Circus Smirkus

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Circus Smirkus
Circus Smirkus
Circus name Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour
Country United States
Founder(s) Rob Mermin
Year founded 1987
Director Mark Lonergan, creative director
Troy Wunderle, artistic director
Jennifer Carlo, executive director
Traveling show? Yes
Circus tent? Yes
Winter quarters Greensboro, Vermont, United States

Circus Smirkus is a non-profit,[1] award-winning, international youth circus founded in 1987 by Rob Mermin. Based in Greensboro, Vermont, the mission of Circus Smirkus is to promote the skills, culture and traditions of the traveling circus and to inspire youth to engage in the circus arts.[2]


From 1990 to 2010, the circus has had more than 4,000 youths aged 10–18 in its summer camps.[3]

This annual camp was located at Sterling College in Craftsbury, Vermont through 2009. The camp relocated onto the campus of Lyndon Institute in Lyndon, Vermont in 2010.[4]

As of 2015, the camp moved to the Smirkus HQ, Greensboro, VT. A new campus was built 2014-2015.

Big Top Tour[edit]

Smirkus' performers and coaches have come from Canada, China, Colombia, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Zambia, Canada, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Moldova, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, ten Native American nations and 20 US states.[5] At the International Children's Festival at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in September 2000, Circus Smirkus was introduced as "the United Nations of the youth circus world."

Summer camp[edit]

Circus Smirkus has a summer camp that trains children in areas such as aerials, clowning/performance, acrobatics and juggling. Participants may also choose to train in other skills such as human pyramids, unicycling and stilt walking. The circus opened its Summer 2015 season at new, permanent facilities—a 135-year-old farmhouse on 35 acres (14 ha) in Greensboro, Vermont.[6] The camp sessions offered throughout the season vary from one night overnight camps, one and two-week camps, and advanced camps, including Junior Road Show, Road Show, Ensemble and Aerial Acts.[7]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 1992: Vermont Arts Council's Award of Excellence
  • 1994: Dove Foundation Award for Family Values[8]
  • 1994: Named "one of America's best circuses" by Family Fun Magazine[9]
  • 1997: The Bessie Award from Burlington City Arts
  • 1998: People's Choice Award at "Circus Youth of Today" Festival in Sweden[10]
  • 2000: Dubbed "the United Nations of the youth circus world" by Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts[5]
  • 2004: Smirkus founder Rob Mermin awarded the Lund Family Center's "It Takes a Village" Award[11]
  • 2004: Smirkus founder Rob Mermin awarded Vermont Arts Council's Citation of Merit "for distinguished service to the arts in Vermont"[11][12]
  • 2008: Smirkus founder Rob Mermin awarded the Vermont Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts[12]


1989 Guest troupe from Tbilisi, Georgia.
1990 Historic joint Soviet/American youth circus tour.
Smirkus performed in Yaroslavl and Moscow.
1991 Smirkus was the first circus to perform on the island of Nantucket.
Latvian Youth Circus and Moscow Circus members joined the Smirkus Big Top Tour.
Smirkus co-produced a Soviet/American youth circus-on-ice.
1992 Guest performers from Russia, Moldova and Kazakhstan, and 12 performers from California’s Great Y Circus.
1993 Collaborating with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Russian performers and 10 Native Americans performed with Smirkus.
1994 Guest artists from Russia and Mongolia joined the tour.
1995 Guest performers from Russia, Mongolia and Hungary. Also the first exchange with Budapest Circus School.
1998 Guest performers joined the troupe from Russia, Israel, Mongolia and China. This was Smirkus's first exchange with the Wuqiau School and Chinese Acrobatic Arts Association.
1999 Alberto Zoppe's family from Italy joined the tour, performing with Percheron horses.
Marcel Marceau gave a benefit performance in the Smirkus tent.[13]
2000 Indokids[14] from Indonesia joined the tour.
Smirkus performed with Sesame Street’s Bob McGrath.
Disney Channel broadcast Totally Circus, a fifteen-part documentary about Smirkus.
2001 Collaboration with the Chicago Boyz, and with Chicago’s Midnight Circus.
First Arab-Israeli circus kids from Jerusalem performed in the Smirkus tent as part of a joint peace program.
Julia Child joined the Smirkus Board of Directors as an honorary member after her visit to the Smirkus chuck wagon.
2002 Collaboration with the six-member Vermont bluegrass band, the Route Seven Ramblers, who performed live with the show for the summer tour.
First Nations dancers and cowboy rope spinners from the Southwest joined the tour.
Smirkus Advanced Camp created a road show to tour hospitals and nursing homes.
2003 Performers joined the tour from Sweden’s youth circus troupe Cirkus and Variete.
2004 Volunteers for Peace joined Smirkus with students from Spain, France, England and Poland.
Smirkus was featured on The Martha Stewart Show.
2005 Collaboration with the Sandglass Theater of Putney, Vermont, produced a ringful of puppets, high-flying troupers, and miniature donkeys.
2006 Filmmaker Signe Taylor traveled with the Big Top Tour, shooting for a documentary entitled Circus Dreams.[15]
2007 Guest performers from Colombia and Mongolia joined the tour.
2008 Guest performers from Colombia and Ethiopia joined the tour.
2009 Guest performers from England and France joined the tour.

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ Circus Smirkus' non-profit incorporated as The Circus Barn, Inc. according to, a name also used in Circus Smirkus materials[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "About Us - Circus Smirkus". Circus Smirkus. Retrieved 2018-03-30. 
  3. ^ Green, Susan (25 June 2010). "Circus Smirkus:Let the big top tour begin". Burlington, Vermont: Burlington Free Press. pp. 1(Weekend). 
  4. ^ "Circus Smirkus Summer Camp Facilities and Meals". Circus Smirkus. Archived from the original on 2010-08-02. Retrieved 2009-11-24. 
  5. ^ a b "Who We Are: The Smirkus FAQ". Circus Smirkus. Archived from the original on April 23, 2009. Retrieved May 2, 2009. 
  6. ^ "CIRCUS SMIRKUS PURCHASES PROPERTY TO BUILD PERMANENT HOME". Circus Smirkus. Retrieved 2014-10-25. 
  7. ^ "Camp Sessions | Circus Smirkus". Retrieved 2016-10-30. 
  8. ^ "The Princess Who Wouldn't Laugh Review". Dove Foundation. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  9. ^ "Audiences are sure to 'flip' over action-packed 'Tropical Vacation'". Exeter News-Letter. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  10. ^ "Smirkus History". Circus Smirkus. Archived from the original on May 1, 2009. Retrieved May 2, 2009. 
  11. ^ a b "Balancing Act". Seven Days. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  12. ^ a b "Vermont Arts Council Annual Awards". Vermont Arts Council. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  13. ^ "Rob Mermin remembers his friend, Marcel Marceau". Vermont Public Radio. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  14. ^ "About Indokids". Indokids, Inc. Archived from the original on 2009-10-24. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  15. ^ Taylor, Signe Taylor, Aaron Taylor-Waldman and James. "Circus Dreams: a movie journey from mud to magic". 
  16. ^ a b c d e f "Troupers Past & Present". Circus Smirkus. Archived from the original on 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  17. ^ Coleman, Lee (2008-06-03). "Local Youth Rides off with Canadian Unicycle Title". Schenectady Daily Gazette. The Daily Gazette Co. Archived from the original on 2011-05-30. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  18. ^ "National Circus School - Prizes and Awards". Archived from the original on 2009-08-16. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  19. ^ "Creating a spectacle - 28th Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain". The Stage. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  20. ^ "Who Wants to Be a Superhero? - Heroes - Hyper-Strike". Archived from the original on April 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  21. ^ "Dan Brown (VII)". IMDB. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 

External links[edit]