Saturday, July 25, 2015

Still not my circus: Basically an update of a post from 2014

Last year, Lee sent me a t-shirt that reads, "Not my circus, not my monkeys." It's a Polish proverb meaning, "Not my problem."

The t-shirt is perfect for many reasons, among which is that I plan to wear it today when we go to the Circus Parade in Baraboo. This will be their third annual Big Top Parade, processing around the historic downtown courthouse square district. (I used to work at a law office on the square, and the "not my circus, not my monkeys" t-shirt would have been perfect office garb.)

Clowns march in front of the Al. Ringling Theater, just a few doors down from where I used to work.

The parade will consist of more than 75 units, including 14 antique, wood-carved circus wagons from Circus World Museum. Bernie, the guy who runs the steam engine at the little railroad where Tom volunteers, helps maintain the circus wagons and the steam calliope at the museum. He operates the calliope for the parade, and given the predicted temperature today of near 90 (32.2 C), he will be drenched by the time it is over. He will spend a couple of hours in an enclosed space with a steam engine. (As I say, Tom and I plan to attend the parade, but if the temperature is too beastly, we may opt out.)

The American Steam Calliope with Bernie hidden inside

Baraboo, about twelve miles from where we live, was the historic home of numerous circuses, including the world-renowned Ringling Bros. Circus. Today it is the home of Circus World Museum and the International Clown Hall of Fame.

The Ringling Bros. Circus was founded in Baraboo in 1884. The show's winter quarters were located along the banks of the Baraboo River until 1918. During those 34 years, the business grew from a small operation with a handful of employees to a circus empire consisting of the three largest circuses in America, each employing more than a thousand performers and workers. Circus World preserves eight of the surviving winter quarters structures, the largest such group in North America, which has been declared a National Historic Landmark Site.

I am happy to report that after several years of declining attendance, Circus World has bounced back and is in the black financially. Apparently with the election campaigns already underway, people feel like going to the circus is the only adequate response.

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