By CATHERINE KAVANAUGH
For The Oakland Press
HAZEL PARK — The Shrine Circus will have a really big star under the big top this year along with the 10th generation of a family that got its start in the business in 1763.
After a 10-year hiatus, the world’s largest performing Asian elephant will be in the spotlight at the Hazel Park Harness Raceway, said Chuck Baer, circus director and president of the southeastern Michigan division of the Moslem Shriners.
The 107th year of shows are set for March 21-24 and March 28-31.
The 14,000-pound pachyderm named Luke is part of a lineup of aerialists, acrobats, including one tumbling on the “Wheel of Destiny,” prancing horses, clowns, and a lion and tiger act.
Saturday, March 09, 2013
The acts are produced by TZ Productions. Tarzan Zerbini and his family are celebrating their 250th consecutive year of entertaining circus audiences, according to their website.
Baer said Luke, 26, and his brother, Bo, 25, are in high demand and join the circus whenever they can.
“When we saw Luke was available, we snagged him,” Baer said. “Besides his huge stage presence, he kneels down, rolls over and plays with a beach ball. He does most of his tricks without a handler and that’s unusual. He’s very intelligent.”
Luke also enjoys the cabbage and apples reward after the show, Baer said.
To the animal rights activists who oppose training animals to perform and putting them on a touring circuit, Baer said, “We respect PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) people concerned about animal rights and we invite them to watch the circus or tour how we care for our animals. They are treated very well.”
An hour before the shows, circusgoers can visit a petting zoo, play carnival games, and ride an elephant, horse or camel. Ride prices start at $7. Continued...