Clowning Around With Circus Smirkus

By Maya-Jade Hallet

Imagine this: You are flying, tumbling through the air. You feel the air swooshing by you as another person gracefully catches your extended arms before you plummet to the ground below. The exuberance of this thrills and excites you, but not half as much as the roar from the crowd when you have completed your act. Now imagine along with this that you are nine years old. Then you will know what it is like to be a trapeze artist in one of the greatest circus acts aroundóCircus Smirkus.

Rob Mermin, a Vermont resident, founded Circus Smirkus back in 1987. The circus was created to so that kids and adults could unite in spirit-intensifying, artistic entertainment through the circus arts. It was a little rough getting started, but the magic of the circus shone brightly, and now all the hard work and dedication has paid off. The Smirkus has about 35 employees who go on tour during the summer with the kids. One of the employees I had the pleasure of speaking with is Ozzie Henchel.

Ozzie has been involved with the circus almost from the start, and he really seems to take pride in his job and enjoy it to the fullest extent. Ozzie is parent liaison, books the summer tours, and basically makes sure all goes smoothly. He even drives the tour bus full of the youthful performers for the full six week tour! He is the next step down from the man-in-command, who is, of course, Rob Mermin. Ozzie labels himself CEO, (Clown Executive Officer). He also states that he is the "general nuts and bolts guy" for the circus.

Not only is the circus a performance, it is also a camp for youngsters who want to learn circus tricks such as how to fall down on purpose, ride a unicycle, swing on a trapeze, juggle, walk a tightrope, do magic tricks, and tumble. Each camp session ends with a performance for the parents, which gives them a chance to see their kids perform in a circus act.

"By the time you see the kids in the show and talk to the other parents, you realize they have had an incredible experience in their lives," Ozzie Henchel says about the kids who are involved with the summer program. There are different camps for levels of experience ranging from amateur to advanced; however, campers are not in competition with each other. They are challenged to learn as much as they can, but the focus is really on how to have fun.

Circus Smirkus is a non-profit, educational, performance arts organization that never turns anyone away due to financial need. There is a scholarship fund that enables families who qualify to send their children to one of the summer sessions without struggling financially.

Circus Smirkus has quite a bit of international flavor. In the past, the circus toured Russia and won awards at the 1990 International Performance Festival. The circus also hosts young performers from other countries such as China, Siberia, Russia and Mongolia, and performers have come from 14 states across the U.S.

Circus Smirkus is a one-of-a-kind treat. Each show is as exhilarating as a roller-coaster ride. Every year the shows have a new theme. This year, the theme is Pirates. Donít miss Circus Smirkus when it is on tour in Vermont this summer. Go see their fantastical performance for yourself, where you can feel the pulse of energy and enthusiasm from the young performers surge through the crowd!

For dates and locations in the Vermont area, please see below. For more information, contact :
Circus Smirkus
1 Circus Road
Greensboro, VT 05841
Phone: (802)-533-7443 or (802)-533-7125
Fax: (802)-533-2480

Maya-Jade Hallet is a student at Southern Vermont College in Bennington.
Circus Smirkus
Vermont Summer Tour Dates:

Bennington, VT, at the Veteranís Memorial Field:
     Tuesday, July 11 - 7:00pm.
     Wednesday, July 12 - 11:00am & 7:00pm
Greensboro, VT, at The Circus Barn:
     Wednesday, July 5 - 2:00pm & 7:00pm
     Saturday, August 19 - 7:00pm
     Sunday, August 20 - 2:00pm & 7:00pm
Middlebury, VT, at The Middlebury Recreation Field:
     Sunday, July 9 - 3:00pm & 7:00pm
Putney, VT, at the Putney Co-op field:
     Sunday, July 16 - 7:00pm
     Monday, July 17 - 12:00pm & 5:00pm
Montpelier, VT, at Montpelier High School Field:
     Saturday, August 12 - 2:00pm & 7:00pm
     Sunday, August 13 - 2:00pm & 7:00pm
Barton, VT, at Orleans County Fairgrounds (abridged shows):
     Thursday, August 17 - 2:00pm, 4:00pm & 7:00pm
     Friday, August 18 - 2:00pm, 4:00pm & 7:00pm

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