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John Lamb, Published April 16 2009

The show must go on

Circus will feature elephants, bears, but not tigers

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

It’s an age-old question.

But here’s a more specific one: If a circus comes to the Fargodome and there are no elephants or tigers, would anyone go see it?

That was the question Fargo’s Shrine Circus public relations man Bryan Shinn asked himself two weeks ago when the threat of flooding prompted the organization to postpone the annual event.

When new dates were set for this upcoming weekend, half of the acts scheduled for the April 3-5 shows had other engagements in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., for that area’s Irem Shrine Circus, one that was booked months ago.

“It’s not an easy task to reschedule a circus,” Shinn said two weeks ago.

Shinn is only the local point man for the Fargo appearance. The show is put together by a producer.

“Kind of like a general contractor,” he explains.

Cindy Migley produces Shrine Circuses around the country, including a late March stretch along Interstate 94 in North Dakota. After dates in Dickinson and Bismarck, the Jamestown and Fargo shows were shelved.

Migley explains that with two weeks between the initial final Fargo date and the run April 24-26 in Grand Forks, the acts were free to take jobs elsewhere.

“When it first happened, I thought, ‘Oh my God, Bryan, I don’t know where I’m going to find acts this late in the game,’ ” Migley said Tuesday from her home in Sarasota, Fla.

Most acts come from Florida or Texas, making it a long drive all the way to Fargo for a three-day job.

“At one point we were wondering if we could even do a circus if we lost half our acts,” Shinn said.

“How can I do this Shrine Circus without elephants? It’ll be such a disappointment for the people,” Migley recalls thinking.

She got a little help from her friends, such as Frank Murry of Sarasota, who is driving his elephants up for the weekend to make sure the show will go on.

Well, some friends and an extra $16,000 the local Shriners will pay out for the last-minute changes.

This weekend’s lineup also features a quick-change magic act, the foot-juggling Poema family, Rosairs performing grizzly bears and the Garcia family – father Leo, wife Getti and 5-year-old son Max, who all ride motorcycles in a steel globe.

Some of these acts will be on hand for a free meet and greet between 5 and 7 tonight in front of the U.S. Bank plaza on Broadway.

Not all the acts have been replaced, as there will be no tigers for this year.

Still, Shinn has one wild card up his sleeve. Sometime this morning he hopes to confirm a celebrity appearance for the meet and greet. He’s mum on the details but said this star is “a big hit with the 6- to 14-year-old girl crowd.”

“We’re working on something extra for the circus this year because at first we thought, ‘We’re not going to have elephants, what are we going to have for people to come look at?’ ” Shinn said. “Now we have a full circus lineup.”

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Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533