Circus Vargas cautiously installs its new tent in Santa Barbara
Circus Vargas was on the brink of postponing tonight’s performance after high winds in San Luis Obispo held up the circus’s crew.
Santa Barbara is the show’s second stop out of 26 cities this year. The circus will be at the Earl Warren Showgrounds tonight through July 19.
Each move for the circus requires a long process of removing the tent and deconstructing its supports. Then workers spend a day and a half building it again in the next location.
When the tent fabric is secured on its frame, it can withstand 160 mph wind gusts and 90 mph consistent wind. But once the ropes are untied and the fabric is loose, it can act like a hot air balloon, said Circus Vargas’s co-owner Katya Arata-Quiroga.
“If there’s wind, it can just fly away. And there goes your million dollar investment,” she told the News-Press at Earl Warren Showgrounds. “Plus people can get hurt, so we cannot take the chance.”
Safety is her top consideration.
“Just like in every business, sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. In this case, nature was stronger than humans,” she said.
Mrs. Arata-Quiroga and her husband Nelson Quiroga purchased the tent before last year’s tour — which was shut down by the pandemic after just six weeks.
The tent is from Milan, and she describes it as state-of-the-art, modern and beautiful. So it may be worth the wait.
Few things come simply when running a circus. There is a new show each year, requiring six months of planning, new music and choreography.
And many new members join the team, full of performers from all over the world, including Romania, Holland, Spain and more. And Circus Vargas secures work visas and traveling arrangements for all of them.
While traveling, members live in RVs and trailers. Some have dogs that can be heard barking among the rows of traveling homes.
“In every city, there’s something unique that we enjoy. That’s why we like traveling,” she said. “So that’s why we don’t like to have a stationary surface.
“We all get bored. We just want to move and bring the show to more communities.”
Even if that means wrestling with a tent every week and a half or so.
Mrs. Arata-Quiroga’s stepfather purchased Circus Vargas after its founder Clifford E. Vargas died.
Her stepfather established Circus Vargas as a wandering, European-style circus; she and her husband follow this style today. (She is a seventh-generation circus performer.)
But when the couple took over in 2005, they decided to make the circus an animal-free show and focus on the talented performers instead of majestic creatures.
“We proved you can have a traditional circus without animals, and now it’s the norm,” she said. “Everybody is doing it the way we started doing it about 15 years ago.”
So, at least they don’t have to travel with elephants anymore — despite a grueling setup process.