First things first — the Garden Bros. Circus is a real traveling circus, performing hundreds of shows across the U.S. and Canada every year.
But that doesn’t mean you should rush out to buy tickets for its supposed show May 19 at the Enumclaw Expo Center. That’s because the circus and the Expo Center are disputing whether there is a valid contract.
The Courier-Herald was notified of the disagreement in a May 9 email from the Garden Bros. Circus with an attachment of what appeared to be a contract to perform at the Expo Center.
“This should clear up any misleading information you may have received,” the email read, apparently in reference to a blowup on the Enumclaw Community Facebook page, where people were claiming the circus was a scam, that money spent on the tickets would not be refunded, and that there will be no show.
According to Rene Popke, manager of the Expo Center, there was a legitimate contract drawn up between the two parties.
However, the Expo Center required the circus to pay their rent in full by May 1, but the money wasn’t received until May 2. Because of this, Popke said she terminated the contract, notifying Garden Bros. via email and requesting that the event be removed from their website.
But by May 13, the Expo Center showing still appeared on their online schedule, and Jim Davis — executive director for Stellar Entertainment Group that owns and produces the circus — made it clear he expects the show will go on.
“We got tickets sold, we’ve got promotions done, and we’re just trying to bring a family circus to Enumclaw,” he said in a May 9 phone interview. “We’re not trying to be difficult about this… I’ve never had an arena, ever, in the 30 years I’ve been doing this, be this difficult over a one-day [late] payment. The day we received the signed contract from her, we immediately mailed the check. I can’t help how long the post office takes to deliver something.”
Davis added he has lawyers looking at the issue, and that he was still planning to come to Enumclaw as of May 10.
But Popke was adamant that there will be no show.
“Expo has executed this contract like all other contacts. We stick to our contract agreement terms. If terms are not met, we terminate the contract,” she said.
Both Davis and Popke declined to release their email correspondence to The Courier-Herald.
The Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce weighed into the dispute, sending a May 10 email to residents saying the circus is not happening “due to the client not fulfilling the requirements” of the contract, adding that “there is lots of conflicting information out there — and if you are approached to purchase tickets, do not do so.”
This does not appear to be the first time the Garden Bros. Circus has promoted a show without having a contract.
According to one Better Business Bureau review of the circus, the reviewer attempted to buy tickets for a March 17 show at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. However, the customer received an email a week after the tickets were bought saying the event was postponed to an undetermined day in June, and the customer was unable to get a refund.
Cynthia Weaver, the Phoenix Convention Center’s public information officer, said Garden Bros. Circus never secured a contract with the venue.
“They prematurely promoted that their event would take place at our venue on their website without having contracted space here,” she said.
Davis said this is “a lie,” adding that he personally negotiated the contract over the phone with the convention center.
“Then one of the higher-ups decided they didn’t want to have the animals, they didn’t want the show in the building,” he continued. “It wasn’t that we didn’t arrange anything.”
Davis gave The Courier-Herald the contact information of a convention salesperson who allegedly was the person who Davis negotiated a verbal contract with.
The individual declined to comment and deferred to the convention center’s attorney.
According to Davis, the circus performs at more than 400 locations a year, and is not “a giant scam.”