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Baraboo celebrates circus heritage with ‘parade’ of elephants

Published: Jul. 10, 2021 at 2:42 PM CDT
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BARABOO, Wis. (WMTV) - A parade of elephants is marching through Baraboo, but not in the way you might expect.

A public art installation of 15 fiberglass elephants will be displayed throughout the “Circus City” all summer long.

The exhibit is part of a weekend-long celebration of Baraboo’s rich history with the circus. The city’s heritage dates back to the Ringling Brothers and has been home to other circuses. Since 2012, the Big Top Parade annually brought in roughly 30 thousand people to the city, according to Ben Bromley, a marketing and tourism coordinator with the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce.

Live elephants were one of the main showstoppers, Bromley said.

But for the second year in a row, COVID-19 canceled the parade. “Instead of having the elephants parade around downtown,” Bromley said, “we’re having them parade around the entire community.”

This year, the chamber tasked 15 local artists to re-create the parade of elephants using fiberglass figures.

Megan Watson, one of the artists, described her inspiration: “I grew up in Portage so we got to visit the circus quite often, and I wanted my elephant to be happy because it reminds me of my one of my favorite clowns growing up, whose name was Happy the Clown.”

“I also added a lot of words that I feel are creative and really needed right now, so ‘love’ and ‘faith’ and ‘dreaming’ and ‘creativity,’” Brett Klawitter, a Baraboo artist, said, showing off his piece “Bizzy” outside the Angels & Arrows clothing store.

“Even though it’s not the same as the full-on parade, we feel like it’s a pretty good substitute. Maybe this public art installation is something we would carry forward, even in years to come when we’re able to hold the parade,” Bromley said.

He added, the Big Top Parade is slated to return in 2022.

The July 10-11 Big Top Circus Celebration will also include trolley tours of historic sites, live entertainment and a car show. Details can be found here.

The elephant figures will be on public display until September, when they will be available for auction, according to Bromley.

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