Friday, January 29, 2010

....Shrine Circus denied fair site....

State's rebuff may doom 103-year-old event, club says

The Detroit News

Another page could be torn from the history book.

Like the 160-year-old Michigan State Fair, the 103-year-old Shrine Circus may be missing from Detroit this year.

The event, which is the oldest Shrine circus in the nation, lost its home last year when the financially crippled state closed the fair.

Detroit Shriners asked Gov. Jennifer Granholm to allow them to continue using the fairgrounds for the circus, but a state spokeswoman said Thursday that it wasn't possible.

Megan Brown said the state was looking for ways to use the site for a "job-creating project." She declined to elaborate.

"During tough economic times government can't be all things to all people," she said.

Circus Director Chuck Baer said he couldn't understand the governor's thinking.

The circus wouldn't cost Michigan a dime and would put $40,000 into depleted state coffers through rental fees, he said. At the same time, it serves as one of the biggest fundraisers for the Shriners, who help pay the medical costs of poor children.

"It's beneficial to us, beneficial to tens of thousands of people who attend, beneficial to vendors, and beneficial to the state," he said.

The Shriners enlisted the support of the Detroit City Council, which unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday asking the governor for help.

The group also created a Web site Thursday asking people to call the governor's office and sign an online petition. By early evening, 135 people had signed it.

"Homeless in Detroit," read the title of the Web page. "World's first and oldest circus may now be homeless."

Begun in 1906, it was the first Shrine Circus ever held.

The Michigan State Fair, which began in 1849, also was the oldest such event in the nation.

Baer said the Shriners have been looking for other places to hold the circus but none offer as much space as the fairgrounds.

And the group is running out of time.

The circus performers, who travel around the country, are only available in early March, Baer said.

The Shriners need to find a location within a week to allow enough time to find sponsors, begin promotions and sell tickets.

"We're not asking anyone for a loan, freebie or a handout," Baer said. "There it (the fairgrounds) is. Give us the keys."