OBSERVED: The little circus that did

To The Venardos Circus: On behalf of the West Orange community, thank you for bringing your beautiful show to us.

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First, a disclaimer: I have a deep appreciation for the circus arts that dates back nearly 20 years, when I took my first job with Observer Media Group in Sarasota. That Gulf Coast city boasts a storied relationship with the circus that started in 1927, when John Ringling made Sarasota the winter quarters of the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus.

In my early days as a reporter, I interviewed quite a few circus performers. Their lives, their passion and their drive never failed to fascinate me (not to mention the curious mysteries inherent to their chosen craft).

In his book “Outliers,” author Malcolm Gladwell posited famously that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a craft. I find it absolutely incredible that someone — anyone — would devote that much time to skills that have no practical purpose. After all, why would you ever need to balance on a board teetering on the top of a basketball? When are you going to have to use archery skills to pop a balloon held in another person’s mouth? And really, who needs to juggle? Ever?

But then again, the whole point of the circus is to provide a reprieve from the mundane. You check your practicalities before entering the big top. And within the tent’s red-and-white-striped walls, the only thing that matters is your ability not to blink. You don’t want to miss anything.

Judging from the success of The Venardos Circus’ first stint in West Orange, it seems many of you share my love for this timeless escape. Several of the circus’ 15 performances sold out, including the one my family and I attended last week.

As soon as the first performer entered the ring, the purpose of all these practically “pointless” talents was clear. Our 2-year-old daughter Calliope (yes, so named after the musical instrument popularized by the circus) was mesmerized instantly. Her eyes sparkled with the reflection of the warm yellow bulbs strung along the walls as she watched an acrobat climb to the top of the tent using two draping silks. 

“Uh-oh,” she said over and over again as she pointed. Then, when the performer returned safely to the ground, she giggled and beamed as the audience applauded. She was captivated. 

For those 90 minutes, there were no worries, no bills to pay, no games of Fortnite. Mobile phones were used only to capture photos and videos of the performances as ringmaster Kevin Venardos shared with us the dream he started four years ago. The impossible was possible. Magic was real.

To The Venardos Circus: On behalf of the West Orange community, thank you for bringing your beautiful show to us. In this day and age, with our society infected with forces that seek to divide us, your desire to bring people together, if only for 90 minutes at a time, is not only welcome but necessary. We wish you the best of luck and safe travels throughout the rest of your tour, and we hope to see you again next year.



Michael Eng

As a child, Editor and Publisher Michael Eng collected front pages of the Kansas City Star during Operation Desert Storm, so it was a foregone conclusion that he would pursue a career in journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his wife and three children, or playing drums around town. He’s also a sucker for dad jokes.

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