The Barnum Festival’s 2020 Vision: Ringmaster Frank Gennarini


For more than 20 years as a volunteer he served as great street parade grand marshal, chairman of the car show, organizer of the fireworks, a judge for many events. On Wednesday Frank Gennarini, donning red socks, red shoes and the signature red blazer, was named ringmaster of the 2020 Barnum Festival, the annual salute to showman P.T. Barnum whose contributions to Bridgeport include Seaside Park, public library system and Bridgeport Hospital.

“This is a tremendous honor. The festival has always played a special part in my life. Living on Charles Street in Bridgeport as a child, I remember watching the Goodyear blimp promoting the events of the festival. I plan to continue this great tradition that has brought so much fun and good will to the greater Bridgeport region.”

The vice president of Bridgeport-based D’Addario Industries has chosen the theme “20/20–A Vision for the Future.”

“I was bitten by the ‘Barnum bug’ a long time ago because I’ve seen the fun and community spirit it creates. We’re going to build on that in 2020.”

CT Post reporter Tara O’Neill has more:

Gennarini and his wife, Cynthia Tsokalas, plan to debut an illusion and magic show this spring, featuring Kalin and Jinger–world-renowned illusionists who have performed on Broadway and around the world. Jinger is their daughter.

Barnum Festival Executive Director Charlie Carroll praised the choice, saying Gennarini is “highly qualified” to be ringmaster because of his longtime involvement with the festival.

“Frank is eminently qualified to be the ringmaster,” Carroll said. “He’s done it all. He’s ready to hit the ground running and has a lot of enthusiasm, which is what you need. It’s a lot of work, but he’s up for it. We look forward to working with him.”

Full story here.



  1. Good luck to the new Barnum Festival Ringmaster. IMHO,the Barnum Festival could be and should be expanded to a very mayor festival that would put Bridgeport on the map for positive reason. P.T. Barnum still has good name recognition. IMHO,.The Barnum Festival has been “coasting” for a number of years and it has become a “blip” in the Bridgeport Scene. It needs major re-invigoration.

    1. Great Question. The first Ringmaster was 1949/50. All have been males except Elizabeth Pfriem who most deservedly was chosen as Rinmaster. As for diversity. I could not tell from the Official Barnum Festival website if any Ringmaster was a person of color. The only other factor in terms of diversity was that there was a Gay Ringmaster. Really. THIS IS A GREAT QUESTION.

    2. Sarah Lewis and Frank Gyure, Elizabeth Pfriem was the first and only woman to serve as the Barnum Festival Ringleader in its entire history. She was a leader and a real woman of substance.

    3. Sarah , the answer is yes, from 1950 until today there has only been one white female, one Hispanic and one black, 1986: Elizabeth M. Pfreim, 2002: Hon. Eddie Rodriguez, Jr., 2004: Peter F. Hurst, this is a disgrace.

      1. If you’re chosen to be the Ringmaster you agree to raise significant funds to underwrite your Festival year. Betty Pfriem, aka ” Anonymous”, gave huge sums to keep the Festival in the black. Perhaps one solution would be to wrap all the different parades under one blanket on a rotating basis with different divisions.

        25 Cents To The Egress!

          1. Ron- Dating back to 1948. It’s so two thousand and late. Different time and a different city. It gets back to Dough and we have an economic yeast infection.

            It’s also a civics problem. Kids that attend Cesar A. Batalla School don’t have a clue who he was never mind Charles Tisdale.

  2. The festival definitely needs a shot in the arm. IMO when the parade was moved to Seaside it lost a lot of its grandeur.I understand why it was moved however.I remember as a kid, getting excited when the last two weeks of June was near. The Wing Ding was the event of the summer, then the champions on parade at a packed Kennedy Stadium, the fireworks and the climax was the Great Street parade.Great memories!..

  3. Ron, It’s not a black/white/brown/Hispanic issue. It’s a Green Issuue. If Chandler Howard, the former C.E.O of Liberty Bank, had his HQ in Bridgeport he would have been a Ringmaster. It’s all about the Benjamin’s. Go nominate a person with 100 Large! Show Me The Money?

    1. You just get it, it has nothing to do with the new Ring Master it has to do with their Mission statement plus the fact just like you there no problem with selecting just white males in multi colored City even if the subran towns are included. Your point is that there are no female white, black or Hispanic and no blacks and Hispanic males to serve as a Ring Master for PT Barnum’s own City where he was the mayor and a elected State Rep.?

    2. OK, but aren’t there PLENTY of female business leaders in the region who are more than qualified to take on the fundraising requirements? Hispanic business leaders? Black business leaders? The Barnum Festival could be a tourist attraction that brings CT residents to the area to celebrate the interesting history of Bridgeport….but it’s hella stale.

      1. Sarah, there have been 70 Ring Masters for the Barnum Festival and 67 Ring Masters were white males or 95% white males. What are the standards to be a Ring Masters, do they use their tax returns, do have to make a certain amount of money and have those standards been the same for 70 years? What type of outreach does the Barnum Festival do to get someone to be a Ring Master? All of the “major” events of the Barnum Festival held in Bridgeport where the majority of Bridgeport is a City of color. Maybe the Barnum Festival should be moved to a town or city that reflect the makeup of the 95% of those Ring Masters.


    Here is a little history about Phineas Taylor Barnum and Bridgeport, not Trumbull, Fairfield, Shelton, Monroe, Stratford, Stamford or any other city in Fairfield county.
    Beneath the charm and extravagance of his circus persona is a man whose contributions to Bridgeport are unmatched. Barnum is quite simply the single most important contributor to the city’s history. He developed thousands of acres of city property, converting farm and pasture land into choice building lots; enabled the working class to purchase land and houses through an innovative payment system; donated a large part of Seaside Park, one of the first waterfront parks in the country; attracted numerous manufacturing companies; served as the president of Bridgeport Hospital, the local water company and the Pequonnock Bank (a predecessor of Connecticut National); donated the money to establish the Barnum Museum; established Mountain Grove Cemetery; and provided funding for Bridgeport schools, the library system, parks, and other civic ventures. Another side of Barnum was his drive to grant Blacks the right to vote and his sympathy for the women’s rights movement.


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