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Circus World

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Have you ever dreamed of being a kid again on the day the circus came to town? You ran down
to the train station and watched the draft horses unload the circus wagons from the rail
cars. Maybe you followed them to an empty lot and watched as the colorful big top took
shape. That night you held your breath while the trapeze artists sailed through the air.
You can relive those golden days and maybe introduce your family to a magical world that
words can’t describe. Just head your motorhome to Baraboo, Wisconsin, and spend a day at
the Circus World Museum. Owned by the Wisconsin Historical Society, the museum covers 50
acres, including the area that served as the original winter headquarters of the circus
that was founded by the five Ringling brothers in 1884. Like all circuses, this one
features a parade in which animals pace back and forth in cages and glamorous ladies ride
around the ring on elephants. And who can forget the circus band, strutting down the street
in colorful uniforms? The brass instruments were always shiny and the big bass drum was the
best of all. Then it’s time for the show. Twice every day, the big top at the end of the
street fills with children of all ages, eagerly anticipating the thrills that are about to
unfold before them. The ringmaster, with a booming voice, introduces each act. With a
fanfare from the circus band, a woman in a sparkling costume leads her prancing ponies,
festooned with feathers, into the ring and puts them through their paces. Next comes a
balancing act of great daring, or maybe a lion trainer with his big cats jumping through
blazing hoops. The biggest thrill of all is when the trapeze artists climb to their perches
high above the ground. As they leap and somersault through the air, you’re sure that each
time will be the time they miss grasping hands. You marvel at their daring as they swing
higher and higher until it looks like they will touch the top of the tent. Complementing
the beauty of the traditional aerial ballet, the antics of the clowns keep you laughing
throughout the show. Too soon it’s over, but there’s lots more at Circus World Museum. When
you walk around the grounds, you might catch a demonstration on clown makeup or watch a
draft-horse team in action. Explore the “backyard” of the circus, where performers lived
while the show was on the road. The new Kids’ World Circus features hands-on interactive
opportunites for youngsters. In addition to watching how the wagons are loaded and unloaded
from the show-train flatbeds, find your way to the shop where magnificent circus wagons
were created. As you tour the display, each wagon seems taller and more awesome than the
last. You can watch as artists and craftsmen restore these massive wagons in the museum
workshop. If you have youngsters with you, they will no doubt want to ride on an elephant
or a pony or the antique carousel, providing great photo opportunities to help you remember
your visit here. The elephant encounter is a highlight of any visit. Trainers invite
members of the audience to take part in a hands-on demonstration of the various signals
that result in making the beast bow or raise its trunk. From June until August, the
elephants are often in for a real treat as they hurry down the path to the Baraboo River.
They spray themselves and one another with the cool water, obviously enjoying this part of
their summer routine. The Circus World Museum provides fun and entertainment for the entire
family. While youngsters are being introduced to this great tradition, their parents and
grandparents can relive their childhood days when the circus came to town. Whether you view
it as new or nostalgic, the magic of the circus will forever live in your memory.

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