Animal programs

Evansville’s Hadi Shrine Circus Returns, But With Fewer Animal Acts

EVANSVILLE — Returning for its 88th year, Hadi Shrine Circus promises all kinds of top-flight family entertainment at the Ford Center for eight shows over Thanksgiving weekend.

The Shriners describe the event as “The Last Great American Circus,” and it’s certainly one of the few of its kind left.

The continued use of animal acts is the subject of annual criticism from animal rights organizations, although the Shriners say they remain popular with fans and that, in their view, animals are treated humanely.

This year’s Hadi Shrine Circus, however, cuts back on animal-centric performances. The program includes only two. A line of elephants that has been part of the circus for decades returns. Although not listed on the circus website, a circus spokesperson said an act featuring trained rescue dogs is also expected to participate.

The James Hall Bears cycle in The Castle's Performing Bears act during the 84th Annual Hadi Shrine Circus at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind. on Friday, November 24, 2017.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said they sent a letter to Hadi Sanctuary potentate Rick Hubbard asking that the animals be removed from the Evansville Circus completely.

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The band also said they would air a local TV commercial with this position.

“Times have changed and the Hadi Shrine Circus should end this shameful chapter in its history by holding only animal-free fundraisers,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement. hurry.

Hadi Shrine, who has had many animal acts in previous circuses, said he will use a wider variety of acts this year and in years to come.

Ring Master Ari Steeples watches the acrobat's descent during the 85th Annual Hadi Shrine Circus at the Ford Center in Evansville on Friday, November 23, 2018.

“We have no lions, tigers or bears,” said Dale Thomas, the circus spokesperson. “I think we’re trying to slowly move to a place (with less animal performance). I’m not saying we’ll ever be out of the animal trade, but we’re trying to reduce some of the acts that we have. There’s a lot of acts to choose from and we try to choose wisely.”

Thomas said Hadi Shrine is proud of the longevity of the event and the acts scheduled for this year will provide plenty of excitement.

Annaliese Nock, who has appeared in America’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent Champions and who recently toured with a Cirque du Soleil troupe, is back at the Evansville Circus. Nock and his band will perform on stabilizer poles and the “wheel of death”.

A team of BMX riders, one of whom competed in the recent X Games, will perform feats on their bikes. Illusionist David DaVinci, a veteran of previous Hadi Shrine circuses as well as Ringling Brothers and Disney productions, is on the role.

The Fassio family do tricks with their family dogs during the "Amazing assemblage of ancient animals" perform at the Hadi Shrine Circus in the Ford Center Thanksgiving Day, Thursday November 22, 2012.

“Some of the things he does are beyond explanation,” Thomas said of DaVinci.

Motorcyclist Alex Petrov performs his number suspended 30 feet in the air and upside down above the crowd, and the Cortes family of trapeze artists will return. Both have performed nationwide.

Longtime Hadi Shrine Circus ringmaster Ari Steeples will be back, and the event promises plenty of local flavor with the Hadi Funsters clown troupe and Evansville’s Legacy Elite Cheer & Tumble team. Legacy Elite youth will perform in all three rings.

Hadi Shrine Circus timetables, ticket information

  • What: Hadi Shrine Circus
  • When: Performances are at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day; at 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Nov. 25 and 26 and at 3 p.m. on Nov. 27.
  • Where: Ford Center
  • Tickets: Reserve seat tickets are $22. When purchased directly from a Hadi Shrine member, they cost $18. They are available at the Ford Center box office or through Ticketmaster. Visit for more information.