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Bengal tigers are a big draw for spectators of the El Zagel Shrine Circus, which is set to pull into Detroit Lakes for three shows on Thursday, April 3. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

El Zagel and Jose Cole coming to DL

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Few things seem to put the sparkle of excitement in the eyes of a child like the circus.

“To be honest, when the tigers come out, I get kind of excited as an adult, too,” said Steve Larson, president of the Shriners in Detroit Lakes, the organization hosting the Shrine Circus.

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The much-anticipated El Zagel Shrine Circus is happening Thursday, April 3 at the Kent Freeman Sports Arena at the Becker County Fairgrounds in Detroit Lakes.

Like previous years, there will be three shows to choose from — one starting at 10 a.m., one at 12:30 p.m. and an evening show at 6:30 p.m. The doors open one hour prior to the start of the show.

Unlike last year, however, literally a big part of the show will be the elephants.

“Last year they were quarantined due to a disease running throughout the herds in the U.S., but this year we’re very excited to have them back,” said Larson, who adds the elephants are a big draw, especially for the kids wanting to ride them.

“The show this year includes a lot of new acts, the Bengal tigers will be back this year, and we’ve got some of the regular things, a magic show, high wire acts and things of that nature,” said Larson, who says they will stay true to tradition by bringing in 5th grade students from around the region to take in the afternoon shows, which are kept to a tighter, one and a half hour schedule.

The evening show, which is the most heavily attended and includes a longer intermission, often sells out.

The arena itself holds a capacity of roughly 1,300 in the stands, however, this year bleacher seating has been expanded by a couple of hundred seats down on the floor. “And this year we’ve also expanded our concessions and are opening up the side door for an entrance so that it’s not so congested down front,” said Larson.

And like they always do, the Shriners will again be doling out brand new bikes to dozens of lucky children in the stands. “We have about 70 bikes so far that have been sponsored by local businesses and individuals,” said Larson, “and we’ve gathered all the posters from our coloring contest and are ready to go with grand prizes for that.”

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $5 at Central Market or Papa Murphy’s in Detroit Lakes, or at the door for $7.

“We’ve kept those prices the same for many years because we want the event to be one that families can afford to come to,” said Larson.

Money raised from the event goes to the Shriners Club, which then turns around and uses the funds to attend local functions as volunteers in their communities.

Larson says the circus ends up being a fun way to raise those funds.

“I’ve had the opportunity to be down on the floor when the Bengal tigers are brought out onto the floor and to watch the faces of the kids — they’re just amazed,” said Larson, “and I know there is going to be a lot of good talents and a great show this year.”

Jose Cole Circus

The Jose Cole Circus will also be pulling into Detroit Lakes that week with a one-time show on Monday, March 31 at 7 p.m.

This has what has traditionally been known as a circus geared more towards younger children, and one that isn’t quite as crowded.

Local members of the Knights of Columbus help to put this show on, as they sell a big chunk of tickets to local businesses, which then in turn will often give them away to children.

The Jose Cole Circus is also a fundraiser for the Knights of Columbus, which helps out local charities like the Boys and Girls Club, Special Olympics and Holy Rosary.

The show will also be held at the Freeman Sports Arena in Detroit Lakes.

Tickets are sold at the door —adults for $10, children ages 3 to 12 for $7 and children 2 and under for free.

The doors open at 6 p.m.

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