The most magical circus in the world!

Today I was wowed by amazing, dazzling, stupefying performances at the most magical circus in the world!

I know for a fact that I experienced the most powerful magic. I saw it, heard it, smelled it, got goosebumps. I felt magic in my sudden laughter and in my soaring heart. I saw magic in the joyful smiles of each circus performer.

The Zoppé Family Circus is performing this weekend at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. They are a circus whose history goes back to 1842, when, according to their website:

“. . . a young French street performer named Napoline Zoppé wandered into a plaza in Budapest, Hungary, looking for work. There, his eyes glanced upon a beautiful equestrian ballerina named Ermenegilda, who captured the hearts and minds of the crowd with her grace and showmanship. More important, this talented beauty captured Napoline’s heart.

Unfortunately, Napoline was a clown, and Ermenegilda’s father saw him as beneath her and disapproved of their relationship. The two ran away to Venice, Italy, and founded the circus that still bears their name . . .”

Today, the Zoppé Family Circus is filling our world with the time-tested magic of an Old World traditional circus. As Giovanni Zoppé explained when he welcomed the audience to the show, an authentic circus is all about family, tradition and struggle, and happiness and heartbreak.

I could see that the performers are also motivated by passion and a very deep love for what they do.

I spoke to Giovanni briefly, and he was such a nice person. I mean really nice.

After I got home, I did some reading and learned: “Giovanni Zoppé, the director of the circus and a sixth-generation performer, says the show aims higher than what passes for circuses these days. ‘We try to touch every emotion during the show,’ he says. ‘They’ll laugh, they’ll cry, and they’ll feel for the characters. It’s more of an event than a show.’

His performance as Nino the clown was hilarious, winning and utterly human. It was perfect. It was masterful.

The entire spectacle was fantastic.

Under the big top, in the spotlight at the center of the ring, the magic of the Zoppé Family Circus never ceased. There was magic in the acrobats, trapeze act, jugglers and tightwire act. There was magic in the trick horse riding and the lady who shot an arrow with perfect accuracy using her feet while doing a handstand. There was magic in the mustachioed fellow who flew through the air absurdly with a rope tied to his hair. He spun like a top, circled high above the ring, soared like a bird. There was magic in the glittering costumes, and the smell of sawdust and buttery popcorn, and the excited chatter and laughter of children. There was magic when Nino couldn’t find his hat, then couldn’t reach it when it dangled from the top of a broomstick that he held.

There was magic in every single moment.

My camera failed to take good photos in the subdued light under the big top. But I got some photos in front of the tent during a humorous pre-show performance.

In my photos you can see a little bit of that magic. And much of the humanity.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

San Diego Fringe Festival in Balboa Park!

Look what I discovered today!

The San Diego International Fringe Festival has moved this year from its old downtown location inside the Spreckels Theater Building to Balboa Park. As I walked past the Starlight Bowl this afternoon, I was surprised to stumble upon Fringe City, the festival’s box office and cool outdoor public lounge!

If you’re into weird, experimental, absolutely unique alternative entertainment, including live, uncensored comedy, dance, satire and even circus acts, head to Balboa Park’s Palisades area to check out the Fringe Festival. Performance venues in Balboa Park include the nearby Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, the Centro Cultural de la Raza and the WorldBeat Cultural Center. Come on out and support visionary artists!

Read the poster and the signs to learn a bit more. (Click the photos and they will enlarge.) Better yet, go to the event website here!

The San Diego International Fringe Festival continues through June 16, 2019.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Fern Street Circus at Cesar Chavez Park!

A juggler belonging to the Fern Street Circus practices his balancing skills before a special performance.
A juggler belonging to the Fern Street Circus practices his balancing skills before a special performance.

My walk today included a short visit to the Carnival in the Park event hosted by the Port of San Diego. Lots of families came down to Cesar Chavez Park in Barrio Logan to enjoy a free performance by San Diego’s much-loved Fern Street Circus!

I arrived a few minutes early, stayed for a bit, got a yummy free hot dog and enjoyed watching several performers. I didn’t hang around to see the main act, but I bet it was terrific! As I departed, a whole bunch of people were still arriving!

This fun, kid-friendly event was put together by the Port of San Diego’s Tidelands Activation Program. The program celebrates all sorts of cool artwork around San Diego Bay and encourages creativity in the South Bay and other bayside communities.

Here are a few photos!

Cesar Chavez Park in Barrio Logan was the venue today for a fun show by the Fern Street Circus, hosted by the Port of San Diego.
Cesar Chavez Park in Barrio Logan was the venue today for a show by the Fern Street Circus, hosted by the Port of San Diego.
Friendly people from the Port of San Diego's Public Art Program look on as the crowd slowly grows at Cesar Chavez Park.
Friendly people from the Port of San Diego’s Public Art Program look on as the crowd slowly grows at Cesar Chavez Park.
This smiling lady was handing out Kinetic Sand to youth at the event. Young artists can mold it to express their creativity.
This smiling lady was handing out free jars of Kinetic Sand to youth at the event. Young artists can easily mold it to express their creativity.
Members of the Fern Street Circus ready props on the main stage as the kid-friendly community event gets underway.
Members of the Fern Street Circus ready props on the main stage as the kid-friendly community event gets underway.
An aerial silk performer takes to the air above the grassy park.
An aerial silk performer takes to the air above the grassy park.
A smile in the San Diego sky!
A smile in the San Diego sky!
The circus juggler and some kids play with colorful hula hoops.
The circus juggler and some kids play with colorful hula hoops.
A small circus school at the event showed people how to walk a tightrope!
A small circus school at the event showed people how to walk a tightrope!
Lots of smiles and fun were enjoyed today at Cesar Chavez Park, courtesy of the Port of San Diego and the Fern Street Circus!
Lots of smiles and fun were enjoyed today at Cesar Chavez Park, courtesy of the Port of San Diego and the Fern Street Circus!

There’s an author in San Diego by the name of Jack Tyler. He has published all sorts of steampunk fiction and offers great advice about how to write effectively. If this interests you, please follow his blog by clicking here!

You might recall Jack has written an exciting tale of adventure that takes place in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter. To learn more about his novel Stingaree, click here!

San Diego artist creates cool adult coloring books!

A juggler in a cool adult coloring book.
A juggler in a fun adult coloring book.

I’ve blogged about William J. Dorsett a couple times in the past. Over the years, I occasionally see him when I’m out walking along the Embarcadero.

William creates art for those passing by, including small, imaginative works using spray paint and corn husks. I recently learned he’s published a couple of coloring books with the help of some circus friends!

The images you see are just a very few from his cool ABC’s Of Circus Adult Coloring Book, which is available on Amazon. Many of the characters inside are based on members of San Diego’s local Circus Mafia, whom he knows. The acts and poses are all completely authentic. He has also recently finished the Fire and Flow Arts Coloring Book.

During my short talk with William today I learned he’s working on all sorts of creative projects. He said he’s developing a book for and about buskers, which should be super interesting. He’s an authority on the subject.

Do you need the services of a multi-talented freelance artist? Here’s his website!

ABC's Of Circus Adult Coloring Book contains images derived from San Diego's local Circus Mafia and other authentic circus acts.
ABC’s Of Circus Adult Coloring Book contains images inspired by San Diego’s local Circus Mafia and other authentic circus acts.
William J. Dorsett is a guy of many talents. He has created two cool adult coloring books and is working on picture books for children, and other creative projects.
William J. Dorsett is a nice guy of many talents. He has created two cool adult coloring books and is working on picture books for children, and other creative projects.
This character represents an actual performer known as the Icicle King, who makes glass balls appear to float and move magically. Search for him on YouTube.
This character represents an actual performer known as the Icicle King, who makes glass balls appear to float and move magically. Search for him on YouTube.
Another page from the ABC's Of Circus Adult Coloring Book.
Another great page from the ABC’s Of Circus Adult Coloring Book.
More art from a fun coloring book by William J. Dorsett.
More art from a fun coloring book by William J. Dorsett.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A clown, acrobats and circus animals on Fourth Avenue!

A happy clown face decorates the Fourth Avenue sidewalk, a block north of Broadway near the center of San Diego.
A happy clown face decorates the Fourth Avenue sidewalk, a block north of Broadway near the center of San Diego.

Should you ever walk along Fourth Avenue in downtown San Diego, you might stumble upon a delightful surprise.  A bit north of Broadway a clown face smiles up from the sidewalk. Above him is a heaven of old circus tile artwork, depicting exotic animals and performers in every sort of crazy pose. The art decorates a building which is now home to Halah’s Market.

It isn’t the sort of thing one expects to see in San Diego! At a Las Vegas hotel or casino, perhaps!

I can find nothing about the origin of this circus artwork. If you happen to know something, please leave a comment!

Halah's Market in downtown San Diego has a storefront with some amazing old circus artwork. After a little searching, I found nothing about the history of this building.
Halah’s Market in downtown San Diego has a storefront with some fantastic, nostalgic circus artwork. The canopy above the entrance resembles a carousel.  Searching the internet, all I learned about this building was that it was built in 1925.
Acrobats and performing animals of every description . . . including elephants, penguins, zebras, camels and bears. A circus atmosphere in an unexpected place!
Acrobats and performing animals of every description . . . including elephants, penguins, zebras, camels and bears. A circus atmosphere in an unexpected place!
A singing pig is joined by a trapeze artist and a seal in a hat. One often sees images of surfers, Hispanic culture or local landmarks in San Diego--not the circus!
A singing pig is joined by a trapeze artist and a seal in a hat. One often sees images of surfers, Hispanic culture or local landmarks in San Diego–not the circus!
More fun animals in poses that suggest absurd circus acts.
More fun animals in poses that suggest circus acts.
A surprising clown greets walkers in downtown San Diego!
A surprising clown greets walkers in downtown San Diego!

UPDATE!

I got a great comment! This location used to be the Chi-Chi Club San Diego! More can be learned here!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of fun photos for you to enjoy!

Fun photos of Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival!

Murrugun the Mystic prepares to swallow a real sword. He currently holds the world record for longest sword swallow. He has starred on AMC's Freakshow and many other television shows.
Murrugun the Mystic prepares to swallow a real sword. He currently holds the world record for longest sword swallow. He has starred on AMC’s Freakshow and many other television shows!

Wow, what a day! Where do I begin? How about with this weekend’s awesome Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival!

This is the third year in a row I’ve attended the fantastic event. It’s as good as ever! Here are some photos from today to prove it!

If you’re in San Diego tomorrow, head on over to Seaport Village to check out the busker action! On Sunday the various acts will be performing from 12pm – 6pm.

The 2016 Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival features many of the world's best street performers on several stages.
The 2016 Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival features many of the world’s best street performers on several stages.
I saw a few world-class jugglers, including the UniProShow's amazing Jamey Mossengren, a seven-time World Unicycle Champion!
I saw a few world-class jugglers, including the UniProShow’s amazing Jamey Mossengren, a seven-time World Unicycle Champion!
A performing duo called Her Majesty's Secret Circus Show had a funny act that included juggling, silliness and lots of bad jokes.
A performing duo called Her Majesty’s Secret Circus Show had a funny act that included juggling, silliness and lots of bad jokes.
A wicked-looking knife getting readied at the Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival!
A wicked-looking knife getting readied at the Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival!
A secret agent with a bow and plunger prepares to shoot at a bullseye held by another secret agent on a unicycle.
A secret agent with a bow and plunger prepares to shoot at a bullseye held by another secret agent on a unicycle.
CREW was providing crazy good percussive beats using old garbage cans and other odd household objects.
CREW was providing crazy good percussive beats using old garbage cans and other odd household objects.
Fantastic break dancing and acrobatics were the specialty of the super entertaining Flying Tortillas!
Fantastic break dancing and acrobatics were the specialty of the super entertaining Flying Tortillas!
Audience members are readied for a rare stunt. A member of the Flying Tortillas will run and launch himself bodily over six people!
Audience members are readied for a rare stunt. A member of the Flying Tortillas will run and launch himself bodily over six people! Can he make it? You’ll have to go see for yourself!
Murrugun the Mystic breathes fire. He is keeping the old circus sideshow traditions alive.
Murrugun the Mystic breathes fire. He is keeping the old circus sideshow traditions alive.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can enjoy more Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Museum exhibit brings Coney Island to San Diego!

Grinning face of Tillie, symbol of Coney Island, on the back of a tour bus heading toward the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
Grinning face of Tillie, symbol of Coney Island, on the back of a tour bus heading toward the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

An extraordinary exhibit recently opened at the San Diego Museum of Art. It’s called Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008. Last Saturday, I enjoyed a very special tour, courtesy of my docent friend Catherine!

The exhibit features a collection of more than a hundred objects that depict 150 years of Coney Island’s amusement parks, boardwalk, beach and people. It includes paintings, photographs, videos, carnival posters, sideshow banners, carved wooden carousel horses, and a wide range of colorful, unique artifacts.

From its early days as a peaceful beach getaway for wealthy New Yorkers, to the rise and fall of amusement parks, years of decay, political wrangling, then modern renewal, Coney Island has been interpreted by artists through the years in a variety of surprising ways. Some artists portray an innocent playland for common people. Others, something more complex, and less innocent.

Most of the exhibit’s artwork centers on Coney Island’s legendary amusement parks. Many images resemble exuberant scenes from a carnival or circus. They’re full of energy, laughter, humanity, wonder–but often base, superficial, disturbing, despairing. Many painting are dark, almost gaudy with a crowded press of people seeking pleasure. A symbol adopted by Coney Island–the unnatural, exaggerated grin of Tillie–seems to be a taunting reminder that the purchased thrills are artificial. The grin is strangely maniacal and mindless, one part Joker, one part Cheshire Cat.

Fantastic imagery abounds in the exhibit, which is sure to delight many kids. They’ll see huge cyclops heads, videos of romping midgets, a banner promising a sideshow freak with inhuman tentacles. The adults will see images of lust, insatiability, scattered litter, dripping blood.

I suppose we humans like to be both excited and terrified.

One Impressionist painting by the important American artist William Merritt Chase shows a landscape of sunlight and natural, unspoiled beauty; the egg tempera painted canvases of Reginald Marsh are dark, crammed with unabated appetite, bold kinetic energy and human expression; photographs by Arthur Fellig (Weegee) show people crowded onto the beach like fleshy, happy sardines.

Personally, as I took my amazing tour, I saw life’s wonderful jumble and a sample of our world’s endless variety. All the emotions, the complexity–but mostly I recognized the sunlit memories of ordinary good-natured neighbors heading to the beach and boardwalk, and some exciting, brief amusements, on a sunny weekend day.

This isn’t a typical art museum exhibit. It’s more like taking an instant journey to a place you already know. A Coney Island in your mind. And your vivid experiences in the San Diego Museum of Art will make the journey seem very real.

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008, has come to San Diego from the Wadsworth Athenium Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. This special exhibition continues through October 13, 2015.

Here are just a few things that you’ll see…

Reginald Marsh, Wooden Horses, 1936, Tempera on board. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
Reginald Marsh, Wooden Horses, 1936, Tempera on board. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
Pip and Flip, Twins from Yucatan with World Circus Side Show, Coney Island, 1929, Photographic reproduction. Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection.
Pip and Flip, Twins from Yucatan with World Circus Side Show, Coney Island, 1929, Photographic reproduction. Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection.
Jeanie, Living Half Girl, 1940, Sideshow banner. Collection of Ken Harck.
Jeanie, Living Half Girl, 1940, Sideshow banner. Collection of Ken Harck.
Mort Künstler, Coney Island, 1953, Gouache on paper. Collection of the artist.
Mort Künstler, Coney Island, 1953, Gouache on paper. Collection of the artist.
Barnum & Bailey Circus Water Carnival poster, Coney Island.
Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth, the Great Coney Island Water Carnival poster.  Thrilling and daring feats of every description!
Arnold Mesches, Anomie 1991: Winged Victory, 1991, Acrylic on canvas. San Diego Museum of Art.
Arnold Mesches, Anomie 1991: Winged Victory, 1991, Acrylic on canvas. San Diego Museum of Art.
Joseph Stella, Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras, 1913, Oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery.
Joseph Stella, Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras, 1913, Oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery.

The San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park is simply jammed with fantastic, provocative Coney Island art. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  So go see it!

Coney Island, Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008, at the San Diego Museum of Art.
Coney Island, Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008, at the San Diego Museum of Art.

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