For some old-fashioned family fun come to the Zoppe’ Italian Family Circus, an exciting new feature of this year’s annual Wheat Ridge Carnation Festival. The first performance is 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 18 at Anderson Park, 4355 Field Street, Wheat Ridge. Performances continue through Aug. 26. Tickets go on sale on June 1st. Watch the website wwww.thecarnationfestival.com for locations and discount opportunities at.
The Zoppe’ Circus has been a family business since the 1800s and includes acrobats, clowns, horses and dog acts. If you’re an early riser, come at 7:00 Friday morning to watch 15 men erect the 63-foot tall tent. It seats up to 800 people and is designed so that no audience member is further than 20 feet from the performance ring.
In addition to the circus, this year’s festival will include an Italian Village with events such as wine tasting, authentic food and Italian vendors selling their crafts and wares. Many Italian organizations will share their culture in areas such as language, travel and games.
The Zoppe’ Circus has an interesting history. In 1842 , a young French street performer, Napoleone Zoppe’, wandered into a plaza in Budapest, Hungary, looking for work. There, he glanced upon a beautiful equestrian ballerina, Ermengilda, who captured the crowd with her grace and showmanship. She also won Napoleone’s heart.
However, since Napoleone was a clown, Ermengilda’s father saw him as beneath her and disapproved of their relationship. The two ran away to Venice, Italy, and founded the circus that still bears their name. Over the generations, the circus survived wars and political upheaval in Italy and the rest of Europe.
Alberto Zoppe’, Napoleone’s great-grandson, inherited the circus almost 100 years later. A grand equestrian in his own right, Alberto toured Europe with the circus since his youth, forging many unique friendships along the way including one with famed actor/director Orson Welles.
Welles, who was working in Rome at the time, persuaded Alberto to take a role in a small film about the circus being shot in London. Alberto was then offered a job by John Ringling North of Ringling Brothers fame, who was putting together the circus acts for Cecil B. De Mille’s Oscar-winning film, The Greatest Show on Earth. Alberto was hesitant to leave his family circus in Italy for America., but North was persistent and offered to loan the family circus an elephant for the show as long as Alberto worked for him. He obliged and was prominently featured in the film.
Alberto would remain in America, producing circuses for Ringling and started his own family. Together with his wife Sandra, Alberto ushered in a new generation to continue the family tradition. Their children, Giovanni, Tosca and Carla, along with their spouses have all been active at one time or another in the family business. Giovanni revived the Zoppe’ Family Circus in America 11 years ago, and has since been building its reputation with audiences and critics as an enchanting exhibition of traditional European circus.
For more information, go to www.thecarnationfestival.com and click on the Zoppe’ Italian Family Circus link.