Nowadays, we are besieged with spectacle. Movies, advertising, video games, even television newscasts all clamor and compete for our attention. Still it can be nearly impossible to find something entertaining to share with the entire family.

The stereotypical circus could be considered a cliché for old-time spectacle, but Circus Vargas has been able to retain the family tradition while injecting a modern edge. Recently seen in the motion picture Water for Elephants, Circus Vargas has been around since 1969, when Clifford Vargas first realized his own childhood dream of establishing a circus. The tradition of the traveling big top enabled his circus to be seen by people who might otherwise not have been able to reach such a show. Mr. Vargas was determined to share his dream with as many people as possible, and his tradition continues, with Tabares Entertainment Inc. now presenting this latest rendition.

Katya Quiroga, vice president and artistic director, describes this year’s storyline: “Throughout our show, our beloved clown Matti is searching for his true love. He travels through the Americas, starting in the most southern part of Argentina and ending in the red, white and blue splendor of the United States. Does he find her? Find out at the end of the performance!”

Audience participation is high, with a free, interactive pre-show for the kids, and volunteers taking part in the action throughout the show. The atmosphere is family-friendly but not dull. Each act is sharp and smart, with performers feeding off the audience’s input.

While the performers provide skilled, awe-inspiring entertainment, the biggest star of the show is, of course, the massive blue and gold tent. Custom-made in Italy with a price tag of $1 million, the big top takes 30 men and seven hours to put up, and seats 1,500 people. The tent consists of 90,000 square feet of fabric and is supported by 500 individually placed stakes, and more than four miles of rope and cable that weigh in excess of 17 tons.

At that size, the big top of Circus Vargas is as much about shelter as it is about show. It focuses us on the main event, helping us leave behind the distractions of our daily lives. The outside world is blocked out for a while, and together we experience the live thrill of a high-wire act, the melancholy humor of a clown’s search for love, the brazen audacity of acrobatic pirates. If that isn’t enough, the Ultimate Globe is a motorcycle act in a globe that splits into three levels, with the riders driving inside.

Experiences like these become not so much a “where,” but a “who,” and it is easy to see how this type of entertainment quickly becomes a family tradition. To be in the moment with loved ones, to experience something extraordinary together, becomes a memorable event for everyone involved.

Circus Vargas invites you to become part of its family for a day. At the pre-show, audience children go center-stage to learn balancing skills from the circus kids and host of the show. Throughout the performance, audience members join the performers on stage. After the show, circus performers are available for photo opportunities and autographs.

Throughout it all, there is a bond between spectators and spectacle.   

Circus Vargas opens at the Ventura County Fairgrounds June 23 and stays until June 27. More information about Circus Vargas can be obtained at www.circusvargas.com.

eitman@mindspring.com