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What’s In A Name?

Mamma Mia, a beautiful sight

Arriving on the Smirkus Camp site you are greeted by an assortment of colorful circus tents. Inside these tents is where the magic of camp happens. On any given day you will find clowns working on their improvisation, acrobats learning new tumbling skills, aerialists hanging high on trapeze, lyra or rope, jugglers tossing their clubs, and much more.

Juggling tent Lottie, honoring juggler Lottie Brunn

As a new member of the Smirkus Family, my first tour of the campus included an introduction to all of the tents. Smirkus is my first experience of the circus world, and so I was unaware of the tradition to name circus tents, but quickly I became acquainted with Mamma Mia, Natalie, Ruby, Lottie, and Fluzan (Flo).

It is hard to imagine campus without all five of our tents, but Smirkus Camp has not always looked as it does today.

Our first big top tent arrived to campus after being designed in Italy, in 2002. The tent needed a name and since it was the inaugural one it seemed fitting that the founder of Smirkus, Rob Mermin, should have the honor of titling the big top. However, Mermin did not decide on a name for the tent for the first summer of its use, and so it remained nameless for the time being. During the first year that the big top was used, a placeholder name of Big Momma was used to refer to the tent. When the following year came around, a name needed to be determined. Since Big Momma had been popular the year before, and since she was designed in Italy, it was decided that the first tent would be named Mamma Mia.

Natalie stands proudly among the Vermont hills

Old Blue, the original Smirkus touring tent was also on campus during this time period. After several years of use however, it was time to replace Old Blue, and that is when Natalie arrived to our family. Natalie was rented for her first few years of use. The designer of Mamma Mia, Eric Jager, also designed Natalie, who he named after his daughter. Knowing that there was a permanent need for her, Natalie was eventually purchased, solidifying her place in Greensboro.

Ruby, the clowning tent, with Ruby Frank, a clown on tour

Our clowning tent, Ruby, was procured the year that Ruby Frank was born. Ruby is the child of two former camp employees and so to commemorate this joyous occasion it seemed appropriate to name the new ruby-red tent after her.

The juggling tent on campus is Lottie, after famous juggler Lottie Brunn, who was considered to be one of the fastest women juggler’s of all time! We wanted to honor this trailblazing juggler who passed away in 2008.

When campers need to see our amazing nurse on staff, they head on over to Fluzan, more commonly known around camp as Flo. Fluzan is actually a combination of two different tents. One of the tents, Flo, was named after Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. The other tent is Suzan, named after one of our dearest camp nurses, Suzan, who passed away from breast cancer. The combination of the tents occurred after the newest tent, Suzan, was damaged in a particularly strong wind storm. The salvageable parts of the tent, the siding, were combined with the top of Flo, thus creating Fluzan.

The tents on campus are our sanctuaries, it’s where campers grow as performers and where campers grow as a family. They are a part of who we are as Smirkus, and it’s why we take pride in naming them!

Our landscape of tents, including Fluzan, made up of Flo and Suzan.