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No Better Way to Spend Summer

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Smirkus Camp Head Coach Doug Stewart

And just like that another Smirkus summer has come and gone. It feels like just yesterday I was sitting in my living room in Massachusetts assigning pen pals and counselor groups. As I am writing this, I’m looking at the tents, half-way through tear down. It’s hard to believe that just a few days ago was our final show. In some ways, it feels like it was this morning, and in other ways it feels like it was weeks ago. Time always feels strange when leaving Smirkus.

At Smirkus there is always something to do and you’re always doing something. Days are long, and weeks are short and every moment is filled to the brim with chaos, laughter and love. From the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, you are surrounded by incredible people learning together, training together and eating together. You spend more time with people at Smirkus than you do anywhere else. It’s no wonder that the friendships made here last the longest too.

After 11 years at Smirkus, I learned something new this year. This year while listening to our final “Happy Circle of Happiness” I was trying to think of what to say. Typically, I say something along of the lines of “Smirkus isn’t a place, it’s the people here” but this year that seemed off. Because ever since I first discovered Smirkus all those years ago and was surrounded by incredible people, I made a decision to only surround myself with magical people. As we send campers off into the world, we always tell them to find their people and share the Smirkus magic with them.

So as I listened to kids saying how they felt accepted at Smirkus Camp, and how this place is their second home, I couldn’t help but wonder what makes this group of people so different than any other place I’ve been. After a whirlwind year of society changing, I realize that is exactly what sets Smirkus apart. Our norms.

The norms of Smirkus are different from the rest of the world. At Smirkus, we lift each other up. Here, everyone belongs. At Smirkus, you get to be whoever you want to be. But we already knew that. Here, in our bubble on the hill, we’ve created our own community where people are encourage to try new things, are allowed to fail, and are given space to grow.

This summer, we once again proved that the impossible is possible. We managed to pull off eight weeks of summer camp in the middle of the pandemic. We hosted over 200 campers in our tents this summer. The pandemic forced us to be flexible and jump through hoops; luckily, the very nature of circus has been preparing us for years.

With over a decade of Smirkus under my belt, I continue to leave each year saying, “That was the best summer yet.” Once again I got to watch campers arrive shy and new to circus and leave with newfound confidence and skills. I got to watch an entirely new team of counselors come together and form friendships that will last a life time. I got to watch campers and adults work side by side, play together and grow together.

I am incredibly grateful that we all got to be together after so long apart and I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer than at Smirkus. Now I am going to take a very long nap and dream of all the new and exciting things for next summer. Thanks for an unforgettable season and I’ll see you down the road.