The long-running Shrine Circus parade has run its course. Insurance liability concerns prohibited elephants from participating in the parade which was a main draw for many people. The circus will still occur on June 28, 2014. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson
By: Jaci Conrad Pearson
December 28, 2013
DEADWOOD — Deadwood Mayor Chuck Turbiville announced that there was no need to hold a public hearing for the Shrine Circus parade portion of an item which appeared on Monday night’s agenda. There won’t be a parade.
When the Shrine Circus has its day in Deadwood June 28, 2014, the Main Street parade which traditionally precludes the afternoon and evening performances to kick off the event, will not be held.
“One of the big draws for the Shrine Circus parade each year was seeing the elephants parade down Main Street,” said Northern Hills Shrine Circus committee member Dave Ruth. “But circus officials have informed us that their animal handler insurance won’t cover the liability of them being paraded anymore. They don’t want the liability of having them walk down the street and be startled by a dog on the sidewalk or a loud noise from a car and having something unfortunate happening. That, consequently, has caused us to not have the parade anymore up Main Street.”
Former Shrine Circus Chairman Paul Holtsclaw, who along with John Jackson instituted Deadwood’s Main Street parade in 2005, was saddened by the decision to pull up the stakes on the parade.
“I’m very sad,” Holtsclaw said. “Deadwood is a parade town. People love it. People support it. It hurts that it’s gone. That was mine and Jackson’s baby.”
The Northern Hills Shrine Circus began 78 years ago in Deadwood and in 1995 was moved to Belle Fourche.
Holtsclaw became parade chairman in 2003 and explained that his committee felt that the parade belonged back in Deadwood.
“We moved it back in 2005 and said, ‘What can we do to promote it?’,” Holtsclaw explained. “John Jackson of Belle Fourche suggested a parade. So I called up Jody Jordan, owner of the circus and asked if we could do it. He gave me a long list of reasons why not and we argued back and forth, but in the end he agreed to it. After it was over he said, ‘This was fantastic.’ I said, ‘Does that mean you’ll do it again?’ And he said, ‘yes.’ I went off the circus committee in 2011, so what happened after 2011, I don’t know.”
For eight years, the elephants, circus performers, other animals, Shriners and clowns paraded down Deadwood’s historic Main Street, unaware they were making their own type of history.
“It was really a unique situation they allowed us to do,” Ruth said. “It hasn’t been done anywhere else in the nation. Unfortunately, the insurance companies take over and say, ‘We aren’t going to cover this.’”
This is actually the second year the elephants won’t parade in Deadwood.
“They did not notify us of the inability of the elephants to participate until the night before the parade last year,” Ruth said. “Because they were such a draw, without the elephants, we ultimately decided that it was more prudent not to have the parade.”
Ruth said the elephants will still be at the parade grounds, located at the Days of ’76 arena.
“The way we want to focus on it is that kids can still see the animals up close at the circus and they can even ride the elephants before the circus and at intermission, which they couldn’t during the parade,” Ruth said.