Shrine Circus rolling into town
Big cats, clowns, high-wire acts in store
Trainer Erika Zerbini puts an elephant through its paces. The Shrine Circus returns Tuesday to McMorran Place in downtown Port Huron. Expect clowns, animal acts and other exciting fare.
By AMY BIOLCHINI
Mar. 29, 2012
The glitz and glamour of the Shrine Circus will be returning to Port Huron after a nine-year absence.
Under the direction of ringmaster Richard Curtis, the show will perform twice Tuesday in McMorran Place. A part of the proceeds goes to Shriners Hospitals, which provide medical care for children.
This year’s show will bring tigers, clown capers, bicycle comedy, trained horses, high-wire trapeze artists, a freestyle motor performance and a Doberman act. The Detroit Shrine Clown Unit also will make an appearance.
Curtis, 42, served as a U.S. Marine in the Persian Gulf War for four years — an experience he credits as good preparation for life under the Big Top.
Curtis found himself tending bar and waiting tables after he was discharged from the service in 1992 but wanted something more. He ran away to join the circus, and started by handing out promotional fliers and coupons in cities before the show would arrive.
He quickly made the transition to run the show — and has been the ringmaster of the Shrine Circus for the past 17 years.
“I love it,” Curtis said, who married a ninth-generation circus performer and has raised their three children — ages 19, 13 and 10 — in the business.
Curtis is involved in the operation every step of the way, from installing flooring, the ring, setting up lights and syncing music to the performances.
Ringmaster Richard Curtis works with an aeralist during a recent performance of the Shrine Circus. The Shrine Circus returns to McMorran Place in Port Huron after a nine-year hiatus for three performances Tuesday. Submitted photo
Commanding the show from the floor is exciting, Curtis said. He is able to get the best of both the audience and the performers.
“It’s live entertainment — you never know what you’re going to get,” he said.
Donning his sequined tail coat and top hat, Curtis said narrating two hours of excitement for children in the crowd keeps him going throughout the rigorous schedule.
The Shrine Circus tours for 30 weeks out of the year, performing about 300 shows.
“I’ve got the best job in the world,” Curtis said.
Military veterans and families will be honored at Tuesday’s show. A representative from each of the area Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts will be in attendance.
“With me being a veteran, it’s always important for me to shine light on the real heroes,” Curtis said.
Blue Water Shrine Club President Jim Schudlich called the circus “good, clean fun” for families.
“The Blue Water Shrine Club felt it was time to get it back to Port Huron,” he said.
The Shrine Circus is 105 years old this year and had its first show in Detroit.