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Dolly Jacobs

2012 Florida Folk Heritage Award


Dolly Jacobs is a world-renowned circus aerialist, born and raised in Sarasota, Florida. She learned the circus arts at a young age from her family “under the big top”; Dolly’s mother was a circus performer and her father, Lou Jacobs, is considered one of the greatest clowns of all time. Like her father, Ms. Jacobs personifies circus artistry at its best. In 1971, she joined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, where she quickly earned the title “Queen of the Air.” Ms. Jacobs has performed worldwide, including twice at the Circus Festival of Monte Carlo. On both occasions, she was recognized as the “Dame du Cirque,” winning the Silver Clown award presented by Prince Albert of Monaco. Dolly has also been inducted into the Circus Ring of Fame and designated a Circus Celebrity at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. In 1997, Dolly and her husband founded Circus Sarasota, to preserve Florida’s circus arts legacy. Circus Sarasota is the only professional not-for-profit resident circus in Florida, and has developed community outreach programs that benefit people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. In 2015, Dolly became the first circus performer to receive the prestigious NEA National Heritage Fellowship. In July 2017, Dolly was a featured aerialist in the Big Top on the National Mall during the 50th Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which focused on the world of circus arts and was presented in partnership with Sarasota’s Circus Arts Conservatory. Throughout her distinguished career, Ms. Jacobs has maintained her family’s legacy and the heritage of the American circus, sharing her talents with audiences in Florida and across the world.