As we conclude our diamond jubilee celebration of the El Riad Shrine Circus and before we turn our focus to the exciting changes and opportunities that the 2017 will bring, let us take a moment to pause and reflect on the history of the Shrine and El Riad Circus.

As we conclude our diamond jubilee celebration of the El Riad Shrine Circus and before we turn our focus to the exciting changes and opportunities that the 2017 will bring, let us take a moment to pause and reflect on the history of the Shrine and El Riad Circus.

Beside the ‘funny hats and little cars’ most people associate Shriners with the Circus. This stems from the longevity of this relationship. Moslem Shriners in Detroit, Michigan, hosted the first documented Shrine Circus in 1906. A local newspaper characterized the show: “With a crash of cymbals and a blare of horns, punctuated by the discordant cries of barkers setting forth the merits of various side show attractions…From peanuts to baby elephants, from side show to “Grand” concert, nothing was lacking to make the circus a complete success. Clowns, who caused the spectators to laugh themselves almost into convulsions, disported themselves around the ring at frequent intervals. Seldom does an audience of such proportions so generally abandon itself to merriment as did last night’s gathering. The rafters fairly seemed to tremble with the gale was at its height.” We are fortunate at El Riad, that this description still holds true today. If you have not experienced the Chamberlain Circus in person, I would encourage you to do so. This venue most closely resembles one of the early shows. It is a two-ring show with people lining up down the street and around the block to gain entrance. It amazes me each year the energy and excitement that comes from such a large crowd in a confined space.

The Shrine Circuses expanded throughout the country by the 1920s, featuring wild and domestic animal acts, feats of human daring and extreme skill, and the Shrine clowns. As the major fundraiser for the local Shrine, the circus is the visual centerpiece for the organization. Many changes in society have impacted the circus as an entertainment experience. While circus audiences across the country waned through the 1990s, they have grown in recent years. Due to the members of El Riad, we continue to have strong community support and ever increasing crowds. This does not come easy, but relies on the dedication of our members. A small army of ticket sellers head out into our local communities each spring and summer to solicit business and individuals to purchase tickets so the Shine can send kids to the circus. If you would like to help in your community, please contact the El Riad office.

The Shrine Circus remains a traditional, affordable family entertainment experience with the timeless qualities that charmed the first audience in 1906 — raising funds that remain in the community supporting the work of the local Shrine. The Shrine Circus inaugurated an entirely new entertainment concept in America. Today, it may still be the most attended family entertainment option for many families in large and small towns across the country. The Winner, South Dakota, Circus embodies this family entertainment experience. Each year the attendance at the single Winner show almost matches the population of the city. Again I would encourage all members of El Riad, if you have not attended one of our outdoor shows, please consider helping at or attending one of our shows in Yankton or Winner.

2017 will bring new performers and acts to our 76th show, while again remaining true to our roots. In the opinion of the Circus Committee, we have the best Circus Producer in the market. Thanks to past leadership, this was recognized a long time ago. In 2017, we will recognize our 30th year of working with the Carden Circus. They continue to deliver what our audiences want to see and experience. This year will be no different, and yes, we will have elephants.

Because of you, we remain strong and growing. Because of you, the show will go on!