When Roderick Coleman purchased tickets for his family on Friday, March 22, to see the Kazim Shrine Circus, he says he was most excited to see the clowns and acrobats. A Roanoke County native, Coleman, 58, says he is old enough to remember a time when locals had to drive for hours to experience a live circus performance.
“Kids today have so many entertainment options at their fingertips. Growing up, I didn’t have an iPad. There was no tablet. There was no smartphone,” Coleman said with a smile. “I wanted to take my kids to the circus so they could get a feel of what I considered entertainment when I was their age.”
Over a three-day period, March 22 through March 24, seven shows featuring non-stop family fun, comedy, animals, daredevils and exhibitions took place inside the Salem Civic Center.
Wes Wells is the Potentate of Kazim Shriners, an equivalent of being CEO of an organization.
“The nature of a circus is that one performer might have many jobs. Performers share duties of everything from being a dancer in one act to being the star of another act,” he said. “Safety and cleanliness are of the utmost importance. We pride ourselves in presenting high-quality family entertainment. Alcohol is not allowed. This is a place where you can bring your children and not have to worry that they will be negatively influenced.”
Several animals were featured throughout each show: two elephants, two white lions, two white tigers, one Bengal tiger, two camels, two zebras, two Shetland ponies, six pigs, four dogs, one llama and eight goats. There were also six ponies and two small donkeys available for children to ride.
The weather was a huge factor in why the Shrine Circus came to Salem this year in March. “In the past, we had been using the end of January for our performances. In 2010, a snowstorm devastated our attendance. These dates in March became available, and we decided it would be a better time when the weather was a little warmer and cooperative,” Wells said.
The chance to experience the Shrine Circus with her family was too good an opportunity for Rhyon Harris to pass up. As much fun as she had, Harris thinks her children enjoyed themselves even more.
“As we drove to the Salem Civic Center both of my sons were playing on their tablets. On our ride home they asked question after question about the circus,” Harris said. “It’s a wonderful feeling to expose your children to something new, and they genuinely have a good time.”