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Circus wows audience

April 09, 2006|By PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

Jaws dropped and fingers pointed as Teddy-like brown bears mounted motorcycles, rode bicycles and walked on their front paws on Saturday at the Ali Ghan Shrine Circus.

Bleachers at Hagerstown Community College's Athletic, Recreation and Community Center were filled with children, parents and grandparents who applauded the feats of the brown bears, elephants, circus performers and clowns showcasing their talents during two shows Saturday.

The circus marked the first such excursion for 3-year-old Kimberley Schwartz. It also was the first circus showcase for her grandmother and mother.

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"We went down and got on the elephant and everything," said Rhonda Schwartz, Kimberley's mother, cueing Kimberley to elaborate.

Kimberley rolled on the floor, giggling and having a personal peek-a-boo with the bears, who were rolling on barrels about 50 feet away. Speaking in full sentences only her mother could translate, Kimberley said with wide eyes that she was scared when the elephant moved his trunk toward her hand.

"He thought you had a peanut, didn't he?" Rhonda Schwartz asked her. Kimberley nodded her head, excitedly.

Rhonda Schwartz said she decided to take Kimberley to the Ali Ghan Shrine Circus because she knew the Shriners are charitable.

"They help the children," she said.

Allen Shirk, Ali Ghan Shrine Circus chairman, said proceeds from the event, which were expected to be about $6,000, would go toward the Ali Ghan Temple in Cumberland, Md., which eventually will turn the proceeds back to him so he can buy novelties and other items for next year's circus.

The circus will be at Frostburg State University today.

He said that 11,000 free tickets were handed out to Washington County children before Saturday. Six bicycles were given away at the event, he said.

"This is all about family. This is not about money for us," he said. "It's more about creating a memory for children that will last a lifetime."

At intermission, children holding crumpled dollar bills lined up to buy balloons from clowns while others waited in line for elephant rides.

Asked what their favorite part of the circus was, many children gave one-word, authoritative responses.

"Ropes," said Megan Scarano, 7, referring to a performer who tangled her limbs in a rope and twirled from the gymnasium's ceiling, her mother, Kelly Scarano, 36, translated.

Benny Sigler, 6, said "elephants" definitely were his favorite part of the show.

Sigler, his mother, Cassandra Woodhams, 25, her father, Keith Woodhams Sr., 50, and his youngest son, Cory Woodhams, 8 1/2, came out together Saturday night to watch the show.

"I've never seen a bear ride a bike before," Keith Woodhams Sr. said. "We can't even get our Chesapeake Bay retriever to sit sometimes."

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