Wilmette trustees approved a temporary use permit Tuesday for Wilmette School District 39's Educational Foundation to hold a circus fundraiser on September 28.
The sixth biennial Kelly Miller circus fundraiser will be held behind the Mikaelian Education Center, 615 Locust Rd. The fundraiser will include a 150-inch circus tent, activities, concessions, and animals such as elephants, llamas, camels, ponies and dogs, according to village document.
Wilmette resident and animial behaviorist Valerie Chalcraft objected to the permit approval, telling trustees that an elephant attack may be likely, given the brutal training methods circuses use, including the use of bull hooks.
Resident Concerned About Elephant Attacks
These methods are not regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or seen by the general public, Chalcraft said. Such training could lead to tragic results in which elephants go berserk, attacking circus workers and audience members, she said.
"The bull hook only serves to remind the elephant of past punishment. Fear is not an appropriate safety barrier upon which to rely, as fear underlies most types of aggression in most species,” Chalcraft said. “Pairing fear with frustrated, unfulfilled needs is an unpredictable, dangerous combination in wild animals."
Tracy Kearney, president of District 39 Education Foundation, said such fears are unwarranted.
The circus is regulated and licensed by the USDA, and trained personnel are on hand to supervise the staff and patrons at all times, Kearney said.
Circus has Clean Record
“We’re very careful about choosing our fundraisers and are sensitive to the residents of Wilmette,” Kearney said of the event, which has taken place every other year since 2002. “Our experiences with the Kelly Miller Circus to date… have been entirely without incident.”
Trustee Alan Swanson said he is convinced the circus is a closely regulated operation.
“I do not see any negative land use impacts from this,” Swanson said.
The next Village Board meetings are scheduled for July 10 and the 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Wilmette Public School District 39 will be hosting the circus fundraiser. It's been updated to reflect that it's the school district's Educational Foundation that will be hosting the fundraiser.