Under the Big Top!


When’s the last time you went to the CIRCUS?! Not Cirque du Soleil, which is arguably the “circus” that killed the CIRCUS (don’t worry, I LOVE Cirque), but an actual old-school circus. For me, I can’t even remember EVER going to the circus, though my mom says we went once when we were very young, had nose-bleed seats and that she remembers me complaining about how bad it smelled. HA! Some things never change.

Something that DOES change? The circus. If you’re actually curious about how Cirque du Soleil killed the circus, check out this case study from the Blue Ocean Strategy book. If you’re not that curious, just know that circuses as they used to be run were quite expensive to manage given all the costs associated with caring for and transporting the animals and paying for “big name acts”.

In case you missed it, Ringling Brothers Circus put on its last act on May 21, 2017 after an incredible run since 1884. But back to our circus experience!

Every year I’ve noticed a blue big top in Burbank near the freeway as we pass by, always assuming it was a Cirque du Soleil. Turns out, it’s not! This year, I was determined to figure it out. Welcome to Circus Vargas – an old-school, real-deal, well-run CIRCUS!

Sure, it was raining the afternoon we got tickets, but even then, the circus did not disappoint. There were acrobats and trapeze artists and clowns, OH MY! There was a ring leader (think The Greatest Showman movie, though he did NOT look like Hugh Jackman). In fact, there were several moments that SEEMED LIKE the movie, though that either means a) the movie did a GREAT job depicting what the circus is really like or b) Circus Vargas knows just how to gently rip off a movie in good ways.

Speaking of which, how about some video footage?

Here’s a short video of men on motorcycles circling dangerously in a circular metal cage. It was mesmerizing:


Here’s a VERY short video of trapeze artists from our seat that was UNDER the net:


And if you happened to have watched The Greatest Showman movie, you will be left thinking about Zac Efron and Zendaya after these two very short videos of beautiful strong people swinging dangerously around the ring on cords:



Here’s a picture of Zoe with those two beautiful people after the show, where you could see up close all the performers on the way out:


Bart says that guy’s chest is sprayed on. I think not.

Pretty cool, huh? In addition, there were acrobats bouncing on trampolines in dangerous ways, a guy who juggled 10 balls unbelievably fast then lit them up and juggled in the dark, one of those “silk ribbon” girls who performed beautifully, a strong man AND a strong woman who balanced precariously, and pretty much everything you’d think of in a traditional circus (except animals).

Oh, and there was cotton candy.


During the show there was a clown walking around engaging the crowd as workers deftly changed the sets to accommodate for each act, and at every break they hawked popcorn and light-up toys (as often the light was dim on the crowd during the show). I cannot imagine what they made on those things… Suckers that we are, we ended up with the cheapest one, which the kids haven’t touched since we got home AND we ended up with this little gem from when they were walking around pre-show:


For the record, I am 100% sober, and I know the exact moment I closed my eyes during the picture, but doesn’t everyone else look cute?! At least I look happy, if deliriously so.

Last but not least, no circus is complete without the “strongest man in the world”:


Yes, he’s wearing tights on both legs and arms, which I find hilarious.

Though this crew milks every moment for revenue, I cannot help but root for them because the show was worth every penny, and every artist we saw pulled their own weight. I just wonder if the behind the scenes of this circus is anything at all like the movie, or if these folks have day jobs and do this for fun.

Regardless, we had a blast! Viva the CIRCUS!

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