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Recognizing Circus Smirkus

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy

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Mr. President, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to Circus Smirkus, the award-winning international touring youth circus based out of Greensboro, VT. A treasured Vermont institution, renowned well beyond our borders, this year Circus Smirkus is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Circus Smirkus was founded by Rob Mermin, who ran away to join the circus at the age of 19 when summer camps for aspiring performers did not exist. Upon moving to Greensboro in 1987, Rob started the program to promote the culture and skills of the circus and to inspire youth to enter the arts and experience the adventure of a traveling show.

Today Circus Smirkus is the only youth circus in America to put on a full-season tour under its own big top, a 750-seat, one-ring, European-style circus tent. Every summer, a company of talented troupers, ages 10 to 18, arrives and rehearses the show at Smirkus's headquarters in the Circus Barn in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Then 30 young clowns, aerialists and acrobats take the show on the road, staging more than 70 performances across New England in just 7 weeks.

The program is a complete immersion in circus life, including long hours, rigorous training, and daily chores. Most graduates--known as Smirkos--describe their experiences as life-changing and as having forged some of their most cherished memories. The young performers come from as far away as Mongolia, New Zealand, and Siberia. Since its founding the circus has fostered youth exchanges with more than 25 nations.

Marcel Marceau, the famed French mime, broke his silence to call Circus Smirkus ``an absolutely wonderful task: to bring children hope for the future, to create an entirely new form of circus and make it universal.'' He was so right. I see the skill they develop in young performers and the joy they bring to every audience--including Marcelle and me when we take our grandchildren each summer in Vermont. I wish Circus Smirkus the best for this special milestone season and in all the years to come.