Worldwide Circus Summit 2015 Highlights

By Don Covington

Even if you have attended all of the CFA conventions for the past 50 years, you have never seen anything like the upcoming Worldwide Circus Summit 2015 (WCS 2015) an unprecedented gathering of circus affinity groups from across the country and around the globe.

big_e1This first ever event will focus the spotlight on West Springfield, Massachusetts where the Eastern States Exposition (Big E) Fairgrounds will become the headquarters for a nonstop round of circus related activities from July 14 to July 18.

One registration will allow you access to the Circus Fans Association of America national convention, the Circus Historical Society national convention, the Windjammers Unlimited summer meeting, a Circus Model Builders exhibition, and performances by the Carousel Organ Society, the American Youth Circus Organization and Clowns of America. Plus, your credentials admit you to the Summit exhibition hall along with the hospitality tent.

In addition, there will be an authentic recreation of a traditional circus sideshow, a circus film festival, jackpot sessions with circus veterans, a series of seminars and panel discussions, auctions of circus collectibles, vendors selling rare and unique circus related merchandise and social events galore.

Cole Bros Circus will perform on the Big E Showgrounds on July 15 and 16 and Circus Smirkus will be in nearby Manchester, Connecticut on July 18 and 19.

Tickets for both of these circuses can be purchased as add-ons to your Summit registration. Representatives from international circuses and circus friend organizations will give the meeting a true global perspective. As word spreads, additional events are being added almost daily. This website is the best source of up-to-the-minute news on schedules and options.

Here are some of the expected highlights of the Summit:

Opening Reception

Tuesday, July 14Every Summit attendee is invited to participate in the Summit’s gala kick-off. Here is your chance to reunite with friends, mingle with circus celebrities, enjoy samples of upcoming activities and plan your personal agenda for the Summit.

JONATHAN2Opening Speaker

Wednesday, July 15 – Johnathan Lee Iverson, the charismatic ringmaster of Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus, will set the tone for the Summit with what is expected to be a stirring account of his own introduction to American circus and his subsequent career as a respected spokesperson for the industry and art form.

Hospitality Tent

Open daily during the Summit – Stop by the conveniently located hospitality tent any time during Summit operating hours to meet friends, check schedules or take a break from all of the varied activities. There will be food and drink available as well as information on late breaking developments. It will also be a convenient spot to consult the daily update provided by our friends at Circus Report.

Circus Film Gems

A collection of circus films and videos produced by independent film makers and circus aficionados, randomly selected for nightly  screening at Worldwide Circus Summit 2015 during the Summit – The Summit staff has assembled a not to be missed line-up of circus related films, from vintage footage of historic circuses to contemporary documentaries. Each evening, there will be screenings of a variety of titles, often with commentary by experts and filmmakers. You won’t want to miss this chance to view the circus in a whole new way.

Here is list of confirmed films that will be shown in the Storrowton Tavern on Tuesday, July 14; Wednesday, July 15, and Friday, July 17:

  • World Circus,” produced by Angela Snow
  • The Circus According to Cecil,” produced by Marta Renzi
  • May All Your Days Be …”, produced by Bruce Johnson
  • Kelly Miller Circus: A World of Difference,” produced by Lane Talburt
  • Ringling Bros. backyard movies of the 1950s,” edited by Robert Sabia
  • Circus acts for children of all ages,” produced by Richard Czina

Additional film titles will be announced.

Summit Seminar Series

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – In concert with the WCS 2015 theme of “Circus Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, there will be a series of seminars and panel discussions where attendees can explore in depth the heritage of circus past, the challenges and rewards in contemporary circus and the possibilities for circus in the future. Subject matter experts, circus artists, producers and directors will interact with Summit attendees providing everyone involved with a global perspective on an evolving cultural art form.

World Circus Federation Presentation

Wednesday, July 15 – Laura van der Meer, the Executive Director of the World Circus Federation, will update Summit attendees on the Federation’s initiatives to promote and support the circus around the world. Working from its headquarters in Monte Carlo, the organization provides vitally important validation of circus as a cultural asset. Learn how you can become more involved in supporting initiatives that will have wide-ranging impact here and abroad.

March2012-031-webCircus Sideshow

Wednesday, July 15 – During the golden age of the sideshow every circus large or small offered patrons the opportunity to explore the odd, unusual and exotic. Variety performer (and CFA member) Scott Nelson has assembled a cast of artists with unique skills who will remind Summit visitors how captivating this type of entertainment can be. His colleagues include representatives from the Coney Island Sideshow, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and the AMC television series “Freakshow.” Don’t be disappointed, come inside the tent and see what your friends are talking about. Today and today only, it’s all live on the inside and going on now.

Auctions of Circus Collectibles

Thursday, July 16 – For the first time ever, collectors will have the opportunity to bid on a wide variety of circus memorabilia offered by the two preeminent American circus affinity organizations. Each auction will include unique lots, many of which have never before been available to the public. In the past, bidders have marveled at the quality and consistency of the offerings as well as the reasonable cost. Proceeds from the events will bolster the treasuries of the organizations themselves and provide lasting benefit to the circus. Anyone with valid Summit credentials may participate in both auctions.

Jackpot Junction

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – Sit down with circus legends as they discuss their lives under the big tops. Stories and recollections often reveal some of the most accurate impressions of what it was like on the sawdust trail. A team of videographers will record the discussions to provide a permanent record for future generations of Fans.

Exhibit Hall

Open every day during the Summit – Here is your chance to marvel at the intricate detail in a series of displays from the Circus Model Builders, plus you’ll be able to explore the wide variety of circus activities going on around the world. State-of-the-art interactive displays will allow you to experience circus related activities that will spark your interest and encourage you to become even more involved in supporting the circus. Participating organizations will be available in the hall to provide information and advice.

Circus Directors’ Forum

Thursday, July 16 – An unprecedented gathering of circus owners and managers from around the globe will provide Summit visitors the rare opportunity to listen in as top circus directors discuss the rewards and challenges facing circus management in the twenty-first century.

Cole Bros Circus

Wednesday, July 15 and Thursday, July 16 – The Summit will host Cole Bros Circus on the grounds of the Big E for one performance on Wednesday, July 15 and two performances on Thursday, July 16. Summit attendees can purchase tickets to the evening performance on July 15 as part of their registration package. In addition to the regular action packed circus extravaganza, the dedicated WCS 2015 show will include a pre-show concert by Windjammers Unlimited and special Summit features during the performance. Cole Bros’ location on the Fairgrounds will be ideal for Fans to watch their arrival on Wednesday and departure following the show on Thursday night.

Ecumenical Worship Service

Friday, July 17 – Members of the Circus and Traveling Shows Ministry will offer a non-denominational worship service open to all Summit attendees. The Circus and Traveling Shows Ministry includes members of the clergy who specialize in meeting the needs of traveling show people.

All Star Circus

Friday, July 17 – A delightful assembly of circus talent demonstrates the variety and diversity of contemporary sawdust skills in an intimate setting sure to satisfy your tanbark appetite.

Windjammers band_smWindjammers Unlimited Summer Meet

July 14 – 18 – The circus music historical society will hold their annual summer meet in conjunction with WCS 2015. Summit attendees will have the rare opportunity to enjoy live traditional circus music performed by top musicians who specialize in music written specifically to accompany big top performances.

Your Summit credentials enable you to attend open rehearsals and recording sessions where a recording band will read vintage musical charts, performing show music that, in some cases, has not been heard for over a century.

The Windjammers Circus Band will present a public concert in the ring prior to the evening performance of Cole Bros Circus on Wednesday, July 15 and smaller musical groups made up of Windjammers can be heard during the seminar series, at the circus sideshow and at the opening reception.

barry_Mernyó Ferenc_smCircus Historical Society Annual Convention

July 14 – 18 – You are invited to join esteemed scholars, researchers and educators for an in depth examination of circus history.

The Society’s annual convention will be held concurrently with the Summit and everyone with WCS 2015 credentials is encouraged to take advantage of presentations, discussions and social events.

On Friday, July 17, Barry Lubin (Grandma the Clown) will be the speaker at a CHS luncheon. Limited seating is available for that event and may be requested as an option on the WCS registration form.

carosel_organ1_smCarousel Organ Demonstrations

July 14 – 18 – Not one, not two, but dozens of carousel and band organs will provide music on the grounds of the Big E during the Summit.

Everything from small “organ grinder” units to full orchestral mechanical organs will serenade Summit attendees every day of the gathering.

Sales Room

Open daily during the Summit – Looking for something for your circus room, or maybe a gift to take back home? The vendors in the sales room will offer a wide variety of souvenirs and collectibles and promise something for everyone. Stop by anytime during the Summit to sample what is available.

Clowns of America and World Clown Association

World Clown Assoc_smIt wouldn’t be a circus without clowns and the Summit is fortunate to have partnered with organizations that are dedicated to the art of laughter.

You will find clowns everywhere that you go at the Summit. If your experience with clowning is limited to the circus ring, you will be fascinated to learn of all of the other ways in which clowns enrich the lives of people around the world. Come to the Summit to laugh and learn from the dedicated folks who are proud to call themselves clowns.

Youth Circus Showcase

Saturday, July 18 – Share the wonder and enthusiasm that youth circus participants bring to the ring when representatives from a wide spectrum of youth, community and social circuses gather to perform for Summit attendees. The American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) has assembled a program that will astound and delight Fans of all ages. It is a not-to-be -missed opportunity to witness the potential for circus to change lives.

CFA Annual Banquet

Saturday, July 18 – Circus Fans of America is honored to have Cole Bros Circus owner John Pugh as the guest speaker at the organization’s annual banquet on Saturday evening. Don’t miss a chance to hear what it takes to manage one of America’s most successful circuses.

smirkus_smCircus Smirkus

Sunday, July 19 – Summit attendees are encouraged to attend an optional off-site performance of Circus Smirkus at 1 pm or 6 pm Sunday, June 19. This premiere youth circus is providing a special discounted ticket price of $17 for youth and adults.

WCS circus-goers will need to purchase their tickets directly through Circus Smirkus and will be responsible for their own own transportation to the Circus Smirkus lot at the South Windsor, CT, athletic field (about a half hour from the ESE grounds). Summit ticket buyers will be seated in a reserved section at the performances and are encouraged to arrive at the circus site at least 30 minutes before show time.

Here are details for this special deal, as provided by Circus Smirkus:

If you have never attended a Circus Smirkus performance, you will be astounded at the level of skill, technical expertise and enthusiasm present under the little big top.

Summit attendees who have flights later in the day from Hartford International Airport will be pleased to know that Circus Smirkus will be playing in close proximity to the airport.

1. Ticket price is $17 for all Summit attendees regardless of age (savings of $4). There are no service charges for Summit attendee ticket therefore saving an additional $3 online charge. The ticket price is good for BOTH the 1 & 6 PM shows on Sunday July 19th.

2. Tickets will be available for sale for both shows on Sunday July 19th until the show sells out. We encourage ALL attendees if you are planning on going to see the Smirkus show, DO NOT wait until day of show to get your tickets at the door. Buy in advance! This show is also open to the general public to purchase tickets as well, so seats will go fast!

 3. All DISCOUNTED tickets for Summit attendees are to be purchased through Sara Wunderle, Assistant Circus Operations Director of Circus Smirkus by telephone – 802-533-7443 x27 or by email. Please identify yourself as a Summit attendee when calling or emailing her. 

 4. When calling, if Sara Wunderle is not readily available to answer your phone call or you call after hours; please leave her a message indicating how many tickets you are looking for, your name and how she can contact you to complete your ticket order.

 5. Tickets will NOT be mailed and will be available at the “Will Call” table starting one hour before the performance. Please be sure to bring the email receipt for the ticket order with you.

 6. Special seating will be available for Circus Summit ticket holders up until 15 minutes before each show on Sunday. The ticket booth opens ONE hour before each show. Please plan your arrival time accordingly.

 7. For show site directions and more info on South Windsor shows you can visit

 If people seeking tickets leave the appropriate information, Sara will return their calls as soon as feasible, but certainly within a day.


Don’t delay; make plans now to attend this monumental event. Registration is still open for all Summit activities.

Visit this site often for details on hotels, transportation and late breaking developments.

See you in Springfield.