Circus Flora is a little one-ring circus that originates here in St. Louis, Missouri. It usually plays at Grand Center up on Grand Avenue near the St. Louis Symphony and Fox Theater. It has a traditional big top that is air-conditioned. This year it runs from June 6th through the 26th.
This little circus is a wonderful mix between an old-fashioned traveling circus and performance art. If its a traditional circus that you’re looking for, there’s plenty of that. Clowns, acrobats, trapeze artists, and trained dogs and horses are there in abundance. The only thing that’s missing now is the circus’s namesake, Flora.
Flora retired a few years ago and I believe she’s living in Florida. She was a talented elephant and I once saw her do an act balancing fine china with her trunk that was amazing. They also used to offer rides on Flora’s back for all of the kids like me.
Yeah, I took a ride and it was kind of scary being that high up. As I sat on her shoulders I thought about all of the videos that I have seen showing rogue elephants going crazy and stomping their trainers. But I survived my ride.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a big three ring circus like Ringling Brothers, but sometimes there is so much going on in the three rings that it’s kind of hard to keep up. Being a fan of the unusual and bizarre, one thing I miss about Ringling Brothers is the freak show.
But I also understand the concern about the performer’s dignity, etc. Besides that, it’s kind of hard to convince people nowadays that some kid in a snake costume is actually part human and part snake. But the sword swallower and the tattooed lady are still amazing even though they are getting up there in years.
My favorite part of any circus is the clowns. I collected clown figurines for many years and the two favorites I have is a 1950’s Bozo and an old Emmet Kelly in the guise of a hobo. When it comes to clowns, Circus Flora has one of the best in the world with Giovanni Zoppe as Nino.
Another unique feature of Circus Flora is that all of the performers hang around after the show and meet members of the audience. One time I went wearing my Circus Flora hat and right as the performers came out, I put on my big red nose. Nino saw me, ran over and gave me a great big hug, saying: “I love you!” in his little clown voice. If you never have been hugged by a big, sweaty Italian clown, I can tell you it’s quite an experience.
This year Circus Flora celebrates its 25 th anniversary with an all new show: Vagabond Adventures. According to the Healthy Planet Magazine: “Vagabond Adventures is set on the Floating Palace, an actual circus venue that traveled up and down the Mississippi River before the Civil War.”
Some acts from the past like “The Flying Wallendas” and “The St. Louis Arches” will be performing as well as new acts like the Olate Dogs’ and the Riding Donnert’s “spellbinding horsemanship, including juggling on horseback!”
Tickets range from $8 all the way up to $44. Call 314-289-4040 or visit www.circusflora.org for more information. Oh, and don’t forget your big red clown nose if you want a hug from Nino.