- Associated Press - Saturday, February 7, 2015

BARABOO, Wis. (AP) - Circus World Museum is rolling out a new program on wagon wheels.

The Baraboo historic site recently launched an Adopt a Wagon program to raise money for restoration of its unparalleled collection of circus wagons. For $200 to $1,000, donors can help fix up wagons of their choice.

“People don’t realize what it takes to restore one of these wagons,” Harold “Heavy” Burdick, the museum’s wagon superintendent, told the Baraboo News Republic (https://bit.ly/1FbaQ9F ).

Circus World also launched a membership program, the Center Ring Society. Performance director Dave SaLoutos said both programs generated traffic for Circus World’s website when they were introduced earlier this month.

“I wouldn’t say they are going viral, but they are getting quite a few hits and sparking interest,” he said.

Under the Adopt a Wagon program, visitors to www.circusworldbaraboo.org can choose a wagon and, in exchange for their donation, enjoy perks such as Circus World passes and behind-the-scenes access.

SaLoutos said the wagons require many hours of annual care and maintenance. Proceeds from the Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee used to fund that work, but since the parade was discontinued, Circus World leaders have been looking for a new revenue source.

Burdick once oversaw a staff at Circus World’s wagon shop, but today only he and volunteers undertake restoration work. That means some projects progress slowly. An infusion of cash would allow the museum to buy materials and hire contractors to move restoration work along.

Two wagon restoration projects are currently underway at Circus World. Both aim to rebuild wagons that haven’t seen the street since the last Great Circus Parade in 2008.

The Italian bandwagon, dating to the 1860s or ‘70s, is nearly street-ready after about a year of work. Carvings were removed and fixed, and the wagon was sanded and repainted.

Burdick said the bandwagon will appear in this summer’s Big Top Parade. “That’s good to see it back and done,” he said.

A project farther from completion involves the 1882 Old Woman in the Shoe float. Burdick and volunteers are rebuilding the float, using as many original pieces as possible. Local woodcarver Homer Daehn will be hired to replace pieces that are beyond repair.

“It’s a project, there’s no doubt about it,” Burdick said. “We don’t know what we’re going to get into when we take it apart. It’s going to take some time.”

Given time and money, the shoe’s gold-leaf paint will shine like new again. “It’ll look better than it ever did,” Burdick said. “It’s going to be spectacular.”


Information from: Baraboo News Republic, https://www.wiscnews.com/bnr

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