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Circus Vargas returns to Burbank, but its future location is unknown

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Circus Vargas, which is returning to Burbank this week, has a new tent this year.
(Courtesy of Circus Vargas)

The big top of Circus Vargas is back this week next to the 5 Freeway in Burbank, but it might be the circus’ last performance in the city due to the approval of a mixed-use development on the same property.

From Jan. 20 through Feb. 9, Circus Vargas, which has raised a brand-new tent this year, will present its production called “Mr. V’s Big Top Dream,” which tells the story of founder Clifford Vargas and his dream of putting together a circus.

“It takes place [from] when Mr. Vargas was a little boy into him starting his own show and auditioning the best acts from around the world and making the most spectacular, grandest show on Earth,” said Katya Quiroga, co-owner of Circus Vargas.

“It takes you through his journey of becoming a circus owner and him passing it on to the next generation,” she added.

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Aside from telling the story of the circus’ founder, Quiroga said she hopes the show teaches children that any of their dreams can come true if they work hard enough.

This year’s production features a few new acts, including foot juggler Jessica Lester who lies on her back, spins and juggles various items, such as hula hoops and pieces of carpet, with her hands and feet.

Originally from England, Lester is the fourth generation of circus performers in her family, and she’s been training as a foot juggler since she was 5 years old.

“It takes a lot of training and practice. Not everyone can do this,” Lester said.

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Another new act is a roller-skating duo, Melanie and Jess Dalton.

While Burbank has been one of the stops on Circus Vargas’ annual tours for the past seven years, 2020 might be the last time the circus performs in the city because of a mixed-use project recently approved by the City Council.

The LaTerra Select Burbank project — a mix of apartment units, a hotel and open space — won approval to be built at 777 N. Front St., the location where Circus Vargas has set up its tent for several years.

Quiroga said she’s been thankful that Galpin Ford — the former property owner — and the city have allowed them to use the lot to bring their circus to Burbank.

With the approval of the LaTerra project, however, Quiroga said she hopes the circus can find another location in or near Burbank.

“We’ll find a place that’s close enough for the local community to see us,” Quiroga said. “We’d love to be in the city, but if not, we’ll make it work.”

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