The Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida & A Young Boy’s Circus Dreams

Photo by Cheryl Batavia

My daughters, Ellen and Katey, on the bayfront terrace of Ca’D’Zan, the 1920s Venetian-style mansion of John and Mable Ringling. They lived and entertained in this home for 90 days a year during the winter. Sarasota was the winter home of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus for many years. A luxury private railway car, The Wisconsin, was John and Mable Ringling’s home for much of the year as they traveled around booking acts for the circus. The car, complete with stained glass, can be toured in the Circus Museum.

The mansion features stained glass windows, hand-carved, hand-decorated ceilings, and antique furnishings. My favorite room is the ballroom with its beautiful wide plank floors and gorgeous ceiling depicting dancing couples from different eras. The main room of the mansion is several stories high and has a view of Sarasota Bay through pastel-colored stained glass windows. The room has an ornate grand piano and a pipe organ that cost $25,000 in the 1920s.

Mable Ringling’s wagon wheel-shaped rose garden has approximately 1,250 antique roses, many from the 17th and 18th centuries, and is surrounded by statues of courting couples.

The sixty-six-acre estate has numerous other gardens and several museums. We spent about half a day exploring the mansion and the Circus Museum on this trip. Multiple galleries feature priceless circus memorabilia. There are elaborately hand-carved and painted antique circus wagons, calliopes, gorgeous vintage costumes made of silk and embroidered with faux gems, old circus photos, and informative and entertaining videos.

There is a 31-gallery art museum famous for its world class collection of old masters. Besides its permanent collections, the art museum hosts various exhibits. I have visited the art museum several times in the past. You could easily spend a day there. There is also an historic theater which hosts live performances.

Katey takes a selfie in front of one of the fourteen banyan trees on the estate, a gift from Thomas Edison, who raised several types of banyan trees at his winter estate in Fort Myers, Florida. In the photo: Katey, Cheryl, and Ellen.

Unless stated otherwise, photos in this post were taken by Katey Batavia and Ellen Maher.

Sculpture above the entrance to the Circus Museum.

A scene from the Howard Brothers Model Circus, which recreates an early 20th century circus. Howard Tibbals, a retired circus performer, created the 44,000-piece display by hand over a fifty-year period. The display occupies 3,800 square feet in the museum.

Multiple acts took place simultaneously under the big top.

Animal acts and the menagerie allowed many people to see exotic animals for the first time.

The menagerie.

A circus parking lot filled with beautifully-crafted vintage cars. Schools and businesses shut down on circus day so that people for miles around could attend the circus.

There were side shows where people could entertain themselves with novelty acts as they waited for the circus to start under the big top.
The circus train carried the circus from town to town. When set up, the circus was like a small city. It took over a thousand workers to set up the circus and take it down. They could set the circus up in four hours for the day’s performance. Then they would tear it down and set up again in the next town. Most performances lasted only one day.

Young boys and girls all across the country loved the glamour and excitement of the circus. Many had big dreams of joining the circus someday.

A Young Boy’s Circus Dreams

Photo by Jeremiah Lawrence from Unsplash.

A Young Boy’s Circus Dreams

I’ll join the circus!

A ringmaster in top hat

and tails, I will say…

“Ladies and gentlemen! Children

of all ages! Welcome!”

I’ll join the circus,

ride an elephant bareback,

and teach bears to dance.

Lions and tigers will purr

when I crack my whip and grin!

I’ll join the circus,

a goofy clown…folks laughing,

watching me fall down.

I’ll honk my red nose, driving

crazy in my tiny car!

I’ll join the circus!

Wearing flashy spangled tights,

I’ll walk the high wire,

and catch flying girls from my

high trapeze…Crowds will go wild!

I’ll join the circus

and see the world from a train…

each day, a new town!

I’ll come home for vacation…

fish all day…eat Mom’s peach pie.

Ellen in a tiny car in the interactive exhibit.
Katey, trick rider, interactive exhibit.

Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia

May All Your Days Be Circus Days!

Upcoming posts will feature more adventures from our travels during Thanksgiving week. It was so good to see my daughters again, and we had a fabulous time!

For more information about The Ringling Museum, visit their website,

“A Great Miracle Happened Here!”

A Poem about Hanukkah, a Jewish Holiday beginning this year on November 28

Jews celebrate the eighth night of Hanukkah. Eight candles burn in a menorah. The ninth candle in the center is used to light the other candles. Photo by Rodnae Productions from Pexels.

“A Great Miracle Happened Here!”

Hanukkah menorah lights burn bright.

Just one candle is lit on the first night,

two on the second, three on the third…

On the last night, all eight are burned!

A woman gambling for Hanukkah gelt, spinning a dreidel. The letters inscribed on dreidels stand for, “A great miracle happened here!” Photo by Rodnae Productions from Pexels.

Spin the dreidels…Their message is clear:

“A great miracle happened here!”

Tell the Hanukkah story, please,

of Jerusalem reclaimed by the Maccabees.

Drawing the Star of David. Photo by Cottonbro from Pexels.

In Jerusalem, the temple’s rededication

was cause for joyous celebration.

They had enough oil to burn for only one day…

but for eight days, the temple lamps blazed!

Photo of a violinist by Cottonbro from Pexels.

Bring out the latkes, sing the songs.

Hanukkah celebrations are eight days long!

Love of religious freedom is heartfelt,

holiday memories as sweet as Hanukkah gelt!

Hanukkah gelt, chocolate coins covered in foil. Photo by Rodnae Productions from Pexels.

Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia

The events commemorated by Hanukkah occurred about 167 BCE. The history of the period is very complex, but well worth learning more about. I especially like the story of Judith, a spy who helped win the war to reclaim Jerusalem. Hanukkah is generally viewed today as a celebration of religious freedom.

For a poem about Hanukkah as celebrated by our family when our children were young, see “Eighth Night of Hanukkah.”

Happy Hanukkah!

We Are Thankful

by Ellen Maher

Photo by Brad West from Unsplash.

We Are Thankful

We pilgrims are thankful

For what you have brought us

We were strangers in a land that was not our home

With your help we have made it

Through the barren winters

We know in the cold to come, we’re not alone.

I thank you for what you have done

I thank you for the rain and the sun

I thank you for the seeds to sow

I thank you for the way you make it all grow

Photo by Suzy Brooks from Unsplash.

We pilgrims are thankful

For the foods that feed us

For the time to be together

The harvest is here now

And the food is gathered

You have made us ready for any kind of weather

I thank you for what you have done

I thank you for the rain and the sun

I thank you for the seeds to sow

I thank you for the way you make it all grow

Ellen Maher and Katey Batavia

LN Maher

©1996 Echoes of the Lion’s Roar

My daughters, Ellen Maher and Katey Batavia will be visiting over the Thanksgiving week, November 21-27. I am so excited to see them for the first time in almost two years! I will be off WordPress to spend some time with them. A swim with the manatees at Crystal River is planned. It was canceled last time because of Covid 19. We are eagerly looking forward to the trip.

The poem above was written by Ellen. She is an ordained Baptist chaplain and a teacher and administrator in a recovery program that deals with issues such as grief, addiction, and illness. She also volunteers for many special projects at her church. This year she helped to produce a video for a virtual Vacation Bible School during the pandemic. Ellen writes religious poems on her blog, Echoes of the Lion’s Roar.

Happy Thanksgiving!

West Indian Manatee. Photo by Maegan Luckleish from Unsplash.

Message in a Bottle

A Fantasy

Photo by Scott Van Hoy from Unsplash.

Message in a Bottle

A Fantasy

A barefoot wanderer on the sands of time,

moment to moment, no reason or rhyme,

searching for a message in a bottle along the shoreline,

but pebbles on the beach were all I could find.

Looking for the light of my life, year after year,

I sang along with the music of the spheres,

seeking someone to sing with me as we embark,

two-by-two onto an archetypical ark.

I rowed my small boat…on dry land I planted my feet.

Miracle of miracles, soon we were dancing cheek-to-cheek!

All was bright where once were darkness and strife.

I smiled at you, the light of my life!

From each rising sun to the next rising sun,

on top of the world, under the gun,

or tossed by capricious seas, we’ve had a good run.

We’ve sailed life together, and it’s been fun!

Hand-in-hand on the beach we walk as before;

a message in a bottle washes up on the shore.

With hearts aflutter and chaos of mind,

we uncork the bottle, unsettled by what we find.

With the music of the spheres our hearts are attuned,

but the message in the bottle portends impending doom.

It says, “Tis a short voyage from cradle to tomb.”

We face an epic tidal wave…The end has come so soon!

Photo by Kampus from Pexels.
Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Unsplash.

Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia

Valued Possessions

Photo by Kelly Sikkema from Unsplash.

Valued Possessions


fire! Flames creeping

down the mountainside.

Air smells smokey in our yard.

We load our car with our treasures…

Fifteen photo albums,

our life story…



fire extinguished!

Smoke and fear dissipate.

We unpack our car with smiles and

new insights of what we value…

Family history,

daughter’s childhood…


Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia

One Saturday about forty years ago, when my husband was at work, my young daughter, Ellen, and I watched fire and smoke moving down the mountainside toward our house. We packed our car with something irreplaceable…our photo albums. My fifty-two-year-old daughter still has those albums, memories of her childhood.

An Album of Childhood

Photo by Joice Kelly from Unsplash.
Photo by Romina Veliz from Unsplash
Photo by Josh Applegate from Unsplash.
Photo by NeonBrand from Unsplash.

Photo by Deb Dowd from Unsplash.

Photo by Prince Abid from Unsplash.
Photo by Robert Collins from Unsplash.

Little Human vs. Global Destruction

In Response to the Climate Summit

Photo from Pexels.

Little Human vs. Global Destruction

Global Destruction, a villian

about as bad as they come,

believed his evil takeover plan

was too big to be undone.

“What do I care, little human,

for your miniscule potential?

Do what little you can;

it’s quite inconsequential!”

Joy sprang like a weed

in the little human’s heart.

He knew humans could succeed

if they all did their part!

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia