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When Circus Vidbel opens in Coney Island on July 4, one of the featured acts will be the famed Zamperla-Zoppe Bareback Riders, whose skill as equestrian acrobats goes back six generations to two illustrious Italian circus families. The brothers Olissio, 32; Gino, 23; and Ermes, 19, will be performing here all summer in Vidbel’s ring with Ambra Zerbini and their Percheron draft crosses and a Paso Fino.

Asked if the Zamperla-Zoppe brothers were related to the ride manufacturing Zamperlas from Vicenza who operate Luna Park, Olissio said they were third cousins, but have never met. “I very much look forward to meeting them,” he added, and was delighted when we told him that Alberto and his son Antonio were frequently seen in Coney Island.

ATZ spoke with Olissio by phone from Louisiana, where the Zamperla-Zoppes were winding up a three-month tour with Ringling’s Gold Unit, which played Coney Island for the past two summers, but bowed out this year. Earlier this month, we confirmed with Valerio Ferrari, CEO of Zamperla’s Central Amusement International, the operators of Luna Park and Scream Zone, that CAI would be bringing in the Circus Vidbel for a one-year deal.

Zamperla-Zoppe Riders. Photo via Cavallo Equestrian Arts - Ma'Ceo

“I’m terrifically excited to be coming to Coney Island, I’ve done some shows with Vidbel before,” Olissio Zoppe told ATZ. The brothers have also performed either individually or as a troupe with Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, Gilles St. Croix’s Cheval Theatre, Olissio’s equestrian extravaganza “Fratelli,” Orlando’s Arabian Nights Show and at numerous state fairs and Renaissance festivals.

According to Olissio, the Zamperla family began to branch out a couple of generations ago when Alberto Zamperla’s grandfather, also named Alberto, built the family’s first ride.  Said Ollisio, “Way back, his father Antonio had a circus and they also had a traveling movie theatre inside the tent.” Olissio recalled that his late grandfather, Napoleone Zamperla, was visited in Florida by Alberto Zamperla’s father Antonio, the founder of the ride company. They were first cousins, Olissio said. Now the circus equestrian side and the amusement ride manufacturing side of the Zamperla family will be reintroduced to each other this summer in Coney Island.

The video above shows the Zamperla-Zoppe Riders’ bravura reunion performance before an audience of fans and friends in Sarasota, the home of the American circus and the brothers’ hometown.  They perform somersaults from one galloping horse to another and other daring feats with passion and authenticity that truly seem to come from another century. Their website speaks of “celebrating a tradition that stems from the Golden Age of the Roman Empire. A tradition as grand as the Coliseum that was built to contain it. An eternity ago it thrived, but for centuries since, it was but an empty shell. However, that which once left spectators breathless and amazed, the very Heart of Rome, lives on today.”

Napoleone Zamperla (1926-2009) and his family performed the Roman Bareback Riding Act. Photo via Cavallo Equestrian Arts

The Circus Vidbel will also feature Susan Vidbel-Ashton, aerial cloud swing and lyra acts; Mike Ashton, foot juggling and live music; The Fabulous Darnells Magic and Dog Acts; Tevin Delmonte, Rolla Bolla and Clowning; Peggy Mills and Nino Murillo, Archery; and Guiming Meng, Vase Juggler.

The Big Top will  set up on the City’s Stillwell parcel across from the new Scream Zone. According to the press release on the Circus Fans of America website, performances are scheduled from July 4 through Labor Day. Shows are Tuesday through Friday at 4, 6, and 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 3 and 6 pm. The circus has Monday off. Tickets cost $10 and will be available for purchase before showtime.

Update, July 17…

The circus will be here only through Sunday, July 17th and then will be hitting the road again. Discounted tickets are now available online
http://coneyisland.eventbrite.com/

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Related posts on ATZ…

July 10, 2011: Photo Album: Vidbel Old Tyme Circus Opens in Coney Island

June 3, 2011: Vidbel Circus Coming to Coney Island in One-Year Deal

August 31, 2010: Snapshots of the Coney Island Illuscination

June 17, 2010: Coney Island Fireworks Show: Every Friday Plus 5 Saturdays

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