Circus wagons return to Lake Geneva
If you go
What: Fifteen circus wagons from the Circus World Museum collection in Baraboo.
When: Dawn to dusk, Friday through Sunday, Sept. 18-20. Docents will be available to guide people through the exhibition. Special performances of the "America" steam calliope and Gavioli organ bandwagon are planned for Saturday and Sunday.
Where: Wrigley Drive, downtown Lake Geneva.
Information: Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce at (262) 248-4416
LAKE GENEVA Fifteen historical circus wagons from the collection housed at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo will be on display in downtown Lake Geneva this weekend.
The exhibition is made possible, in part, by Chicago financier and philanthropist Richard Driehaus. This is the second time the city is playing ringmaster to the wagons. The display last year drew an estimated 30,000 to the lakefront.
"The opportunity to present these magnificent circus wagons is a real treat for the community and for Lake Geneva visitors," said George Hennerley, executive vice president of the Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce. "This is a rare chance to discover the thrill, imagination and pageantry of the circus from a bygone era."
The exhibition includes a variety of circus wagons, including cages, covered wagons, bandwagons, horse-drawn wagons and a steam calliope. Many are decorated with wood carvings, mirrors and gold leaf.
The exhibition also includes a number of baby animals from the Lake Geneva Animal Gardens.
Brochures with information about the wagons and circus history will be available on site.
Notable wagons on display this weekend include:
-- The steam calliope "America," the last such wagon built for use by a circus.
The wagon originally was built in 1903 as a telescoping tableau with intricately carved figures representing the Americas capable of being elevated out of the lower body for display. The wagon was reconfigured in 1917 to serve as a bandwagon and haul circus baggage.
After fire destroyed the circus' original steam calliope, "America" again was altered, and it debuted as a calliope in 1940. A calliope, or steam organ, produces sound by sending steam through whistles. The wagon also carried the boiler that provided the steam and a supply of water and fuel.
It is expected that someone from the Circus World Museum will play the steam calliope several times Saturday and Sunday, Hennerley said.
-- The "Cinderella" pony float, one of seven fairy tale-themed pony-drawn wagons built in the 1880s for the children's portion of the circus parade. The Circus World Museum houses the only three that remain.
The wagon, restored and gold leafed in 2002, features a sculpture of Prince Charming kneeling at Cinderella's feet, placing the glass slipper on her foot.
The two other remaining pony floats, the "Old Lady in the Shoe" and "Mother Goose" floats, also will be part of the exhibition.
-- The Gavioli organ bandwagon, built in the early 1900s.
The wagon houses an organ that replicates the sound of an 80-piece band and features colorful, animated figures that dance.
It is expected that someone from the Circus World Museum will play the organ several times Saturday and Sunday, Hennerley said.
According to the staff at Circus World Museum, such an exhibition is rare.
"This is significant," David SaLoutos, performance director at the museum, told The Janesville Gazette before last year's event, "especially such a large contingent of (the circus wagons). That doesn't really happen outside of the parade.
"(The wagons) don't really go out except for a single wagon here and there."