Hosting national and regional festivals are among two major feats that the Trenton Circus Squad lays claim to in their third year of operation in Trenton. Zoe Brooks and Thomas von Oehsen, the founders of the Trenton Circus Squad, envisioned Trenton as an “artistic hub” that could benefit Trenton youth. The founders considered providing neighborhood circus arts to be a no-brainer. Zoe Brooks, co-founder, recalled the renewing power that a community circus held in her native Ireland.
The circus squad is open to Trenton youth ages 12 through 18. Their organization offers workshops annually for children six through 11 to spruce up their skills and prepare them to join the formal squad once they reach age 12. Headquarted in the historic Trenton Wire Ropes factory, the circus squad makes its way around the city — where they participate in displays scattered throughout the four wards.
Their community outreach has paid dividends in enrollment numbers, as they serve more than 3,000 children each year through their annual workshop programming. Occasionally, the program affords participants the opportunity to meet and practice with peers from surrounding towns. This collaborative approach to learning brings joy to the circus squad cofounders. The program allows participants to “stand shoulder to shoulder to learn from another” and “teaches them to cross [geographic] boundaries.” In fact, their circus training teaches them to do just that — by mastering the high stakes trapeze.
The Trenton Circus Squad is a member of the American Youth Circus Organization, which grants it the opportunity to participate and regional and national festivals. In August 2017, Trenton hosted the American Youth Circus national festival, which garnered over 400 participants from across the country. It is fitting that Trenton, one of the few cities that once held the title of national capital, would host a festival of this magnitude. Washington crossed the Delaware.
Trenton youth are crossing boundaries and trapezes one step at a time.