Zoppé Family Circus celebrates heritage, authenticity with shows over Labor Day weekend (with video)
FRASER — Acrobats will fly across the ring, clowns in big red noses will make audience members laugh and a princess will stand atop two draft horses while performing amazing feats beginning Friday evening at the Zoppé Italian Family Circus.
Starting in 1842 in San Fior, Italy, the Zoppé family circus has involved eight generations of family members and strives to maintain tradition and 176-year history through its acts and family-friendly atmosphere.
The show began with equestrian showmanship and clown acts, which still feature prominently in the performance.
“We choose to produce a show that brings us back to our roots,” said Tosca Zoppé, performer and sixth generation Zoppé. “Our circus isn’t about the greatest trick in the world — not that it’s not a good show, believe me — but our circus is more about the connection we have with our audience.”
The show came to America when, during World War II, Zoppé’s father was approached by John Ringling North, from the Ringling Brothers Circus, to be a part of the Oscar-winning film “The Greatest Show on Earth.” He agreed, in exchange for one of the Ringling brothers’ elephants.
Since that fateful encounter, the circus has performed all over the country.
The circus celebrates its heritage and infuses the show with passion and emotion to generate a connection to the audience. It features performers from six countries and acts ranging from aerial acts to dancing dogs to trampoline stunts.
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“It’s a journey for our audience and I think that there’s something for everyone,” Zoppé said. “(The audience) is on a journey with us and that’s what makes it so beautiful.”
This year’s iteration, under the big top on Grand Park’s property to the north of The Foundry, will feature a new act on a Russian swing, which is used to perform high jumps and fantastical acrobatics. It will also offer a special potluck dinner with the performers after Friday’s show to encourage the community to get to know them and bring everyone together.
“We give our life to our audience,” Zoppé explained. “When we come to the ring, that’s what we do all of it for, to give ourselves to the public.”
Zoppé performs as a bareback rider, while her brother, Giovanni, is Nino the Clown, a non-frightening clown that will endear audiences young and old. Both say bringing authenticity and sincerity to their roles is key to making the show special.
“A true clown, in my opinion, comes from you heart and your soul and your spirit,” Giovanni Zoppé said. “If you don’t do that, if you just put a bunch of makeup on your face and do silly things, it’s fake. And nothing we do in this tent is fake.”
The Zoppé siblings say their goal for the show is not only to make everyone smile and laugh, but to move the audience members with their performances and to create connections.
“The feeling of being in the show and looking out into the audience and being able to see three or four generations sitting in a row (…) and all of them are laughing at something I’m doing in the ring,” Giovanni said. “That’s what gives me joy.”
The 176th annual circus is offering several shows over the Labor Day weekend in Fraser, with opening night at 7 p.m. Friday, shows at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and the final show at 1 p.m. Monday. Tickets are available for $25 for general admission or $45 for VIP.
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