Circus of Chefs gala (copy) (copy)

Circus World Museum performers put on a 1970s-inspired show during the Circus of the Chefs gala in 2017. The 16th annual event is Sunday. Proceeds from the event make up about 20% of the museum’s annual budget.

Even Baraboo residents might be surprised by the Circus World Museum when they attend the 16th annual Circus of Chefs gala Sunday.

“You don’t always know what’s in your backyard,” Circus World Museum Foundation Director of Development Bobbie Coons said.

Coons, a Baraboo resident since 1999, attended the gala for the first time only three years ago, taken aback by such offerings as the museum’s collection of more than 260 ornate circus wagons, the largest such collection in the world.

“Where else can you enjoy bananas foster with the circus elephants?” the museum’s executive director, Scott O’Donnell, said of surprises that might delight your taste buds.

Nearly 40 food and beverage vendors from places including Baraboo, Wisconsin Dells, Madison, Fitchburg and Marinette will help the museum, in its 60th year, raise funds for performances, research, wagon restoration, the preservation of century-old lithographs and artifacts and more.

The gala regularly draws more than 500 people to the museum and raised $170,000 in 2018. It has raised more than $2 million overall.

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Attendees on Sunday will vote for the best entree, appetizer, dessert, wine, beer and table presentation, enjoy circus performances and can participate in live and silent auctions with prizes including Green Bay Packers memorabilia, electronics, grills, spa packages and a trip to Marco Island in Florida.

“The gala is a dynamic way for supporters of all ages to really make a direct impact here,” O’Donnell said. “It helps us to preserve Wisconsin’s heritage.”

More than 100 circuses got started in Wisconsin, more than any other state in the nation, O’Donnell said. That heritage of course includes the Ringling Brothers Circus, which started in Baraboo in 1884.

“They started their circus only two years after the city formed,” Coons said of the Ringling Brothers. “Baraboo’s symbiotic relationship (with circuses) goes for much longer than the 60 years of the museum. But since the museum formed, it’s been the backbone of tourism in Baraboo. The gala gets people excited. It keeps traditions alive.”

The museum is open seven days a week throughout the summer and this year offers 1960s-themed programming called “Summer of Luv Under the Big Top.” For more information about the gala or the museum’s programming, visit circusworldbaraboo.org.

Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau or contact him at 608-695-4956.


Portage Daily Register Reporter

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