Circuses are a form of entertainment that includes something for just about everyone. As a traveling unit of clowns, acrobats, animal acts and a range of other performers, the circus enjoys a history that goes back to the heyday of the Roman Empire. Generally, the focus of the performing area is referred to as a ring, owning to the circular nature of the space. Because circuses are traveling companies, tents are used for much of the live performances and housing for the animals and props, while the performers and other circus workers tend to live in trailers and wagons.
The very nature of a circus is to provide a source of fun and entertainment as the company travels form one location to the next. In modern times, the 19th century through the early 20th century were considered to be a golden age for this type of traveling show. Mergers of smaller circuses created some of the giants that are still considered to have set the standard for a quality circus. Even today, many people still recognize the names of Barnum and Bailey, as well as the Ringling Brothers with the concept of a really good circus.
One of the innovations that helped to popularize the modern circus is the concept of multiple performing areas. Often, a large circus will provide up to three performing areas that are dedicated to different types of acts. This three ring circus standard was often used as a means of building up excitement among the populace as the circus made it’s way to the next town.
One ring may feature animal acts, such as elephant and tiger acts. The elephants and tigers are permanent features and are often treated with the greatest of care. A second ring will focus on acts of daring and skill, such as trapeze and high wire performers. The third ring will be all about wacky fun, often supplied by a featured clown that is supported by a host of other clowns. It is not uncommon for the performers that are featured in one ring to also appear as part of the act in other rings.
Many permanent workers and performers with the modern circus choose to vacation during the winter months of the year. There is a large colony of carnival works, known as carnies, in the Sarasota Florida area. Sarasota is also home to the Ringling Brothers Museum, which features exhibits of the glory days of the circus along with periodic performances by circus performers.