White tigers, sibling contortionists and a human cannonball are among the featured acts for the 69th Annual Moolah Shrine Circus.
The three-ring spectacle begins Thursday and runs through Sunday, presenting eight performances at the Family Arena, 2002 Arena Parkway, St. Charles.
"We've got a couple of new acts we're pretty excited about," Mark Rethemeyer, circus director said. "We've got an act called 'Girls in the Glass Box' that will bring the house down."
In the act, a female contortionist squeezes into a 3-foot-by-3-foot glass box, but that's not all. "Her sister gets in with her," Rethemeyer said.
Also on the bill: The Motorcycles of Death. "It's an old trick with a new twist," Rethemeyer said.
While daredevils riding motorcycles in a metal ball is standard circus fare, this ball has sections that will open up while the riders are inside. "If they steer wrong, they'll fall out," Rethemeyer said.
Another stunt-riding group is the ATV Daredevils. "They are guys on ATV motorcycles doing all kinds of stunts," Rethemeyer said. "It's great for the kids."
Animal acts are a popular part of the circus, and along with the usual elephants, horses and dog acts, there will be some special felines in the program. "We have white tigers this year," Rethemeyer said. "They will probably open the show."
Other human acts Rethemeyer is excited about include a human cannonball ("We haven't had one of those in some time," he said) and a quick-change artist. "This lady changes 15 times in three minutes," Rethemeyer said.
The fun isn't limited to the show. Before, during intermission, and after the show, people will have a chance to ride an elephant or pony and take a picture with a white tiger or 15-foot-long snake. There will be a bounce house and face painting.
While hard economic times have taken a toll on many entertainment shows, the Moolah Shrine Circus has bucked that trend. "It gets better and better each year," Rethemeyer said. "Attendance last year set a record for us."
Part of that success is linked to a program that allows families to get a coupon for a free children's ticket when an adult ticket is purchased. "We did three shows with this offer last year, and we've added a fourth show this year," Rethemeyer said.
Last year, the circus drew around 5,000 attendance for some shows and 7,000 each for the three shows that offered the coupon. "That's the biggest we've had in a long time," Rethemeyer said.
Show times are 7 p.m. Thursday; 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 6 p.m. Sunday. Sunday's 1 p.m. performance is geared toward those who are hearing impaired.
Tickets cost $12 general admission, $17 reserved, $27 VIP, $35 executive VIP. A $3 facility fee will be added to all ticket prices.
Coupons are available for one free general admission children ticket (12 years old and younger) to select performances (7 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday) when accompanied by a paid adult. These coupons are available at Moolah Temple or online. Coupons are not available at the Family Arena.
A special performance will take place Friday morning for underpriviledged children. Donations from the public, used to help pay for this show are available through the Shriners' Circus Angel, Circus Mom and Dad and Circus Cherub programs.