Zoppé family circus returns to Fraser for 175th anniversary
The Zoppé Italian Family Circus set up camp in Grand Park, Fraser last weekend, ready to dazzle guests with a series of stunts and acts that Tosca Zoppé promises the crowd has never seen before.
“We’re working on new stuff all the time, and trying to bring those skills that people haven’t seen before,” said Zoppé. “We’re reviving an act called the black hole. It’s a really old act that no one has seen in 45 years.”
The black hole consists of a young man entering a circular wooden track, with a hole at the bottom, and riding around it as the track rises into the air. Tosca Zoppé will also be reenacting her father’s famous horse routine, performing acrobatics and somersaults while standing and jumping between horses.
The reinvigoration of old acts comes as part of the circus’ unprecedented 175th anniversary celebration. The circus was founded in Italy in 1842, starting with a French clown and a Hungarian equestrian ballerina. Since then seven generations of the Zoppé family have taken the reigns and continued the tradition.
“It’s almost impossible for a family circus to keep going this long,” said Zoppé. “We work extremely hard, but the reward for it is tremendous. And because we’re keeping our heritage alive that’s the passion and what keeps us going. After 175 years, why would we give up now?”
Tosca’s father, Alberto Zoppé, first brought the circus to the United States. Alberto was the main attraction for the show in Italy, and was recruited by legendary filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille to take part in the 1952 best picture winner, “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
Alberto Zoppé agreed, under the condition that the circus would send an elephant to replace him as the main attraction for the family circus in Italy. Most of the Zoppé Circus’ animals were killed during bombings in World War II. John Ringling North, president and director of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey eventually agreed, sending his biggest elephant, Maria, to live out the rest of her days in Italy.
“My father was traded for an elephant,” said Zoppé. “In history there’s never been another deal like that.”
After “The Greatest Show on Earth,” Alberto stayed in the United States and reopened the Zoppé family circus here. Today Tosca, Giovanni and Carla Zoppé run the circus, along with their spouses and a handful of others. There are around 30 individuals in the company.
The show is an intimate experience, putting 600 guests up close and personal with the performers, who don period costumes from the 1800s. So if you’re looking to travel back in time for a night, watch dangerous aerial stunts or laugh along with a clown this is the show for you.
“It’s not something that you would normally see, because of the rich history of our family,” said Zoppé. “When we perform we give the audience part of us. When people come out to a show they really become part of the family. And that’s our goal.”
This story has been updated to reflect that the circus is taking place in Fraser, and not Winter Park as previously stated.
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