Celebrate the Fourth with the Shrine Circus

By: 
Jenny Gessaman
Reporter
Two elephants lean on the backs of third elephant in the middle for a circus performance.

Ringmaster Ari Steeples stands in front of a performing troupe of elephants in a previous circus performance.
Photo courtesy of Jordan World Circus

The Shrine Circus is coming to Lewistown once again, and it’s guaranteed to give a memorable twist to the Fourth of July.

From 2-4 p.m. acrobats, clowns and exotic animals will entertain at the Fergus County Fairgrounds. For Ringmaster Ari Steeples, experience has perfected the routine.

“Well, I grew up in the circus,” he said. “My dad was a bear trainer, and I was a bear trainer.”

When Steeples was 19, a no-show ringmaster led to circus management putting Steeples in as a last-minute replacement. The circus professional has now been leading shows since 1989, and working for his current circus since 1995.

Steeples had a simple description of what exactly a ringmaster does.

“I’m the guy on the microphone introducing the acts, guiding the people through their two-hour journey,” he summarized.

“I’m like the host of the show, so I guess it’s a pretty easy job,” Steeples laughed, joking he does a lot of talking and not a lot of working.

One of the most common misconceptions about his job comes from circus history. Steeples explained earlier enterprises, such as those around the beginning of the 20th century, would often have owners double as ringmasters. That is not the case now, he said, clarifying with a chuckle that he did not own the circus he works with now.

Still, many approach asking for work with the troupe, including kids.

“I tell them to stay in school,” he laughed.

Although he enjoys his work, circus life does have a downside: driving. Steeples tours for 30 out of 52 weeks each year, driving over 35,000 miles. Despite any road fatigue, he still touts his troupe as a must-see performance. So why come to the Shrine Circus this summer?

“Because we’re going to be the most exciting thing in your town,” Steeples said. “It’s some good, wholesome family entertainment at a very affordable price.”

Central Montana Shrine Club Treasurer Ted Murray confirmed the sentiment, saying tickets for children ages 14 and below have already been paid for by the surrounding Central Montana community. He added the proceeds go to the Shriners Hospitals for Children, or to helping young patients travel to the facilities for care.

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