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Flag wagaon

A flag wagon makes it way down Fourth Avenue in Baraboo. An estimated 30,000 people came out for the Big Top Parade in July.

With Labor Day behind us and we prepare for our favorite fall activity, I couldn’t help but look back at the fantastic summer of 2017 and specifically, the fifth anniversary of Baraboo’s Big Top Parade and Circus Celebration.

On July 22, an estimated 30,000 people came to Baraboo to see the parade. With a crowd this size, the economic impact to our community is over $2 million. To host an event of this magnitude, it took a team of people planning for an entire year, tremendous community financial support, several dozen vendors and a battalion of volunteers.

Hundreds of people descended upon downtown Baraboo as early as 5:30 a.m. on July 22 to prepare for our guests. Food vendors set up, information and media tents were erected, the TV and radio wagon placed, police and fire personnel prepared the roads, and parade officials set up a volunteer check-in tent for corner guards and banner carriers.

As soon as the food vendors were ready, early arrivals partook in pancakes and coffee, set up chairs along the parade route, and participated in the pre-parade activities. That included: a Clown Warm Up; 20 members of the UW-Madison Marching Band playing their version of the Fifth Quarter complete with Bucky crashing the party; and a slew of parade participants making their way to the staging area.

At 11 a.m., the parade stepped off with more than 80 units, 57 horses, three elephants, two snakes, one giraffe, and more than 200 grand marshals. The parade went off without a hitch and lasted about an hour and 15 minutes. Immediately after the parade ended, live music kicked off at the Circus Palooza tent.

Preparations for this day began in the late summer of 2016. The Big Top Parade Committee’s goal has always been to provide the most spectacular parade our community can have. This goal is made easier with Baraboo’s rich historical circus roots, our natural beauty and charm, and a business community that has been so supportive of the event.

While the parade committee focused on the parade, a host of other entities came together this year to make this a one-of-a-kind event. The Circus Homecoming Committee (Circus World, International Clown Hall of Fame and the Al. Ringling Theatre) formed to plan an array of events for our Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey invited guests. The Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors planned and held the first Circus Palooza, which was a combination breakfast and lunch complete with beer and music after the parade. Downtown Baraboo Inc. held a front window-decorating contest and much time was given by our municipalities and county to spruce up, set up and secure the event.

So, how do you thank an entire community that worked so hard to provide an outstanding parade and rolled out the red carpet to our guests? Let others tell some of the story:

“Last weekend I had the extreme joy of attending the Big Top Parade. With sincere thanks to the Baraboo Chamber of Commerce and to all of the people and committees who worked so hard to provide outstanding coordination to a whole weekend of fun. I left for home with a heart filled with happy memories.” — M. Downing, Port Washington

“As a former member of Ringling Bros. Circus, I just want to thank you all for your incredible hospitality throughout last weekend! People went out of their way to welcome us, help us, and answer our questions. I love your beautiful and charming downtown, and your preservation of history. You should be proud of your amazing town and people; if I could, I think I’d move there tomorrow! Thank you for making us “part of the family.” — K. Herb, San Diego

From the bottom of our hearts here at the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce, we thank you all for your support. An event of this magnitude could not happen without you and we are most sincerely grateful.

The Big Top Parade & Circus Celebration returns July 21, 2018.

Bobbie Boettcher is the executive director of the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at