Come one, come all to the Beja Shrine Circus where elephants will amaze you, lions and tigers will stun you and a human cannonball will fly 150 feet across the sky.
The Beja Shrine Circus performed March 1 to 3 at Green Bay Brown County Veterans Memorial Center.
The Beja Shrine Circus is sponsored by the Beja Shriners of Green Bay. Beja Shriners is a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth. There are more than 500 Beja Shriner members in Green Bay. The Beja Shriner’s No. 1 fundraiser is the Beja Shrine Circus.
Beja helps support 22 Shriners Children Hospitals. The hospitals specialize in care for orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, cleft lip or palate and more. Regardless of ability to pay, they will be treated.
Fundraising activities are abundant for the Shriners, and the circus is another way they give back to the Green Bay community. Each year, thousands of children are given free tickets to attend the circus.
Many people put in time, effort and practice to make sure the circus runs smoothly.
The Ring mistress Michelle Audrey started the circus.
Audrey is one of the only women ring-masters in the current circus world. She worked to create an atmosphere to excite the audience from the start.
Other circus performers included elephants weighing around six tons and standing between 10 and 13 feet tall. The elephants are no strangers to the circus world and their tricks were unrestricted by their size. The elephants created pyramids, stood on one foot while standing on a table and other maneuvers in the ring.
The star of the Beja Shrine Circus, Mighty Bo, is the largest performing elephant on Earth. Elephant jokes claim they have a brain the size of a peanut, but his more-than-60-trick roster proved the misconceptions to be worth peanuts. Mighty Bo amazed the audience with his graceful and talented moves. No animal likes to complete a trick without reward, and Mighty Bo’s favorite rewards are red apples and sweet grain.
Bruno Blaszak is the lion and tiger trainer, whom some claim is wilder than the animals he trains. Blaszak grew up in Poland in a family of animal trainers. His family was part of the traveling circus Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey. The tigers and lions jumped through hoops, laid down, rolled over and for the finale walked on tight wire.
Blaszak currently lives in Florida with his eight big cats that require a total of 150 pounds of meat every day.
“Lions and tigers are basically a house cat, but they’re a supercharged version,” Blaszak said. “They’ve got bigger claws and bigger teeth and out of playful behavior they can leave you with pretty bad scratches and bites. I don’t recommend them for home use.”
The rest of the circus acts contained the Georgettes Magic Extravaganza, Cavorting Clowns, Aerialists and daredevil bikers.
“I liked the clowns, especially the one with the little dog that was dressed up like an elephant,” said Jordyn, the 5-year-old daughter of Jimena Duquaine of Green Bay.
The Georgettes Magic Extravaganza and the Cavorting Clowns kept the audience entertained while the circus crew changed scenery between acts. The Georgettes do high-flying leg kicks and dance to fast-paced music. The clowns provided side-splitting laughter as they completed silly acts.
The high-flying Aerialists climbed ropes to the top of the arena and twisted and twirled by their hair, one arm and one leg while holding another aerialists. For their second act, they juggled fire while being suspended in the air.
The daredevil bikers were a favorite of the crowd.
“I loved the dirt bikers,” said Brennan Vanwychen, a 14-year-old from Howard. “They were daring and kept me intrigued.”
These bikers showed no fear when they were caged in the sphere. They started the act with only three bikes and continued by adding two more bikers. They ended with five bikers weaving winding, and circling in the cage. The audience applauded and cheered as they completed this unthinkable feat. While the bikers were in the cage, a motocross rider performed aerial stunts, including backflips.
The final act of the night was Dave “The Bullet” Smith. He has been a human cannonball for more than 11 years. The audience went completely silent when The Bullet was loaded into the cannon and the countdown began.
“You can’t see the landing net just a little piece of sky, listening to a countdown to my blast-off,” Smith said. “After all these years and all these shows I know I’ve got one show and every time it could be fatal. That does cross my mind.”
The circus concluded after its March 3 show, but the Beja Shriners will continue to be active in the community.