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Great Falls hosts the Shrine Circus

Under the big top, you can find dazzling performances and exotic animals.
Posted at 10:01 AM, Apr 20, 2024

The 72nd annual Shrine Circus is back in Great Falls. Under the big top, you can find dazzling performances and exotic animals. We spoke with organizers for more information about what you can find and how they care for their animals.

The Shrine Circus takes place in Great Falls every year, featuring local clowns performing as well as partnering with Jordan World Circus, originating from Las Vegas, to put on a show for the Great Falls community.

Great Falls Shrine Circus chairman Bob Kampfer explained, “Jordan World Circus is a circus producer and he contracts with the acrobats and the elephants and the clowns, and the various acts that they bring in, the motorcycle globe of death”.

The Shrine Circus has been partnering with the Jordan World Circus for at least 20 years.

With growing concern of exploitation of animals in recent years, many traveling circuses have been retiring their performing animals.

Within the last ten years, eight states have restricted the use of performing animals:

  • Rhode Island (2016) – banned the use of bullhooks
  • Illinois (2017) – banned the use of elephants in traveling shows
  • New York (2017) – banned the use of elephants in traveling shows
  • New Jersey (2018) – banned the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling shows
  • Hawaii (2018) – banned the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling shows
  • California (2019) – banned the use of all animals in circuses, except for dogs, cats, and domesticated horses.
  • Colorado (2021) – banned the use of elephants, big cats, bears, and other animals in circuses and other traveling shows.
  • Kentucky (2022) – banned the use of both endangered species in circuses and exotic animals in county fairs, including a ban on elephant rides.

The Jordan World Circus uses elephants, horses, camels, and buffalo in their acts. They assure the public their animals receive the best care and have veterinarians on stand by.
The Shrine Circus provided this to us in a document titled 'Important Facts you Should Know': “Our elephants receive the best of everything: food, water and medical attention. Neatsfoot oil is applied regularly to lubricate their skin. Vaseline is applied around the eyes and tail to further protect those areas".

The Shrine Circus does not directly handle the animals, whose handlers are contracted by Jordan World Circus, but Kampfer states his observations while working with them, “There's veterinary help available. We take the time to locate grass hay for the elephants because that's better for them and their animals”.

Ari Steeples, the Ringmaster of Jordan World Circus, assured us he has not witnessed abuse of animals in their circus. He said, “They’re animals, you know, sometimes they want to do that trick, sometimes they don't want to do that trick. So, it's better if they don't want to do it to just move on to the next trick. Makes life a lot easier”.

Aside from animals, this weekend you can witness daredevil stunts, lighting effects, and exciting performances.

Steeples explains, “You're going to see everything from buffaloes, elephants, pretty showgirls. Magic Transformation from Las Vegas, Nevada. Some amazing acrobats. You're going to see a pretty good show here”.

Animal handlers from Jordan World Circus declined to comment.

The Great Falls Shrine Circus has their remaining shows Saturday, April 19th at 11am, 3pm, and 7pm. It is located inside the Pacific Steel & Recycling Arena in MontanaExpo Park at 400 Third Street NW.