By Ellen Bueno, News Republic columnist
March 26, 2013
A hometown favorite and a big-city state agency have brought their fight for the fair hand of Circus World Museum to the Baraboo town square. Residents trying to figure out which suitor would be the most devoted partner and best provider shouldn’t rush to a decision.
The locally-based Circus World Museum Foundation, Inc., certainly has proven its devotion. The private organization has dedicated itself to raising funds and operating Circus World since its inception in 1959. But it’s had constant trouble supporting the museum in this economy, and finally had to ask the state for money to pay its bills.
The state would be a more reliable provider. It can give Circus World $1.2 million in the next budget, but wants to give the historical site what it considers to be an upgrade in management. It wants to end its contract with the foundation and hand the museum’s operations over to the Wisconsin Historical Society.
The good people at the foundation are understandably upset. No one who’s poured their heart and soul into an enterprise likes to be shown the door, especially not by a bunch of government budget wonks.
Foundation President Jonathan Lipp has called the state’s plan a “death sentence” for Circus World and accused the Historical Society of “sabotage.” Circus World Director Steve Freese has warned that volunteers might quit, employees might be fired and furious donors will withhold donations.