For more than a century, Baraboo National Bank has played a key role in financing circus-related events and operations, and this summer it will serve as the presenting sponsor for the 5th annual Big Top Parade.
As the first-ever presenting sponsor of the event, the bank will finance about a fourth of the parade’s cost and partner with Circus World and the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce to promote the attraction.
The 160-year-old institution – the oldest in the state – has a long history of promoting the circus in Baraboo.
It provided the Ringling family’s first loan in 1876, and 12 years later wired the brothers $1,000 when heavy rains washed out the first leg of their circus tour. Otto Ringling even stopped a run on the bank in 1907 by depositing several bags of cash in front of its worried customers.
“One-hundred-and-forty-six years of circus heritage can only be possible because of 160 years of Baraboo National Bank heritage,” said Circus World Executive Director Scott O’Donnell. “There’s probably no other fiscal or financial institution in the country – maybe the world – that has ever used an elephant as collateral.”
Baraboo National Bank Chairman Merlin Zitzner said the bank became a primary sponsor of this year’s parade to continue its legacy of promoting the circus and to preserve the tradition for future generations.
“It’s a commitment to our community – especially the children,” he said. “They are the future, and it gives them a chance to enjoy the animals, circus acts, cotton candy and all of the good things that come with it.”
Zitzner said he can still remember seeing the Ringling Bros. Circus as a child with his grandfather in the late 1940s and hopes today’s children will retain similar memories of the Big Top Parade.
“It burns a memory in your brain that you don’t ever forget,” he said. “That’s a big part of our commitment to show this history to the community.”
Baraboo National Bank in the past has sponsored the Great Circus Parade and the Chamber of Commerce’s Big Top Parade to a lesser financial degree. O’Donnell said anticipated growth spurred on by the five-year anniversary of the parade, along with the planned circus homecoming, necessitated a primary sponsor for the event, and the bank stepped up to fill the role.
“Baraboo National has a great slogan called ‘banking better together,’ and I think this captures that sentiment beautifully,” O’Donnell said.