Circus McGurkis, the People’s Fair, 2018 was themed “Ride the Peace Wave.” Instead of being held at a city park or private wooded church campus, the site of this year’s Circus McGurkis was the large, beautifully landscaped inner courtyard at Gibbs High School, the arts magnet school and former African American Community College located in the heart of St. Petersburg’s African American community. In spite of broiling heat—and competition from a giant Science Fair in downtown St Petersburg—Lynn Carol Henderson, the overall Circus coordinator and Clerk of the St Petersburg Friends, reported over a thousand visitors.
Local artist Leslie Anne Chanove Searles and her art crew sanctified the space with 2000 hand cut and painted prayer flags with images relating to peace circling the area. Amidst flying streamers and colorful shade sails and umbrellas 120 booths filled the space with color and sound. Students, members of the local neighborhood, church groups, social change and economic justice groups teamed with local vendors selling handmade, fair trade and sustainable goods. Mingling peacefully, without the necessity of armed security guards, the presenters created a mellow atmosphere of shared ideas and commitment to a just and peaceful world
Three booths of high school students presented the work of the Arts Honors Society, the Gay/Straight Alliance, and the Exceptional Students Program. The young artists also set up easels and modeled for a life-drawing circle, and also performed on both the Music Stage and the Bardic Circle Spoken Word Stage.
Five tents of Friends groups—St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Clearwater Monthly Meetings, Quaker Earthcare Witness, and ProNica—gave out literature and sold buttons, bumper stickers, T-Shirts and goods from Nicaragua. (click on photos to see full size)
As always, Circus McGurkis was designed to unite the arts and social change in the service of a non-violent world. Larry Enlow and Maureen Kilroy. of the Enroy Foundation, sponsored and coordinated a remarkable line-up of performers that included the well known professional musicians Fred Johnson, Laura Shepherd, Abasi Ote’ and Abintra, as well as belly dancers and an interpretive dancer from the Border Patrol Victims Network, who dramatized the culture and plight of immigrants at the Mexican border. At the Bardic Circle, musicians, ballad singers, storytellers and poets used their art to express their convictions.
All of the vendors and non-profit groups were encouraged to provide intergenerational activities that created interactive learning, and there were several children’s art booths throughout the fair.
All this plus ample free parking left everyone satisfied with another successful Circus McGurkis!
—Lynn Carol Henderson, Clerk, St. Petersburg Meeting
Circus McGurkis has been sponsored and organized by St. Petersburg Friends since 1971. This year their Steering Committee included community volunteers from LUCC Lakewood United Church of Christ and from the social justice, interfaith and environment sectors.