HOULTON, Maine — They may wear red fezzes and are known most commonly for their annual circus, but the Shriners organization is far more than that.
Now the Anah Temple Shriners have a Sherman Mills man serving as their leader.
Tony Bowers recently was sworn in as the new potentate for the Anah Temple Shriners, who serve an area from Fort Kent to Lincolnville and Skowhegan. Bowers was initiated during a ceremony in January in Bangor that was attended by more than 300 people.
“It’s a lot of work and a huge area to cover,” Bowers said. “We have about 3,500 Shriners and our main function is to raise money for the burns and orthopedics hospitals for children. As the years have gone by, I have learned there are actually many people in this area that have been helped by those hospitals.”
As potentate, Bowers will be responsible for managing all aspects of the Anah Temple. The Kora Temple governs southern Maine.
“I need to make sure that everything is running smoothly,” he said. “We have a lot of committees that meet for the various circus performances and parades.”
Bowers is a member and Past Master of Molunkus Lodge No. 165 of Sherman and a member of Monument Lodge No. 96 of Houlton and the York Rite Bodies. He joined Anah Shriners on June 21, 1986, and is a member of the Royal Order of Jesters, Bangor Court No. 150. Bowers was appointed Outer Guard in 2001 by Potentate Guy Chapman.
The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, commonly known as Shriners, was established in 1870 as an independent body to the Freemasons. The group changed its name to Shriners International in 2010.
Shriners are perhaps best known for their work with youths through the Shriners Hospitals for Children. The Shrine Circus, which was formed in 1906 and travels to nearly 120 cities a year in the United States, is one of the top fundraisers for the 36 hospitals located around the country.
The circus remains one of the largest fundraisers for Shriners. This year’s northern event is scheduled for May 3-5 in Presque Isle.
Parades are another source of revenue, with 30 Anah Temple units participating in parades and other events throughout the summer. Shriners driving lobster boats, minibikes and go-carts as well as marching band units are a familiar and popular sight.
Referring to the Shriner hospital, Bowers said, “All patient care is free to children under the age of 18. It’s mostly burns and orthopedics, but they also do cleft palate work and rehabilitation work.”
Bowers estimated there are 900,000 Shriners throughout the country.
“There are a lot of dedicated people who donate a lot of time and energy,” Bowers said.
An added benefit for southern Aroostook having Bowers in the post is that the Anah Temple Shriners will converge on Houlton June 14-16 for a convention. Bowers said the last time a Shriner convention was held in Houlton was 1967, when Herschel McIntosh served as Potentate.
Bowers said he anticipated about 500 people will come to Houlton for the conference at Millar Arena.
For more information on Shriners, visit www.anahshriners.com.