By Ben Bromley, News Republic
May 16, 2013
Attendance and revenue are up this spring at Circus World Museum, a trend leaders attribute to a new magic show and publicity over a proposed state takeover of the site.
Treasurer Jim Kieffer told the Circus World Museum Foundation’s executive committee Thursday that admission is up 33 percent so far this year. The site attracted 1,332 visitors through the end of April, up from 891 last year.
Kieffer also reported fundraising revenue — grants, donations to the summer gala and other gifts — through the end of April was $136,000, up from $78,000 last year. As for daily operations, admission revenue is up $3,400 this year, and store sales are up $2,000. Circus World opens its summer performance season Saturday.
“All these are positive signs,” Kieffer said. “Hopefully that’s a signal of things to come for the summer.”
Committee members pointed to the addition of shows by illusionist Tristan Crist, presented twice each weekday, as a key attraction. They also surmised statewide publicity about the museum’s fate, after Gov. Scott Walker proposed rolling Circus World into the Wisconsin Historical Society, generated interest.
“It was an interesting way of trying to get business, but let’s not try that again,” committee member John Lloyd said.
Support for next month’s Circus of Chefs gala appears poised to surpass last year’s levels, Kieffer reported. Revenue is up $30,000 year-to-date. More than $130,000 already has been paid and pledged toward a goal of $165,000.
“We anticipate a significant number of individual tickets to be sold yet,” said Steve Freese, Circus World’s executive director.
The committee agreed Thursday to remove from its 2013 budget a new development director position. The position was designed to pay for itself this year, but was put on hold due to uncertainty regarding the state budget and Circus World’s future. It was best to pull this provision from the budget, Freese said, to accurately reflect the absence of that salary expense and the foundation’s more modest fundraising goal without a development director in place.
A full-time fund raiser still may be hired by the end of the year. “We’d still love to do it. We just don’t have the resources,” Lloyd said.
The executive committee leads the Circus World Museum Foundation board. The nonprofit foundation operates the site for the state Historical Society, which owns the buildings, grounds and collections.