?
I believe in the Circus. I love it so much that I’ll keep at it even when it’s hard. Even when it’s painfully difficult. I believe it does something useful for other people. I believe the joy it brings makes the world a better place. And because it’s something I truly value and believe in, I will find a way to make it work and live no matter what. If you don’t do what you truly believe in, you’re never gonna get very good at it anyway.
My thoughts are with those people who are out of a job come May. But take my unsolicited advice: don’t worry so much. Just get busy doing what you love. If theres something you really want to do, no one can stop you from making it happen yourself. The greatest show on earth? Just look in the mirror. Its YOU.
I am currently in Mobile preparing for our show there in just a few weeks. In light of the recent news about Ringling Bros., I think the news is on people’s minds and in their hearts now that this truly American icon (it’s even older than baseball!) is closing its doors. I believe the Circus makes the world a better place. Perhaps I might be speaking from a slightly emotional place. My life right now is all about finding a way to keep the Circus alive (not just for myself) but for others to share and enjoy. Our run here in Mobile over Mardi Gras is a unique story. It will do a lot of good for the businesses here in downtown Mobile and the people of Mobile have been wonderful and we are thankful for the local support in helping to make this event a smashing success. You can attend this event live and in person by purchasing your tickets at venardoscircus.com