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Shriners bringing circus back to Lee Civic Center

By Staff | Apr 22, 2015

Get ready for a day of thrills for children of all ages as the Araba Shriner Circus returns to the Lee Civic Center on Friday, April 24, for three shows at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Circus fans will get to see acrobats, clowns, jugglers, really big animals and other traditional acts sure to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.

As is usually the case, the first show is free to children from the schools and organizations within the five counties served by the Shriners, Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry and Glades.

Last year more than 3,000 children witnessed that circus, with the hope of more this time around.

“The school system has been very cooperative with us. We check with them months in advance before we set the date so it doesn’t fall on spring break,” said Dick Nelson, potentate at the Araba Shrine on Hanson Street in Fort Myers. “They provide the buses to bring all the school kids.”

Circus Hollywood out of Bradenton will once again provide the entertainment as well as the kid’s petting zoo which will be available before and after each performance.

Last year the circus was in town for three days. Nelson said they would only do one day this year. April 24 was the only open single day the circus had.

The Shrine Circus was founded in 1906 and travels to roughly 120 cities per year in the United States and about 40 in Canada.

The circus has come to Fort Myers for the last 20 years.

The Fort Myers Araba Shrine is one of 13 shrine centers in the state, usually located in the major cities. There are approximately 190 centers nationwide.

Money raised from the circus is used by the local Shrine Center or club to fund Shrine activities and administrative costs, which in turn allows them to serve their big project, the 19 Shriners Hospitals for Children nationwide, the nearest one in Tampa.

“Some of it goes to operate the temple so we can offer assistance to the hospital. We have several hospital funds, such as transportation. We have four wheelchair equipped vans that we use to transport children to Tampa,” Nelson said.

The hospitals treat children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate, and are eligible for care and receive all services, regardless of the patients’ ability to pay.

General admission is $15, with children five and under admitted for free. Ringside seats are an additional $10 paid for when you get ringside.