Living

Circus brings popular acts, excitement to Presque Isle

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Thousands of children and their families filled The Forum in Presque Isle this past weekend during three, action-packed days of performances from the 55th annual Anah Shrine Circus.

A trainer works with two grizzly bears during a performance at the Thursday, May 4, Anah Shrine Circus at The Forum in Presque Isle. (Melissa Lizotte | Star-Herald)

“We typically expect to see between 11,000 and 13,000 people over three days. Last year we saw over 13,000,” Jim Dwyer, Presque Isle circus chairman, said before the afternoon performance on Friday, May 4. “When you look at the smaller populations in Aroostook County and western New Brunswick, that’s quite an accomplishment.”

Although Dwyer did not yet have numbers for the 2018 performances, he said that the first show on Thursday, May 3 already saw higher attendance than last year’s debut performance.

As families filed in on Friday afternoon many visited with the Anah Shrine Clowns, who were on hand to sign autographs, hand out personalized trading cards and blow up balloons for eager children. Other pre-show activities included both elephant rides for the adventure seekers and pony rides for the smaller children.

Children take a ride on an elephant at the Presque Isle Forum before the afternoon performance of the Anah Shrine Circus on May 4. (Melissa Lizotte | Star-Herald)

The circus proved a popular attraction for people who have attended for years as well as those who came for the first time.

“I used to go when I was little and I loved it, so I wanted them to experience the show,” said Allie Green, 18, who brought her cousins Chloe Green, 9, Mason Green, 8, and Kylie Green, 7. “They’re all fans of the clowns.” The family later enjoyed a ride one of the two Shrine Circus elephants.

Laurie and Adam Tibbetts, of Easton, brought their triplets–Alyssa, Aaden and Adam, 7–to see the circus for the first time.

“I’m excited to see the clowns,” the younger Adam said.

“I liked riding the ponies,” his sister, Alyssa, said.

The Anah Shrine Circus clowns greet children and family members before the afternoon circus performance on May 4 at the Presque Isle Forum. (Melissa Lizotte | Star-Herald)

During the performance, many children cheered in amazement while watching acts such as the BMX bike stunt team, trapeze artists and the ever-popular animal acts of elephants, dogs and American grizzly bears. Other performers included the Anah Shrine Clowns and a juggling act. Ringmaster Charlie Van Buskirk marked his 47th year as announcer for the Presque Isle circus.

The circus, produced by Circus United, has become one of the Anah Shriners’ largest fundraisers, second only to their Feztival of Trees held annually in November at their Bangor facility. Proceeds support the organization’s philanthropy, including funding for the Shriners’ Hospitals in Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts, which treat children with orthopedic, burn and spinal cord injuries.

Mo-Kantic the Clown greets 7-year-old Kylie Green at the Anah Shrine Circus in Presque Isle on May 4 while her cousin Allie Green, 18, looks on. (Melissa Lizotte | Star-Herald)

Dwyer said that each local show involves over 100 volunteers and strives to make both the Presque Isle and Bangor shows unique for audiences.

“I think the variety of performers is what keeps people coming year after year,” Dwyer said. “It’s fun to watch people react to the performers and see how excited they are to experience the show.”

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