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The Circus Vargas as Healer

The Circus Vargas as Healer

For me the circus was always great fun and always included “death-defying” acts that left me shaking my head—but that was a long time ago. The Circus is for kids, I thought. So, I was very surprised when my long-time friend Leslie Goldman called and excitedly said Circus Vargas was coming to town. Known as the Enchanted Gardener, Leslie is always connected with things organic and the farmer’s market. Why the circus? I was intrigued when he told me Circus Vargas was a healer for him. They come to the San Diego area Feb. 7 and—surprise!—will have a special organic food day. Here Leslie tells part of his story.

—Steve Hays, publisher

By Leslie Goldman with Adrienne Prince

The first time I sat in Circus Vargas’ big blue tent was in Petaluma, in September of 2017. My partner, Adrienne, and I had driven up the coast to Northern California in my 1968 VW van, on a mission I call, “The Enchanted Garden Mobile’s Journey To Win Back Our Sacred Seeds.”

We’d come to participate in the National Heirloom Expo, the  “Pure Food Fair” that happens each September in Santa Rosa. The Expo brings thousands of squashes and gourds to the Sonoma Fairgrounds. We were about to spend three days helping hundreds of school kids “Adopt a Pet Squash!” to take home. Our aim was to strengthen the connection between kids and Nature, and raise donations for the local School Garden Network.

We had been looking for something fun for Adrienne’s birthday. At the Petaluma fairgrounds, I was drawn to the blue circus tent. It evoked teen memories for me of having snuck into  the circus when it visited LA in the early 1960’s.  I remember whispering during the opening march with a friend I’d made in the band, and nearly being  trampled by a line of elephants loping toward the center ring! I saw the belly button of one of these giants as it passed.

Circuses have changed a lot since then. There are no more animal acts. Now, smaller family-owned shows rely on feats of skill and story-driven performances to bring the thrills.

The night’s show in Petaluma had started. We ventured into the empty foyer and met a tuxedo-clad elderly gent who was the circus’ marketing director. He was 6th generation circus, and told us stories of the legendary clowns he’d known. Then, he gave us seats so that I could blog about the show.

As we were watching the first act, I received an urgent text  saying that my stepmother had just died and I’d be missing the next day’s funeral, hundreds of miles away. I was mortified. A woman sitting next to me noticed my crestfallen face and whispered, “Can’t you smile? It’s a circus!”

We hastily left for the night, but I resolved to catch the full show when I could.

Little did I expect that getting to know the Circus Vargas family was to become one of my favorite healing modalities during the following year, as I’ve challenged myself to follow a natural cancer cure journey and also  heal from a broken back.

In February 2018, Circus Vargas returned to  San Diego. Anxiously, I wondered: would I be welcomed again, and get to meet the rest of the cast? We were! We did! And, I was smitten.

We went to see the show every week, bringing gifts from the Hillcrest Farmers’ Market. We saw the performance all the way through — sometimes twice in a day. We even traveled to see it in other cities.

This magical show has been touring since 1969, purchased in 2005 by Nelson Quiroga Tabares and Katya Arata Quiroga, a couple who are long-time performers and natural  foods enthusiasts

February 26, we held the first Organic Day at Circus Vargas. Escondido farmers JR Organics handed out samples of strawberries and sweet peas. We made organic popcorn from Eden Foods in the show’s own poppers, using Dr. Bronner’s coconut oil. The guests and performers all loved the healthy snacks.

When we host the next Organic Day at Circus Vargas during the Escondido run, we will feature more organic food samples, and invite local natural healing pros to share their gifts with the cast and audience, too.

So – what IS so special about Circus Vargas under the Big Top?

As someone who has been challenged by mobility issues for most of my life, i am mystified by the youths in this show, who fly through the air doing flips and tricks, to full houses of cheering fans. My fondest memory is of becoming heartfelt friends with the clowns! They are masters of audience engagement. Their timeless art delights me and blows away the cares of the day.  We are Facebook fans of each other.

Another part of the healing gift has been witnessing the cooperative nature of circus culture. As they have for 7 generations, the Circus Vargas kids are homeschooled and travel with a tutor and both sets of grandparents — all of whom are deeply committed to passing along their skills. The young performers, some still in their teens, work to hone their new tricks as the show evolves – while also working the ticket and concession booths, and meeting the audience in person after every show.

The kids pick up daredevil abilities that go beyond normal human limits. The audience gets to see the impossible accomplished every day. We watched some spectacular disappearing and reappearing acts more than a dozen times . . . and still can’t figure out how they did them!

Maybe that’s part of what appeals to me, too, as I work to achieve a health result that many would imagine impossible. More than just mindless diversion or a place to take the kids, the show represents to me elegance and skill, achieved by real people, through the gritty reality of “practice, practice, practice!”

The cast members sometimes do three shows a day, as they make their way up California’s coast.  They hail from many countries, including Venezuela, Italy, Tanzania, Mexico, Portugal and Holland.

I had so wanted to get to know this community of intertwined families, and now I feel that Circus Vargas truly are my friends. I love Circus Vargas!

See you there in 2019!

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Circus Vargas returns to San Diego County’s Westfield Mission Valley February 7-18, Westfield Plaza Bonita National City, Feb 21- March 4 and Escondido, March 7 – 18. Join us for Organics Day on 6 pm, Monday  March 11

The theme for 2019 is “Greatest of Ease!” Tickets available at

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