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The Naja Shrine Circus is back to entertain children and child-like adults in Rapid City from Friday through Sunday at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

The circus is the Naja Shriner's largest fundraiser, especially for the Shriners Hospitals for Children. It will also have performances in Bowman, N.D. on June 30; Deadwood on July 1; Philip on July 2 and Lemmon on July 3.

The Naja Shrine Circus — set for May 5-7 — is in its 67th year, having brought joy to western South Dakota residents of all ages since 1950. Shriner Potentate, or leader, Tim Rensch remembers going as a young boy.

"I went to the circus from ages 3 to 4 on," Rensch said. "I remember the sights and smells of the circus, and just being able to go was exciting."

Rensch said that as a child, he was most focused on the spectacle of the circus and being able to enjoy the trapeze artists, clowns and animal acts while eating cotton candy and chocolate bars.

"I think that's what people enjoy about the circus," said Rensch, a local attorney. "It's a tradition we've had in Rapid City since 1950. The trapeze artists are great and there's a number of very funny comedy acts, but the whole atmosphere is what people love."

As an adult, meanwhile, he's grown more appreciative about how much the circus has done to help the community.

"I was always appreciative of the Shriners, which is why I became one," Rensch said. "And the circus raises $80,000 a year and use it to run all of our programs, especially transport to the children's hospitals for various areas."

Rensch added that those funds are key to making sure they can help everyone in western South Dakota.

"If the funding wasn't there, we wouldn't be able to reach everyone," Rensch said. "It makes sure children who need that transportation can get it."

Rensch said that he thinks that's part of what keeps people coming back.

"I think the entire experience of bringing your kids there to have fun is the biggest draw," Rensch said. "But they also come because they know it goes to a good cause."

To purchase tickets, call 343-4076. Children under one year of age do not need a ticket if they sit on laps. No strollers. Cameras are allowed, and there will be rides and more available prior to each performance and during admission for a fee.

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