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Come one, come all: Shrine Circus has three shows in DL Thursday

It's coming -- the pink and blue puff that melts in your mouth, crystallizing to perfection...

The twirley, flashy things that nobody knows quite what they are, but glow with magnificence in the darkness...

The smell of the swaying elephants mixed with juvenile excitement generated from people of all ages...

The El Zagal Shrine Circus is on its way to Detroit Lakes, set for three shows on Thursday, March 22 at the Kent Freeman Sports Arena.

"They have the elephants, the Bengal tigers, three different animal acts...," said Lowell Thompson of the DL Shriners, "and then last year we put some hooks into the ceiling at the arena so they will do some aerial acts, too -- everybody really enjoys that."

The high wire and trapeze acts are designed to dazzle, as the clowns clamor for laughs.

Thompson says the event is always a hit in Detroit Lakes, even to the point where they often sell out.

"Last year we turned 250 people away from the evening performance because the arena only holds 1,200 people," said Thompson, "but we did provide those people with free tickets to the Fargo circus, so they weren't too disappointed."

Local fifth-graders will be saturating the day performances, which start at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. -- a tradition that began 17 years ago when the Shriners decided to provide free shows to them.

Fifth graders will be descending on the arena from Detroit Lakes, Frazee, Lake Park-Audubon, Mahnomen, Waubun-Ogema-White Earth, Pelican Rapids, Park Rapids, Perham, Menaga and New York Mills.

"Now going around and selling advertising for our color book, I will sometimes get people who say they remember how they couldn't wait to get to the fifth grade because they knew they'd get to go to the circus," said Thompson, adding that roughly 1,400 students from the area are bused in for the show.

Another huge draw for local kids is the bike-giveaway.

About 60 children will win a bike at the circus this year, as local businesses chip in to sponsor the giveaway.

"At half-time kids will buy candy bars, and inside the wrapper it might say 'free bike', and so then they can go down and pick out the bike they want and get a picture with a Shriner," said Thompson, "and then we'll frame that picture and send it to the sponsor of that bike."

One child who will for sure be receiving a bike this year is Lacy Richter from Perham's Prairie Wind Middle School.

She was the winner of the poster contest, which means the famous coloring books sold by the Shriners will feature her artwork on the cover.

Out of the 8,000 posters sent out to area students, Lacy was the grand prize winner.

Some local winners also included Rossman Kindergartener Ghaven Derstine, Rossman fifth-grader Lexy Jesness and Roosevelt second-grader Mya Anderson.

Those three students will also get their artwork inside the coloring book.

The day shows run about two hours long, while the evening show, which begins at 6:30, goes until about 9 p.m.

"For the evening show we spend a little bit more time during the intermission for pony and elephant rides and things like that," said Thompson.

Last year was the first year the Shriners did a ticket exchange, where people buy tickets at various booths, then turn around and use them to purchase food, items and rides.

"It just made things run so much smoother and quicker," said Thompson, "so we'll be doing that again."

Tickets for the event are $5 for the day shows; for the evening show, the advance tickets (which can be purchased at Central Market) are also $5 with tickets at the door being sold for $7.

"You know, a circus is for kids of all ages," said Thompson, "It doesn't matter how old you are, it's just something about the atmosphere --everybody seems to have a good time at the circus."

The Jose Cole Circus will also be rolling into town April 9 at 7 p.m., also at the Kent Freeman Sports Arena in Detroit Lakes.

That show, which goes at 6 p.m. is being presented by the Knights of Columbus.

Tickets can be purchased at the door.