NORTH ANDOVER — The Kelly Miller Circus will roll into North Andover this week, setting up its big top Friday morning at the Lawrence Municipal Airport.
The circus has been something of a staple in town for the past decade and a half, sponsored by the North Andover Lions Club as one of its annual fundraisers.
The Kelly Miller Circus started in 1938, and was purchased by John Ringling North II, a grandnephew of the Ringling Brothers, in 2007.
“We seem to get the feeling the people want it and like it,” said Lions Club president Frank Sapienza. “It’s good family entertainment, it’s reasonably priced.”
Tickets at the box office are $16 for adults and $8 for children ages 2 to 11 years old; $12 and $6 if purchased before July 7.
The Kelly Miller Circus also includes elephant acts, which have been the focus of animal welfare protests and potential legislation in Massachusetts.
Animal advocacy nonprofit CompassionWorks International has organized protests at circus locations for the past few years, and have coordinated protests locally along the Kelly Miller Circus tour.
“We track the various circuses around the country and organize peaceful educational demonstrations to help raise awareness about animal cruelty,” said Carrie LeBlanc, executive director of CompassionWorks International. “We’re not trying to destroy the circus industry, we just don’t want them to use animals.”
Animal welfare groups also have pressured state lawmakers to ban the use of elephants, big cats, and other exotic animals for entertainment purposes.
Efforts to ban animal shows are opposed by the outdoor entertainment industry, which argues that performing animals are well cared for and often live longer than animals confined in zoos.
“We respect their rights,” said Brenda Rawls with the Kelly Miller Circus home office in Oklahoma, referring to protests.
“We know the guidelines and our regulations of having a circus with animals,” she said of circus regulatory agency, the United States Department of Agriculture, which has cited the circus and its contracted exhibitors in the past for animal welfare violations.
The circus will open Friday night with a performance at 7:30 p.m., and continue Saturday with a performances at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., before lifting off to Merrimac on Sunday.
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