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A new setting for the Shrine Circus: Sanford Center to host event for first time

BEMIDJI — For the first time anyone can remember, the circus is coming to Bemidji.

The Aad Shrine circus makes it debut tonight and Thursday at the Sanford Center.

Based in Duluth, the Aad Shrine counts Bemidji within its district. The Aad Shrine Circus is Duluth’s longest-running show, in its 68th year, but hadn’t come to Bemidji until today.

Ryan Kern, chairman of the Aad Shrine Circus board, said many people in and around Bemidji may have never before seen any type of circus.

“What a great opportunity for for a city like Bemidji to get a Shrine Circus,” Kern said. “It’s great family, wholesome entertainment for everyone, for all ages.”

One of the reasons Bemidji never landed the Shrine Circus before this year was simply lack of facilities. In years past, Bemidji didn’t have a large enough venue to stage a three-ring circus. The closest was the John Glas Fieldhouse, but that simply wasn’t wide enough or high enough to accommodate aerial acts.

Now with the Sanford Center in Bemidji, the city has such a facility. Only logistics with scheduling both the events center and the circus acts prevented the Shrine Circus from coming earlier, Kern said.

Curtis Webb, executive director of the Sanford Center, said booking a circus is right in line with providing family entertainment.

“I think with the Shrine Circus, you are always going to get a professional show,” Webb said. “It comes down to the quality of the show, and the Aad Shrine Circus is a quality show.”

Webb said they’ve been pleased with advance ticket sales. Kern said that depending on how the shows go tonight and Thursday, Bemidji may become a regular on the Shrine Circus circuit.

In addition to traditional circus acts, the show will feature more modern events such as FMX Motocross riders and the Chicago Boyz, a group of acrobats who were featured on the national television show “America’s Got Talent.”

Kern noted the Rosaire Brothers and their show featuring grizzlies is always a popular event. Other highlights include elephant and pony rides, as well as face painting and inflatable games, for children and an appearance by Iron Man.

Shows start at 6 tonight and Thursday. Tickets to the show are $17, $13, $12 and $8. Children 5 and younger are free with a paid adult. Tickets for all Sanford Center events may be purchased at arena’s box office, at either Lueken’s Village Foods or through Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or online at

Matt Cory

Matt Cory is the Editor of the Pioneer. Cory grew up in East Grand Forks and is a graduate of the University of North Dakota. He worked as a reporter, copy editor and editor at the Grand Forks Herald from 1993 to 2013, when he joined the Pioneer as Editor.

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