LEWISTON — Clowns were everywhere.

And not just clowns, but pirates and Keystone Kops, wide-eyed aliens and a 6-foot lion. Everywhere, glowing swords and spinning lights and animals cavorting.

Not to mention Shriners in funny hats.

The Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Friday was inhabited by many things that might be frightening to a child under normal circumstances. But these were not normal circumstances. The Shrine Circus is in town and the first show got off the ground in grand style.

“I thought she’d be scared,” said Michael Emond, who was watching his 2-year-old daughter, Nevaeh, run from place to place, trying to take in everything at once. “She’s not scared, though. She loves it.”

Scary clowns? Nevaeh didn’t think so. One twisted a balloon into the shape of a dog and handed to her. With it, the 2-year-old tracked down another clown and whacked him with it.

“She sees them all the time on TV,” Michael said. “She’s not afraid of them at all. She’s pumped to be here.”

The clown transforming simple balloons into more exotic shapes was Skittles and he’d been at it awhile. As kids watched bug-eyed, he gracefully twisted and bent his balloons into the shapes of dogs, bunnies, aliens … whatever a child wanted to see, Skittles could make it happen.

“Once you get the hang of it,” he said, “it’s easy.”

At other times of the year, Skittles is Wayne Penley, mild-mannered postmaster and father of three. He’s a member of Kora Klowns and of Tranquil Lodge 29. According to his business card, he’s a graduate of Clown College and a recipient of the Red Nose Award.

Sitting in a front row near the center of the arena, a 17-month-old boy named Brayden was gawking at the strange goings-on. Sitting in his aunt’s lap, there was something to see no matter where he looked.

Acrobats were warming up in the shadows off to his right. A man in a sparkling red suit coat was pacing around in the center of the arena, waiting to announce the start of the show. Every inch of the building was jammed with kids toting glowing swords and laser guns. A clown wandered by with a giant, inflatable hammer. When Brayden got his hands on the massive toy, he promptly whacked a photographer right in the lens.

“He’s loving this,” Karen Russell, Brayden’s aunt, said. “He rode the ponies earlier. He’s having a great time.”

And all of that was before the circus was even under way. Before long, the spotlights beamed on center stage. More clowning, some announcements and before anybody knew it, the acrobats were way up high on their swings. They were followed by men and women, boys and girls on trampolines and then — because every circus must have one — a dog and pony show.

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When: 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. Saturday, April 16 

Where: Androscoggin Bank Colisee

Tickets: General admission: adults: $10; children 12 and under: $5.

Reserve Seating: $12 per person

(Reserve seating available through Kora Temple only)

Parking: $3


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