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Circus is coming! Smirkus is coming!

The Circus Smirkus performances are a benefit for the Great Barrington Fairgrounds Redevelopment Project. The Smirkus theme is: “Anchors Away for Atlantis, a maritime merriment under the briny big top.”

Great Barrington — Circus Smirkus, the award-winning Vermont-based international youth circus whose 30 performers range in age from 10 to 18 will be rolling into the Great Barrington Fairgrounds Thursday, July 17, to set up their 750-seat European-style one-ring big top tent for a weekend of shows to benefit the Great Barrington Fairgrounds Redevelopment Project.

Founded in 1987, Circus Smirkus is an animal-free traveling youth circus that performs more than 60 shows across New England each summer. It will offer performances Friday and Saturday, July 18 and 19, at 2 and 7 p.m. each day.

The theme for the 2014 Circus Smirkus tour is “Anchors Away for Atlantis,” described as “maritime merriment under the briny big top,” exploring the vast oceans with aquatic aerialists climbing rigging, amphibious acrobats tumbling in the surf, and castaway clowns carousing with fishy jugglers.

Clown Alley at Circus Smirkus. Photo by Robert Sanson.
Clown Alley at Circus Smirkus. Photo by Robert Sanson.

The Circus Smirkus crew includes professional coaches, cooks, musicians and crew. The youthful jugglers, clowns and acrobats will be hosted by local families during their stay in Great Barrington, an effort coordinated by the Great Barrington Waldorf High School.

The Circus Smirkus extravaganza is the biggest fundraising event yet for the fairgrounds redevelopment project.

In 2012 Janet and Bart Elsbach purchased the property and formed the nonprofit, Great Barrington Fair Ground (GBFG), to manage the renovation. Since then, hundreds of community volunteers have devoted time to cleaning up the dormant 57-acre fairgrounds site on South Main Street across from the Big Y shopping plaza.

“Circus Smirkus is just the kind of event we’ve heard the community clamoring for,” Janet Elsbach noted. “We’re looking forward to a busy, fun weekend!”

Elsbach cited the huge volunteer effort behind this presentation, which combines the efforts of three nonprofit organizations: Smirkus, GBFG and ticketing partner, The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center.

She called the fundraiser critical to the ongoing work to build something wonderful on the site.

“Of all the ways people can get involved in the future of the Fairgrounds, heading down to see this fantastic circus is pretty clearly from the ‘dessert’ section of the menu!” she added. “Everything we’ve gotten done on site, from clearing trash and vines to hosting this well-loved and world-renowned circus troupe, has come together thanks to the hard work of dedicated volunteers.”

This month, GBFG received the go-ahead from the town’s Selectboard to pursue permitting for 10 projects on the site, the initial steps in creating what Elsbach explains is a goal of “cultivating a town commons where we gather, play and learn, as both stewards and beneficiaries of the land’s environmental, agricultural, historical and recreational gifts.”

Restoring and safeguarding the environmental health of the fairgrounds site is the top priority, she said.

Tickets are $18 for youth and $22 for adults, with group rates available. Children under 2 enter free. Tickets are on sale now through the Mahaiwe box office (24/7 at mahaiwe.org, or during regular box office hours, W-S, 12-6pm) and at the Great Barrington Farmer’s Market Saturdays at the Fairgrounds from 9am to 1pm. Proceeds from ticket sales and parking benefit the positive redevelopment of the Great Barrington Fairgrounds. For more information, visit GBFG.org, follow on Facebook at Great Barrington Fairgrounds, or consult The Berkshire Edge Calendar listing.

To have some fun with the circus theme and to let the community know about the arrival of Circus Smirkus, more than 100 adults and children posed for photos clad in a bright red clown nose for the WhoNose? photo gallery on the GBFG Facebook Page.

“It was hilarious,” said Elsbach, “People balked at putting on the nose at first, and then once they clapped it on, they hammed it up like crazy. It’s a release, to get to be silly!”

GBFG welcomes community members wishing to help out at any of the four shows. They can sign up to Volunteer at Circus Smirkus or contact volunteer@GBFG.org for more information.

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