In Miscellaneous Milwaukee, we take a stroll through the aisles of Antiques On Pierce to unearth strange, curious, or valuable Milwaukee artifacts.
ITEM: GREAT CIRCUS PARADE POSTER
The Great Circus Parade was held in Downtown Milwaukee 30 times between 1963 and 2009. It was a fundraiser for the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and a deliberate throwback to circus parades of the 19th century. In 1991, the Parade descended on Downtown on July 14, and featured this clown-centric poster:
This particular copy is signed by returning artist Jaye Mortinson, is numbered 78 out of 350, and boasts a still-visible Great Circus Parade seal. And for $250, it absolutely should. (Okay, the frame is nice.)
Was the WMVS telecast of the 1991 Great Circus Parade co-hosted by Captain Kangaroo himself, Bob Keeshan? YES IT WAS. You can watch the 64-year-old Keeshan do his stuff via this 90-minute video:
“Sadly,” all good things that feature caged and terrified animals must come to an end; The Shepherd Express has more on the demise of “Wisconsin’s National Treasure”:
The resurrection of the parade in Milwaukee lasted through 2003, when funding problems again put the event on hiatus. A version of the parade was held in Baraboo in 2004 and 2005, but continued money problems shut the parade down entirely. In 2009, using money from a “rainy day fund” built up by organizers between 1985 and 2003 as well as a new fundraising drive, the parade was revived in Milwaukee once again. The return of the parade was much heralded and 92-year-old Ernest Borgnine revived his role for the event. But even before the circus train arrived in Milwaukee, organizers announced that the event would not return in 2010. It has not returned since.
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• Watch the 1991 Great Circus Parade and imagine a time when circuses, parades, and crowds existed
• Watch the 1985 Great Circus Parade, hosted by Pat Sajak and Vanna White