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Every two years, hundreds of circus youth and circus coaches gather from all across the United States for the American Youth Circus Festival. This five-day event is comprised of over 150 workshops, two showcases, and plentiful social events and community building opportunities.

This is a life changing event that is not to be missed!

General Information

Daily Schedule

  • Aug 14: Check in 4-6pm, dinner 6-7pm (not included), opening ceremonies 7:30-9pm
  • Aug 15-17: Open warm up 8-9am, daily activities, shows, etc 9am-10pm
  • Aug 18: Activities 9am-1pm, Lunch 1-2pm.

What’s new this year?

  • Dinner is not included – we are working to make sure there are accessible, affordable options

The Fine Print

  • We are not able to accommodate requests to extend the early bird rate.
  • No refunds after June 1, 2019.
  • All passes require individual AYCO/ACE membership.

Workshop Sign-Up


Changes, additions, and updates will continue up to the time of the festival, so stay tuned!

Please note that for workshop sign-up you need a separate log-in for Sched (this log-in is different than the log-in you used to register for the event on AYCO’s Member Portal, as they are separate websites).

More IMPORTANT Workshop & Sched Account Sign-Up Info HERE!

Showcase Information

Applications are now closed. There will be two nights of AYCO showcases, 8/15 and 8/16. In general, every circus organization is able to have 1 act in the showcases. Anyone 21 and under can perform.

Registration Is Closed!


Festival Fees and Passes

Youth Pass (Under 21): $375 Early Bird/$475 Regular/$275 Social Circus – Registration for Youth Passes has closed.
Mandatory membership: Youth.

Includes swag bag with official festival shirt, water bottle, and lanyard!

**Please see note on chaperones below.

Adult Pass (21+): $275
Registration for Adult Passes has closed. Mandatory membership: Professional, Partner, Supporter, Pyramid Partner, Organization, or Young Professional

The Adult Pass is intended for anyone 21 and over who is attending the event, either solo, as a part of a group, or as a chaperone to youth who are on site. Adult pass holders will have access to all workshops with the “adult” label – which will include physical workshops, spotting and safety sessions, panels, discussions, and networking opportunities.

**Note on chaperones: Because our event is not delivered in the style of a sleep away camp where there is supervision for each child at all times, we require each youth have a designated chaperone.  If you choose to come as a chaperone, you will need to purchase the adult pass which comes with access to a special strand of workshops as well as food, shows, and social events. You’ll also be asked to join as an AYCO member. You will be deeply embedded into the culture of the event as a chaperone and encouraged to participate as opposed to sitting off to the side waiting for activities to be done!
If you are a parent who wishes to attend and chaperone and do other work from our site, you are welcome to do this with your adult pass, but note there will be limited access to quiet spaces for this purpose (although we will have wifi).
Remember, if you know another person over 21 going to the event already, you can designate them as a chaperone for your child so that you don’t have to be on site! Contact if you have any questions or concerns about this and we will help you sort it out.

Adult pass includes swag bag with official festival shirt, water bottle, and lanyard!

Workshop Leader: $175
Mandatory membership: Professional, Partner, Supporter, Pyramid Partner, Organization, or Young Professional

Workshop leaders will be selected via application process by the program director, and will be required to offer their workshop at least twice during the course of the event. More information here.

Workshop Leader pass includes swag bag with official festival shirt, water bottle, and lanyard!

Work Study Participant (18-26): Volunteer in exchange for festival pass
Mandatory membership: Young Professional or Other

Work Study participants will be selected via application process. More information here.

Apply to be a Work Study Participant! Young adults ages 18-26 who are responsible, reliable, and interested in circus arts are eligible to volunteer at AYCOFest in exchange for a Festival pass.

Work Study pass includes swag bag with official festival shirt, water bottle, and lanyard!

AYCO-Provided Designated Chaperone Fee: $150

Provides a chaperone for your child between the hours of 8:30am-7pm on 8/15-8/17, and from 8:30 -1pm on 8/18. Does not include 8/14 for check in, dinner, and opening ceremonies.

How it works: All youth under the age of 18 must have a chaperone on site with them at the festival venue at all times. Available for youth ages 8-17, this option is intended for local working guardians or adults wishing to do other activities while their child is at the festival. Your child will be paired with an adult (21 or over) who will be their chaperone for each day. They will greet your child at 8:30 am, and check in with them during each transition, meal, and activity through 5pm. Chaperones will not be with your child at every moment (they will not sit and watch them take their workshops), however they will be in the festival facility at all times, arrange check in points, and ensure that your child knows where to find them in case they need assistance. Chaperone assistance concludes at 5pm each evening, at which case a guardian must come to pick up or join their youth for evening events for $10/evening. (Evening Activity tickets are currently sold out – if you purchase the AYCO Chaperone service, we will contact you about evening arrangements.)


  • We are not able to offer Chaperone Assistance for single days.
  • If your child is performing in the showcase, their assigned Chaperone Assistant will not be qualified to spot and supervise their act. A parent, guardian, or coach must be prepared to do this and available during their rehearsal and performance times (our showcase director will work with you to arrange this).
  • There is NO overnight care provided. Everyone must be picked up by 7pm, or join up with a guardian at that time.
  • We can not provide chaperones for youth under the age of 8.
  • Does not include 8/14 for check in, dinner, and opening ceremonies (guardians are welcome to accompany youth the first evening at no extra charge).

Housing and Travel

Mid-August is peak tourist season in San Diego. We recommend you book your room as soon as possible to avoid inflated prices and the hotels booking up. If you think you will be coming and can estimate how many rooms you will need, we suggest you reserve them now and cancel if your plans change rather waiting to reserve.


Recommended Hotel: Fairfield Inn and Suites San Diego Old Town
Group Rate: $169/night
(619) 299-7400
Book by 7/15/2019
Group Name: American Youth Circus Organization

AYCO has negotiated a group rate with the Fairfield Inn and Suites. This hotel is a 10 minute walk from San Diego Circus Center, has complementary breakfast, an outdoor pool, accessible rooms, and many other amenities. This is likely to be the cheapest option within a 10 minute walk of San Diego Circus Center, and will likely host the largest concentration of festival attendees. Mention that you are a part of the American Youth Circus Organization when making your reservation to get the discount! Parking is not included, but is also discounted. AYCO will facilitate groups of participants walking from the hotel to SDCC.

**There are limited rooms available at this rate, so book soon! Must reserve by July 15 for discounted price.

Cheaper Options

EZ 8 Motel Old Town
Market Rate: approximately $100/night
(619) 294-2512

The EZ 8 Motel Old Town is a 30 minute walk or 5 minute drive from San Diego Circus Center. Amenities include an outdoor pool and accessible rooms. Parking is free. AYCO will not facilitate transportation to and from this location.

Good Nite Inn San Diego Near SeaWorld
Market Rate: approximately $115/night
(619) 543-9944

The Good Nite Inn San Diego is a 35 minute walk or 6 minute drive from San Diego Circus Center. Amenities include complementary morning coffee and tea. AYCO will not facilitate transportation to and from this location.


If you are interested in staying with a local family, email by June 1 with the subject line “AYCOfest 2019 home stay” and we will do our best to accommodate you. We will prioritize social circus attendees in homestays.


We expect festival goers to have transportation to get to and from their accommodation and the festival site. If you will not have your own transportation to get from the hotel to the festival site, contact to be linked up with others who can help you get to and from.
AYCO will facilitate movement from the recommended hotel to the festival site.

Workshop Leader Information and Application

Submissions for workshops are still OPEN!

The American Youth Circus Festival is a haven for circus youth, parents, educators, and program leaders to convene and connect. The festival is truly a special environment – we hear time and time again that it is one of the most pivotal experiences in the lives of the individuals who attend. This is your chance to share your gifts with the national community, gain exposure, and influence the development of circus in the USA.

All workshops are 1.5 hours long. With 15 minutes of transition between workshops, we require that participants get to the workshop area 5 minutes prior to starting so that you have the entire session to teach. All participants sign up for workshops in advance of the festival.

Please see the application for more detailed information on becoming a Workshop Leader.

Work Study Information and Application

Work Study applications are due by April 15, 2019.
Applicants will hear back by mid-May.

We are looking for young adults ages 18-26 who are responsible, reliable, and interested in circus arts. Whether you are interested in circus learning, social circus, teaching, entrepreneurship, or creative development, the AYCO Festival is the place to be. You’ll have the opportunity to take workshops and panels on a myriad of topics and network with circus community leaders, coaches, and performers. All levels and experiences are welcome. Enthusiasm and energy are a must!

The work study team will be expected to commit to being present and available for the duration of the event. You will be expected to arrive by 3pm on Wednesday, August 14, and leave no earlier than 12 noon on Sunday, August 18. If you have special scheduling needs (for example, you need to leave at 9am Sunday 8/18), please apply anyway, note this, and we will work with you to make it possible.  
We like to be transparent that this is a full on experience without much downtime. We can guarantee that you will be able to attend at least 6 workshops (out of 11 workshop slots offered). We will make it a priority for you to have access to the specific workshops that you are interested in. In exchange for your volunteer time, you’ll get a conference pass, which includes workshops, panels, social events, and lunch each day.

You’ll also have access to engage with future employers, coaches, and collaborators (we are happy to set up meetings for you), and lifelong friendships. For a circus person, being at an AYCO event feels like going to your home planet. Many of our past work study team have found paid work in the circus industry as a result of their participation at our events.

We’ll be sure to make a schedule so you know when and where you need to be to help out, and to take note of the types of tasks you enjoy doing or if you have a special skill. Tasks might range from meal set up and breakdown, to moving mats for workshops, to helping with scheduling and directions.

You will be responsible for your own travel and accommodation – however we are happy to help connect you with people to share hotel rooms, Airbnb, rides, etc. AYCO will provide accommodation for work study participants from social circuses. 

If you have any questions please contact


Do you or your organization want to become a sponsor of this year’s event? Email! More information coming soon!

Festival Contact Information

Questions about registration and payment: Tara Jacob at

General festival questions: Natasha Shatzkin at

See you in August!