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Circus Smirkus Rolls into Three County Fairgrounds

Editor’s note: This story first appeared on on July 6, 2023 and was written by Keith O’Connor

Photo by Justin Miel

Eva Lou Rhinelander loves clowning around. But even more, she likes wrapping herself up into all sorts of contortions, not to mention going round-and-round with the hula hoop.

Rhinelander, 18, who hails from Melrose, is one of the many young stars of Circus Smirkus, which rolls into the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton on Saturday and Sunday.

Showtimes are Saturday at 1 and 6 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

This year’s tour continues the tradition of Smirkus’ annual theme-based shows with The 2023 Big Top Tour: A Midsummer Night’s Circus. The show will feature a vast array of circus arts — including aerials, acrobatics, juggling, and clowning — as well as a dazzling display of brilliant costumes, and many other surprises.

It’s Rhinelander’s eighth season with Circus Smirkus, after her love for performing with the hula hoop and at the suggestion of a classmate’s parent after a school talent show, led her to Circus Smirkus.

“I applied to the Smirkus Camp, but also learned about the Big Top Tour and auditioned for the youth circus. I was surprised when I passed the audition and was invited to go on tour with them,” Rhinelander said about never having done any circus-like performing before her audition.

“Since it was my first year with Circus Smirkus, I didn’t have as many skills as some of the others troupers. I was a clown for the first year and was inspired by older talented troopers who were doing things like contortions and hand stands, which are now my favorite things to do,” she added.

The Smirkus Camp is a summer camp for youth of all ages and skill levels who want to train in the world of circus arts. Instruction is held in an immersive camp setting under Big Top circus tents at the Circus Smirkus headquarters in the rural hills of Greensboro, Vermont. Instead, Rhinelander opted to immediately become part of the Big Top Tour during which troupers are given the full experience of touring in a classic traveling tent show. Offering complete immersion in circus life, Smirkos, as they are called, endure rigorous training, daily chores and the loading in and loading out of the Big Top.

Rhinelander, who graduated from high school this year, will continue to hone her circus skills as a hula hoop major in the fall at Ecole nationale de cirque – ENC Montreal in Quebec, Canada. She plans to major in hula hoop.

The all-kids circus – no animals – features, in addition to Rhinelander, 29 budding circus stars in the 2023 troupe ranging in age from 11 to 18. Some – like Samantha Miel, 16, of Lexington – are performing for the first time, while others have been with Circus Smirkus for eight summers. They hail from 12 states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

“I was inspired by seeing Circus Smirkus back in 2014 as a little kid. So, I started to attend the Smirkus Camp, which I’ve done for many summers now before participating in this year’s tour,” Miel said about being well-versed in the circus arts before finally auditioning and going out on the road as a performer.

Her specialty in the circus will be performing in the aerial hoop act.

“A lot of people might find it scary being up high, but not me. I’ve had a lot of experience in gymnastics flipping high into the air and have always enjoyed doing it,” Miel said.

She is excited for audiences to see what the troupers have in planned for them under the Big Top.

“It’s definitely a supper funny show, the clowns are really great and I think the audience will enjoy the aerial act that I am part of this year. It’s going to be a ton of fun for everyone,” she said.

Celebrating its 36th year, Circus Smirkus is the only traveling “tented” youth circus in the United States performing under a traditional European-style circus tent. The award-winning circus company performs across New England to approximately 40,000 patrons each summer.

The 2023 Big Top Tour took to the road on July 1 and travels through mid-August with a tour caravan that requires some 23-support vehicles and 80 people— including performers, coaches, cooks, tech and tent crew and a live circus band playing an original score written specifically for this show.

Tickets for kids 2-12 are $20 and $35 for adults 13 and over. For advance tickets, go online to or call 877-764-7587.