Bring the Family

Circus Smirkus for the whole family

Geoff Edgers/Globe Staff

WHO: Globe arts reporter Geoff Edgers, his wife, Carlene, daughter, Lila, 11, and son, Cal, 3

WHAT: Circus Smirkus at Wachusett Mountain

WHERE: Princeton


It was in the lower 90s and we were eager to find something to break up the daily routine of visits to the swimming hole and a lethargic viewing of “Toy Story 2.” That’s when our friend Kristin suggested something I could immediate sign on for. Circus Smirkus was coming to town (and it’s in Waltham this weekend, then Kennebunkport, Maine, then Newbury).

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Smirkus, for the uninitiated, is the anti-Ringling Bros. In fact, it’s even lower-key than the “Big Apple Circus,” being smaller and featuring no animal acts. What’s more, Smirkus gives your kids the distinct idea that they can, indeed, run away with the circus. (As opposed to stowing away in a carny van.) Performers are 10 to 18 years old. Some are trained at the summer camp. Others have picked up their skills elsewhere. You’ve got to audition to become part of the show. It’s not merely about paying your camp tuition.

For a parent, Smirkus offers added incentives. Tickets range from $16 to $25 and concessions, the silent wallet killer, are reasonable and limited to hot dogs, lemonade, cotton candy, popcorn, and a few other items. There are circus knick-knacks for sale, but the sell is as soft as a spongy clown nose.

And the performers? They’re kids, sure, but they’re good. They can juggle, walk the wire, ride the unicycles, and what they might lack in seasoning, they make up for with genuine enthusiasm. There’s lots of clapping, lots of energy, and a driving score played by what appeared to be a two-man band.

Which is not to say it totally captured Cal’s attention. He dug the first half of the show chomping on his cotton candy, but he got antsy after intermission. This is perhaps where the little dogs in the “Big Apple Circus” would have come in handy. Lila, though, was into the show with its “Wizard of Oz” theme. She wasn’t about to get out of her seat.


I took Cal outside where we picked up a popcorn and sat in the field where Smirkus had pitched its tent. We talked about going in, but Cal seemed more into the flood of performers — the lion, Dorothy, the tin man — who ran around the tent as they wanted to reenter the show.

And while I wouldn’t have minded catching more of the performance, I’ve got to admit, I enjoyed sitting outside, eating salty popcorn, and talking to my son.

Geoff Edgers can be reached at