Zoppe Italian Family Circus includes dogs, horses in performances | VailDaily.com

Zoppe Italian Family Circus includes dogs, horses in performances

Giovanni Zoppe has worked with animals his whole life, including a tiger when he was younger. His dad, Alberto Zoppe, has worked with the whole gamut of animals — monkeys, lions, tigers, bears and elephants.

That's life, though, when you're born into the Zoppe Italian Family Circus, started 175 years ago. Giovanni, the seventh generation to continue the tradition, brings the family-friendly circus to Avon on Friday through Sunday.

"The relationship you gain from an animal when you work with them every day and become part of them, you can see the joy inside them," Giovanni said.

Alberto Zoppe was even traded for an elephant in 1948. (See Friday's High Life cover for that story.)

And while the days of wild-animal circuses are gone and lions, tigers and bears no longer travel with the circus, the Zoppe Italian Family Circus features horses and dogs during its show.

'Happy to Perform'

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Giovanni sees their participation as a joyous occasion — both for the spectators and the animals themselves.

Being a family circus man, Giovanni remembers growing up and seeing his father's dog acts. Each act in the circus has different music, and whenever the music would start for the dogs' portion of the show — signaling their call to action — the dogs would start jumping in the waiting area with excitement, "ready to work."

"We give them meaning," Giovanni said, "and they're just so happy to perform."

Like humans, Giovanni says, animals are seeking a reason for being, and for the traveling circus of 34 humans, the animals also find fulfillment in completing the task of entertaining crowds across the country.

The Zoppe Italian Family Circus is setting up in Nottingham Park in Avon this week for the first time. The circus is touring the country with stops in St. Louis, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arizona and California.

"It's amazing," Giovanni said. "I wouldn't trade my life for the world."

If you go …

What: Zoppe Family Circus.

Where: Nottingham Park, Avon.

When: Friday, Sept. 8, to Sunday, Sept. 10.

Cost: General admission (bleacher seating) is $23; VIP (second row) is $43; VIP Premier (front row with reserved seating and more) is $63; children 2 and younger are admitted free.

More information: Visit http://www.ZoppeColorado.com for tickets.