Circus-goers enjoy evening of high-flying thrills
Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe
BOBO THE elephant steps off a large drum onto a platform during the annual Shrine Circus, while his trainer looks on Monday at the Pat O'Donnell Civic Center in Ironwood.
May 6, 2014
IRONWOOD,MI - Hundreds of families made their way to the Pat O'Donnell Civic Center Monday for the annual Range Shrine Club 3-Ring Circus.
According to Ray Niemi, Range Shrine Club president and circus chairman, the event originally took place at Luther L. Wright High School in Ironwood, before moving to the civic center.
This year marks the 52nd annual Ahmed Shrine Circus with organizations across the country and Niemi said it's something kids look forward too all year long.
"It's an opportunity for the kids to see a circus, and see animals they may never see again," Niemi said.
In Ironwood, there were two shows on Monday, and kids 12 and under got in for free. According to Niemi, it "feels very good," to have the circus with no costs for kids.
Proceeds from the event benefit transportation costs for families who have children in the Shriners Hospitals for Children network. Niemi said families are reimbursed for gasoline or other means of travel and lodging is also paid for.
Once a child is accepted into the Shriners hospital, there is no cost to the family.
"Right now in the Upper Peninsula, there are about 360 kids that are part of the Shriners hospital system," Niemi said.
Before the start of the circus, Niemi thanked the audience for "helping these special children." After the opening ceremonies, attendees watched a lion and tiger trainer work with the big cats, trapeze artists fly through the air, an elephant stand on it's front legs, jugglers throwing a variety of items, motorcycles ride in a steel globe, horses prance and other performances.
Before the performances and during intermission, kids were given the chance to get their faces painted, ride ponies and even ride an elephant.
"These kids have so much fun," Niemi said. "Once those performers start walking down the ramp, those kids' eyes get real big and it's so exciting."
According to Niemi, the goal is to help kids in anyway.
"If anyone knows of a children who needs help, please call a Shrine member," Niemi said.