As a young child I can remember the excitement I felt as I found out that the circus was coming to town. As the time grew near I would start bugging my parents to take me down to where the circus would be unloading from the train. Then they would have their parade that went through the streets of my home town. All of the performers and animals would take part in this wondrous parade. I would stand on the sidelines and watch the beautiful ladies in their gorgeous costumes and wonder what it would be like to perform in front of all those people. Afterwards I would go, with my parents, to the performance. What magic they wove! The ringmaster and all the wonderful acts, from acrobats to clowns. Unfortunately, I grew up and the circus became only a memory. However, as we drove around in Baraboo, Wisconsin, I saw a sign that brought back many of these memories for me. I had always thought of circus' wintering in beautiful sunny Florida. Well, at one time the circus' along with their performers wintered in none other than Baraboo, Wisconsin. In fact, Baraboo was the home of one of the circus worlds most famous founders. A man by the name of Ruengling came to this country to find a land of new opportunity and a place to have and raise a family. He ended up changing his name so it sounded more American. Mr. Ringling and his wife had a very large family. Five of the boys from a very young age had a dream that they wanted to form their own circus when they grew up. Unlike many children who grow up, the Ringlings never forgot that dream. As a result they formed what would become one of the largest circus in the world: Ringling Bros, Barnum & Baily circus. For decades they ran the circus, starting out by moving the circus on wagons across the country to finally moving it by railway. A group called the Circus Fans of America saw that the things that had thrilled them as children were being lost to future generations, so they stepped in and purchased many of the original buildings where the Ringlings would bring the circus and entertainers to spend the winter. They would spend this time, repairing and repainting the equipment, fixing up the costumes, and the entertainers would rest and perfect their acts. In the buildings that were once the circus winter headquarters the CFA has brought in circus wagons of all shapes and sizes from circus' everywhere. In addition there are circus posters going back to the 1800s. Also, signs and pictures telling the story of the Ringling Brothers Circus and its rise to fame. Not wanting this to just be a museum they added a section that included a large canvas tent of the type Ringling used to use in the very early circus. I felt that same excitement that I felt when I was a small child as soon as I heard the ringmaster announce the opening act. Of course the clowns were there and did a great job of entertaining young and old alike. After we watched the show we came out of the large performance tent and entered a tent where they housed their animals. There was one little girl that was feeding a giraffe and the look on her face tells it all. She was at once scared, excited and thrilled. For the children, the clowns showed them how to do juggling and how to put on the clown makeup. They also had camels and elephants that anyone could ride. Due to the fact (or so he told me) that Bob had to take the picture, I was immediately volunteered to ride one of the camels. Somehow I just didn't see myself riding alongside Lawrence of Arabia tearing across the desert on this smelly, ill-tempered, humpy animal. Guess I'm getting old huh? In addition to all of this they had a beautiful carousel that you could ride, and of course, the obligatory circus food. Cotton candy, popcorn, hot dogs, etc. You can spend hours just in the museum section of the Circus World, but be sure you include the hands-on section as well. It certainly touched the child in me. Hope you get a chance to stop by and that you have as much fun as Bob and I had.
Their website address is: http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/circusworld/.