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.

CopyrightΒ© 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, ringling.org

56 Comments

    1. So glad you enjoyed the poem, Ingrid. Thank you for your kind comment. The Ringling is a fascinating museum that I think both you and your sons would love. If you visit, let me know and maybe we can meet for lunch. I used to live in Sarasota and now live about 45 minutes away. Have a wonderful day! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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    1. Michel, I appreciate your lovely remarks. It was wonderful to finally see my daughters again after nearly two years. The museum was so much fun! We had some other awesome adventures which I will be posting about soon. All the best to you and Janine!
      Love ❀
      Cheryl

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  1. Your post makes me feel so cheerful and happy – love your family pictures, and very much enjoyed ‘visiting’ the circus museum, castle and gardens with your pictures and post πŸ™‚ It surely is an interesting place and good fun times with family. Your poem is wonderful too.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

    1. What a lovely response, Pregalba! I am happy that you enjoyed the post, and I appreciate your kind comments. We had such a fantastic time. It was wonderful spending time with my daughters again!

      I would recommend a couple of days at The Ringling if you are ever in Florida. There are nice beaches and boat tours nearby too.

      Have a great day! ❀

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      Reply

      1. I will definitely remember about this place Cheryl – We have almost planned a trip to Florida so many times and it has never actually happened πŸ™‚ Some day definitely. Much Love to you – Pragalbha

        Liked by 1 person

    2. If you do plan a trip to our area, Pragalbha, You might also consider visiting the Edison/Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, swimming with the manatees in Crystal River, and visiting the Wildlife Refuge in Homosassa Springs. We visited the last two on this trip and I will be posting about them soon. If you do come, maybe we could meet for lunch.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the poem, Preethes! Thank you for your kind words. It was awesome to see my daughters again. πŸ™‚ We had a blast! I will be posting soon about a couple of other adventures we had while they were here. We are doing OK. I hope all is well with you. ❀ ❀ ❀

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    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Narayan. I am happy that you enjoyed the post. I have enjoyed many beautiful and interesting tours with you. It’s the next best thing to an actual visit!

      The Edison/Ford Winter Estates are nearby and are also open to the public. Thomas Edison had an interest in exotic trees and plants and cultivated them on the grounds of his estate. You can tour both homes, Edison’s laboratory, and an interesting museum about Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and other collaborators and friends.

      If you are ever in Florida, I would recommend a visit to The Ringling in Sarasota and the Edison/Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers. There are beaches and boat tours in the area. You can swim with manatees in Crystal River and visit a wildlife preserve for rescued Florida animals in Homosassa Springs, both a couple of hours north of Sarasota. We just visited these last two attractions and I plan to write posts about them soon.

      Have a great day! πŸ™‚

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      1. Lovely and very happy to know this Cheryl. And thank you for at least imagining that i will ever be in Florida ha ha. And if it even happens, i will ask for your phone and call you instead πŸ™‚

        Thank you again Cheryl. Waiting for more tours.
        Narayan x

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your lovely response, Radhika! I am so glad you enjoyed the post. We did have a wonderful time. It was so good to spend time with my daughters again! I hope things are going well for you and your family. All the best! ❀

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    1. Thank you, Hema, for your lovely response. It is my pleasure to share good times. I will soon post some other adventures we shared. If you are ever in Florida, I would recommend The Ringling in Sarasota, The Edison/Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Swimming with manatees at Crystal River, and the Wildlife preserve at Homosassa Springs. There are also beaches and boat tours in the area.

      If you visit SW Florida, maybe we could meet for lunch. Have a great day!

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      Reply

  2. A fabulous and interesting post indeed, Cheryl. Loved your poem. It appears it was a beautiful, funny place. I’m happy that you enjoyed the thanksgiving week with daughters. 😊❀️

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. I am so happy that you liked the post, KK. Thank you for your beautiful comment. My daughters and I shared several adventures. I will post about others soon. There is nothing better than spending time with those you love! πŸ™‚

      All the best to you and your family! ❀ ❀ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  3. What a beautiful post, Cheryl, and I am so glad you could spend time with your daughters. I haven’t been to Sarasota in years but remember it as a beautiful city. Florida has such a rich and fascinating history. πŸ’–

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Thank you, Eugi, for your kind remarks. I had visited the Ringling Museum a couple of times over the years. It is much better now than I remember it. Of course, the mansion is always the same…very beautiful! I have promised a trip to the museum to my son when he visits. I lived in Sarasota for several years and now live about 45 minutes away. If you visit the area, maybe we could meet for lunch. πŸ™‚

      Have a great day! ❀

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. Cheryl, wow! The Ringling’s mansions must have been amazing and no wonder they spent so much time there and entertained countless guests. You describe it brilliantly and with such immediacy. I love the sounds of Mable Ringling’s wagon wheel-shaped rose garden. A lovely fun poem capturing the magical spirit of the Circus where absolutely anything is possible. It reminded me of my brief wish to join a circus when I was younger as part of a high wire act – alas I kept falling off the fence which was my practice ‘arena’! πŸ˜€

    It’s wonderful that you had a chance to meet up and spend time with your daughters – lots of fun and laughter for you all! Great photos of the museum and the family. I look forward to reading more about your adventures. xx

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Thank you, Annika, for your lovely response. ❀ Interesting that the high wire act appealed to you and you practiced walking on the fence. I used to practice on the train tracks! Not very far to fall! The rose garden is lovely. I remember that you grow roses. I didn't get any good photos of the roses because they had just been pruned. There were a few beautiful, fragrant roses, but the real show begins about six weeks after they are pruned.

      All the best to you! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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    1. Thank you, Lawrence, for your kind comment. ❀ Now there's a thought. I have visited the mansion three times and never heard the piano or the pipe organ played. It would be nice. The website information is at the end of the post if you ever wanted to contact them. πŸ™‚

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  5. oh such a memorable post of fun circus days Cheyrl. Love seeing all of you having so much fun and your wonderful poem. Wonderful pictures and sharing.. Continuing the circus days during the 3 ring circus always at our house my friend! πŸ’–πŸŒ·πŸ€£πŸŒ·β€οΈ

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  6. Thank you for sharing your stunning trip with us, I’m glad that you and your daughters could enjoy such lovely memories together. Wishing you and your family blessings in abundance.

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    1. Thank you, Henrietta, for your kind response and good wishes. Each of us chose an activity. I chose swimming with the manatees, Ellen wanted to visit the Ringling Museum, and Katey expressed a desire to go to the zoo. I think all of us enjoyed the entire trip! πŸ™‚ All the best to you and your family, sunny days, and smooth sailing!

      Liked by 1 person

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