The 2017 Shrine Circus In Missoula appears to have been the last, unless the Missoula City Council decides to change its mind. An “exotic” animal performance ban by the city of Missoula forced the circus to park the animals out of town instead of bringing them in for the big show, like they do in other Montana cities. According to Shriner Mike Weigle, after elephants, lions and tigers were removed from the act, the number of attendees dropped precipitously.

"The circus is not going to be back... it's done," Weigle said. "For the past 60 years, our circus had no negative events ever, we used to profit about $25,000 to $30,000 per year. We loved the circus, so did the people, we had buses that used to come in from all over, averaging about 3,000 to 4,000 adults, that would come, last year we were in the 500's for each showing."

Instead of running a profit, the 2017 circus in Missoula didn’t even break even… in fact the Shriners had to dip into their reserves to the tune of $18,000. What really hurts is that the money wasn't even for the Shriners, it was for children in need of medical care. The money went to the Shriners Hospital in Spokane, which Weigle says, serves about 1,000 Montana kids per year, regardless of ability to pay.

"It's a specialty hospital for children," Weigle said. "If there's a deductible on that particular insurance or medicaid or a co-pay, we bill the patients parents once, if they pay, fine, if they don't, it's a write-off. There's no sending them to collections, we assume your gonna pay us if you can and you're not, if your not able."

The Shriners also cover patient travel and lodging in Spokane. With the circus gone, the funds are still needed and the Shriners are working on a new revenue stream for the hospital in the form of a walk-a-thon they will hold in June.

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