Shrine Circus brings elephants to Ross Elementary for pizza lunch.
Two eight-foot tables on the lawn.
A big unmarked truck just down the drive.
Five hundred elementary school students sitting on the sidewalk anxiously awaiting the appearance of their guests of honor.
Then a big door on the side of the truck opens and two elephants emerge onto the street and lumber toward the empty tables.
After a salute to the crowd and a little trumpeting, Larry the clown takes several pizzas from their boxes and lays them on the tables.
The choice is cheese pan pizza or beef.
Cheese is the favorite but by the time lunch is over all the pizza is gone.
Larry the clown leads the students in singing Happy Birthday to Ellie the elephant and the pachyderms lumber back to their truck.
The Elephant Pizza Lunch is something the Shrine Circus does for the amusement of school students in stops along the tour every year.
"The idea came up last year, but then we kind of forgot about it until we were planning this year's circus," said Monica Astorga.
Astorga's husband is a member of the local Shrine Club and volunteers as part of the club's clown brigade. He was working the crowd of kids as they waited for the elephants.
Astorga has worked as a paraprofessional at Ross Elementary since the school opened, although she's taking some time off now for knee surgery.
So when they needed a school to bring the elephants to, Astorga asked Amy Loder and Amy Eakin, principals at Ross, and they agreed.
Pizza Hut donated the pizzas. The circus requested no vegetables and no pepperoni.
For Astorga, it's all about the kids.
"My heart is with these kids," she said after the students had returned to their classrooms.
And that's true for the Shriners as well.
While the clowns and other Shrine units volunteer to help entertain kids at lots of community events, their real volunteer service is transporting children from the Dodge City area to places like the burn unit at the Shriners Hospital in Wichita.
The local club has a special vehicle designed to make the trip as comfortable as possible while providing the necessary medical care.
And that's why the Shrine Circus comes to town. The circus entertains lots of children and at the same time raises funds to support the valuable services offered by the club.
What did you learn today?
After the elephants left the premises, Mrs. Hutchcraft's third-grade class took some time to tell the Daily Globe what they learned about elephants during their morning class (and what they thought about the facts):
A grown elephant eats 300 pounds of food and drinks 50 gallons of water every day. (That would make 1,200 cheeseburgers!)
A mother elephant is pregnant for 22 months. (That's nearly two years!)
A newborn elephant weighs about 200 pounds. (Dang!)
Most of the class had plans to go to one of the circus's seven shows scheduled for this weekend.
After all, they had a personal invitation from Larry the clown.
IF YOU GO
What: Shrine Circus
Where: Civic Center
When: Noon, 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. today
1 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 2 through 12
Tickets will be available at the door.
On Feb. 1, the city transferred ownership of the Civic Center to USD 443. As a result, Shrine Circus tickets are not available at ticketmaster.com or at the United Wireless Arena box office. Please plan to purchase your circus tickets at the door.
Follow Don Steele on Twitter @Don_dcglobe.