St. Andrews, SC (Paul Kirby) - Thousands flocked to the Jamil Shrine Temple Royal Hanneford Circus over the past four days to enjoy the sights and sounds of one of the last, and the largest,travelling circuses in the US. They were tantalized and amazed by the great variety of acts that you’d expect from a circus much like the ones of old.
The Hanneford family, long considered the "Royal Family of the Circus," has a long and rich circus history fast approaching three centuries! Beginning with Edwin Hanneford in the late 1600s to the present family member Tommy Hanneford who’s still just in his teens, they have consistently amazed, amused, thrilled and delighted audiences around the globe with their exploits and stellar circus presentations. They have been performing annually at the Jamil Temple for decades.
Even before the show starts, clowns from the Jamil Temple pose with children, play practical jokes on adults, and generally entertain the crowd. As the lights dim, the booming voice and song of the ringmaster pumps the audience up with tales of what’s to come. All this is done while the live band plays music that’s fitting for the circus atmosphere.
As things get underway, veterans of any circus will see what they’ve come to expect from a professionally done production. There are acrobats, aerialists, balancing acts, and jugglers. There’s a unicyclist that rides bikes of various sizes and shapes including one that’s small enough to fit in your pocket. The gorgeous women and handsome men of the trapeze acts float effortlessly high above the arena’s floor as if they were birds.
When it comes to animals, there are many of every size, shape, and description. There were well trained tigers that did tricks while their handler made it look effortless. Two of them were white and these magnificent animals are still glorious to behold. They thrilled the crowd with their show; I even saw teenagers put down their phones and watch!
There was a gorgeous herd of expertly trained horses, camels who trotted, twisted, and twirled on cue, zebras that got in on the camel’s act, and a pure white pony that drew a cheer from the crowd. All of these pranced and danced to the amazement of the crowds in the stands.
More balancing acts and juggling followed before an intermission was held. During the break, your children could ride an elephant, a camel, or one of the ponies. You could get their faces painted to resemble one of the animals in the show or grab popcorn, a snow-cone, or other great snacks and trinkets from the many vendors.
Near the end of the show, the stagehands rolled out the “Cage-Of-Death," a steel ball that looks like a spherical prison, and motorcyclists whizzed around inside it at high speeds. With physics at work, the riders went around the top, force holding them to the cage to prevent them from crashing. At one point, they had three riders on full-sized bikes zooming inside the ball, always coming close to each other, but never quite connecting.
As the crowd left, the children and adults alike chattered about the great show they had seen. It will be hard to wait another year before being able to see that much excitement under one roof again! As with everything they do, the Jamil Shrine Circus raises money to support the Shriner’s Childrens Hospital in Greenville.