The Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo (International Circus Festival de Monte-Carlo) was created in 1974 by Prince Rainier III of Monaco to promote circus arts....for which he had a lifelong passion. The first festival was held from December 26th to the 30th, 1974 under the big top of the French circus Bouglione, installed on what was then the Esplande de Fontvielle. In the forward he wrote for the program, Prince Rainiers said, "This International Circus Festival was created thinking of the circus community, of this family of underestimated people, so that you, attentive spectators of their efforts and of their work, could know them better, and celebrate them better". It was the first true circus festival ever presented in the Western world.
During the Festival, a selection of some of the best circus acts in the business are presented twice to a paying audience and a Jury of circus professionals, journalists, and specialists...presided until 2005 by the late Prince Rainier III, and since 2006, by his daughter, Princess Stephanie of Monaco. The Jury awards Gold and Silver Clowns, and since 2002 a Bronze Clown, in the form of statuettes sculpted by Paule Male'. Other prizes and trophies are awarded by the City of Monaco, and various
corporations, press organizations, associations, and individuals. The Festival presents about 25 acts each yer, in two different set of performances. The awards are presented during a closing Gala performance attended by the Prince of Monaco, and his family and guests. Traditionally, the Prince also attends every selection performance. The first Gold Clowns, which in time became the equivalent of an Oscar, to the circus world, were award to Alfred Court, in tribute to his exceptional career, and to Charlie Rivel.
The International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo is now held each year in mid January. Presided by S.A.S. Princess Stephanie of Monaco, it remains today, without a doubt, the most important circus manifestation in the world, and it has become the annual rendezvous of the international circus community and of a large international audience of circus enthusiasts.