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Thursday, May 6, 2010

CIRCUS VARGAS IN WEST COVINA, CA

Acrobats Hamisi Mwinyi, left, and Omar Athuman help set up Circus Vargas' tent at Westfield West Covina shopping center Tuesday afternoon, May 4, 2010. The circus begins Thursday May 6 and runs through Monday May 10. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/BIZ)

WEST COVINA - Katya Quiroga is used to picking up and moving.

We're talking about moving an entire circus - Circus Vargas, to be exact.
Quiroga and her husband, Nelson, bought Circus Vargas in 2005, 2 1/2 years after it had closed because of financial problems and the former owner's retirement.
But they've revamped the circus, and the retooled operation rolled into West Covina this week for a five-day run that begins Thursday. The circus will be held in a parking lot next to Sears at the Westfield West Covina mall.
"I think the biggest challenge is the logistics of moving everything," Katya Quiroga said. "And it's always hard to let people know we're here and that we have a new show."
This year, Circus Vargas is housed in a new Big Top tent, with 90,000 square feet of canvas fabric supported by 17 tons of rope and cable.
On Tuesday, workers carefully assembled and raised two 50-foot scaffolding towers to support the tent.
The towers were then anchored by cables running to large bolts driven into the pavement.
"It takes about two hours to get the tent up," Nelson said.
This year's show will feature a wide array of entertainment.
After an opening parade, Techno Rock Jugglers will take the stage, followed by clowns, a synchronized aerial bungee-ballet, a hula-hooping belly dancer and the Marinellis, who will stage a high-flying trampoline act.
And if that isn't enough, the Garcia family will later tackle the "Globe of Death," running at breakneck speed atop a spinning steel sphere suspended high above the ground.
"The show lasts about two hours, but we also have something special for the kids before the show," Quiroga said. "They can come into the ring and try out their circus skills. We have things like juggling and hula hoops. Most of the time, the kids have a blast."
Quiroga said she and her husband are looking to make this year's circus accessible to everyone.
"Even with the economy being bad, people still want a place to take their family where they can forget about bills and worries," she said. "We try to give discounts and we also give free tickets to foster kids."
This year, Circus Vargas is also offering free tickets to people who are unemployed.
"We're giving out two adult tickets and two kid tickets, so someone can take their whole family," Quiroga said. "We do that on weekdays. We couldn't do it on weekends because there's not enough room."
Nelson Quiroga said the circus typically draws 800 to 1,000 visitors a week, with gross revenues running from $60,000 to $100,000.
But there are always lots of expenses - and red tape to deal with.
"Every time we come to a new city, we have to pull permits for everything because we're essentially a traveling business," he said. "We have to get construction permits, health permits ... all kinds of permits. And it's different everywhere you go. What works here won't work 10 miles down the road."
But Katya Quiroga said the couple love what they're doing.
"We work together as a family," she said. "We're all doing something we love. I think that's one of the reasons our show is so successful. People know we're not just throwing it together."
After its West Covina run, Circus Vargas will be at Puente Hills Mall in Industry, May 13-24.
kevin.smith@sgvn.com

IF YOU GO: Circus Vargas' new Big Top tent includes:
90,000 square feet of canvas
Seventeen tons of rope and cable
500 stakes to support the tent
Seating for 1,200 visitors


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