Fans return in droves to Anah Shrine Circus in Presque Isle

2 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — After three long years, the Anah Shrine Circus returned to Aroostook County this week.

Hundreds of families lined up outside The Forum in Presque Isle Thursday for opening night, anxious to once again see their favorite clowns, animal acts and death-defying stunt performers.

The Anah Shrine Circus came to The Star City after a successful run at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Now in its 58th year, the circus serves as the largest fundraiser for Shrine Clubs in the state, with much of the proceeds benefiting Shriners Children’s hospitals.

Presque Isle Circus Chairman Kenny Stewart said before the circus opened that he expected pre-sold tickets to far surpass those sold in 2019. In 2020 and 2021, the circuses in Bangor and Presque Isle were canceled amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Princess” Colleen Page leads her camels around the ring during the Anah Shrine Circus’ opening night. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

Even an hour prior to the first show, Stewart could see dozens of people lining up to purchase tickets at the door, a sure sign that The Forum would be filled with fans.

“The circus up here is kind of a rite of passage. It’s been a long winter and it’s not quite warm enough to mow the lawn, so people are looking for ways to get out,” Stewart said. “People are excited. They’ve been asking us when we would have [the circus] again.”

And organizers ensured that before the show and during intermissions families would have an array of circus-themed activities to enjoy – from pony and camel rides to face painting and entertainment from the famous Anah Shrine Clowns.

Seven-year-old Trinity Sewell of Houlton was most excited to see the many animals featured in the circus when she attended opening night.

“I like riding horses,” she said, after riding one of the ponies.

Trinity’s grandmother Susan Sewell, also of Houlton, said the Anah Shrine Circus marks the first time she and Trinity have attended any circus. 

“It’s great to have an event for children like this,” Susan Sewell said. “What’s most important is us spending time together as a family.”

Rowdy the sheriff clown gives an animal balloon to 5-year-old Lola Sappier of New Brunswick, Canada during the Anah Shrine Circus while her grandfather Sterling Perley, also of New Brunswick, looks on. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

Though this year’s circus did not feature elephants, the show still featured plenty of animal favorites and their trainers, including “The Daring Horseman” Caleb Carinci, Klose’s K-9 Revue and “Princess” Colleen Pages’ “kingdom” of camels. Folks also witnessed acrobatic tricks from tight-wire performer Fletcher Runyan, speed juggling from mother-son duo Viktoria Zsilak and Ricky Petrov, musical hijinks from Matti the Clown and a flexible high-wire act from Denisse Santos.

Ringmaster Andre McClain kept the crowd pumped up throughout the show, with ecstatic applause from audience members of all ages.

People came from near and far to welcome the circus back to town. Sterling and Melissa Perley traveled from New Brunswick, Canada, with their granddaughter Lola Sappier, 5, for the May 5 opening.

“She was very excited to see the animals, especially the dogs,” Sterling Perley said. “[The circus] has a great family atmosphere.”

Other performances of the Anah Shrine Circus will be held on Saturday, May 7, at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at The Forum in Presque Isle.