MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- The Greatest Show on Earth is returning to the Suncoast...its winter quarters, that is.
Palmetto-based Feld Entertainment, the operators of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, have come to an agreement with Port Manatee to house the quarters there.
Unlike the 160-acre winter campus in Sarasota decades ago, Ringling's winter quarters now consist of a train track and 60 boxcars.
In 1927, John Ringling opened his circus' winter quarters in Sarasota. In 1960 it moved to Venice, and for the last twenty years Tampa has served as the winter home.
Now, the Suncoast -- a community rich in circus history like none other -- is welcoming back Ringling's winter quarters.
“This is truly unique,” says Port Manatee Executive Director Carlos Buqueras.
Unique in different ways. For starters, the 250 circus performers live in a train. And unique because that train will be stationed on the tracks at Port Manatee for six weeks starting in mid-November.
Feld's headquarters and training facility is only a short drive away. “They felt that due to the proximity to the facility, it would be beneficial to house their performers here at the port, if the port had sufficient capacity,” says Buqueras.
In the city of Palmetto, Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant expects the community to reap the benefits. “It's right at our door. We think it will be very positive for the City of Palmetto and will help local business and give them an infusion during that 6-week time period when they are here. I hope Feld expands even more in Manatee County, and in particular, Palmetto.”
Feld is leasing the tracks for $22,000 for those six weeks each year, for the next ten years.
As of now, the train is scheduled to arrive November 17th.