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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Big top means bigger bucks for Circus World


Circus World�s Roger the Clown paints a tiger face on Riley Mantermach, 5, of Stevens Point Wednesday afternoon. Brian D. Bridgeford / News Repub

FROM: THE BARABOO NEWS-REPUBLICAN

AUGUST 16, 2011

Attendance is down slightly this year at Baraboo's Circus World historic site, but revenue and donations are up substantially, according to the director.



Riley Mantermach, 5, of Stevens Point, gets a big grin from the tiger face Circus World�s Roger the Clown painted on him Wednesday afternoon.
Through the end of July, a tally by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin reports that almost 40,000 people visited Circus World, Executive Director Steve Freese said Wednesday afternoon. That is down about 7.8 percent from 43,300 visitors during the same period of 2010.
However, revenue generated by the visitors is up 10.7 percent, from $484,500 to date in 2010 to $536,000 through July 2011, he said.


Performer Hannah Crist applies the brakes as she approaches the opposite shore during the slide for life over the Baraboo River Wednesday afternoon.

Freese noted that part of the reason for the drop in attendance and rise in revenue is that more visitors are paying for their tickets, rather than using buy one-get-one-free tickets from promotional offers.
People also are buying more food while on the museum grounds (up 10 percent), and sales in the museum shop have risen 13 percent, according to the report.
"When we're getting our visitors here, they're staying longer, enjoying the show and spending more money," Freese said.
Freese said the slow economy is likely one factor behind the drop in attendance. However, because of special events - such as Baraboo National Bank's customer appreciation day or weddings held on the grounds - attendance varies widely from one week to the other in any given year.
"Normally what you have to do is to look at the end of the year, when all the performance aspects are over," he said. "Then it's all balanced out."
Circus World is part of a system of sites operated by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. They include the H.H. Bennett Studio in Wisconsin, Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien and Old World Wisconsin near Eagle.
The historic sites are generally doing well despite the slow economy, said Steve Lightbourn, marketing director for the society,
"Almost all of them are hitting their revenue numbers, which is surprising," he said. "What we think it is, and what we try to get across to our visitors, is (that) we do provide a good value."
Freese said annual efforts to raise community support for Circus World have gone very well this year.
For example, the Circus of Chefs Gala in June brought in $209,000 - $59,000 more than the goal.
During production of the circus-theme romance film "Water for Elephants" last year, Freese said Circus World provided 15 circus wagons, historic photographs and other support. The museum received about $365,000 for its contributions to the film, which covered costs (including about $155,000 for restoring wagons used as props) and some net income.
Freese encouraged visitors to see the new "Water for Elephants" exhibit in the museum's Deppe Wagon Pavilion. It includes wagons used in the film, pictures Freese took on the set and his video of behind-the scenes activities.
"It is a pretty incredible exhibit," he said.

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