ESCONDIDO — Ringling Brothers made waves when it shuttered its roving circus operations after 146 years in business.
But the “greatest show on Earth” had a lesser known companion, which, in the aftermath the Ringling’s decision to close shop, has gone all in on the circus circuit.
That is, the Circus Vargas, which will play 21 times at the Westfield North County Mall in Escondido from March 7 to March 18. Though newer than Ringling, Circus Vargas is no spring chicken, touring in what is now its 50th year since 1969.
Circus Vargas has the namesake of its founder, Clifford Vargas, who hailed from Hollywood Hills. According to his 1989 obituary in The New York Times, Vargas began his circus business with only three trucks and eight animals, eventually growing to 150 animals and up to 300 employees.
“Having been a lifelong circus spectator and fan, Mr. Vargas believed he could bring back the glamour, thrills and heart-pounding excitement of the authentic old-time circus,” explains the Circus Vargas website of the business’ history. “He was adamant that a circus wasn’t a circus if it wasn’t under the big top and wanted to make sure that every generation would have the opportunity to experience its magic first hand.”
Acrobatic acts, clowns, trapeze swingers, music and colorful light displays are all mainstays of the Circus Vargas. Animals, though, are no longer part of the show, the use of which initially came under fire when used by Ringling.
Today, Circus Vargas is owned by Tabares Entertainment, a company situated in Ontario, California in east Los Angeles County and named after its owner, Nelson Quiroga-Tabares. Quiroga-Tabares’ wife Katya Quiroga, is a seventh-generation circus performer herself.
Doing the circus in the traditional big tent style, Circus Vargas events can seat up to 1,500 spectators, according to its website. It takes some seven hours to set up, the website added.
“The tent consists of 90,000 square feet of fabric and is supported by 500 individually placed stakes and over four miles of rope and cable weighing over 17 tons,” the website further details.
Among other performances, the world’s fastest ball juggler Michael Fererri will perform his craft in front of the Escondido audience.
Children who arrive 30 minutes prior to the start of the show will receive a complimentary pre-show event, in which circus cast will teach juggling, balancing and other circus-centric skills.
The show, according to the Circus Vargas website, will last about two hours and 15 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at circusvargas.com/tickets or for a discounted rate at the website goldstar.com.
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news ouetlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com.
A native of Wisconsin and graduate of University of Wisconsin, Steve is a competitive distance runner, with a personal best time in the marathon of 2:43:04 and nine marathons under his belt. He also has served on the film screening committee for the San Diego International Film Festival.