The Circus Knie is celebrating its 100-year anniversary

Circus world and acrobatic wonders

When childhood memories are awakened and new memories are made, Circus Knie isn’t far.

Circus Knie conjures up so many memories. Of winter slowly creeping up. Of the smell of horses, elephants, roasted almonds and cotton candy. Zug, where I grew up, is one of the last places the circus comes to (in November) before finishing its tour in Tessin. But I also remember contentedly sitting by the lake in Lausanne when I was studying at university when suddenly I saw a herd of elephants taking a bath in Lake Geneva. I am certain that just like me, most people have their own special memories of Circus Knie. I wonder which memories of the circus our daughter will have in 30 years.


Lots of history and even more circus wagons

The origins of the Knie dynasty go back to the times of the Habsburg monarchy at the start of the 19th century. The first performance of the Swiss «National Circus» took place in 1919. In that same year, the circus made its winter home in Rapperswil on Lake Zurich. And 100 years later, circus members are busy rehearsing, repairing, making costumes and training in this very same spot.

When we arrive in Rapperswil, we are granted a glimpse behind the scenes prior to the show, in the area where the circus wagons are kept. It all lookes incredibly exciting. The crew has had single-room apartments inside the wagons for several years now. There is a laundry wagon, several office wagons, a wagon for media receptions and – something that my daughter finds most fascinating – a school wagon. The children who tour with the circus follow the St. Gallen curriculum because, during the winter break, they go to school in Rapperswil. When the circus is on tour, the living-quarters wagons are transported from one location to the next by train – with everything having to be perfectly secured so that nothing gets broken.

Here we go! In front of the new circus tent.
Chis Rui Knie and his parrots

Everything is new but still true to tradition

The audience is also getting a gift to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Circus Knie. Those who enter the tent will immediately notice that something is different. There is not a single pillar impairing the audience’s view of the ring. But even though the tent is brand-new and there are no more elephants or beasts of prey to be seen, the fascination with the circus remains. As the acrobats and the clowns start flying through the tent (yes, even the clowns are very acrobatic this year), we feel like children again. We laugh, marvel and tremble. Nothing has changed.


The next generation is ready

During the break, our daughter wants to find out from Fredy Knie Junior how she can join the circus – preferably working with the horses, of course. Fredy, who is responsible for the anniversary programme, devotes a lot of time to us despite the hectic goings-on around us. He tells us that there are actual circus classes and that children’s circuses are the optimal «tasting option» to see what the artist’s life is like.

In addition to Yann Rossi, the «glitter clown» as our daughter calls him, and all of the breath-taking acrobatic numbers, it’s always the youngest members of the Knie family that captivate us. Chris Rui Knie’s parrots barely miss our heads as they fly by, and eight-year-old Chanel Knie makes the ponies - including the Disney princesses - dance.



The two and a half hours go by in a flash, and unfortunately there is no time for a stop at the Knie's Children’s Zoo. But we’ll be back. Our daughter wants to see the elephants, which I had the pleasure of seeing both in the ring and bathing in Lake Geneva, when I was a student.


Good to know

The Circus Knie will be touring throughout Switzerland until November. Victor Giacobbo and Mike Müller host the evening programme. For the afternoon performance, it’s the circus clowns who run the show. Visits to the Circus are recommended for children aged four years and older, although there is no age limit.


Below are several links to some other circuses in the Children’s Region:


Knie's Children's Zoo


April, 2019

An article by:
Jérôme is a proud father of two and lives in Zurich. He and his wife Deborah write about family adventures large and small at As a man, he often has a somewhat different take on family topics.
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