-Courtesy of En Route Marketing
From June 30 to July 9, Trenton Circus Squad (TCS) returns to Cooper’s Poynt Park (801 Delaware Ave, Camden, NJ) for its Big Top Tour, an annual residency featuring 11 public performances by its Youth Squad members. Additionally, the non-profit organization partners with local youth organizations to invite children to participate in free workshops led by squad members and coaches. Since 2016, TCS’s Big Top Tour has traveled around New Jersey presenting 90-minutes of daring feats by Youth Squad performers, including dazzling acrobatics, high-wire walking, and unicycle stunts. This year’s Youth Squad is comprised of 10 New Jersey-based members, led by Program Manager and Philadelphia local Karen Ladd.
This year’s tour features a new state-of-the-art Big Top Tent created by Canobbio Textile, an Italian based company known for manufacturing tents for global circus powerhouse, Cirque du Soleil. The new tent boasts a 28-meter canopy with a bleacher section that can seat 350 audience members each show. Attendees can look forward to classic circus concessions such as popcorn and cotton candy served while they take in the Youth Squad’s incredible, high-flying act.
“Camden Community Partnership (CCP) is thrilled to welcome TCS back to Camden for the fifth time to engage youth and delight audiences under a brightly colored Big Top Tent during Camden County’s Freedom Festival,” said Dana Redd, Board Chair of Camden Community Partnership. “TCS has engaged thousands of Camden families over the years via fun-filled performances and interactive workshops that bring people together from all walks of life, and CCP is excited to invite camps and families from the City of Camden and beyond to share in this very special experience at Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park in North Camden. The park and the free circus programming represent our shared commitment to providing safe access to Camden’s parks and open spaces for all residents.”
During its Camden residency, TCS will host eight free performances from June 30 to July 4, plus three paid shows on July 8 and 9. Tickets are available for $15 per person. Audiences are recommended to purchase tickets or register in advance online. The free Big Top Tour performances ensure that local residents of all ages can attend. At the same time, proceeds from the paid shows go towards TCS’s ongoing programming, equipment rentals, room and board, stipends for Youth Squad members, and salaries for coaches and tent crews.
Commissioner Jeffrey Nash, liaison to the Camden County Parks Department, talked about the importance of amplifying our green spaces for the residents of Camden and the county as a whole.
“The Commissioners are happy to support the TCS and Connect the Lots in providing free, family friendly programming along the Camden Waterfront during our Freedom Festival Celebration,” said
Commissioner Nash. “This is the fifth time Camden County has supported the circus squad’s Camden residency. The sight of their colorful big-top reminds residents and visitors to the city that Camden parks are a great place to experience family-friendly programming, and we are proud to be a part of this growing 4th of July tradition.”
In addition to the live performances, TCS coordinates with the Boys and Girls Club of America, The Neighborhood Center, and Urban Promise to invite local children to their free workshops. The Youth Squad and coaches work with 100 kids in each workshop, teaching them a variety of circus acts, including aerials, tight wire, juggling, group pyramids, acrobatics, and clowning. These workshops maintain TCS’s goal of sharing the wonder and tradition of circus arts with young people while giving their Youth Squad opportunities to engage with the community.
“We are so excited to welcome TCS back to our beautiful Camden Waterfront for the Big Top Tour,” said Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen. “I also commend our community partners at the Boys and Girls Club of America, The Neighborhood Center, and Urban Promise for doing their part by supporting our Camden youth through TCS’s free workshops. This is simply a wonderful tradition, and I encourage our residents to check out these fun and unique live performances.”
Touring allows TCS to forge meaningful partnerships across New Jersey that increase their impact beyond the circus tent. Over time, the organization will develop year-round partners in touring cities to help build an enthusiastic and skilled group of young circus artists around the state. The ultimate goal is to provide their Youth Squad members opportunities to help them grow into successful, civically-minded leaders.
Rutgers University–Camden is providing TCS Youth Squad members on-campus housing throughout their residency. TCS has also collaborated with Camden musicians from PACE Music School to serve as their backing band and engaged with local re-entry programs to hire its Big Top Tent crew. Funding for TCS’s Camden residency is provided by the City of Camden, Camden County Government, Camden Community Partnership, and Connect the Lots.
“We’re looking forward to bringing New Jersey youth together under the Big Top Tent and sharing the joy and excitement of circus arts,” said Tom von Oehsen, TCS’s co-founder and executive director. “The circus is where people from different towns, backgrounds, and experiences can work together. When we build these bridges between communities, we all benefit from our experiences and the friendships we form.”
Outside of touring, TCS offers year-round educational and mentorship programs for aspiring circus artists across New Jersey. TCS hosts three 12-week after-school programs where students ages 12 to 18 learn circus art skills, undergo safety training, and create performance pieces. Youth Squad members attend at least once a week and are offered transportation, communal dinners, homework assistance, and college prep courses.