With his cherry-red cap, tie and nose, Nino the Clown is the most readily recognizable member of the Circus Flora troupe that charms audiences every May. Nino's real name is Giovanni Zoppé; He was once the scion of a sixth-generation circus family in Italy; now he has aged into one of the family patriarchs. When Nino is not here, which is eleven months of the year, he performs with his own family circus. Then in May he comes home, as it were, to Circus Flora, and we are all a little happier. Every time Nino walks into the ring, he lives and breathes the sawdust-strewn traditions and heritage of circus; he understands its dangers — which is why when Nino is not clowning in the spotlight, he remains in the shadows, intently watching the performer in the center of the ring. Unlike the rodeo clown, who distracts angry animals after a rider has fallen, Nino is intent on anticipating problems. Like most great artists, he is a mystery. But his mystery is always cloaked in a guileless smile.
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