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Shrine Circus opens today at Spokane Valley Mall

Circus worker Daniel Green laces up the big tent Monday in the parking lot of the Spokane Valley Mall. The Shrine Circus, in its 59th year in Spokane, opens today. (Colin Mulvany)
Circus worker Daniel Green laces up the big tent Monday in the parking lot of the Spokane Valley Mall. The Shrine Circus, in its 59th year in Spokane, opens today. (Colin Mulvany)

It’s been a Spokane tradition for 59 years. There are elephants, horses, trapeze artists and clowns, all for the entertainment of children of all ages.

This week the El Katif Shriners are bringing the Zerbini Family Circus to the Spokane Valley Mall for an old-fashioned show under the big top.

The Zerbini Family Circus is celebrating its 250th year. Founded in 1763, the circus has toured the world through 10 generations of performers.

“We’re older than baseball,” said Joseph Bauer, an eighth-generation circus performer who is the show’s ringmaster. His brother-in-law, Tarzan Zerbini, is the show’s producer.

The big top went up this week. Bauer said the circus has eight employees who travel with them to construct the tent, and they hire extra help in each city.

It takes about two days to erect the tent and set up the seating, lighting, sound system and ring.

Bauer, who has also been known to perform in the Wheel of Destiny, said the tent was made by Ferrari.

“It’s the finest tent you can get,” he said.

It’s an international show. This year the lineup includes about 10 gold and white tigers trained by Judit and Jurgen Nerger from Germany and an Argentine family who juggle with their feet.

Bauer’s daughter, Ambra Bauer, will ride horses bareback. Piolita the clown will also perform.

“I see it every show and I just die laughing,” Bauer said of the clown.

Buck Buchanan, potentate of El Katif Shriners, said the show is the temple’s annual fundraiser – not for the hospital the temple supports.

Many of the Shriners and their wives volunteer at the performances, from working in the ticket booth to entertaining folks outside the tent.

“We have more fun than we have doing just about anything else,” Buchanan said.

He said a circus under the big top brings back the feel of the old-fashioned circus from years past.

“It’s just amazing,” Buchanan said. “It instantly becomes magical.”



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