20190814_bta_circus smirkus

A crew raises the the Circus Smirkus big top tent Tuesday at Montpelier High School. The circus will perform shows Wednesday through Friday this week.

MONTPELIER — The big top will rise this week in the Capital City, as Circus Smirkus prepares to thrill audiences with its 32nd annual summer tour of New England.

Circus Smirkus will perform two shows a day, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., today, Thursday and Friday at Montpelier High School. All told, the circus will perform 69 shows in 16 cities and towns, in five states over 51 days this summer, serving more than 50,000 patrons each year.

Circus Smirkus is based in Greensboro, and is a nonprofit arts and education organization dedicated to promoting the skills, culture and traditions of the traveling circus. Each year, the circus receives hundreds of applications from prospective students ages 10 to 18, hoping to win a coveted spot among the stars of the show and spend several weeks training in preparation for the traveling tour. The three programs offered include the Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour, Smirkus Camp and Smirkus School Residency.

The theme of this year’s tour is “Carnival!” Inspired by the elegance of the carousel ride, the thrill of the rollercoaster and games of chance and skill, the classic circus routines will include jugglers, acrobats and wire-walkers running through a haunted mansion, trying their luck at the ring toss and discovering romance in the tunnel of love, according to the company’s promotional materials.

The 2019 Big Top Tour took to the road in late June and travels through mid-August with a tour caravan that requires 23 support vehicles and a crew of 80 people, including artists, tent crew and a live circus band performing an original score written specifically for this year’s show.

“Circus Smirkus is the only traveling youth circus in the United State that performs under a traditional big-top, European-style big-top tent, with a full crew going town to town,” said Diane Zeigler, tour marketing manager. “These Montpelier shows are so special because it’s like the homecoming of an incredible tour that’s been happening for decades.”

“By the end of this week, they will have done 69 shows, visiting five states over a total tour of 51 days. These kids are doing two shows a day which is incredible,” she added.

Zeigler noted that artists performing in the circus come from all over North America. This year’s lineup includes four Vermonters, as well as others from Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington and Canada.

“The troupe this year is students aged 12 to 18,” Zeigler said. “I’m from Vermont and I always thought the Circus Smirkus troupers were from Vermont, an only-Vermont thing. But it’s actually a very competitive circus.

“Participants train all year long and then they send out an audition tape. They get invited to auditions in January and they get chosen from there. All told, there are 30 kids in the troupe,” she added.

Zeigler said Montpelier is always a welcome stop along the tour, with the troupe’s penultimate shows on its return to the state after weeks away, leading up to the finale in Greensboro at the end of the tour.

“Montpelier shows are really exciting because, finally, after being on the road for so long are coming home to Vermont and on Sunday, it’s the final show at the Circus Barn in Greensboro, which is the world headquarters of Circus Smirkus,” Zeigler said.

To book tickets, and learn more about Circus Smirkus, visit www.smirkus.org

stephen.mills @timesargus.com

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