Stephen Freese, executive director of Circus World Museum, is reflected in the mirror of a restored historic circus wagon. The wagon is one of 160 circus parade and baggage wagons at the Baraboo museum. Freese is trying to persuade legislators to reject a proposal in Gov. Scott Walker's budget that would have the state take over operations of the museum from the private Circus World Museum Foundation.
BARRY ADAMS | Wisconsin State Journal
March 10, 2013
BARABOO — There are many fears for those in the circus industry.
A bad aim could send the human cannonball into the stands, or a slip of a hand could be tragic for a trapeze artist.
They all dread being "red lighted," a term from years ago that refers to an unwanted circus worker or act being thrown from a moving train at night. Their last view: the red light at the back of the train disappearing down the tracks.
And that's what Stephen Freese feels is happening to him and his small staff at Circus World Museum, where finances are tenuous and the future is uncertain.
Gov. Scott Walker, in his budget proposal, wants the state to take over operations of the state-owned facility that houses more than $60 million in circus memorabilia, including the world's largest collection of antique circus wagons. The collection, which includes massive lithographs, thousands of circus photographs and even Al Ringling's pocket watch, has been built over the past 54 years by the Circus World Museum Foundation, a private organization that has gifted the collection to the state.
Freese — a former state legislator who has been director of Circus World since 2007 — and the foundation favor a plan that would establish Circus World as a separate state agency that would receive state funding but retain the foundation's fundraising muscle and experienced Circus World staff.
Debra Bauer, executive director of the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce, just wants to make sure that whatever route is taken, the integrity of the museum remains, the $3.2 million in economic impact to the area from visitors to the museum continues to grow and that circus wagons will be available for a parade this July in downtown Baraboo.
Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/local/on-wisconsin-the-show-goes-on-at-circus-world-despite/article_e890aff8-88ee-11e2-9440-001a4bcf887a.html#ixzz2NESxEEee