Executive Q&A: Scott O’Donnell says Circus World is more of an attraction now
Scott O'Donnell, executive director of Circus World
By Barry Adams | Wisconsin State Journal
April 20, 2014
Scott O’Donnell has never been shot out of a cannon, but he’s done many other jobs in his circus career including training dogs, horses and camels, being a ringmaster and performing as a clown.
His newest gig brings O’Donnell back to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo where he was operations manager from 2002 to 2005. In August, O’Donnell was named executive director of the historic site that is split by the Baraboo River, owned by the state and is home to the largest collection of antique circus wagons in the world.
O’Donnell, who says he went to college as a backup plan to his circus dreams, was one of more than 25 candidates for the position with the Circus World Museum Foundation, which operates the museum. He replaces Steve Freese, who left Circus World in August after seven years on the job.
O’Donnell, whose father was a firefighter and his mother a nurse, brings a rich circus background to Circus World. His stints include boss clown and talent manager for Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus. He also was vice president and general manager of the Big Apple Circus in New York and has worked for a number of circuses throughout his career.
Over the last six months, O’Donnell has been reacquainting himself with the museum, its employees and operations.
He’s also been working on retooling the museum’s website, adding new exhibits and bringing back a big top tent for daily circus performances that in recent years had been held in a building on the grounds.
Q: How did you get interested in the circus?
A: I was the quirky little kid from Canada who fell in love with the circus. While some of my friends were learning how to play hockey or going to Ozzy Osbourne concerts, I was the kid who thought the circus was mighty cool. Even as a kid, there was something wildly romantic about a circus. Where did this wacky world come from overnight and set up in our high school field or in the arena next door? And how did these people know they had all these talents and where did they disappear to overnight? It was just fascinating to me as a child.
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