The 2009 Great Circus Parade ® was a spectacular two-hour tribute to lavish street pageants produced by showmen of the golden era of the American circus.
The parade stepped out on July 12 at 1:30 pm with a prelude fanfare of high-wheel bikes, the Milwaukee Police Band, antique firefighting equipment, mounted police and sheriff posses, antique automobiles with political dignitaries, and the mayor of Milwaukee.
After that, the parade became entirely horse drawn with 50 authentic circus wagons, 350 exquisite horses, 30 musical bands and novelties, exotic animals, 150 clowns and over 450 riding and walking performers dressed in lavish circus wardrobe. It was impossible not to feel the special excitement and joy that only a circus parade can provide as it trumpeted throughout the city's major downtown thoroughfares before ending on Michigan Street. This event continues to be one of the nation's largest parades.
Click on any photo to see a larger version. All photos courtesy of photographer Mark A. Stall.
A favorite of the Ringling Section was Wagon #39 — The Ringling Bros. Giraffe Wagon pulled by four Sorrel Belgians. The teamster was Terri Kipp-Johnson of Loyal, WI. The giraffe was provided by Animal Entertainments.
Two members of the Elegant Equestriennes 12-member troupe, who wore burgundy velvet trimmed in silver and jewels. Michelle M. Liggett was the coordinator for this International Section troupe.
One of the popular animal features was the #23 — Hagenbeck-Wallace Cage Wagon pulled by four black Percherons owned by Gary Nampel of Watertown, WI. Inside the wagon were three Royal Bengal Tigers provided by Animal Entertainments.
Another feature of the Patriotic Section was Wagon #76 — Christy Bros. Beauty Tableau pulled by four matched Percherons owned by Tim & Linda Klinger of Glenwood City, WI. The nine sailor girl costumes were made by Peg Colburn, wardrobe designer at Circus World.
Foremost in the Patriotic Section was Wagon #47 — Ringling Bros. U.S. Bandwagon pulled by 12 Sorrel Belgians. The teamster was Walt Schaefer of Winfred, SD. The Milwaukee American Legion Band sat atop the wagon and played period circus music under the direction of Richard Schwartz.
The Rainbow Equestriennes were a Ringling Bros. feature recreated for the Circus Splendors Section. The unit consisted of 18 female riders, wearing six different colors, creating a rainbow on the streets of downtown Milwaukee.
Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters rode in a Wooden Farm Wagon pulled by two mules owned by Don Bales of Subula, IA. This Children's Section favorite included Mary L. Simmons as the stepmother and Keiandra and Kiara Honeysucker as the two stepsisters.
One of the most popular features of the Children's Section was The Baraboo H. S. Marching Clown Band under the direction of Greg Lang.
One of the most popular wagons was The Ringling Bros. Bell Wagon. The Ringlings referred to it as "The Grand Golden Cathedral Bells of Moscow's Famous Kremlin Towers." It was built in Baraboo, WI, in 1894 with its carvings and bells manufactured in Milwaukee. It was pulled by six black Percherons owned by Dick & Marie Brown of Hudson, IA. The bells were played by Carolineer Rory Bolton of Sauk Prairie. WI.
Wagon #52 — The F. J. Taylor Bandwagon was pulled by six gray Percherons owned by James & Lori Volden-Olsen of Cashton, WI. Playing atop the wagon was the 12-piece Windjammers band under the direction of circus musician and composer, Charles Schlarbaum. The Windjammers are an international group of musicians dedicated to preserving circus music literature.
The Circus Parade Festival grounds, on Milwaukee County's Veteran's Memorial Park, was the site of the four-day festival celebrating the American Circus. The event was attended by over 125,000 people.
Three Franzen Bros. elephants appeared near the close of the parade with riders Tara Zitzner, Lindsay Schneider, and Arianna Lipp. The elephant wardrobe was created by Peg Colburn at Circus World in Baraboo, WI.