"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!
4-16-16, 5-27-17, 7-22-17, 12-22-17, 4-5-18 + other visits
Baraboo is the county seat of Sauk County with a population of over 12,000. A city with a rich history in the circus, the Ringling family’s influence is woven into the city’s fabric and has been for over a century. Also Delavan, where we also have visited. You can also fly into the Baraboo Airport.
Before you come into the city proper, be sure to stop at Man Mound Park on the outskirts of town.It was a little hard to find, the coordinates are N43°29.309’W089°40.278′ Man Mound Road. On YouTube a short video about the mound.
Legs and feet that are missing are marked with white paint on the road.
There is also a small playground and a picnic bench at the park.
There is so much to see and do here in all seasons of the year. Summer and fall are the busiest seasons. Come in April or May or after Labor Day for smaller crowds. However, some attractions are only open during the summer season. For example, Circus World Museum. The circus performances are from late May to late August. We enjoyed a visit there in late August 2013, they have a free admission day at the end of the season. We returned 5-27-17 for Military Service Appreciation Day, also free.
As charming as these places are, you should see the historic downtown, looking much like it did when the original Ringling family were alive. Downtown Baraboo has its own website to keep us informed of all the great happenings there all year round. The Courthouse Square and nearby has many great businesses to patronize for shopping and dining. The Courthouse is beautiful and it’s chime at 12:00 noon echoed around the square.
This plaque is on a rock outside of the Courthouse.
Baraboo also has its own radio station that we enjoy even in Madison, WRPQ. You can even download their app to listen to it anywhere.
2017-The station is now known as MAX FM.
The Corner Drug‘s distinctive red front makes it easy to find on the square.
Also on this street is the beautiful Al. Ringling Theatre which was restored and still a work in progress. We took the tour on 7-22-17, but it is not permitted to post my photos of the inside. You are allowed to take them during the tour only for your own enjoyment.
Here is what the theatre looks like in December at night.
On the corner of the square left of here is the Little Village Café, a historic building in journalism. You can just see the AL. Ringling mansion to the left down the street.
A block or so from the square is the AL. Ringling Mansion, a beautiful red stone building you can’t miss seeing! Also, we highly recommend taking their tour to see the inside. It’s open daily 11-4, tours every hour on the hour, the last tour starts at 3PM. Cost is $20 Adults
$5 for children 5-11
Free 4 & under
Group rates available.
Photos of the inside are permitted inside but not allowed to be posted on Facebook or other social media. The owners Joe and Carmen Colossa and family also live there and are working hard to transform this beautiful home into a Bed and Breakfast. They purchased the home only in 2013, it seems longer though! The Elks Lodge used to own the mansion, but now just lease out parts of the space.
Joe also gave us an additional tour around town in the afternoon, showing us the cemetery, houses members of the Ringling family owned, and other circus lore.
Meanwhile, the Charles Ringling mansion already is a Bed and Breakfast, called the Ringling House. Such a cheerful yellow in the spring sunshine!
Directly across the street from the AL. Ringling Mansion is another historic site, the first church in Baraboo, long gone.
Baraboo likes visitors and offers plenty of free parking. In this parking lot you can see a new set of mural panels painted by local citizens in 2015. Also another one across from WRPQ. Also an older one from 2013.
As you can imagine, Baraboo citizens have preserved a great many historic buildings and homes. We did our own tour to see them after lunch on our April visit. This city is one of the lucky ones, it has a Carnegie Library. We have seen those in some of the other places we have visited over the years. Visit the Baraboo Public Library to find books on Baraboo’s rich history.
Badgerland Financial sits on the historic site where the Ringling Brothers put on their very first circus show on May 19, 1884.
The House of 7 Gables owners used to give a tour but doesn’t at the present time. They have lived they for 50 years, moved in as newlyweds. Owners Ralph and Pamela Krainik have put a lot of pride into restoring their home for the last 50 years. It was built in 1860. Read more about heir home here.
The Baraboo School Administration building.
All this exploring can make a person hungry, never fear though, there are a great many restaurants in Baraboo to choose from. Around the corner and to the left of the building above is the Broadway Diner. FANTASTIC food, they also are the official caterer to functions of the AL. Ringling Mansion.
The Farm Kitchen on the outskirts of town by Devil’s Lake has been a favorite place of ours since were dating in 1997 to 1999. We often ate there after scuba diving. We had our wedding rehearsal dinner there. This is how it looked in 2009, it has been under new ownership since 2015.
Baraboo offers a wide range of shopping, including the essentials. For groceries, the Viking Express Market has a lot of variety, great store! Even a red pig for the kids to ride!
Another favorite place we like shopping is at St. Vincent de Paul‘s, or Vinnies, just down the hill on 100 South Blvd. within sight of the Broadway Diner. They also have a food pantry. Our tour that Joe Colossa took us on included some Circus Museum train cars and the longest train car building in the USA. They are located BEHIND Vinnies.
If you are tired from walking around downtown, let someone else do the walking, er, pedaling. We spotted a rickshaw parked, make an appointment for a relaxing tour of downtown Baraboo, $20 for 20 minutes.
Climb the East Bluff Trail for beautiful fall color views of the Baraboo Hills below. This was October 9, 2010. Watch the turkey vultures soar above the lake, especially in summer. Sometimes we walked around the whole lake if we had an early start.
Enjoy Ochsner Park and Zoo near downtown. The zoo opened in 1926 and has a great many visitors. The adjacent park is alongside the Baraboo River and has two pavilions for large groups to gather. We found a plaque at the park by the pavilion closest to the zoo, the first home in Baraboo was built on this site.
We always have a great visit to Baraboo. There is always something new to see here and everyone is so friendly! Our parting shot is the swiftly running river going under the Manchester Street Bridge in this park.
The International Crane Foundation celebrates its 40th year, and it was our first time there together. Its located in Baraboo. I went for the first time about 20 years ago, it was Al’s first time. It was great to come back, and it was better than ever, with many improvements and great viewing of the cranes. We got there in time for their 1:00 tour, and also decided to join as well, such a worthwhile organization to be a part of.
We began our tour at the Cudahy Visitor Center, where our guide Elaine started us off with a short film called “Cranes-Symbols of Survival”. Here it is so you can see it too.
After the film we went out to see the exhibits, Elaine giving us an overview of each of the cranes and their story. The Grey Crowned Crane was the first.
The Wattled Crane
Elaine showed us over 10 cranes, to see a map of the grounds and all the species, look here. We were most impressed by the Whopping Crane, now very rare. We are lucky to have the opportunity to see one at this sanctuary.
We had a great time here and plan on coming back again soon, since our membership allows us to visit for free, plus one other guest.
Our travels had us all over Wisconsin this year, but we didn’t make it up to Baraboo the whole summer. We finally made it for fall. We knew it wasn’t peak yet but still knew we would find some bright colors since the trees don’t all change at once. We had to leave the house at dawn to get an errand done in north Sun Prairie and caught a beautiful sunrise there. I think sunrises in fall are the prettiest!
Our errand done, we headed toward Baraboo, the farmers were up and harvesting their crops by the time we got on the road. Here is a shot from the window of harvesting corn, probably field corn for the animals. We approached Portage and saw Cascade Mountain on the other side of the highway. We remembered our visit there last winter and hoped to go there this upcoming winter.
We saw many country scenes like these on the way. We had reached the Baraboo Hills and saw an explosion of color!
Our first stop was Ski-Hi Fruit Farm, now open for the season with apples and other fall produce. You can’t miss the Apple sign guiding you there from highway 12. We got there in time to see them sorting and bagging apples for sale. We bought a bag of Courtland apples.
The colors were brilliant in the hills near the orchard.