Award-Winning Circus Smirkus Is Coming To Harwich

by William F. Galvin
Circus Smirkus shows will be behind the community center on July 17 and 18. JUSTIN MEIL PHOTO Circus Smirkus shows will be behind the community center on July 17 and 18. JUSTIN MEIL PHOTO

HARWICH – The circus is coming to town. Circus Smirkus, that is.

The award-winning youth circus group’s mission is to promote the skills, culture and traditions of the traveling circus, inspiring youth to engage in life-changing adventures in the circus arts.

Four shows are scheduled by the nonprofit organization to help the Harwich Children’s Fund, a local nonprofit, raise money to provide life-changing experiences for local youth. The Children’s Fund’s mission is to provide help and assistance to Monomoy Regional School District youth and families in need.

The two nonprofits will join together on July 17 and 18 with two circus performances on each day at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. under a big top tent that will be located behind the community center on Oak Street.

Celebrating its 37th year, Circus Smirkus is the only traveling “tented” youth circus in the United States. This year’s tour continues the tradition of Smirkus’ annual theme-based shows with “The 2024 Big Top Tour: The Imaginarium.”

“It’s like going into a toy store,” said Angelina Chilaka, president of the Harwich Children’s Fund.

“Imaginarium is toys coming to life,” added Harwich Children’s Fund volunteer Sheila House.

Chilaka said 100 percent of the funds raised, after the bills are paid for the productions, will go toward the pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students in the school district and assist with student fees for recreation programs. The nonprofit is a collaborative made up of community partners and retired teachers.

The big top tent used for the performances holds between 700 and 750 people. There will be two smaller tents, one for costume changes during the performances and the other for concession sales. Each show will run between an hour-and-a-half and two hours.

Chilaka praised the commitments of the recreation department and other town departments and the 14 team leaders who helped get the project off the ground.

“We’re hoping to make this an annual event,” Chilaka said.

The show will feature a vast array of circus arts — including aerials, acrobatics, juggling, clowning — brilliant costumes, and many other surprises. The 2024 Big Top Tour took to the road June 29 and will travel through mid-August with a tour caravan that requires some 23 support vehicles and 80 people including performers, coaches, cooks, tech and tent crew and a live circus band that will play an original score written specifically for this show.

The award-winning Circus Smirkus is a non-profit international youth circus founded in 1987 by Rob Mermin and based in Greensboro, Vt. The company performs across New England to approximately 40,000 patrons each summer. This year's troupe is composed of 30 teenagers ages 11 to 18 who come from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

Circus Smirkus has a summer camp that trains children in aerials, clowning/performance, acrobatics and juggling. Participants may also choose to train in other skills such as human pyramids, unicycling and stilt walking. The camp sessions offered throughout the season vary from one night overnight camps, one- and two-week camps, and advanced camps. Ticket revenue from performances goes back into developing circus programming for The Big Top Tour, Smirkus Camp, and school residency programs.

“It’s so exciting to have Circus Smirkus here,” said Community Center Director Carolyn Carey.

To enhance the circus mood, Carey said, on Saturday, July 6 the community center will have a circus theme day with games and fun events and perhaps even a dunk tank. On July 11, Carey said, there will be circus theme movies running all day.

Tickets for the Circus Smirkus shows are $40 for adults and $25 for children 2 to 12 years old. Children under 2 are admitted free. Chilaka said there is a reduced group sales rate if more than 15 tickets are purchased. There is also a $3.50 service charge when ordering online. Tickets can be purchased at They can also be purchased at the Harwich Chamber of Commerce in Harwich Port, avoiding the service charge, she said.