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Friday, September 01, 2006 

Whitehall, NY. 86 miles. Mowed field. Cool, perfect circus weather.

Can seven girlscouts host the largest tented circus in the US? They did in Whitehall.

Driving south along the eastern front of the Adirondacks, then east between Lakes Champlaiu and Lake George, there’s little doubt that on this last day of August we are in New England, even if the Vermont border is beyond the treeline. Here the hills are called the Green Mountains, and a bit to the south the Berkshires. Passing the battlefields of the French and Indian Wars, and later the Revolution it seems that America was born here in these somehow British villages along narrow canals. A sign suggests that the US Navy launched its first ship from Whitehall, sailing beneath the guns at Ticondaroga. Sixty years later circus men carried whole shows on packet boats from the Hudson as far west as Buffalo and as far north as Canada. Today seven Girl Scouts brought this show to town. In the 19th Century a school of landscape painting evolved in eastern New York State. Although the paintings themselves might depict the hills and hollows of the Adirondacks or Massachusetts, the Hudson River school, as it was later called offered the first quintessentially American take on landscape oils rivaling anything from Europe. Today the same landscapes viewed through the window of a circus semi still look like oil on canvas as haunting as they were when the first circus men and the first painters saw them from bend in the river .