Lions, tigers, and bears — that’s what it’s all about. Well, swap the lions for elephants, in this case, and then add horses, ponies, llamas, a handful of other animals, and that should get a pretty big, “oh my!” from Forsyth County families looking to kick summertime off with something more exciting than another movie night in the living room.
It’s extra exciting, actually, because this is the first year that The Yaarab Shrine Circus takes over the Cumming Fairgrounds, May 22-31, for the world’s largest shrine circus and a really great excuse to get out and do something fun as a family.
Previously in Cobb County, the new locale means more space for the world-famous circus to spread out its renown acts, including 26 different performances under the Royal Hanneford Circus big top, more than 40 rides, unforgettable (and undeniable) fair food, and the one-and-only daredevil Johnny Rockett and the Johnny Rockett’s Cycle Circus Live, featuring the largest FMX freestyle show of its kind. That’s just to name a few.
“We know people are ready to get out, and the circus is just a really good time,” says Tom Holt, Yarrab Shrine Potentate for the 2021 circus. “We’re coming out over Memorial Day and want families to know that we’ve got a great line-up for them, really good food, and, coming off a pandemic, we’re outdoors, aiming to make it as safe as possible.”
That’s doable because Yaarab enlists the top professionals from the industry, including Hanneford, the oldest family-owned circus business in the world, with roots dating back to the 1600s and experts doing edge-of-your-seat aerial and ground acts, North American Midway Entertainment’s ferris wheel, rides, and carnival games, and the Yaarab Shrine Clowns, a group of fun-loving guys who families look forward to seeing every single year. Marking the 79th year in the Atlanta Metro area, the Cumming Fairgrounds also gives Yaarab a chance to localize its offerings, bringing in attractions like the saw mill and steam engines, and adding new attractions, such as pig races and a brand-new petting zoo with camel rides.
Did we mention the circus food? Yaarab is famous for its turkey legs, “to-kill-for” apple dumplings and ice cream, barbecue, funnel cakes, wings and chicken fingers, cotton candy and popcorn (is it even a circus without cotton candy, funnel cakes and popcorn?), hamburgers and hot dogs, taco salad, and more.
It’s also for a great cause.
“Everything we do is for the hospital,” says Holt. “We fundraise so that we can do more for the kids in the long run. We put any kind of profits toward that.”
That “we” includes nearly 1,000 Yaarab Shriners to make the circus happen. They’re made from members of 57 different clubs and units spanning North Georgia into the suburbs south of Atlanta. With the sole purpose of raising money for the children’s hospitals (the closest being in Greenville, SC), they’ve got a pure purpose and a dedicated volunteer force to turn something seriously fun for a whole lot of families into something truly great for families with children in the hospital.
And the best part? You can come back night after night.
“You can’t hit all of these rides in one night,” says Holt. “Plus, it’s serving the community and it’s for a great cause. Hanneford does a great, great job, so I want to tell people to come out, get a hat, get a T-shirt and just enjoy themselves. Besides, you can’t ever have enough circus food, now, come on!”
For more information or tickets, visit www.2021shrinecircus.com.
2021 Yaarab Shrine Circus & FAIR
The Midway with carnival rides and flea market will open at 5 p.m., Friday, May 21, with circus performances beginning on Saturday, May 22, through Memorial Day. Monday, May 31. Circus Grounds will open at 5 p.m., the first Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. on Saturdays, noon on Sundays, and 10 a.m. on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31.
Johnny Rockett’s Cycle Circus Live — Cycle Circus Live — is the largest FMX freestyle entertainment show of its kind in the world today, by combining the top action sports athletes in the world, and the crazy antics of world famous comedy daredevil Johnny Rockett. Cycle Circus Live is a must see. This is not your average FMX freestyle show. It prides itself on individuality and uniqueness. It is a one-of-a-kind experience that the entire family can enjoy.
Lew-E Comedy Circus — The Master of Slapstick Comedy, Lew-E will return to delight crowds young and old as he mixes a special blend of silly comedy and magic. Action-packed juggling, audience participation and high energy — the little ones love this show. Also returning is Cowboy Woody/Treeman — Barely distinguishable from the real trees, Treeman moves slowly and deliberately throughout the grounds.