Friday, August 6, 2010

Circus Smirkus Hosts Former President George H.W. and Barbara Bush

Circus-goers may expect calliope music, but at a Circus Smirkus performance here on Aug. 2 “Hail to the Chief” filled the Big Top as President George H.W. Bush and his wife entered the tent.
The invitation to the Bush family was extended last month by Circus Smirkus, the 23-year-old, award-winning, international youth circus based in Greensboro, VT. Kids ages 11 to 18 are stars, on high wire and trapeze, as jugglers, clowns and acrobats.
“It was amazing,” said a smiling, 15-year-old Noah Nielsen of Montpelier, VT, who was part of a diabolo juggling act. “It made us realize that what we do is really important, to have a president and his wife in the audience.”
“It was incredible -- just a joy and an honor to have them here,” said 18-year-old juggler Aaron Dewitt of Buckfield, ME. Aerialist Daniel Sullivan’s family, from Denver, CO, was seeing the show for the first time. “To have my family, and President Bush in the audience at the same time... it was incredible, an adrenaline rush,” said the 17-year-old performer.
Each summer, Circus Smirkus travels the Northeast with its Big Top Tour. This summer, the troupe is performing 70 shows in 16 cities and towns in a seven-week period. It is the only traveling youth circus in the nation to tour “under canvas” (that is, with its own big top tent).
This marks the fifth year that the circus has performed in Kennebunkport, sponsored by the Kennebunkport Consolidated School Parent-Teacher Association. According to Jeni Kingston, a volunteer active with the PTA, the group has raised $75,000 by presenting Circus Smirkus, and has used the funds for many projects at the elementary school including extensive renovations to the gymnasium/auditorium, field trips, artist-in-residency programs, visiting authors and more.
Mr. and Mrs. Bush appeared to thoroughly enjoy the show, posing with performers and crew for photos at intermission. When the two-man Smirkus band -- composer Tristan Moore and percussionist Ryan Gray – hammered out “Hail to the Chief” from their perch high above the ring as Mr. Bush entered, the former president smiled with apparent delight and the audience rose to its feet, applauding. Mr. and Mrs. Bush beamed and clapped as the young Smirkus troupers performed as jugglers, clowns and acrobats. “We’ll be back,” said President Bush as he left the tent.
Circus Smirkus Executive Director Ed LeClair said he was thrilled. “Smirkus has been honored to host a number of well-known visitors over the years,” he said, citing guests like chef Julia Child, actor Michael J. Fox and renowned mime Marcel Marceau. “But a presidential visit is an honor like no other.”
Photo caption: George H.W. and Barbara Bush with the Circus Smirkus crew (Courtesy photo)