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Zoppe Family Circus brings big top magic to Oklahoma State Fair

The Zoppe family has been delighting audiences with its circus arts since 1842 in Italy. The family is performing twice-daily shows at the 2013 Oklahoma State Fair.
by Heather Warlick Published: September 20, 2013

A big top on the northwest side of State Fair Park is where fairgoers can find the Zoppe family, whose six generations have been circus performers since the 19th century.

The Zoppe Family Circus presents shows at noon and 6 p.m. daily at the Oklahoma State Fair.

The Italian family entered the circus business in 1842. In 1948, Sandra Zoppe's late husband, Alberto Zoppe, was invited to film “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The family immigrated to America where the show went on.

Normally the family doesn't take fair bookings but, as Giovanni Zoppe said, “The Oklahoma State Fair really searched us out. They believe in true art.”

Sandra Zoppe, the family matriarch, opens the show as performers in the ring juggle, present acrobatic feats and warm up the crowd.

Nick Harden and Wendy Allen perform an amazing act as he balances on a unicycle while balancing his lithe partner on his shoulders, even on his bald head.

Rudolf Heinen and Carla Zoppe bring out a pack of performing dogs with their adorable tricks; tiny dogs jumping through huge rings, big dogs jumping through tiny rings, dogs leaping over hurdles, one mischievously sneaking under the hurdle. Two poodles walk into the ring on their hind legs, dressed in circus garb, and dance together cheek to cheek, snout to snout.

Jim Decker, recruited from the Peru Circus, amazes audiences with his mastery of the high wire. He walks, rolls, lays down and even rides a bike along the tight wire, working without a net.

A Shetland pony, Cavalino, takes his turn in the ring, performing tricks guided by equestrian trainer Tosca Zoppe. She also performs an equestrian act called Passo Duo with her husband, Jay Walther. He balances on two large horses while his wife does acrobatics in the air. The horses, considered part of the family, are Fancy, a Belgian, and Roman, a Pentro.

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by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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