Catherine Hanneford-Carden: A Lifetime Devoted to the Circus Arts
Catherine Hanneford-Carden, a distinguished figure in the world of circus arts, was posthumously awarded the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award as a 2024 Circus Ring Of Fame Foundation inductee. This honor, recognizing the highest of achievements in circus arts and culture, crowned a career marked by unparalleled dedication and talent.
Born on April 7, 1966, in Hollywood, FL, Catherine’s journey into the circus began at the tender age of 5 when she made her debut as a ballerina on horseback, performing alongside her parents’ riding act. Her innate talent and passion for the circus arts propelled her into a multifaceted career, earning her a place among the circus elite.
Catherine’s circus occupations were as diverse as they were impressive. From animal trainer and presenter to acrobat, aerialist, trampolinist, singer, dancer, and magician, she mastered various disciplines under the big top. Her Circus debut in 1971 set the stage for a remarkable career that spanned several decades and included iconic performances with renowned circuses such as Hanneford Circus, Ringling Bros. Gold, and Ringling Bros. from 1971 to 2005, 1999 to 2000, and 2011 to 2014, respectively.
Notably, Catherine broke barriers as the first female singing Ringmaster, a role she performed with grace and skill on Ringling Bros. in 1999. She further showcased her versatility as a featured performer on the “Living Carousel” tour, mesmerizing audiences with her animal training and presentation skills.
Beyond the spotlight, Catherine’s generosity was matched only by her dedication to animal welfare. As an animal trainer and presenter, she owned all her animals, including elephants and dogs, and was renowned for her rescue efforts, transforming shelter dogs into beloved features of her acts.
Catherine’s greatest achievement came in 1999 when she understudied Jonathan Lee Iverson and performed 32 shows as the first female singing Ringmaster. Her contributions were recognized with honors, awards, and special recognitions, including being voted the best performer and hardest worker for two consecutive years during her four-year tenure with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Red Unit. In 2014, she received the prestigious Promie Award on Gold.
A performer, trainer, and advocate, Catherine Hanneford-Carden’s legacy extends beyond the circus ring. Her enduring impact on the circus arts, coupled with her commitment to animal welfare, distinguishes her as a true icon in the world of entertainment.