For four days last week I attended the Worldwide Circus Summit in West Springfield, Massachusetts. 850 people attended the event from around the world. The vast majority were American Circus fans, most of them associated with organizations such as the Circus Fans Association of America, the Circus Historical Society, and Circus Model Builders. Also in attendance were circus directors, museum directors, university scholars and program directors, and―probably most importantly―there were 6 or 7 circus schools and youth circuses, including performances by kids from Circus Harmony, a “social circus” run by Jessica Hentoff, a first and second year performer at the Big Apple Circus and an admirer of our community programming.
There were tables from about 30 organizations set up, including a Big Apple Circus Souvenir Table, which was run by Cheryl Jones, Gigi Price, and Mary Griffin.
There were panels and presentations every day. I was asked to attend several panels, and I actively participated in two:
- “Impact of the circus on contemporary culture” with circus historians Fred Dahlinger, Fred Pfennig III, and David Carlyon
- “Circus Directors’ Forum,” moderated by Wayne McCary (former President of the Eastern States Exposition and the Big E Super Circus), with Barbara Miller Byrd (Carson & Barnes Circus), Brian Boswell (Boswell’s Circus, South Africa), Zsuzsanna Mata (Budapest Circus Festival, Hungary), John Pugh (Cole Bros Circus), Katya and Nelson Quiroga (Circus Vargas), Jim Royal (Kelly Miller Circus), and Ramon Vazquez (Circo Hermanos Vazquez, Mexico).
There was also a wonderful discussion on clowning which included my dear friend Barry Lubin (“Grandma” the clown), along with Ringling and Big Apple Circus veteran clown Greg Desanto and David Kaiser, Director of Talent and former clown at Ringling. Ringling’s VP of Event Marketing Sales Bill Powell and Feld Entertainment’s VP of Corporate Communications Stephen Payne did presentations which were very impressive. Also presenting were Helmut Grosscurth, Managing Director of the European Circus Association, and Laura Van Der Meer, Executive Director of the World Circus Foundation.
There were also several banquets during the summit. I was asked to introduce Barry, the honored guest speaker, at one of these. Barry was brilliant and had us all laughing out loud. And, of course, what’s a Circus Summit without some circus performances? The Cole Brothers Circus had four very strong performances, and Circus Smirkus performed in a town nearby. Circus Smirkus was particularly delightful.
I was overjoyed to see so many members of the Big Apple Circus’s extended family. At one of the panels, I counted 19 people who were at one time or another employees of the Big Apple Circus. (I introduced them as “members of the Big Apple Circus Alumni Association.”) Other alumni were busy performing, so couldn’t attend.