Elephants entertain the crowd during the 2012 Zelzah Shrine Circus at The Orleans Arena, 4500 W. Tropicana Ave.
By NOLAN LISTER, VIEW STAFF WRITER
Jan. 8, 2013
Forget the ringmaster. George Carden is the ring CEO, and he is bringing his Zelzah Shrine Circus back to The Orleans Arena Thursday through Sunday.
Las Vegas is the first stop on the circus' 180-city, yearlong circuit.
"We're bringing the quality of show Las Vegas deserves," Carden said. "When you go to Las Vegas, you've got to bring quality."
A portion of the proceeds from the circus' four-day run will benefit the Zelzah Shrine Temple's efforts and overall mission of getting underprivileged children the medical care they need.
John Henry Hoffman, a local doctor and a member of the Shriners for 25 years, said the circus is a yearly boon for the Shriners.
"In terms of our annual operating budget, it is a substantial portion," he said. "It generally covers 25 percent of our operating costs."
This year's acts include Bengal tigers, dancing elephants and "oodles of poodles."
"It's an unbelievable, fast-moving show," Carden said.
According to Carden, his circus costs approximately $67 million yearly. That amount will buy you camels, pot-spinners, fire-breathers and motorcycle daredevils, he said.
"We've got this great flying trapeze act from South America this year," Carden said. "Beautiful girls flying through the air."
Aside from his lifelong love of animals, Carden said the philanthropic aspect of his circus is what has kept him under the big top for 55 years. He has worked with the Shriner circus in one capacity or another since he was a boy.
The Springfield, Mo., native said his single mother, a dancer in the Ozark Jubilee, married the owner of the circus, and 31 years ago Carden bought it from his adopted father.
"I was raised in the Shrine circus," he said. "I've had the greatest life anyone can have."
The circus has seven shows planned Thursday through Sunday at The Orleans Arena, 4500 W. Tropicana Ave. The theme is Broadway and will include an original score and new costumes, according to Carden.
Showtimes are set for 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 and 6 p.m. Sunday.
Attendees are welcome into all three rings of the circus for the pre-party one hour before showtimes to meet performers and ride the elephants.