Ainad Shriner's First Circus - January 21, 1922
Public entertainment has been no stranger to the Shriners of Southern Illinois. In 1916, the
organization opened to the public for the purpose of hosting minstrels as a fundraiser. These were
often popular for an evening out for membership and those who in the public wanted to be
entertained. Ainad Shriners first circus (a tradition that continues today in several Southern Illinois
communities) started on January 21, 1922. The John W. Moore Co. from Chicago provided the
circus entertainment. Known as the Shrine Circus and Arabian Fete, the circus wowed spectators
for a period of eight days with a break on Sunday, January 22. A Shrine parade was scheduled for
opening night but due to weather it was cancelled. The streets were covered with snow and ice.
The circus was held at the new Union Trust Bank Building in East St. Louis, on the corner of
Collinsville and Missouri Avenues. Spot lights illuminated the new building as to “flood” the exterior
of the building as well as project into the nights sky. The Nobles created their own stages, lighting
and backdrops for all of the circus performances and the overall theme was Arabian with Shrine
colors. They created an Arabian village for concessions. The Nobles who were businessmen,
grocery store clerks, meat packers, railroad engineers, all became hot dog vendors, popcorn
makers, hucksters and hosts to the public.
Memories were created from seven nights of circus performances by kids of all ages. Even the
Nobles were entertained knowing that they had put smiles on everyone’s faces. The 10 year old
Shrine organization came through giving the public a show in the winter of January 1922
grossing approximately $30,000 with the cirus tickets only costing fifty cents.
Families then, just as families today, had nights to remember. Seeing thrilling high wire acts,
watching the animals perform and laughing at the clowns. The Shriners of Southern Illinois are
keeping with this long standing tradition, providing family fun activities at the Ainad Shrine Circus.