Kelly Miller Circus sets up on Harbor Island for shows tonight

Alexander Sinn • Aug 22, 2018 at 12:30 PM

The Kelly Miller Circus raised the big tent on Harbor Island on Wednesday morning for its 14th consecutive stop in Grand Haven.

Shows are 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, and will feature a range of acts — from clowns and jugglers to tightwire acts and fire breathing.

Tickets at the door are $13 for adults and $8 for children. Children ages 2 and younger are free. Tri-Cities Kiwanis will collect $5 for parking.

The 2018 show no longer features exotic animals. Animal rights groups pressured Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to end its elephant, lion, tiger and camel shows in 2017. 

“We never got much pushback,” Kiwanis Chairman Bill Swano said. “We got some letters. I think it’s more a sign of the times.”

Emilie Dean, an aerialist and tightwire walker with Kelly Miller, said a circus without exotic animals has created opportunities for the circus to expand the variety of acts it performs, while the three-pole tent is now a two-pole.

“The fact we’ve got people doing a pretty wide variety of acts makes it worth the time and effort,” she said. “The pace of the show is pretty fast so it keeps you engaged.”

Dean, who also drives truck and helps with other circus operations, said performing have become more exciting in her five years at Kelly Miller, despite the risks.

“Like anything else it’s more exciting,” she said. “Fear is an exciting aspect of our job. You have to respect what you’re doing. There’s a very real chance if you’re not being careful you’re going to get hurt.”

An Arizona native, Dean said she is one of few United States citizens in the organization.

“There’s not many places you can hear so many languages,” she said. “I hear Mongolian more than I hear English sometimes.”

Other performers include fire breather and ringmaster Lamount, rola bola performer Fridman Torales, hula hoop artist Miss Deya, table perches Mende and Zaiya, clowns Ez and Kozee, juggler Weaam Hassa and the Mongolian Troupe.

Tri-Cities Kiwanas has partnered with organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters and No More Sidelines to give individuals with challenges or facing hardships in life a chance to see the circus for free. 

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