Credit: Nikki McCoy
In Tacoma through July 21 and then making its way to Lake Stevens for Aquafest July 26–28, the Venardos Circus is not to be missed. From the humorous antics of the house clown to the heart-stopping feats of daredevils flying through the air, every act by the Venardos family of performers is engaging and awe-inspiring.
Dreamed up by former Ringling Bros. Ringmaster Kevin Venardos, the circus brings the nostalgia and mystique of the bygone days of early circuses and propels them into the 21st century with modern themes and a non-animal performance policy (with the exception of the pre-show flea circus). Our family loved that we could enjoy a high-quality show without funding the expense of a forlorn elephant or a post-retirement-age tiger.
I noticed an educational component in the recurring theme of song and dance, as well. Kevin Venardos belts out in Broadway-show fashion that it takes hard work and determination to follow your dreams — even if bullies tell you you’ll never make it.
Once the show started, I realized I had stopped taking notes and photos because I was mesmerized by what was happening on the stage. “It’s like watching ‘America’s Got Talent!’” exclaimed my 10-year-old as we witnessed a mother and daughter flip through the air in unison while holding one another in an embrace. I gave a quick glance over at my teen, who was standing at the back of the classic red-and-white-striped big top tent; I was expecting to see his head bent over his phone, but instead he was clapping and laughing as spotlights swept over the crowd.
Along for the adventure was a 7-year-old family friend, and she could not have been grinning harder as trapeze artists twirled through hoops and aerial silks above her head (upon which was perched a blinking unicorn headband, courtesy of the Venardos souvenir shop).
At intermission, Ringmaster Kevin joined the crowd outside the tent, and his rhinestone-plastered tailcoat and top hat dazzled in the evening Tacoma sun. I overheard him telling a guest that the house-made lemonade is concocted with just the right amount of sugar and its pink color comes from beet juice.
A seemingly small gesture, this kind of thoughtfulness and attention to detail also enlivens every moment of the performance. As we filed back into the tent, I realized just how intimate of a setting it was, and even the seats furthest from the stage provided good views of the performers.
Another cool thing is that the performers are from around the world, which was a nice discussion topic for our group on the drive home. Many of them are family — from a mother-son extreme juggling duo to a family of three acrobats, the daughter not much older than 10.
All in all, this is a fantastic all-ages family show. Snacks are limited to popcorn, pretzels and (classic!) cotton candy, so it’s worth eating dinner before you head to the show. (Though I would’ve been fine with just a vat of their house-made cheese sauce.)
Everything about the Venardos Circus exudes magic. Even their website feels beguiling, new and adventurous. The anticipation begins the moment you buy your tickets online, then flows to dinner table conversation leading up to the performance, and then finally peaks under the big top as you wait for the show to begin.
If you go...
Where: Performances through July 7 take place at Wright Park, located at 501 S. I St. in Tacoma. The big tent is set up near the playground. Performances July 10–21 take place at the Star Center, located at 3873 S. 66th St. in Tacoma. Aquafest performances (July 25–28) take place in downtown Lake Stevens on Main St.
When: June 26–July 28, shows daily Wednesday–Sunday each week. Weekend shows run as follows: Saturday 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Special shows: July 4 shows during Freedom Fest at noon and 3 p.m.; special Friday matinee at 2 p.m. on July 5.
Doors open for pre-show festivities one hour prior to published showtime. You can meet the cast, snap selfies and play games. If you don’t make it early, an intermission and post-show are other opportunities to meet the performers.
Cost: Tickets start at $15 for kids, $25 for adults. Check online for sales and promotions.
More fun: Consider packing a picnic for the Wright Park location to enjoy the rest of the park amenities, including the playground, spray park and conservatory. At Star Center, get out your pre-show wiggles at the indoor/outdoor playground. (Don’t forget socks if you want to climb inside!) If you head to Lake Stevens, plan to arrive early and check out the rest of Aquafest, which features carnival rides, food and crafts.
The big top tent is waterproof, and, rain or shine, the show will go on!
Find full details at the Venardos Circus website.