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Tatiana Combs Circus World elephants

Tatiana Combs rides an elephant led by trainer Armando Loyal across the performance ring Thursday during a dress rehearsal at Circus World. Baraboo museum opened for its summer performance season Friday.

Circus World’s ringmaster has swapped his mustache and boots with sequin jackets and pomade for this year’s summer season.

The Baraboo museum launched its debut 2018 performance Friday that features 1950s themed clowns, aerialists, elephants and other troupers. Circus World leaders say the “Doo Wop Big Top” show pays homage to the museum’s 1959 opening.

“We are excited to begin our 60th year as a dynamic living history museum,” said Circus World Director Scott O’Donnell. “We will continue to educate and entertain our guests from all over the state and country who share our love of the circus through great 1950s inspired performances and programs all summer long.”

Acts include several new artists and returning crowd favorites. The sometimes death-defying stunts are enhanced by new equipment courtesy of Chris Somer, who previously worked on sound and lighting for the former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Newcomer Hans Klose and his 19 dogs and two 700-pound pigs are making their debut performance in Baraboo. Klose toured with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus on its last performance circuit before the historic brand ceased operations last year. The big top show also features new performers Colleen Pages, a multigenerational circus aerialist, and Vladimir and Olga Smirnov’s Magical Quick Change act.

Wesley Williams Circus World

Wesley O. Williams completes a daring feat on his unicycle Thursday during a dress rehearsal at Circus World. The Baraboo museum opened for its summer performance season Friday.

Clowns Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs, unicyclist Wesley O. Williams and Ryan Holder’s ShowMe Tigers act have returned for the summer. Trainer Armando Loyal and his three Asian elephants will call Circus World their temporary summer home as well.

“I think it’s a dynamite cast,” said Circus World Ringmaster Dave SaLoutos. “This is one of the strongest shows we’ve had in years. It’s 45 to 50 solid minutes, and it just rolls – punch, punch, punch – one right after the other.”

The performances will take place twice daily through August under an even bigger big top than last year. SaLoutos said the extravagant tent seats about 1,400 people and came from the Royal Hanneford Circus.

“The tent we got is even prettier, and it’s even bigger,” he said.

Friday’s performance marks the first since the Wisconsin Historical Society took control of Circus World in January. A budget agreement included in the state’s 2017-2019 budget will provide the Baraboo museum with more than $1 million over the next two years, while transferring control of operations from the privately funded Circus World Museum Foundation to the Historical Society.

The Historical Society and the Museum Foundation worked together in the past to manage Circus World. Under the old agreement, the Historical Society owned the land, buildings and collections housed there, while the Museum Foundation oversaw operations. The Museum Foundation no longer manages the site but serves as an advisory board and private fundraising entity for the museum.

O’Donnell said the transition won’t detract from the summer’s activities, which include a variety of 1950s themed events, Baraboo’s annual Big Top Parade and the long-anticipated restoration of P.T. Barnum’s famous Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe circus wagon.

“Adding to the celebration will be the completed restoration of a historic circus wagon from 1882, the cataloging and digitization of priceless circus collections, and continuing to tell the enduring circus stories of our great state and nation,” he said. “Circus World truly is Wisconsin’s national treasure.”

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @prinsenjake


Baraboo News Republic Reporter