The Greatest Show on Earth

The Circus Ring of Fame Will Induct New Honorees This Saturday

They include Peggy Williams, the first female graduate of Clown College, and "circus chaplain" Father Jerry Hogan.

By Yasi Bahmanabadi February 2, 2023

Peggy Williams made history as Clown College's first female graduate.

Peggy Williams made history as Clown College's first female graduate.

If you’ve ever attended a circus performance, you might remember acrobats flying through the air with the greatest of ease, red-nosed clowns tumbling out of tiny cars, and enormous-yet-delicate dancing elephants under the Big Top.

Each performer practices nonstop to achieve what Circus Ring of Fame Foundation chairman Bill Powell calls “six minutes of perfection" for their act. And this year, during its 35th annual awards ceremony, the foundation will be honoring barrier-breaking circus clown Peggy Williams; third-generation hand balancers Marco and Paulo Lorador, a.k.a. the hand-balancing duo the Alexis Brothers; prominent circus agent and liberty horse performer Jeanette Williams; and “circus chaplain” Father Jerry Hogan at its annual award ceremony on Saturday.

Williams has been active in the circus industry for 48 years, making history by becoming the first female Clown College graduate and the first woman performance director of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. “We were responsible for creating our character, making our costume and doing our makeup,” she recalls of her career as a clown. “During rehearsals, we were put into different groups, then [practiced] over and over again, so we’d know how to do [our routine] without messing up our clown makeup. We went on a tour around the country, visiting 90 cities over two years and making sure no city ever saw the same show twice.”

Paulo and Marco Lorador, who are originally from Portugal, moved to Sarasota in the early 1980s and performed with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey after a long career in Europe. They also headlined Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere at Treasure Island Resort for 25 years. Third-generation performers, the brothers have been presenting their signature hand-balancing act for decades, which requires strong physical and mental power.

Jeanette Williams—a descendent of the German Circus Williams family—has performed with horses and other animals throughout Europe and in the U.S. with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. She later leveraged her decades of experience to become an agent for circus performers.

Father Jerry Hogan—also known as the “circus chaplain” for more than three decades—also served as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston and gave Mass seasonally at St. Martha’s in downtown Sarasota. His ministry to the circus included weddings, baptisms and memorials.

Powell, who was named Circus Ring of Fame Foundation chairman in 2019 after serving as a board member for several years, says the next steps for the foundation are installing bronze plaques honoring the inductees on St. Armands Circle, complete with QR codes that visitors can scan to read each person’s biography.

Peggy Williams, the Alexis Brothers, Jeanette Williams and Hogan will become part of a class of 150 Circus Ring of Fame inductees. The ceremony has been taking place since 1988; this year, it will be held at Circus Sarasota, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, on Feb. 4 at 4:30 p.m. To reserve a free seat, click here.

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