by Lynn Goldsmith

Early July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Great Circus parade brings circus history back to life. The wagons that rolled down the streets of Europe as well as America 100 years ago to announce that the circus had come to town, roll again. It is a week-long celebration that starts off in Baraboo, Wisconsin, home of the Circus World Museum, where the wagons have been restored and are on public display. Draft-horse teams come from all parts of the country to load the wagons on to the vintage flat cars in turn-of-the-century style. The circus train travels across Wisconsin and Illinois for two days and arrives in Milwaukee to a showground set with animal petting zoos, horse tents, bandwagons, and the Big Top. For three days people come to see the wagons and share the circus atmosphere. On Sunday, the seventh day , the Great Circus Parade marches down main street: 700 horses, 150 wagons, including the spectacular 40-horse hitch, 250 clowns, a kingdom of wild animals escorted by red-coated outriders, scores of brassy wagon-top and marching bands, hundreds of glittering costumed participants. There are 2500 volunteers who participate in the Great Circus Parade. It’s organized by a non-profit foundation. No product commercials are allowed. Several hundred individuals and corporations agree not to display so much as a logo and collaborate to pay the bill. In a time when our society seems to be motivated to give only with the idea of what it can get in return, the Great Circus Parade is an example of people working together for a common good, working together because of a mutual love. America was built by people who had dreams of what life could be at its best. Neighbors helped each other to make those dreams a reality. The circus still breathes through the Great Circus Parade and so does the spirit of America.