Going to the circus

April 17, 1997

Several area performances, including two at HJC Saturday, are slated


Staff Writer

If your whole life is a juggling act, and everything has come down to the wire, some relief is in sight.

The circus is the perfect place to escape from your troubles, says Laura FitzGerald, spokeswoman for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, the circus that is marking its 127th year.

"Forget about what a hard day you had at work or school," FitzGerald says.

The activity offers good, clean, wholesome family entertainment, says Gib Rice, circus chairman for Ali Ghan Shrine Circus.

The 44th annual Ali Ghan Shrine Circus, featuring acts from George Hubler International Circus, comes to the area with performances tonight at Frederick Community College, Saturday at Hagerstown Junior College and Sunday at Frostburg State University.


Ali Ghan is a fraternal organization with the sole purpose of supporting 19 children's hospitals and three burn centers, Rice says. Medical services are offered to children up to age 18 at no cost to their families.

Ali Ghan Temple in Cumberland, Md., has about 1,400 members. Rice and a committee coordinate and oversee the annual circus performances.

The elephants always inspire a lot of interest, he says.

The six Ali Ghan performances are indoors, and the elephants walk in through the double doors of the gymnasiums, Rice says.

The circus will be in the Athletic, Recreation and Community Center at Hagerstown Junior College Saturday. The animals and equipment don't hurt the gymnasium floor, says Brian Beck, assistant director at the center.

The circus will be set up on the basketball court area, which has a suspended wood floor. The floor has a concrete base and a wooden top, and in the two-inch gap between them are cushioning devices that let the floor "give" a little, Beck says.

The circus crew does a good job, he says.

"They'll come in at 7 a.m. Saturday and start setting up, and by midnight they'll be gone," Beck says. "You won't even know they were here."

First-time tips

Adventure awaits if you've never been to a circus, FitzGerald says.

"There's a sense of magic and wonder, and you can be transported to a different world," FitzGerald says.

Ringling Bros. will be performing at Hersheypark Arena Thursday, May 22, through Monday, May 26.

Whether you're 7 or 70, here are some hints for your first trip:

Get there early.

Ringling Bros. offers audience members the chance to come to Hersheypark Arena an hour before the show and try skills such as juggling, clowning, walking on the low wire and swinging on the trapeze.

"It's a great opportunity to meet the performers and get a feel for what you will see in the next two hours," FitzGerald says.

Take the alliteration in stride.

Look for the awe-inspiring aerials, promenading pachyderms, pulsating pyrotechnics and captivating clowns. The vivid language is part of the circus experience.

At the Ali Ghan circus, you can see performers such as Wondrous Wendy Bell on the Romantic Rings of Flight or Maritza, the Marvelous Maiden from Mars and Her Aerial Fantasy.

You'll find Zusha, Queen of the Nile, a performing hippopotamus weighing more than two tons, at the Ringling Bros. show.

Show your appreciation.

If you like something the performers do, let them know by applauding and cheering. You could see a better show because of it.

"It makes a huge difference to performers to know the crowd is into it," FitzGerald says.

Be daring.

Nobody's too old for an elephant ride, Rice says. Audience members can climb aboard during intermission at the Ali Ghan circus.

Whether it's your first circus or your 14th, the key is to sit back, relax and enjoy the show, FitzGerald says.

"It's a chance to be a kid again and have fun," she says.

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