After almost two decades, old posters have come down and new (old) posters are going up as Circus World Museum staff prepare to open Monday for the spring season.
The “Trumpets of Paper” exhibit on circus advertising posters is being reworked for the first time since 2001, according to Archivist Peter Shrake. With a total collection of at least 9,000 posters in Circus World’s library and research center — the largest collection in the world, Shrake noted — they have plenty from which to choose.
He said museum staff didn’t want to get rid of the exhibit altogether because posters played an important role with the American circus, so instead they decided to look at the same subject from a different angle.
“The old exhibit talked about the poster as an art form, which it most certainly is,” Shrake said. “But now we’re talking about it in the context of the life-cycle of the poster, the creation of the poster, the different poster companies, and also trying to talk about the Wisconsin connections not just to the circus, but to the creation of the posters.”
Roughly 35 of the historical artifacts will be on display this spring, lit by new LED lighting, though staff continue to work on digitizing the whole collection so it’s viewable online. Ringmaster and Marketing Director Dave SaLoutos said some of the artifacts are more than 150 years old.
“They pulled out some very rare examples of circus lithographs that really haven’t been seen by all but a few researchers,” SaLoutos said.
Sketches, paintings and other artwork used in the creation of the posters will also be on display, along with information on the evolution of printing technology. Another area in the exhibit will describe the teams of “rough-and-tumble men” who would plaster a town with circus advertisements, sometimes getting into fist fights with rival teams, Shrake said.
During the spring season from Monday through May 16, Circus World will have five buildings open for tours and exhibits, including its 100-seat theater.
Come May 17, the colorful world of the circus will meet the bright paisleys of the 1960s, in concert with Circus World’s 60th anniversary.
Described by Executive Director Scott O’Donnell as a “groovy-licious, psychedelic circus summer,” the museum will be feature entertainment inspired by its “Summer of Luv Under the Big Top” theme.
Two new acts will perform under the big top. Despite Juggler Noel Aguilar being fully booked for the next four years, SaLoutos said Circus World was “very lucky” to book him for the summer. And showcasing acrobatic skills, Ivan Arestov will roll around the tent on a cyr wheel.
“It’s really amazing to watch, and it’s a type of act that we really haven’t had at Circus World at all,” SaLoutos said.
Elephants and their trainer Armando Loyal will be back for another summer of performances, as will Ryan Holder and his act with eight tigers.
Clowns Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs will return to Baraboo after spending the winter as featured artists in Paris’ Cirque d’Hiver. SaLoutos said they are currently, while still in Paris, working on a new installment of their musical comedy variety show.
A husband and wife team, Adilson and Gilda Fernandes, are returning with their chair-stacking act — in which Adilson climbs the roughly 30-foot tower to perform a handstand — and the “wheel of destiny.” SaLoutos said Circus World last featured them three years ago.
SaLoutos and Music Director Larry Stout will bring ’60s music to their novelty instruments show, this year called “Sweet Toots.”
“We’ve got all kinds of crazy plans, special events throughout the summer that will just be a lot of fun,” SaLoutos said.