Last Saturday (10/22/11) we (Deb and I) took our 3 year old great nephew (Riley) to the Shrine Circus. There were many parts of the circus that were enjoyable and a few that were not. Riley, like most kids, liked everything about it, except a couple of the “scary” clowns until we explained that they were just people with makeup on (a fact that makes clowns no less scary to me).
When we arrived at the Circus the first thing we got to see were protesters, telling us how the circus taught cruelty (I wanted to join them). Before the show got started they had elephant rides, pony rides, and a couple of those blow up bounce houses for the kids to play in, for a fee (before the show started, intermission, and after the show). We bought Riley an ice cone and a light sword to wave around, good thing. Before they dimmed the lights the announcer made sure to remind all the kids that to be part of the (light) show they would need one of the lighted souvenir to wave around (which we thought was a bit tacky).
There were only 3 acts (not including the rides) that used wild animals (tigers and elephants). The first act was the tiger tamer and for some reason whenever I see a lone man (with a whip) in a cage with 7 tigers, I find myself pulling for the tigers. As for the act itself it was pretty much what one would expect, man with whip makes tigers run around and jump through hoops (including a flaming hoop), not impressive and could have been left out or replaced with some other type of act. Another act, featured the star elephant. We got to see him walk on a barrel from one platform to another platform, stand on his front legs, do tricks while on a narrow plank, play a couple instruments, and skip around the center ring. The kids got involved when the elephant sat down, banged on a table and refused to do any tricks until he got a treat (all part of the act), kids laughed and cheered for the elephant. For me the sight of seeing an elephant made to skip was truly a sad event. The last act with wild animals was when several elephants came out with with their riders (scantily dressed women). The elephants danced around, stood on their hind legs while placing their front legs on the backs of the elephant in front of them, the usual. Again I feel these acts could have been replaced and not only would the circus not lose anything but they easily could have gained.
There were several acts that were enjoyable: the stunt BMX bike rider doing his tricks, the motorcycles, human cannonball, the woman doing tricks on the ropes (rings and bars/swings), and even the clowns were funny (well for the most part).
The dog acts were amusing and fun to watch, the kids seem to enjoy them as well. As a former dog owner I didn’t mind watching the dog acts, I know how much dogs enjoyed working and pleasing their owners.
On a side note: the women up in the air doing the tricks on the ropes (rings and swings), if you replaced the rope with a pole (a simple change), suddenly it’s not so family oriented entertainment is it?
As far as the circus goes I think we can find better and more rewarding ways to spend time with Riley. Maybe next year we’ll join the protesters.