FYI Vol. II, No. 8

 “No Deficiency of Opportunity”

Those are Scott O’Donnell’s words in regard to Circus World Museum.  Put another way, there’s no where to go but up.  The Museum hit rock bottom this past summer as its administration butted heads with the State Historical Society over who should be in control.  The state seems to have backed off its move to take over, but former CWM director Steve Freese left for a new job in August.  O’Donnell was recently hired to take his place, and like any new leader he is looking for opportunities to bring the Baraboo, Wisconsin, treasure back into prominence.  His first objective is to bring back Circus World’s crown jewel, the Great Circus Parade.  Once CWM’s major fund raiser the parade lost its funding, and O’Donnell is making it a priority to get it all back.  Another objective is to bring the big top back to the grounds and put a circus performance in it, as had long been the practice until a few years ago.  The new director is also looking ahead to have a new exhibit in the main hall ready for summer 2014.

Another way of raising some cash flow identified by O’Donnell would be to make the museum’s extensive costume collection available for rental, especially to other parades.

According to a report in the Baraboo News Republic, O’Donnell sees “Circus World as a player in—and potential beneficiary—of the city’s efforts to redevelop the Baraboo riverfront.”  Other nearby facilities will help bring in tourists with dining and lodging facilities.

So it is onward and upward.  Speaking of which…


Historic Ringling Bros. Train Shed to Undergo Restoration and Renovation

Construction work to restore and renovate the historic 1909 Ringling Bros. Train Shed at Circus World Museum in Baraboo will begin in November, marking the final phase in a $1.315 million multi-year project headed up by the state Division of Facilities Development.

The 600-foot-long Ringling Bros. Train Shed is one of eight National Historic Landmark buildings on the site of the former winter quarters of the famed Ringling Bros. Circus, all owned by the Wisconsin Historical Society. National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Today, fewer than 2,500 historic places bear this national distinction, according to the National Park Service in the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Historically, the train shed served as the facility where the Ringlings repaired and repainted their 80-plus railroad cars during the off season. Today the building houses the historic circus train used to transport wagons to the Great Circus Parades in Milwaukee from 1965 to 2003.

According to Wisconsin Historical Society Director Ellsworth Brown, “The renovated train shed will also enhance Circus World’s ability to tell the whole story of the American circus, including the era when circuses traveled from town to town via rail.”

Hopefully, too, this will also be an important step toward healing the wounds of the recent struggle for control of Circus World and foster a new level of cooperation.


Kick Starting an off-Broadway Show

Michael Bongar has taken on a new project, producing Mark Gindick’s show Wing Man which is headed for off-Broadway.  “It’s exciting for me to do something that’s all art and all heart.  I feel this is a culmination of my Ringling and events careers,” Michael says.

To make it happen he is hoping to raise some money via Kickstart. Even one dollar from a friend helps get the project on the Kickstarter map.   All of the details are on the Kickstarter page (link below) and you’ll get a chance to see what Michael and Tina and a team of talented folks who believe in Mark have been working on for the last two years.



Michael Christensen Honored

 This past month, as part of the Big Apple Circus’ annual Gala fund raiser in Lincoln Center, Michael Christensen and the Clown Care Unit were honored.  l Christensen’s hobo clown character, Mr. Stubs, a regular in the Big Apple Circus ring, became Dr. Stubs when Michael created the Clown Care program in 1986. Today it is the signature community outreach program of Big Apple Circus, which brings the joy of classical circus to hospitalized children across the United States. This program is presently in residence 50 weeks a year in 14 Big Apple Circus Clown Care network hospitals and leading pediatric facilities nationwide. As the recognized Father of Hospital Clowning, Michael has lectured at conferences in the United States, Switzerland, Denmark, France, Israel, Germany, and Italy. He has taught numerous hospital clowning workshops for the growing international family of hospital clowning programs including Doutores da Alegria in Brazil; Operacao Nariz Vermelho in Portugal; Soccorso Clown in Rome and Florence; CliniClowns in the Netherlands; and Die Rote Nasen in Austria.

A photo gallery of the event can be found in a later section of this issue.



Time to Think About Testing

The deadline to register for Canada’s National Circus School official entrance examination is January 15, 2014.  Examinations will be held during the month of February in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Complete details at or click on the school’s icon in the right hand margin of this and all pages of this issue.


You Win Some; You Lose Some

The Win: Feld Entertainment is suing the animal rights groups that had unsuccessfully sued the circus for abusing its elephants for $25 million.  The judge who oversaw that trial granted Feld Entertainment’s request to recoup its legal fees, which amounted to billing for the 50,000 hours its lawyers spent on the case for thirteen years before a ruling in their favor was arrived at.

The Loss: The City Council of Los Angeles has voted to ban the use of bullhooks on circus elephants, effectively making it impossible for Ringling to play Los Angeles.  The ban goes into effect in 2017.  Presumably this is not the end of the story, however.  A lot can happen in three years.