Venice Circus Arts Foundation Inc
PO Box 2220
VENICE FL 34284-2220
Mission is to Preserve the circus arts and their heritage, create unique educational opportunities, encourage economic development, and promote family entertainment. 
CEO/Executive Director Mr. Tito Gaona
Board Chair Mr. Tito Gaona
Board Chair Affiliation Owner, Gaona Flying Trapeze Academy
General Info
Organization DBA
Circus Arts
Venice Circus Arts
The Venice Circus Arts Foundation
Supported Organization
Former Names
Tax Exempt Status Public Supported Charity
Incorporation Year 2004
Awarded competitive grant from Community Foundation in the last 5 years? Yes
State Charitable Solicitations Permit Yes May 2015
State Registration Yes Jan 2018
IRS Letter of Determination
Financial Summary
Projected Revenue $100,000.00
Projected Expenses $60,000.00
Other Documents
Impact Statement
1. Organized Family Circus Day on the arena grounds providing activities for everyone. Partnered with The Venice Concert Band for entertainment.

2. Held a wine and cheese party at the historic Venice Train Depot as part of the city's anniversary celebration.

3. Provided free tickets, transportation and hot dogs & soda for over fifty children to attend the Circus Snu performances in February.  Also Our Mother's House residents and their children.

 Goals; 1. Partner with the Venice Art Center, Venice Main Street, Venice Community Center, Venice Farmer's Market, and the International Chalk Festival to bring it to Venice in 2014.
2. Hold a Circus Fund Raiser and Gala in November in conjunction with the International Chalk Festival at the Venice Airport Festival grounds.
3.  Create a family event called; 'Community Be The Circus' that will sponsor up to fifty local celebrities, youth, business owners and elected officials to learn an act and perform it in the Big Top at the VCAFI Gala event in November.
4. Preserve and paint the steel structure of the arena and restore the Gunther Gebel-Williams building so that they can be used for entertainment events by the community.
5.  Support the development of Circus Theme miniature golf that will preserve the Gunther Gebel-Williams building and circus walk of fame and provide Circus artifacts and historical information to make each golf hole a history of Circus in Venice. 
Needs Statement

 1. Sponsors for the Community Be The Circus Gala event in conjunction with the International Chalk Festival in November 2014. Both to sponsor the overall event and to sponsor individuals to learn to perform a circus art.

2. Fund raising donations to restore the Gunther Geble-Williams octagonal "Big Cat" training building and make it into a museum to honor the great animal trainer and support development of a 36 hole Circus theme miniature golf for amilies. Also, paint and preserve the arena to be used as an outdoor amphitheater.

3.  Paid staff position.  $30,000 to hire a professional Development director/office manager to organizer and coordinate events and volunteer activities, maintain the confidential donor tracking data base, to build funding capacity.


 4. A "Web master" to update and keep current the social media.  Make it easier to use by potential donors, update it frequently with interactive material and current events/donation items.

5. Funds to hire a Professional Marketing person to establish a "Branding" for organization and market fund raising events.


Background Statement

From 1962 to 1992, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presented its world premiere of "The Greatest Show on Earth" at the Venice Circus Arena each year. Deterioration of the rail spur between Sarasota and Venice over the years forced the circus to move it quarters to Tampa after 1992, thus ending many years of the circus presence in Sarasota County. The arena has since been neglected and the roof has deteriorated for lack of maintenance.

The foundations goal has been to Renovate, Restore, and Rejuvenate the Historic Venice Circus Arena to accomplish our mission and providea significant community event venue for all kinds of events; national and international top entertainers, performers and conferences. However, a recent evaluation by the city dictates that at least a partial demolition of the arena building is required to make the it safe. An engineering evaluation has determined that the steel support structure is still sound so that a restoration at a later date is still possible.Because of these events, the Venice Circus Arts Foundation has narrowed its focus to a more immediate project tosave and restore the smaller, Gunther Gebel-Williams"Big Cat", octagonal training ring building. This will show progress in restoring the historic site, making it a beautiful southern approach to the city of Venice and stimulating economic interest in restoring the total arena site. The foundation is committed to raise the funds necessary to achieve that goal.


Areas Served
Areas Served
FL- Sarasota
FL- Manatee
FL- Charlotte
Service Categories
Primary Org Type Arts,Culture & Humanities
Secondary Org Type Arts,Culture & Humanities
Tertiary Org Type Public & Societal Benefit
Circus, VCAFI, VCAF, Ringling, Clown
Statement from the Board Chair/Board President
Resources are the biggest challenge for our organization.  In this down economy most people wish to gift monies for food and shelter.  A very important aspect of  human life that gets overlooked is the one of providing JOY.  Children of all ages love the thrill of live entertainment and getting up close and personal with the performers.  Even better is getting the chance to be one of those performers in costume and make up.  Yes, we need food, water,  and shelter to survive.  We sometimes also need a brief distraction from the everyday challenges that face us.  Sometimes we just need to go back and be children and enjoy.  That is our goal, to bring joy and life time memories that we can remember and share. People require many types of stimulation to be well rounded individuals. Circus provides that.
Statement from the CEO/Executive Director
Our main mission is to keep Circus history alive in the community.  Venice was the winter home for Ringling Brothers for over 30 years.  In that time a tradition of premiering shows in Venice at the historic Circus Arena before they went around the world.  The Circus train traveled the US with the signage "Venice Florida" home of the Ringling Circus.  During those 30 years Venice was the epicenter of entertainment and training.  The Clown College was unique and a first in the United States.  Ringling trained regular people to become very famous performers.  We continue that tradition by bringing world class shows to the Venice Area and share this most creative and specialized craft.  Our goal is to share this wonderful experience with local children through seminars and team building trapeze, and clowning experiences.  Allowing children to face their fears and overcoming and winning are all part of that experience.  What an uplifting chance to build self confidence in a safe and controlled environment.
Since the city council has voted to finish the demolition of the Arena structure, we have contacted the demolition company to buy some of the steel framework.  We desperately need donations of $20 or more to raise enough to buy some of the steel arches of the Circus Arena structure and use it in the development of a performance hall, not on the airport property,   This will assure that a piece of the Venice Circus Arena will still be here and part of a new performance hall at the 99 Center Road site.
Budget $1,000,000
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Historic Preservation & Conservation
Program Linked to Organizational Strategy Yes
Population Served General/Unspecified Families US& International
Short Term Success
Raise enough funding to restore the Gunther Gebel-Williams "Big Cat" training building and create a tourist attraction that will also generate funds to fulfill our goals.
Long Term Success
Raise awareness and funds to completely restore and operate the Venice Circus Arena as a community event center for family entertainment of all kinds.
Program Success Monitoring
The VCAFI Board of Directors assess the success thru the profit and loss statements provided by the treasure.  Also, feedback from participants at VCAFI events.
Program Success Examples
Overwhelming success in providing free tickets, transportation and food for homeless school children and residents of Our Mothers House to attend Circus performances.
Foot At A Time donations from international locations through the internet and Face Book.
We would like to provide a place in our community to commemorate those people who made Circus in Venice important.  Emmett Kelly, Lou Jacobs, Gunther Gebel-Williams, The Flying Gaonas, Clown College Graduates.  This Walk of fame will be installed on the grounds of our new location at 99 Center Road and be an attraction much like the former Graumann's Chinese (now TLC) Theater in Hollywood, CA.
Budget $5,000
Category Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Historic Preservation & Conservation
Program Linked to Organizational Strategy Yes
Population Served Adults General/Unspecified Adolescents Only (13-19 years)
Short Term Success Short-term success will be getting the Circus stars to come to Venice to be inducted.  The days event will be spectacular with 150-200 Clown College Alumni in attendance.  Kenneth Feld will also be inducted into the Circus Walk of Fame.
Long Term Success We will have a permanent reminder of the importance of the people and the place that came together to create this historic site. 
Program Success Monitoring The ongoing Trapeze park will record the number of visitors and try to have them fill out a survey of their visit.
Program Success Examples Success will be the number of tourists and locals who come to see these paver representations of Circus Greats.  Nothing like this in Venice.
Success examples are the numbers of participants who wish to be represented.  We will seek sponsors to pay for the pavers installation.
Description We will bring at least 50 deserving children, who would not otherwise be able to see the circus, to circus performance, as we did last year.  We provided transportation, seats, and refreshments to all.  The children deserve a chance to see the show and get away from there 'normal' life for a few hours.  Last year the left wide eyed and smiling, saying it was the most fun they ever had. 
Budget $2,500
Category Public, Society Benefit, General/Other Public Assistance
Program Linked to Organizational Strategy Yes
Population Served Children Only (5 - 14 years) Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent Homeless
Short Term Success Give children a felling of self worth and a chance to have fun and see others having fun.  Know that the community cares.
Long Term Success Allowing children to see that the world is better and that there are opportunities for them and there is a future for them and the community cares about them and their long term success in life.
Program Success Monitoring Feedback from the children, families and teachers.
Program Success Examples Last year a little 8 year old girl hugged the director and said "that was the best time in my life!"  All the children left smiling and full of lunch.  Feed back from teachers was they talked about their experience at school.
Program Comments by Organization Having a paid staff is the greatest aspiration for our organization.  Volunteers are wonderful, special, and we are grateful for them.  A paid staff is more predictable, able to take on challenges without personal feeling getting in the way.  Paid support means fewer conversations to get the job done.
Program Comments by Foundation
CEO/Executive Director
CEO/Executive Director Mr. Tito Gaona
CEO Term Start 2004
CEO/Executive Director Email
Tito Gaona is the owner and founder of the Flying Trapeze Academy and Flying Fantasy Circus of Venice Florida. He is a member of the Flying Gaonas, a five-generation trapeze and circus performing family that has performed with the Big Apple Circus, Ringling bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, and circuses across Europe and South America.

Tito became the first performer in history to do the triple somersault blindfolded. He became respected as one of the greatest flyers and best all-around athletes in the American Circus. He was inducted into the National Acrobatic Society's Hall of Fame.

Tito and his performing family received the prestigious Golden Clown Award as top performers at the Monte Carlo International Circus Festival, presented by The Royal Family of Monaco. Tito has since returned as a judge at the request of Princes Stephanie.

Since his 1997 retirement from professional circus life, Tito has directed his attention and considerable talents to teaching the flying trapeze and circus arts to his students. His illustrious 40 year career as a flying trapeze performer is documented in his biography "Born to Fly". 

Former CEOs/Executive Directors
Senior Staff
Staff & Volunteer Statistics
Full Time Staff 0
Part Time Staff 0
Staff Retention Rate % N/A
Professional Development No
Contractors 0
Volunteers 25
Management Reports to Board N/A
CEO/Executive Director Formal Evaluation N/A
Senior Management Formal Evaluation N/A
Non-Management Formal Evaluation No

VCAFI collaborated with 12 Sarasota County Public Schools to hold a Children's Art contest open to all grades.  The theme was "Save the Venice Circus Arena".  Over 800 entries were received and all were displayed at VCAFI offices and later at county libraries.  First, Second and Third place winners in each age/grade group were selected by a panel of judges.  Winners received a small art scholarship from Ringling School of Art and Design and their art teacher received money for art supplies from VCAFI.  The winners were invited to ride in the Venice Christmas Parade on the VCAFI float.


In January VCAFI and volunteer Steve Smith collaborated with the Venice Greater Area Chamber of Commerce, Englewood and North Port Middle Schools, Creative Travel and All Around Charter of Nokomis to bring deserving students and Our Mothers House residents and their children to see "Circus Snu" at no cost to them or their chaperones.  The transportation was provided by Creative Travel as chaperones and the buses by All Around Charter.  Cash donations were provided by members of Venice Greater Area Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery Carpets, Venice Nissan and individuals.  Publicity was donated by radio stations WLSS - Chuck England and WENG

Collaborated with the Venice Museum and Archives to save circus artifacts from the Arena before it was partially demolished.  A large Wringling Bros.and Barnum & Bailey  office safe, ticket window, and seats were rescued and given to the city historian.


External Assessments and Accreditations
Awards & Recognition
Risk Management Provisions
Government Licenses
Organization Licensed by the Government
Fundraising Plan Under Development
Communication Plan No
Strategic Plan Yes
Strategic Plan Years 5
Strategic Plan Adopted July 2010
Management Succession Plan No
Policies and Procedures No
Continuity of Operations Plan Yes
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistle Blower Policy No
Document Destruction Policy No
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy Yes
Management Comments by Organization
Management Comments by Foundation
Board Chair
Board Chair Mr. Tito Gaona
Company Affiliation Owner, Gaona Flying Trapeze Academy
Board Term Oct 2004 to Oct 2014
Board Chair Email
Board Members
Board Members
Mr. Armando Gaona Foreman, R V World, Nokomis, FL
Mr. Tito Gaona Gaona Flying Trapeze Academy
Ms. Beatrice Holt retired Vice President of the Connecticut Medical Insurance Company
Mr. Mike Pachota Venice Pier Group, Sharky's On The Pier
Mr. Larry Ryan Licensed Corporate Pilot
Mr. Thomas Whittaker Licensed CPA, Dowd, Whittaker & Associates, Venice, FL
Student serving on the board through Community Youth Development? No
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 4
Hispanic/Latino 2
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 5
Female 1
Board Term Lengths 5
Board Term Limits 10
Board Orientation No
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 12
Board Meeting Attendance % 83
Board Self-Evaluation No
Written Board Selection Criteria Yes
Written Conflict of Interest Policy Yes
% of Board Making Monetary Contributions 68
% of Board Making In-Kind Contributions 100
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes
Standing Committees
Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
Governance Comments by Organization
Governance Comments by Foundation
Fiscal Year Projections
Fiscal Year Begins 2014
Fiscal Year Ends 2014
Projected Revenue $100,000.00
Projected Expenses $60,000.00
Endowment Value
Endowment Spending Policy N/A
Endowment Spending Policy %
Capital Campaign
In a Capital Campaign Yes
Campaign Purpose We are in the process of providing donations opportunities for individuals and families to participate in the rebuilding of the Venice Arena Site. As of January 1, 2013 we have raised over $8,000.00 for repairs to the Arena property.
Campaign Goal $100,000.00
Campaign Dates Jan 2013 to Dec 2014
Amount Raised To Date 10000 as of Apr 2014
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes
Historical Financial Review
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201320122011
Program Expense$18,002$11,744$1,985
Administration Expense$24,078$7,478$10,145
Fundraising Expense$122,545$86,329$75,582
Payments to Affiliates$0$0$0
Total Revenue/Total Expenses0.831.161.12
Program Expense/Total Expenses11%11%2%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue90%75%78%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201320122011
Total Assets$7,640$35,924$18,480
Current Assets$5,880$33,620$17,346
Long-Term Liabilities$0$0$0
Current Liabilities$23$240$22
Total Net Assets$7,617$35,684$18,458
Top Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201320122011
Top Funding Source & Dollar AmountFundraising $105,280Fundraising $94,620Fundraising $54,858
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar AmountContributions, gifts, grants $30,286Contributions, gifts, grants $11,972Contributions, gifts, grants $42,110
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar AmountMerchandise Sales $959Gulf Coast Community Foundation $9,000Bingo $850
CEO/Executive Director Compensation N/A
Co-CEO/Executive Director Compensation N/A
Tax Credits No
Short Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201320122011
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities255.65140.08788.45
Long Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201320122011
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets0%0%0%
Financials Comments
Financial Comments by Organization
Financial Comments by Foundation Financial information taken from audited financial statement (2010) and compilations (2011 - 2013).
Nonprofit Venice Circus Arts Foundation Inc
Address PO Box 2220
VENICE , FL 342842220
Primary Phone 941 485-7675