Even if some might have called George H.W. Bush a clown, or worse, while he was president, the retired leader of the free world loves a circus. And who doesn't? Especially when it's Vermont's own Circus Smirkus, filled with cute, talented, impossibly gymnastic kids, ages 11 to 18.
Last night the award-winning, international youth troupe performed in Kennebunkport, Maine, which, as everyone knows, is where George I and his wife, Barbara, preside over the Bush compound in the summer. That is, when he's not working on some humanitarian relief project with his unlikely bestie and fellow ex-prez, Bill Clinton.
"Hail to the Chief," performed by the two-man circus band, composer Tristan Moore and percussionist Ryan Gray, greeted Mr. and Mrs. Bush as they entered the tent "with apparent delight," according to a Circus Smirkus press release today. The circus, which is performing 70 shows in 16 towns this summer, had invited the couple several weeks ago. They "appeared to thoroughly enjoy the show," clapping and "beaming" to the antics of jugglers, acrobats, clowns, high wire and trapeze artists. This despite the fact that many Vermonters did not care for their son, Dubya, when he himself was president. No hard feelings.
Anyway, after the show, 15-year-old Noah Nielsen of Montpelier, who is part of a "diabolo juggling act," declared it was "amazing" to perform for such esteemed personages. "It made us realize that what we do is really important," Noah said, "to have a president and his wife in the audience."
"It was an adrenaline rush," concurred 17-year-old juggler Aaron Dewitt of Buckfield, Maine.
Other celebrities the circus has performed for include chef Julia Child, actor Michael J. Fox and the great French mime artist Marcel Marceau, informed the release. Happily for the rest of us, the troupe is also delighted to perform for regular people. And there have been many thousands since the circus was founded 23 years ago.
Last night, George and Barbara posed with the young performers during intermission. When the couple left at the end, Mr. Bush was heard to say, "We'll be back." Not clear whether he meant Circus Smirkus' final Kennebunkport show today, or next year.
The troupe winds up its 2010 tour with home-turf shows in Montpelier, on August 11 & 12, and in Greensboro on August 14 & 15. For details, see the Circus Smirkus website.