Zembo Shrine Circus History
The Zembo Shrine has sponsored a Circus in the Harrisburg area since 1948. It is one of Harrisburg, Pa's longest running annual events.
We finished our 70th annual Shrine Circus in March of 2017 and are now working on our 71st, 2018 Circus. Make plans (Mark your calendar) for your family and friends to come to our next FAMILY FRIENDLY Circus, Mid March, 2018. We would LOVE to have you, and will do our best to give you the best in family entertainment!
Over the years our Shrine Circus has been held at various locations throughout the Harrisburg area including the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Complex at Cameron & McClay streets where many, many residents were introduced to it. It is currently being held at our Zembo Shrine Temple building in uptown Harrisburg at 3rd and Division Streets. where the atmosphere is friendlier and more intimate and the seating is a little more comfortable. The peak of the Shrine Circus was in the 1950s through 1970's when we could fill the Farm Show Arena with many thousands of kids and adults and a 3 ring extravaganza. It had simultaneous acts going on in all 3 rings at the same time. Elephants, Lions, Tigers, Horses, High Wire Acts, Human Cannon Balls and various other large acts. Of course we have always had many Clowns, both our own Shrine Clowns and the Clown acts traveling with the circus. We have also had many special guest stars over the many years. The Lone Ranger & Tonto, Gloria Winters, Sky King, Superman, James Drury (The Virginian), the "Petticoat Junction" girls "1968" (Meredith MacRae, Linda Kaye Henning & Lori Saunders) and many, many other celebrities that would agree to appear. We are trying to compete with TV, Computers, Video Games and the Internet. We are still a great, affordable, family orientated, entertainment option.
To promote the Circus in the past, Zembo would have a contest for the kids in the nearby schools, to create a Circus Poster. The posters would come into Zembo for judging with all the posters being hung in a prominent location at the Circus for all to see. Just before or during the circus, the Shrine Clowns would visit a couple schools to entertain the kids.
The kids always had a great time, I know, I was one of them in the 1960's. My grade school would bus hundreds of my schoolmates and their teachers to a matinee show. A day at the circus! WOW, did we have fun! Many of the other schools in the area did the same, and on the same day! We would scream back and forth across the arena to announce that we were better than any other school there. I assume that they had as much fun as I did. I was amazed by the animals, costumes & live performances'. It was nice to meet the kids from the other schools and make new friends.
The Shriners have always gone out-of-our-way to please anyone that came to our shows, especially the kids. We have always tried to keep the costs down so the kids could afford to come, get a trinket or two along with popcorn and a drink. This was one of the main reasons we moved the circus from the Farm Show Arena to our Zembo Shrine building. This also gave our patrons a better atmosphere. It is a bit more personal, closer to the action, and more comfortable with padded seats. At the current facilities we are limited to acts that can fit through the doors, and can work in the beautiful auditorium here. You will see our clowns, and you will see many of our members volunteers (Nobel's and their Ladies, as we call them) along with friends of our Nobles and the Shrine. They are all here to help you in any way they can. They will be selling you your tickets, greeting you at the door, selling you the souvenir Circus Programs and novelties, seating you, painting your kids faces & cooking and serving you food in our Tile Room. They will even be thanking you for your patronage and wishing you a nice safe trip home after the show.
We appreciate your patronage over the many, many years. Please come again. We think you will conjure-up some nice memories of your childhood, and create some very pleasant memories for your family, kids & friends! I'll probably see you there!
Here are a few tidbits:
If you look at the Shrine Circus flyer & Circus Program and see Clowns and their name(s) on the flyer, these are the Zembo Shrine Clowns that have reached a "Life Clown" status that particular year. A Life Clown is a Clown with 15 years of Active volunteer service to the Zembo Shrine Clown Unit.
The Clowns pictured within the pages of the Circus Program are members of our Zembo Clown Unit. They will be happy to autograph the book and pose for pictures. Just ask!. If you miss a few autographs at the Circus, you might be able to get some at the parades and other community events the Clown Unit participates in around the local area and throughout the year.
Now that you know where we are, keep your eyes open for the other FREE family oriented events like the Kids Care Expo (in March), Easter Egg hunt, Children's Christmas Party (in Dec.) and others. Look for our Shriners in the local (Lancaster, Lebanon, Dauphin, York, Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, Perry, Juniata & Schuylkill county) events & parades throughout the year.