"Wisconsin-Happy Festival State", by Eve Phillips. My husband and I love to travel in the state of Wisconsin where we live and get great pictures on the way. My name is Laurie Kutil and photography has become a great passion of mine since 2010. One thing I have learned in researching each town before visiting it is that, "Every town has it's story". When I do uncover those stories by connecting with local residents, our experience becomes so much richer. In turn, sharing the stories with you brings me joy :)
Farm tours are available Tues-Fridays, 11 am & 3 pm, Saturdays, 11 am 1 pm, & 3 pm. You can book your venue here as well. Call 608-477-4023.
Summer is here and so is the lavender! It wasn’t blooming yet on June 8, so we came back July 3rd when it was! The New Life Lavender and Cherry Farm in Baraboo is a peaceful refuge from the Wisconsin Dells and a chance to enjoy creating memories with your family. When the plants mature, you are invited to buy one to bring home.
Inside the store, you can buy many products made with the lavender, including bakery items and ice cream. See offerings here. You can also buy essential oils, soap, lotion, and many other items, even fudge!
Next to the farm store is an outbuilding with a beautiful lavender barn quilt on the side. It was painted by artist Vicki Baumgarten. She also manages Narrows Creek Winery as well.
You can also take a tour behind a tractor to see all of the fields and get a running commentary as well. It lasts for one hour.
There are many great opportunities to take a portrait of you and your family here. There is a selfie station to put your phone on under the canopy.
This is an example of what this photo would look like.
You can also bring a tripod to take one in other spots. We also at among the lavender and got this great shot. This one is our favorite.
Plan your visit now to the New Life Lavender and Cherry Farm in Baraboo before summer is over!
Nestled within the 102 4th Avenue Retail Center on the Baraboo Square is the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center. The museum’s Executive Director, Greg DeSanto, made this valuable resource a reality in Baraboo on May 21, 2010. He saved this museum, the artifacts were in storage for four years after it failed in Milwaukee. It originally was in Delavan, also a circus town. We met him on our visit, such a funny guy! Not surprising, since he is also a clown, along with his wife, Karen. Learn more about Greg here.
Since we were here for the Big Top Circus Parade, learning more about the history of clowns was a great addition to the day. We could tell by the festive appearance of the doorway it was going to be a fun visit!
Tours are conducted daily at 2:00 PM June through August.
Winter Hours: From September through May we are open by appointment only.
Admission: $8.00 Adults $5.00 Children Under 12
See our tour here, conducted by Toto Johnson in 2019.
Toto began the tour by introducing the three kinds of clowns.
Inside is a large room with displays dedicated to famous clown past and almost present. Displays change often as they got donations of artifacts.
On our visit in 2017, Sandy Weber conducted the tour. He also designed the beautiful signage you see throughout the museum. He covered topics like the clown’s roles in history and pointed out the artifacts from their performance days. Most artifacts have been donated by family members of each clown.
Toto Johnson was our guide in 2019, his anecdotes really made the tour special! He had the full attention of the kids on the tour! Toto is on the museum’s Board of Directors and his enthusiasm is contagious! In the photo, he’s telling the kids about the clown car and how as a young clown in the 1980s, he had to be the first one inside the car. The highest-ranked clown stayed outside, their role was to open and close the door! They never had to even had to get in. He worked for the Ringling Brothers in 1986, after graduation. Toto attended the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown Collegein 1985 and a documentary was made. The video plays on a screen at the museum.
Click to enlarge.
They also had a great exhibit for Happy the Clown, Jim Williams, formerly of Circus World Museum. I saw him perform there in 1980, my first visit to Circus World Museum. He passed away in 2015 at age 71 😦
Bobo‘s tiny clown car, I don’t know how he got in, he was about 6’3″. He kept that a secret! One good guess is that he began his circus career as a contortionist and used those skills here. Clowns are indeed athletes in makeup!
A short video of Bobo Barnett getting out of his car, complete with luggage and dogs. Amazing!
His daughter, Christiana Barnett-Murphy, has a YouTube channel with more video. She also wrote a book about her experiences of being this famous clown’s daughter.
Speaking of interesting clown vehicles, the bathtub car. It was driven during the Big Top Circus parade!
An important circus secret to preventing infection to cuts is Sea Breeze. Toto told us how they kept this on hand to keep cuts from getting infected.
We had a wonderful summer this year. We were having so much fun going to so many great events around Wisconsin we didn’t have time to write about it yet, let alone spring! Our South Dakota and Wyoming trip took us 4 months to write about we saw so much!
Meanwhile, enjoy our video of Summer 2017. More details coming later about what we did. We never run out of things to do in this great state!
At 2:00, we returned to the AL. Ringling Mansion, owner Joe Colossa kindly offered to take us on an additional tour of Baraboo. He is an authority of circus history, particularly of the Ringling family. Our self-guided tour in the morning had a lot of gaps since a lot of what Joe knows about Baraboo and the Ringling family did not turn up in my research. The internet is a good research aid, but not a complete source of information. Talking to PEOPLE is important too for gathering facts.
We piled into Joe’s vehicle and we were off! We headed first to Walnut Hill Cemetery to see the grave sites of the Ringling family members. In recent years we have included cemeteries are part of our trip itineraries since they often include grave sites of important citizens of the communities we visit.
The first two we saw on our earlier visit this morning. The mausoleums of AL and Lou Ringling and Henry Ringling were not hard to find, as they were among the tallest monuments there. Notice how Al’s is a little more ornate on the outside?
Next to Henry’s mausoleum and just beyond it on the backside are more grave sites. on right is an area with a border of stone and many small markers. It has a few steps and says “Ringling” at the top of the steps. Here are the three sites inside of the enclosure.
What we didn’t know when we stopped by in the morning was just over this small hill were more family grave sites. These are quite old. The Newer Moeller one is family relation too.
Also nearby were these.
We didn’t know this in the morning, but St. Joseph Catholic Church occupied the right side of the cemetery. See map here. A rather ornate Ringling monument stands, located near the street.
Quite the thorough overview of the cemeteries. The next segment of our tour were the many houses the Ringling family have owned over 100+ years. This small home is where the large Ringling family began, before achieving fame and becoming wealthy.
Other homes, I do not remember who owned them. We went quickly from house to house. All were members of the Ringling family though.
The last part of our tour are artifacts that were unknown to us. BEHIND the St. Vincent de Paul store on Broadway are old rail cars and rail car buildings that are seemingly abandoned by Circus World Museum.
This is the largest known rail car building for storage. We could barely see the other end!
Next to it is the last elephant car, slowly being broken down by our harsh weather and lack of care, sad ! 😦
Also an assortment of flat rail cars used in their circus parades, now sitting unused since about 2003.
I held the camera over the fence and got this view of the long building and an even older train.
This concludes our one-hour tour of Baraboo. We look forward to meeting up with Joe again to see more later. Thanks for the fun history lesson!