Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Life is a Circus

August 18, 2010

Well, I continue to be plagued with photographic problems. Twice I have lost data from my sim cards in my Olympus, and this morning, it refused to even turn on! Luckily I had my small Casio with me, and I used that for today's photos. But tonight when I looked, the photos I took first thing today weren't there! Neither Joe nor I can figure out what possibly could have happened, unless I simply never pressed the shutter hard enough for a single shot! That seems totally unlikely but it's the only explanation for missing my photos of the cheese factory. I am also missing photos which I took of the scenery on the road, and I *know* I had those, because I looked at some of them as I went along. So I can't imagine why my photos are jinxed, and if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

Said Cheese Factory was located in Plain, Wisconsin (again a population under 1,000), which was right on our way to Baraboo. When we woke up, I had decided to skip Frank Lloyd Wright this time around and hit the road again--I had a case of "hitch itch", as we call it when we want to hit the road. We had picked up a brochure about the Cedar Grove Cheese Factory and Living Machine, and wanted to see it. The latter is a working ecosystem which takes the water byproduct of the cheese production and "mimics the water cleaning power of wetlands, only faster, using natural microbes and hydrophilic plants. Clean water is then returned to Honey Creek."

After buying some of their cheese in their retail store, we walked through the greenhouse. The vats are all labelled with explanations of how the system works. It was very interesting.

From there we headed to Baraboo, being routed by our GPS through beautiful country roads. At one point we were slowed down by a threshing machine driving at 5mph ahead of us, and I took photos of that, and of the countryside, and I have NO IDEA what happened to those photos either. In thinking back of how I'd wanted to upload those to illustrate how lovely it is here, I am really upset about it.
So anyway (sigh!) we came to Circus World in Baraboo. This institution has several facets. On one level it's a small circus--there are shows all day in the summer, including a "Big Top" show of animal acts, jugglers, aerial artists, clowns, etc. as well as a tiger show, a magic/illusionist show, and several special things for kids. These things were of the least interest to me, although we went to all of them (except the kid things). And tigers are NEVER uninteresting. I don't know how anyone trains them, it is simply amazing to me. The circus also has a carousel, a sideshow tent with sculptures of all the "human oddities", and a few other small things, including pony and elephant rides.

The place is also a museum, and it is built on the grounds of the original winter headquarters for the Ringling Brothers Circus. The Ringling Family came from Wisconsin and started the circus with the help of the Baraboo National Bank. Seven of the original buildings on the banks of the Baraboo River, which were used by the circus, are still standing and are part of the Circus World complex. These house displays on topics like the art of clowning, specific circus personalities such as Gunther Gebel-Williams, a wooden carved miniature circus with thousands of pieces, info on circus musicians, etc. It is a complete education on the world of the circus.
The visitor center is a history of the Ringling Brothers Circus, with displays on all the brothers there were originally five, then the youngest one joined them. As the business grew larger, they divided their talents and each one had one area of expertise: one managed the day to day set-up and take-down of the travelling show; one planned out all the routes and stops; one managed the money; one searched out the talent and the acts; and one handled all the advertising. It is a real testament to a family working together! The visitor center also has a large collection of circus posters and artifacts from the "spectaculars" which became centerpieces of theRingling Shows for many years.

Finally there is a huge building which houses the museum's collection of circus wagons, as well as the restoration workshop for them. The wagons are masterpieces of folk art, being hand carved and painted, and ENORMOUS--the average height was between 11 and 12 feet. They were built to transport animals, performers, and all the other circus workers, as well as to be advertisingfor the circus when they paraded down the main street of small cities when the circus came to town. They were just wonderful.
I really loved the collection of wagons, and found the information in the visitor's center fascinating. There was also a movie on the idea of circuses in general, which we saw just before leaving. I first learned about Circus World when I read "Water for Elephants", a truly wonderful book, and I am envious of the author, who spent hours doing research at the archives and research facility which is the final piece of this complex. Although the flyers we've seen try to market this as a wonderful circus experience for kids, from my pov I felt that the youngest kids would get tired of it fairly quickly. But for big kids like us, who like learning about the background and history of things, it was a fantastic stop.
We left Circus World at about 5 pm, and quickly came to tonight's campground about 8 miles away. We still haven't actually gotten as far as Wisconsin Dells, which is a couple of miles north of us, and there is so much to do here, it would be easy to spend a week (assuming one could afford it--a lot of these attractions are QUITE pricey!) Having said that however, I think we'll be splurging on several of them. I'm just not 100% sure which ones, yet!

1 comment:

Steve said...

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