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Monday, December 04, 2006 

Years ago I lived in Gainesville in a trailer park off Alachua Road. Sometimes in the winter in the early morning riding a bicycle up the grade by Shands Hospital and across the University campus I would stop for alligators crossing the road between the fresh water ditches on one shoulder and the warmer pools that made up the water treatment plant on the other. I have a particular affection for crocodilians. Yesterday when the BCS announced the names of the two teams in the college football National Championship Game to be played in January ’07 in Arizona, I wasn’t going to say that the voters got it wrong. Go Gators!

But this is a blog where talking about Florida really means talking about circus and not about football. I have a theory when it comes to the special relationship between circus and Florida, one that almost everybody disagrees with. I’m convinced that the State of Florida, with it’s population of over eighteen million people (nearly 1,200,000 under the age of 5 – and nearly 4,000,000 under the age of 18) is the most underplayed circus market in America. People who know better tell me that I’m nuts. “Everybody plays Florida,” they like to say.

“Oh yeah? Who exactly is everybody?”

Here’s what I think happens. Florida is the home to such a large percentage of people in the circus business, we tend to make assumptions about it. Florida is a place where we (as an industry) leave our professional judgements behind and think like locals. It’s certainly true that Florida based shows play the state moving north and south in the spring and fall, but it’s also true that there are fewer Florida based circuses than there were a decade ago. It’s certainly true that Hanneford plays some great Florida dates, and RBBB plays the major indoor venues. Walker Bros has played tours of the Keys, and other shows play dates here and there, but when was the last time that a serious tent show looked that Florida and tried to book the length and the breadth of the state with the same effort that goes into booking other populous regions that aren’t “home?” Armed with a map and 2005 census estimates it isn’t hard to find several dozen towns in south Florida each with at least 25,000 people that rarely see a traditional circus. We wouldn’t pass over those same towns if they were in Texas, or California, or Illinois, or Michigan, or New York.

Again, back to the Census numbers. What are desired demographic characteristics for circus? In recent years most people suggest, homes with children, Hispanic households, lower-middle and middle class households. Twenty Florida Counties with populations of over 250,000 people match those desired demographics, and at least another ten with populations over 100,000 are in the mix.

It could easily be argued that history, not numbers are against me. Several recent shows framed in FL opend to such poor business, they either limped out of state to die elsewhere, or never made it out of state at all. Then too the window for Florida dates is narrow. Do you play the State in the spring and fall when there is certainly competition from other shows coming and going? Do you play the state in winter when you are competing against large indoor shows? Can you play the state in summer when the weather is hoy, and humid, and hurricane season is a very real fact? Avoiding all that, most likely you are left with April-May, and November. So if you are already based in Florida, where do you spend March? And you’re coming in to Florida from elsewhere, how do you route in and out without following the shows headed north for the season when you play the Panhandle or the northern portion of the peninsula? Nobody said it’s easy, but again, when the numbers look so favorable it’s worthy of serious consideration.

...Except that I'm probably wrong and I'd love to have somebody smarter tell me why.

About me

  • I'm B.E.Trumble
  • From Everywhere, United States
  • Ben Trumble works in circus, carnival, and media relations
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