The new CEO of Big Apple Circus has had quite a professional journey: from Yale Law School to Wall Street to the circus ring.
Gregg Walker, 47, began with the 41-year-old one-ring show in 2018. He grew up in Blue Bell, Pa., but both of his parents are from West Philadelphia, and he still has family there.
“I was raised in Montgomery County,” says Walker, who took over the reins last August, “and I am honored to return to Montgomery County and bring the Big Apple Circus to Montgomery County for the first time in our 41-year history.”
Walker left the area to attend Washington University in St. Louis for college and graduated in 1994. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1997 with U.S. Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker. He then began his media and entertainment career at Goldman Sachs. He later led corporate development teams at Viacom and Sony. It so happened that one of the company investments was Big Apple Circus.
“I grew up wanting to be an attorney. I ended up going to Yale Law School but I never practiced law,” he says. Walker mainly focused on media and telecom companies when he worked on Wall Street.
He says leading the circus keeps him very busy.
“It’s definitely a full-time job. We are constantly in motion to create the best entertainment experience for families,” Walker says.
He says that people with the circus are very unique in their work ethic.
“One of the dynamics is to see how hard-working circus people are. There’s no 9 to 5 for them. They have multiple responsibilities. They work overnight,” Walker says. “It’s culturally a place where people don’t ever complain about long hours. It’s inspiring and eye-opening to see them.”
The Big Apple Circus, which ends Sunday at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pa., is known for its intimacy between the performers and the audience.
The performers are “always looking at the customer and it’s their guiding principle,” Walker says.
He adds that all of the performers feed off of the energy of the audience.
“It’s really an immersive experience, like theater. The audience is very much a part of the show,” Walker says. “Circus performers work for decades to perfect their act. But their No. 1 guiding principle is to create a great experience for everyone.”
He says that memories of a circus last a lifetime and that he as well as the performers recognize this.
“They work to perfect their act so that in that moment they know it’s an opportunity to bring joy to the public,” Walker says.
For more information visit www.bigapplecircus.com.