Florissant Valley of Flowers Festival to Feature Nino the Clown and 'Zoppé, An Italian Family Circus'

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

The 2014 Florissant Valley of Flowers Festival happening this weekend—Friday, May 2 and Saturday, May 3—will feature a very special and entertaining addition; Zoppé, An Italian Family Circus, featuring Nino the Clown. The circus will perform four shows under the big top, free and open to the public.

Zoppé Italian Family Circus traces their roots back to 1842 and continues to this day paying homage to the Old World Italian circus tradition. Nino is the sixth generation Zoppé family member to lead the circus, though local audiences may know him from his many appearances with Circus Flora. This will be Nino’s only St. Louis appearance this year.

Nino the Clown Courtesy of the Artist

Nino the Clown
Courtesy of the artist

Giovanni Zoppé (Nino), who is 47 years old and survived a near-fatal fall 25 years ago, says that audiences will see what a real circus is, adding that the Zoppé Family Circus is “like the circus was 100 years ago.” The one-ring circus features 20 circus artists with all the usual suspects, including acrobats, jugglers, aerialists, equestrian ballerinas, dancing dogs, and of course, Nino the Clown. Rather than just a random series of circus acts, Zoppé shows always have a storyline, with this year’s theme following Nino as he humorously—but unsuccessfully—attempts to join the circus.

Zoppé an Italian Family Circus Courtesy of Zoppé

Zoppé an Italian Family Circus
Courtesy of Zoppé

Zoppé was the youngest performer ever inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame, and his family circus is one of the most legendary circuses in all of Europe. It’s been described as more of an event than a show. The New York Times wrote, “the Zoppé circus evokes something from a picture book … frozen in a time long before the high-concept, high-dollar Cirque du Soleil.”

Zoppé an Italian Family Circus Courtesy of Zoppé

Zoppé an Italian Family Circus
Courtesy of Zoppé

This year’s Valley of Flowers festival will help the city commemorate the 75th anniversary of its name change from St. Ferdinand to Florissant, and they’ve got other special events in store. Actor David Engel will teach kids how to be a buccaneer during “pirate school” at 8pm on Friday, and 12pm and 3pm on Saturday. Visitors can also take in a variety of other entertainment, including Babaloo Music and Fun, the Cinco de Mayo Band, Kincaid Karacter Puppets, and RW Magic. If that doesn’t float your boat, a ‘bubble bus’ will be available from 10am to 5pm on Saturday, May 3, and attendees can tour the “Gypsy Rose III Pirate Ship” Saturday from 10am to 5pm. And did we mention there would be flowers? Lots and lots of flowers.

Zoppé an Italian Family Circus Courtesy of Zoppé

Zoppé an Italian Family Circus
Courtesy of Zoppé

The Zoppé Italian Family Circus will perform in its own, 500-seat, black-out tent, erected at the James J. Eagan Civic Center at the corner of Parker Road and Waterford Drive. Free, public performances of the 60-minute circus are at 7pm Friday, and 11am, 2pm and 5pm on Saturday.

For more information on the family performances scheduled for the James J. Eagan Civic Center grounds, contact the Florissant Civic Center Theatre at 314-921-5678. For information on the annual Valley of Flowers Festival, visit the festival website or call Katie Mahoney at 837-0033.

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