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Animals steal the show at Ali Ghan Shriners' annual circus

April 11, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- With tiger acts, motorcycle stunts, dog tricks and pony rides, the Ali Ghan Shriners' circus at Hagerstown Community College Sunday delivered a mix of fierce and furry that delighted children of all ages.

"It was fun when we watched the tigers jump and stuff," said Taylor Wilson, 7, of Frederick, Md. "And it was cute when we watched the puppies jumping and doing flips."

Taylor's mother, Heather Savage, said she thought the circus was the Ali Ghan Shriners' best yet, noting that last year's circus did not include any animal acts.

Mark Recard, chief rabban for the Ali Ghan Shriners, said the group switched to a different circus this year, the New Jordanian World Circus from Las Vegas.

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"It's a much bigger and better circus," he said, encouraging anyone who missed the event to plan on attending next year.

The circus put on two shows Sunday at HCC's Athletic Recreation and Community Center, at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. On Saturday, the circus performed twice at Frostburg (Md.) State University.

Between the four shows, the Ali Ghan Shriners expected to have 6,000 to 7,500 people attend the circus and hoped to raise about $6,000 or $7,000 after expenses, Recard said.

The money helps with maintenance and operating costs for the Ali Ghan temple in Cumberland, Md., and helps the group transport children to Shriners Hospitals for Children for medical treatment, he said.

The circus was the group's 57th, he said.

Recard said he enjoyed the big cats in Sunday's show, but his favorite part of the circus was seeing children having fun.

"It's all about the kids," he said.

Ali Ghan member Stanley Taylor agreed.

"I enjoy seeing the expression on their faces," said Taylor, who sat near the entrance to the circus waving to children with his puppet, Red.

For Dylan Ruffner, 3, of Inwood, W.Va., the highlight of the event was riding on a camel, he said.

Attending the circus was a birthday treat for Dylan and his 5-year-old neighbor Andreas Ellison, both of whom had birthdays last week, said Dylan's father, Richard Ruffner.

Jessica Murray, 6, of Williamsport, said her favorite part was watching an acrobatic team perform jump-rope stunts such as jumping multiple ropes while the members were piled on each others' shoulders.

Murray said she liked to jump rope, but didn't think she could do any of the stunts she saw at the circus.

Jessica's mother, Tessa Wilson, said her family made a point of seeing the Ali Ghan circus each year.

"This is actually our favorite circus," she said. "We just made it a tradition because it's fun and it's for a good cause."

The event was supported by a number of sponsors, including Walmart, which donated six children's bikes to be given away in drawings at each show, Recard said.

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