If you’re looking for a cornucopia of colossal fun, then mark your calendars now for the 4th Annual Baraboo’s Big Top Parade & Circus Celebration on Saturday and Sunday, July 23-24, 2016 in Downtown Baraboo.

The two-day celebration will commemorate Baraboo’s stupendous circus heritage as the historic home of the world-famous Ringling Bros. Circus. The weekend will be brimming with concerts, children’s activities, a classic car show, an antique and artisan fair and more.

The “center ring of entertainment,” however, is the Big Top Parade, which will step off at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, featuring over 75 traditional circus parade units and circus-theme entries created by community groups and businesses.

In addition to the many special activities scheduled throughout the weekend around downtown Baraboo’s historic courthouse square, you’ll want to make time for the shows, tours, displays and concerts at Baraboo’s renowned circus attractions, including Circus World, the International Clown Hall of Fame & Research Center, Al. Ringling Theatre, Al. Ringling Mansion and Ringling House Bed & Breakfast.

Spend the weekend enjoying all that Baraboo has to offer in the city that Smithsonian Magazine named the 4th Best Small Town to Visit in 2013.  Keep checking back to this site for more information about the 4th Annual Baraboo’s Big Top Parade & Circus Celebration and “Follow Us” on social media!

Big Top Parade & Circus Celebration logo
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It’s a great day in Baraboo!

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The Baraboo area community is ready and waiting for your visit. Come experience the 4th Annual Big Top Parade and Circus Celebration Day on Saturday and Sunday, July 23, 24 2016!

Baraboo’s rich circus history and heritage will enthrall kids of all ages. Come experience a “Circus Day” as only historic downtown Baraboo can provide.

Events all day long from 9 AM – 4 PM with the Big Top Parade stepping off at 2 PM on Saturday.

For a complete Calendar of Events visit Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce:

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4th Annual Baraboo’s Big Top Parade & Circus Celebration to Honor

A century after their show came to an end, Baraboo’s Gollmar Bros. Circus is about to be in the spotlight once again. This year marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Gollmar Bros. Circus and 100th anniversary of the conclusion of their show. Descendants of the original Gollmar brothers will appear as the grand marshals of the 4th Annual Baraboo’s Big Top Parade & Circus Celebration on Saturday, July 23, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. in downtown Baraboo. The Gollmar Bros. Circus will also be recognized in a new exhibit opening this spring at Circus World, 550 Water Street in Baraboo.

Although lesser known than their Ringling first cousins, the Gollmars made lasting contributions to American circus history and figure prominently in Baraboo’s rich, circus heritage. The Gollmar Bros. Greatest of American Shows operated out of a winter quarters complex on Baraboo’s Second Avenue from 1891 to 1916. Gollmar brothers Walter, Fred, Charles, Ben, and Jake were the show’s proprietors.

“We are proud to honor one of Baraboo’s premier circus families by naming the Gollmars this year’s Big Top Parade grand marshals,” said Nanci Caflisch, co-chair of the committee that plans the event on behalf of the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce. “Our community is unique in that more than one famous circus got its start here. That is certainly something to celebrate.”

Gollmar Bros. Circus Poster

While operating a world-class show that traveled the U.S. for a quarter-century, the Gollmars cultivated the idea for their circus at a family Christmas gathering. “There is an account that the Gollmar brothers decided to launch their circus at the 1890 family Christmas gathering in their parents’ home,” explained David SaLoutos, Circus World’s Performance and Marketing Director and Ringmaster. “Five months later, that new show was touring the Midwest and the brothers began building their reputation.”

Despite their fame and travel, the Gollmars remained dedicated to family and their hometown. “I have always found it interesting and very human that the Gollmar brothers made sure their circus parade in Baraboo traveled past their parents’ home on the corner of Third Avenue and Birch Street,” SaLoutos said.

“The route for Baraboo’s Big Top Parade will follow one of the same streets that the Gollmar Bros. Circus used for their hometown parade over 100 years ago,” Caflisch explained. “We have an archival photo that shows the Gollmar circus parade from circa 1907 traveling past some of the landmarks that still exist in our downtown today.”

Circus History

So what makes Baraboo’s circus heritage so special as to warrant a day-long celebration and parade? The city has the distinction of being the current-day home of Circus World, the International Clown Hall of Fame & Research Center, the Al. Ringling Theatre and the Al. Ringling Mansion. Baraboo is also the historic home to numerous circuses, including the world-renowned Ringling Bros. Circus whose owners were the celebrated kings of the circus world.

Ringling Bros. Circus

On May 19, 1884, Al., Alf T., Otto, Charles and John Ringling produced their first circus performance in Baraboo. The show’s winter quarters were located along the Baraboo River from 1884 to 1918. As the Ringlings’ fame and fortune grew, so did their stature and reputation in the show world. In 1907, the powerful Ringling Bros. World’s Greatest Shows bought its major competitor, the Barnum & Bailey Circus – The Greatest Show on Earth.

In 1919, the Ringling brothers merged the two gargantuan shows to become the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows – The Greatest Show on Earth. Living up to the posters that bore their names and mustachioed likenesses, the Ringling brothers were indeed Kings of the Circus World.

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The Kings of the Circus World

Ringling Brother Circus Elephants c1980 in Baraboo, WI

Gollmar Bros. Circus

Like their cousins the Ringlings, the Gollmar brothers operated a circus in Baraboo, Wisconsin at the turn of the last century. The Gollmar Bros. Greatest of American Shows operated out of winter quarters on Baraboo’s Second Avenue from 1891 until 1916, with brothers Walter, Fred, Charles, Ben and Jake Gollmar as proprietors. The 4th Annual Baraboo’s Big Top Parade & Circus Celebrates the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Gollmar Bros. Circus. Poster images courtesy of Circus World Museum, Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Parades are no stranger to Baraboo, Wisconsin where a century ago, the world-famous Ringling Bros. Circus and Gollmar Bros. Circus paraded their wagons throughout the downtown. This downtown Baraboo scene of a Gollmar Bros. Circus parade, circa 1907, passed the same Third Street landmarks that the Baraboo Big Top Parade will pass on July 23, 2016. The Gollmar brothers always staged a street parade in Baraboo before going on tour. They made sure that the route passed by their parents’ house on Second Avenue and Birch Street. Photo courtesy of Circus World Museum, Baraboo, Wisconsin

Gollmar Bros. Vintage Circus Street Parade

Gollmar Bros. Circus Poster

Moeller Bros. – Henry and Corwin Moeller, first cousins to the Ringling and Gollmar brothers, played a role in the success of Baraboo’s circuses and others operated elsewhere by leading showmen. Operators of a blacksmith shop and wagon manufactory still standing on Third Avenue in Baraboo, the Moellers built many of the elaborate circus parade, cage and baggage wagons for the Ringlings’ show, including the Ringling Bros. Bell Wagon of 1892. They also fabricated and repaired wagons for several other circuses through 1928.

Other Circuses with Baraboo roots include John Robinson’s Circus (1898), Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros. Enormous United Shows (1910-1911), Hodgini Bros. Combined Railroad Shows (1915), Fun on the Farm Circus (1924), and Wilbur W. Deppe’s Classic Country Circus (1961-1966).

Circus World Museum

Circus World – Owned by the Wisconsin Historical Society and operated by the not-for-profit Circus World Museum Foundation, Circus World is located at 550 Water Street in Baraboo. Since its opening on July 1, 1959, Circus World has been located at the original winter quarters of the Ringling Bros. Circus (1884-1918). Circus World preserves an unparalleled collection of circus artifacts and archival items, including circus wagons and vehicles, posters, business records, manuscripts, programs, hand bills, journals, oil paintings, photographs and negatives that document circuses from Wisconsin and around the world. During its summer live performance season, Circus World presents many entertaining, family-friendly shows daily, including live Big Top Circus Performances. For more information, call toll-free 1-866-693-1500 or visit

More Baraboo Circus History Info

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Community Floats, Entries Needed

In celebration of Baraboo’s circus heritage, local businesses and civic, religious and youth groups are encouraged to participate in the parade with circus-theme floats and entries of their own creation.

As a new feature this year, a panel of celebrity judges will select three winning local parade units that displays the most creative use of the circus theme.

The Commercial, Non-Commercial and Grand Prize winners will each receive $100.00 in Chamber Bucks and a trophy donated by Supreme Awards.

Parade Float/Other Unit Entry Form
Float Entries Wanted

Blimpies from Just Imagine Toys waddled their way down the streets of downtown Baraboo last year during the Big Top Parade, entertaining 25,000 spectators who came to town for the event. Photo courtesy of Michael Heath.

Volunteers Needed

Baraboo’s Big Top Parade planners are seeking volunteers to help ensure that the parade is an enjoyable and safe event for everyone. Volunteers are needed on July 23 to help guard street corners along the parade route and assist with event staging and clean up.

Volunteer Opportunities
Presto the Clown

Jed “Presto the Clown” Crouse of Baraboo is one of many volunteers who will appear in Baraboo’s Big Top Parade & Circus Celebration. Photo courtesy of Michael Heath

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Make plans for the weekend!

Weekend events, area attractions and more.

Events Calendar

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2016 Circus Parade Sponsors
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