Thursday, May 01, 2008

Melha Shrine Circus just fun-tastic....

Thursday, May 01, 2008
As its theme suggests, this year's 54th annual Melha Shrine Circus, which opens tonight in the Coliseum on the Eastern States Exposition grounds, is a "Circus with a Purpose."

Cover story"This year we are honoring the 'Best in the West,' recognizing several community groups and occupations for their contributions to making Western Massachusetts the great place it is to work and live in," said Allen G. Zippin, past potentate of the Melha Shriners and circus chairman.

"As Shriners we enjoy the recognition we receive from the community, but other groups also deserve recognition and we wanted to have a part in recognizing them for the special things they do," he said.
Among the groups to be honored during six of the seven circus performances over the next four days will be current military members and veterans tonight, nonprofit organizations on Friday, police and law enforcement officials at Saturday's 2:30 p.m. performance and educators at the 7:30 p.m. show. Firefighters will be recognized at the 12:30 p.m. show on Sunday, followed by health care professionals at 4:30 p.m.

As for this year's act, Zippin said the "big news" is that Nino is coming back.

"He has the most incredible clown act and was such a smash hit with us several years ago that people couldn't stop talking about him. Now we've finally been lucky enough to get him back," said Zippin.

This year's Shrine Circus is once again produced by Hamid Circus Inc. In addition to Nino and hometown harlequins - the Shriners Clowns - it features a mix of renowned acts from around the world announced by ringmaster John Wilson.

The acts include The Flying Pages, featuring the world's youngest trapeze flyer; Klose's Krazy K-9s performing pooches; Miss Mercedes and her Prancing Ponies; Miss Olga and Miss Masha displaying their dazzling dexterity, and roller skating acrobats the Rolling Diamonds.

There's also the untethered and unpredictable Hamid Circus Performing Tigers; acrobatic aces Hans Reno, Shane Hansen and David Conners; the Hamid Circus Shrine Elephants; motorcycle mania in the Globe of Death performed by the Urias Troupe; and a "fabulous, flamboyant finale," featuring farewells from the show's many captivating performers.

This year's circus also will feature a live circus band adding drama to all the three-ring action.

Zippin called the Rolling Diamonds a "remarkable acrobatic act" featuring a husband and wife on a table six feet off the ground and 6 feet in diameter.

"It's very different, there are not a lot of other people doing it. I only know about four others," said Shane Hansen about the act which originated with his family before he was born.

"It takes a lot of precision and you really have to pay attention. Any little slip will send you off the edge of the table," he added about their act.

But circus lovers don't have to wait until tonight to see the Rolling Diamonds and to experience all the sights and sounds of the big top.

The 2008 edition of the Melha Shrine Circus will open with a sneak peak in downtown Springfield today beginning at 11:30 a.m. Held on Main Street between Boland Way and East Court Streets to herald the arrival of the circus in town, the special event will include performances by the Rolling Diamonds, Klose's Krazy K-9s, and the Shriners Clowns about 12:15 p.m..

"Once again, the Big Y will be supplying free grinders while they last for our downtown viewers and we will be distributing flyers promoting the circus," Zippin said.

Before all of the action begins under the Coliseum's makeshift big top tonight, the Melha Shriners will stage an old-fashioned circus parade beginning at 6 p.m. from the Century Shopping Plaza on Memorial Avenue.

Proceeding down to the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition, the parade will feature hundreds of Melha Shriners, along with several of their marching bands and motorized car units. As part of the Shriners' tribute to the armed forces, service people and veterans are invited to march in the parade ahead of the Shriners and behind a banner honoring them, Zippin said.

All of the pre-circus fun doesn't end with the parade. Prior to each performance, the Shriners Clowns will be outside the Coliseum signing autographs and posing for pictures with children and adults.

During the circus intermission, fans can get into a little of the action themselves by climbing high atop one of the elephants for a ride. There also will be pony riding and face painting for kids.

Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the work of the Melha Shriners on behalf of the communities they serve.