• A Message from the President
  • 2022-23 VAHS Events Calendar
  • The County and City Visit the Depot!
  • Circus Train Car Update
  • Become Part of the Circus Car Team!
  • In Memory of Julia Cousins Laning
  • In Memory of Penny Phelps
  • In Memory of Ralph Richardson
  • Welcome to Our Newest Members
  • Support VAHS Business Members
  • Membership Application

A Message from the President 

October 2022

WELCOME BACK all of you who have been away! We sunbirds have been busy keeping the home fires burning (uh, the air conditioners humming.)  We all hope you had wonderful, cool weather where you were.

We have a busy schedule ahead for you to enjoy. We’re planning to march in the Venice Holiday Parade in November; hold a holiday party for our members in December; organize a formal dedication ceremony for our new Circus Car; hold our Annual Member Meeting in March; and organize a celebration in May recognizing our train car and Museum Day (along with the Venice Museum) - not to mention the highlight of every season - Betty Intagliata’s extraordinary lecture series (more below). 

It has probably occurred to you astute readers that all of the above requires VOLUNTEERS - someone to set up, take down, direct cars to parking, blow up balloons, pop the popcorn, serve refreshments, greet members and guests, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera (as the King of Siam would say).

I can assure you; your enjoyment of these featured events will be enhanced by the old acquaintances you will renew and the new friends you will make. If you are willing to give of your time to help, please send a message to:

Common Cents -

One of my favorite expressions when directed at extravagant wastes of money is “He/she has more dollars than sense.”

When directed at prudent expenditures of local tax dollars, my favorite expression is “Common Cents.” Under this program an extra 1% of sales tax is collected to be used entirely for local infrastructure projects in Sarasota County, such as public safety, libraries, parks, and schools. First authorized by voters in 1989, it has been renewed twice in 15-year increments. And now it’s up for renewal again.

For the first time in history, “history” stands to benefit from the Common Cents program. On top of the list of projects likely to benefit is the County’s proposed 30,000-square-foot History Center, a repository for a collection of the County’s documents, maps, photographs and objects, to be stored safely from fire, wind, and water. Any of you who have visited the old Center--now closed because it’s unsafe for people and things--know this is a very necessary improvement. “While the vote is not on how the funds will be spent… we need to vote for the “penny tax” to be renewed so that funds are available.”

I ask each of our members and friends to SUPPORT the “Common Cents” program when you go to the polls in November--if anybody still goes to the polls--or when you cast your mail-in ballot. This is an easy and (relatively) painless way of supporting programs important to our communities. For more information on the program, see:


Frank Wright, President

“Come!  Celebrate history with us!”

Venice Area Historical Society

2022-23 VAHS Events Calendar

November 26, 2022

City of Venice Holiday Parade

Come See VAHS March in the Parade!

December 8, 2022

Holiday Party

Venice Yacht Club--Details TBA-Save the Date

March 31, 2023

Annual Meeting--Details TBA-Save the Date

May 6, 2023

Venice Museums Day and Circus Car Celebration

For information:

Call: (941) 412-0151



Check the website for updates.

The County and City Visit the Depot!

On August 1, several administrators and staff from Sarasota County and the City of Venice visited the Historic Venice Train Depot campus for tours of the Depot waiting rooms, the caboose, and the circus train car.  Many had never been to the campus before, and only one had visited the new Circus Museum.  George Miller, Mary Huba, and Chucko the Clown (Chuck Sidlow) shared information about the historic displays. 

Photo by: Noriko Sidlow

Photo by: George Miller

The first picture shows (L-R Back Row) Bill Wilder, Lorraine Anderson (City of Venice Public Information Officer), Dorian Hardy, Nicole Rissler (Sarasota County Director of Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources), Donna Lacey, Sarah Good, Loren Kabrick, and Kim Hueberger, as well as (L-R Front Row) Chucko the Clown, Mary Huba, and George Miller.  The second picture shows Chucko recounting stories and providing information about his years with Ringing Bros., particularly Clown College.

Circus Car Update

The circus car has been open to the public on most Saturdays since June 18.  Although publicity was limited to the VAHS website, the number of visitors grew steadily over the summer.  Visitors’ reactions have been uniformly positive!

The Gunther Gebel-Williams Room is now finished.  Two original seats from the Circus Arena in Venice have been refurbished and are now on display in the car.  Construction of the permanent displays in the clown rooms will begin soon. 

Plans are underway for a dedication of the car in early 2023, along with a celebration later in the Spring!

Photos by Mary Huba

Become Part of the Circus Car Team!

Are you interested in serving as a greeter in the newly-opened circus car?  After November 1, many volunteers will be needed in order to keep the car open four days a week. 

Please contact information@veniceareahistoricalsociety if you are interested in pursuing this opportunity.  Training sessions lasting about 45 minutes will be held throughout the year.  Although the schedule has not been finalized, we anticipate that greeter assignments will be about 3 hours long.

Thank you for considering this type of service to both the Society and the Venice community!

In Memory of Julia Cousins Laning

Julia Cousins Laning, 100, well known for her many philanthropic contributions in helping to preserve Venice’s history, died July 16, 2022. She made a significant contribution to help fund the restoration of the circus train car, now established at the Historic Depot Campus.   Julia was 5 when she came to Venice with her family in 1927, the year Venice was incorporated and the Train Depot was constructed. She never forgot the struggles and sacrifices that so many like her family made to help Venice survive during the Depression years.  In an earlier tribute to Julia, VAHS Program Chair Betty Intagliata noted that she had taped a recording of Julia talking about her parents’ experience, noting that Venice had quickly turned into a "ghost town", with few families staying.  It undoubtedly gave her a great deal of satisfaction to know her generous spirit and financial support helped to erase that image.  

In Memory of Penelope (Penny) Phelps

Penny was one of the first docents to give tours of the 2003 restored Historic Venice Train Depot, and she used her teaching background in many ways to make Venice history fun for adults and children. She is fondly remembered by fellow docents for the years she also helped lead the sessions of creating many sea creature cutouts for distribution to visiting families at the annual shark festivals where VAHS had a booth. Always ready to help in many ways, she also served on the Education Committee and was a secretary for the Venice Historic Preservation League, which remains as the official IRS filing name for VAHS.  She was enthusiastic about the anticipated completion of a restored circus car to be brought to the Depot Campus and would have been involved in planning for an opening celebration.  Penny died July 30, 2022, in a Tampa hospital; she and her husband Herb had moved to that area a few years ago to be near their son Doug and his wife Eileen.  The couple hosted a Zoom Memorial for his parents on September 10, 2022, and friends from churches and historic organizations from their former home in Maryland, and new ones they made in the greater Venice area were delighted to share their memories of this family that always gave so much of their time and talents.  VAHS Depot Chair George Miller noted that he always enjoyed seeing Penny and fellow docent Arletta Slocum on duty, for they always enjoyed sharing Venice history, making it come alive for visitors of all ages.

In Memory of Ralph Richardson

One of the early founders and leaders of today’s VAHS, Ralph Richardson, died July 26, 2022, at age 97.  He was Co-President with Rollins Coakley, and then served as President, with both working to promote the Historic Venice Train Depot and other historic Venice venues including tours.  Ralph had a distinguished legacy of many careers including Foreign Service and varied interests before he and his wife Wendy made Venice their final home.  In an obituary notice, his family recalled his work to have the bridge to the Island, used by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus during the many winters they spent in Venice, renamed the Circus Bridge. They also noted his interest in art and his cartoons are still remembered by many.  He arranged for an art contest with the Art Department at Venice High School, with VAHS giving cash awards to promote interest.  Ralph left a legacy that is still noted as outstanding for preserving and promoting the cultural and historical aspects of his adopted City.


Kathleen Tsakas

John and Annette Neiweem

Steven and Katherine Standford and Family


Venice Pride, Inc.


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If you would like to have a personal chat to find out more about our goals, needs, and plans, or if you are unsure of your renewal date, please contact Carol Bailey, Membership Chair, at  You can also leave a brief message on the VAHS phone at 941-412-0151.

Support VAHS Business Members

Click here for a printable version of this application.

Office: (941) 412-0151 • PO Box 995, Venice, FL 34284-0995