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November 20, 2014

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Entertainment:

Circus Vargas: A family operation behind the scenes and under the big top

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L.E. Baskow

Circus Vargas clown Matti Esqueda tosses popcorn on surprised audience member Jeremy Greenwell during the opening night performance at the Galleria on Sunset Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. .L.E. Baskow.

Circus Vargas in Vegas

A Circus Vargas cast member readies giant silk wings backstage as the opening act begins at the Galleria on Sunset Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013.  L.E. Baskow. Launch slideshow »

Circus Vargas is a family operation, even if not everyone is related.

From setting up the traveling circus' big top in each new city to performing as many as three shows a day, the Circus Vargas team of children and adults is a well-oiled machine that tours 10 months per year.

Circus Vargas performs through Monday outside Galleria at Sunset in Henderson. The operation moves next week to the Rio, with the opening-night performance at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and several more shows through Oct. 27.

Blended with dozens of individuals, the circus is a family in the sense of responsibility and community. The group works, plays and eats together, and they celebrate birthdays and other special occasions when circus life permits.

Begun in 1969 by Clifford Vargas, the troupe strives to continue his dream of creating an authentic old-time circus full of glamour, thrills, comedy and heart-pounding excitement. Vargas passed away in 1989, and today the circus is co-owned and produced by Nelson and Katya Quiroga through their company Tabares Entertainment, which they founded in 2005.

I spent time with the Circus Vargas family this week, from the time their equipment was still in semitrucks, trailers and RVs in Galleria's parking lot to viewing them in action. No animals perform in the show, but there are plenty of feats to wow audiences — stunts, magic, dance, acrobatics, comedy, trapeze, etc.

But what wowed me the most was the cooperation and camaraderie of this troupe. From the youngest child to the most veteran member of the production, they work and play as a family. They care for one another, and that spirit is evident not only at showtime but behind the scenes, as well.

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