Jenny Vidbel of Big Apple Circus

Big Apple Circus…To Call Lake George Home for Two Weeks!
By Cyndie Wade-Wood

Dare to “DREAM BIG,” and let your imagination soar as the Big Apple Circus rolled into Lake George, New York!

The Big Apple Circus, which makes its year-round home at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, entertained visitors in Lake George for two weeks at The Charles R Wood Park with their “Dream Big” tour from July 14 to July 29, 2012. (Big Apple Circus will be returning to Lake George with their 2013 production of “Legendarium” July 13-28, 2013.)

This one ring circus guaranteed to delight attendees of all ages! “DREAM BIG” featured a singing Ringmistress, Jenna Robinson; The Big Apple Circus band; Anna Volodko spinning through the air with her aerial rope act “Soaring High”; juggler Dmitry Chernov, whose act featured throwing glow-in-the-dark balls; balancer and contortionist, Melanie Chy; the Flying Cortes, trapeze artists whose act included the world’s youngest professional flying trapeze artist, 10-year-old Ysabella Wallenda-Cortes, who comes from eight generations of circus performers on her mother’s side and five generations on her father’s side; and the highly skilled and precision acrobat artists, the Shandong Acrobatic Troupe.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jenny Vidbel, a third generation circus performer and animal trainer.

Jenny’s grandparents met back in the 1930’s while traveling with the Ringling Bros. Circus. Her grandfather was an elephant trainer and her grandmother was a horse trainer. They soon fell in love, married, and enjoyed lifelong circus careers.

Jenny’s mother also trained horses for the Ringling Bros. Circus. “I guess it’s in my blood,” Vidbel said. “I got my first pony at the age of 6 and have loved working with animals ever since.” “These animals are my life.” “They’re the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about when I go to bed,” she continues.

The 37 year old grew up traveling with her grandparents and their animals in various circuses throughout the U.S. Jenny, the oldest along with her twin sister, Susan, of seven children, would follow her grandfather in the barn to help tend the elephants. By age 6, she was traveling across the United States presenting the family’s three elephants. By age 7, Jenny had trained her first pony. And by age 11, in 1986, she was presenting her liberty pony act in the one-ring show her grandparents had launched in 1984, Vidbel’s Old Tyme Circus, which she later owned and managed.

What circus would be complete without performing animals.

Vidbel arrived in the first act with two gorgeous Arabian horses that performed “Galloping Graces,” which reminded the audience why the intimacy of this one-ring circus was so special. She returned in the second act with some rarely seen critters… the astonishing Percy (an African porcupine), Newman (a potbelly pig), and Bob (a capybara who liked to sing).

Every performer in the Big Apple Circus was a joy to watch. Delightful are the several crafty canines that race around the ring, leap through the air, and dance on two legs. All the dogs in the show were rescues from animal shelters from all over the country. When visiting the shelters, the dogs are not chosen by breed, but by character. Then routines are created and tailored to each animal’s abilities.

Jenny Vidbel will be returning for her third season with the 2013 Big Apple Circus production of Legendarium – presenting several new routines for the 35th season.

The 2012 year’s tour of the Big Apple Circus marked the end of an era, the final performances with the circus of a feisty character, called Grandma, its best-known clown. The character had been portrayed for 25 years by Barry Lubin who created Grandma.

The focus of the “Dream Big” tour was on the “power of the imagination” with the performances and production values in the show inspiring Big Dreams!


Big Apple Circus Information:

bigapple-logoFor more information on the Big Apple Circus: Legendarium – including 2013 show dates & times, purchasing tickets, circus location in Lake George Village, and additional circus info, please visit:

Big Apple Circus Page on this website
Official website:


*Photo Credits:

Jenny Vidbel performing (images 1 & 3) –  by Bertrand Guay / Big Apple Circus

Jenny Vidbel smiling at her Arabian horse (image 2) – by Cyndie Wade-Wood