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The circus is coming to town; West Boylston enjoys yearlong bicentennial.

Byline: Sandy Meindersma

WEST BOYLSTON - What do a circus, classic car cruise nights, an arts festival, a dedication ceremony for two places on the National Register of Historic Places, a parade, bonfire and fireworks have in common?

They are all upcoming events in honor of the town's bicentennial.

So far, the town has celebrated with Ezra Beaman Day, in recognition of the town's founder; Incorporation Day; a black-and-white gala ball; a Revolutionary War re-enactment; a bicentennial era field day for elementary school children; a road race; and a First Day of Issue stamp.

Some of the biggest events of the yearlong celebration will be happening later this month and in September, during Bicentennial Weekend, which will begin with a concert featuring the Boston Pops Beacon Brass Quintet on Friday, Sept. 19, and end with a parade and fireworks on Sunday, Sept. 21.

On Saturday, Sept. 20, a Bicentennial Arts Festival will showcase local artists and writers and feature theatrical and musical performances. More than 25 literary, theatrical and musical guests are already scheduled to attend and perform.

But before the parade marches down Route 12, the 25 trucks and support vehicles of Circus Smirkus will arrive in town for two shows daily on the high school baseball field on July 25 and 26, with the theme Smirkusology: A Science Extravaganza under the Big Top.

"We were looking for events that would appeal to kids and adults," event coordinator and Bicentennial Committee member Aaron Goodale III said. "This is something for the kids, but the adults who have called are all very excited about it."

When it comes to town, Circus Smirkus will bring a cast and crew of 80, including 33 performers, their coaches, counselors, costumers, tech crew, roustabouts and three circus chefs.

Founded in 1987 by Director Rob Mermin who went to Europe to apprentice with a circus, Circus Smirkus allows youngsters ages 10 to 18 to run away to the circus for a summer as a trouper and learn the ropes of a traveling tent circus.

More than 30 troupers have graduated from Circus Smirkus and gone on to professional circus careers with Ringling Brothers, The Big Apple Circus, Cirque du Soleil and others.

Circus Smirkus also sponsors clown camps for campers ages 6 to 18 who are looking for a taste of circus life.

Based in Vermont, Circus Smirkus will travel to 14 cities and towns throughout New England and New York, performing 80 shows from June 28 through Aug. 16. West Boylston is one of five stops in Massachusetts.

Troupers spend the summer completely immersed in circus life: practicing, performing and helping with circus chores, including raising the 80-foot tent and setting up bleachers.

It takes about eight hours to set up the big top, backstage and two concession tents, and prep and organize 250 costumes, 200 props, 70 spotlights and a mile of electrical cable.

Once everything is ready, the young troupers are the stars of the show. During the two-hour show, the troupe will juggle, do acrobatics, fly on the trapeze, walk the high wire and, of course, clown around.

Despite the performers' youth, they are highly skilled, and win their spots through an audition process. Many of them have attended Circus Smirkus' summer camps for several years. Foreign performers are often from international circus schools.

This year's troupe hails from 11 states and three foreign countries: Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, as well as

Colombia, France and Ethiopia.

Mr. Goodale said he had received a call from a woman in Washington, D.C., whose daughter had been a trouper for several years.

"She said she was coming to see her father in Amherst," he said, "but couldn't wait to see the show."

Tickets are still available for the shows and may be purchased at Pruneau's Barber Shop, 560 Prospect St., West Boylston; JR's Crafts and Gifts, 244 West Boylston St.; West Boylston and Learning Express, 160 Reservoir St., Holden.

For more information about upcoming events, go to the Bicentennial Committee's Web site,

Upcoming events

July 13, 20, 27 - Concerts on the Common

July 20 - Cruise Night

July 25 and 26 - Circus Smirkus

July 27 - Dedication of the Mount Vernon Cemetery and the Holbrook Chapel on the National Register of Historic Places, and Dedication of the Lovell Bell

Aug. 3, 10, 17 - Concerts on the Common

Aug. 10 - Cruise Night

Sept. 19 - Boston Pops' Beacon Brass Quintet & Worcester Men of Song Concert

Sept. 20 - Bicentennial Arts Festival

Sept. 20 - Bonfire

Sept. 21 - Parade Sponsored by Menard's Auto Body

Sept. 21 - Fireworks Sponsored by Dunkin Donuts

Oct. 25 - Historical Cemetery Walk

Nov. 5 - West Boylston's Italian Immigrants and the Building of The Wachusett Reservoir

Dec. 7 - Open House at the Bigelow Tavern with Birthday Cake

Dec. 7 - Tree Lighting


CUTLINE: (1, 2) Circus Smirkus, which is based in Vermont, will travel to 14 cities and towns throughout New England and New York, performing 80 shows from June 28 through Aug. 16. West Boylston is one of five stops in Massachusetts.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 13, 2008
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