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Spice Up Your Summer with a Circus Celebration!

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Sentinel Source on June 29, 2018 and was written by 

Photo by Justin Miel

Grab your popcorn, take a seat and get ready to be dazzled by this year’s vaudeville-themed Circus Smirkus extravaganza!

On Sunday and Monday, July 15 and 16, locals will flock to the Cheshire Fairgrounds for a Big Top experience like no other. With aerials, acrobatics, wire-walking, juggling, lively music and an array of brilliant costumes, this magical event is sure to awe audience members.

Circus Smirkus’ performances in Swanzey are part of a 68-show tour across the Northeast, featuring top youth performers from not only the U.S. but around the world. In the past, many troupe members have even gone one to become professional circus artists with big-name companies.

Circus Smirkus, a nonprofit arts and education organization, brings together about 30 troupers each year, who range in age from 10 to 18. During their time as part of the team, they’re fully immersed in the circus experience, from rigorous training to loading in and loading out the Big Top itself.

For the last several years, locals have been lucky enough to welcome the Smirkus troupe to the region thanks to the Monadnock Waldorf School (MWS).

“This is a fundraiser for the school but also an opportunity to bring an exciting and enriching youth event to the area,” said Emily Schwerin-Whyte, co-chair of the board at MWS and head of the Circus Smirkus Marketing Committee for the school.

In addition to MWS’ extensive planning, Smirkus’ stop here is also made possible by support from businesses within the community, including The Keene Sentinel, Mascoma Savings Bank, IPG Employee Benefits and Bulldog Design.

“This year we were also lucky to receive a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts in support of us offering our Magic Monday Matinee, a special show with reduced ticket prices,” Schwerin-Whyte noted.

Photo by Justin Miel

No matter which performance you attend, the event is an unforgettable experience.

“I remember looking around the audience during the show and seeing everyone, young and old, clapping their hands to the music with big smiles and looks of wonder on their faces,” described Lauren Fanti, an MWS parent of three.

As for the troupers, the experience is just as incredible.

“Smirkus has given me my best friend, a network of familiar faces across the Northeast and a confidence and faith in myself I’m not sure I would’ve found had I not been accepted on tour,” said Lola Picayo, who has been performing with Smirkus for five years.

She explained that being part of the troupe takes participants way beyond just developing their circus skills. It also teaches them how to interact with people from diverse backgrounds, hold their own in unfamiliar places and “truly revel” in being themselves.

Eva Lou Rhinelander, a third-year trouper, echoed those feelings.

“I love being on tour with Smirkus because I love performing and being able to share our acts with new people all summer long. I’ve also made friends with amazing kids from all over the country, learned so much from them and my coaches and directors,” she said.

Genuine engagement, dedicated learning, and friendship – values which are all at the heart of Circus Smirkus – resonate deeply with the MWS community, which is why the partnership is such a great match. MWS even offers circus arts as part of their curriculum.

“Circus gives our students the freedom and fun to explore their next level of self-awareness, self-management and social awareness,” explained Jan Lyndes, who teaches Movement and Athletics at the school.

Photo by Erica Miller

The circus program at MWS is offered in grades one through eight, beginning with simple balancing and tumbling activities all the way up to tightrope work and unicycling. From third grade onward, students also participate in group performances intended to build confidence, as well as an awareness of one’s self and others.

“Circus, by its very nature, is collaborative rather than competitive; its spirit lives in the art of the circus troupe,” Lynde said.

“Through this program, the students experience healthy physical and social development, all while having fun! And the discipline it takes to learn these new skills can be seen in how they approach all other areas of their studies,” said Schwerin-Whyte.

Having that background in circus arts makes it all the more thrilling for MWS students who get to attend the Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour.

Excited to see some of the amazing acrobatics and mesmerizing magic for yourself? Tickets range from $16 to $22, and children under 2 are always free. Tickets can be purchased locally at the Toadstool Bookshops, Beadniks and Walpole Grocery. You can also call 877-SMIRKUS or visit