Time Square performers share tales
You’ve seen them on Times Square on the beach and in other outside venues – barkers, performers, magicians, and other well-meaning artists out there doing what they love and providing you entertainment.
This time, we caught up with three of your favorite acts from Times Square.
George Gilbert is a magician, originally from the Baltimore area, who has been travelling the U.S. for years, often ending up in Fort Myers Beach, which he now calls home. Having represented the U.S. in several international competitions in Germany and Scotland, he’s here to give you a show you’ll be sure to come back for be it a funny gag or a magic trick to pull you in.
Brittany Sparkle is from New York, but has been performing on the Beach for the last three years. A classically trained circus performer who went to the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne, Australia, she does feats of acrobatic wonder with a smile and a flourish.
Chester Rogers has been around Lee County and Fort Myers Beach for the better part of 40 years doing caricatures for anyone and everyone. He’s officially moved to Times Square and made it a daily spot for his talent.
What got you into your craft? How did it begin?
George: I read a book about Harry Houdini when I was 6 and that was kind of it. I started practicing any kind of magic I could get my hands on since.
Brittany: I started in dance and theater at 3 so I’ve always been a bit of a performer. I definitely knew I want to be in performing arts, but I had no clue circus was an option until much later in life.
Chester: The second I could pick up crayons as a child, really. I snuck into my brother’s room and drew some big thing on the wall and my mom put a frame around it, which was really special to me. I always think back to that, she really did something special for me at such an early age. Instead of getting mad, she helped me grow my passion.
How did you decide to make this your living?
George: After I turned 18 and was in college for audio engineering, I ended up dropping out of my first couple of classes and just started performing around Baltimore. I traveled a ton back then, I still do, obviously, but significantly more then. I wanted to perform, I wanted to be a magician and I had all the talent I needed to get by.
Brittany: I was actually a literature major in college before I learned about the National Institute of Circus Arts and I moved to Melbourne and got a Bachelor’s in Contemporary Circus. I wanted to make my life long passion into something I did all the time and then I did it.
Chester: I started out in portraits, being honest. But art has been in me since I was little, I don’t think I ever really considered anything else, the joy people get from my work really is satisfying.
How did you find your way to the Beach?
George: I was performing in Clearwater for a little bit before I heard about Fort Myers Beach around 2008 and came down here kind of on a whim to see if I liked it. I found the Beach has so much potential for growth, and I’ve really been striving the last couple of years to showcase what we have to offer down here, the people and the crowds are amazing, and I’ve been all over, so I really want people to know how awesome it is to be here.
Brittany: We used to vacation down here when I was really young, so I kind of just fell in love with the place. I moved down and started performing full time a couple of years ago, but it really has meant the world to be able to do what I love here.
Chester: I’ve moved off the Beach, back on it, got married, had kids, moved back. It’s been a trip over the last couple of decades, but the Fort Myers area has always been my home, and at this point, it’s hard to even think about being anywhere else.
What is your favorite part of performing on the Beach?
George: It’s the energy, really. Every crowd is fun, all the kids love being part of the act. The vibe down here has always been very unique, and the people go out of their way to make sure you’re doing well.
Brittany: The crowds are super responsive and like being involved. You don’t get that everywhere. But the people down here really are something else. You’ll see familiar faces every year, and people will remember how you made them smile.
Chester: Being down here for so long, you eventually start to see kids you drew grew up and have kids of their own and they bring their kids in for caricatures. It’s something special to be included in someone you don’t personally knows life for so long, but it really does make friends out of everyone, and I’m thankful for that.
What’s next for you?
George: Brittany and I are actually working on some duo acts and trying to get a performing management company together down here so we can start pushing Fort Myers Beach as the place to come to for the best entertainment. We both believe in the growth here, and we know the people are into it, which is why we keep performing.
Brittany: Working on new acts, mostly, but getting the company together with George has been really exciting. We want to bring a new energy to the beach and share it with people who already love our work.
Chester: I always work Surfer’s For Autism; I make sure to attend it every year. That’s in my immediate future, but I am now permanently in Times Square, so I’m getting used to the new scenery.