"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 :)
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.
Wonewoc is a small community of 816 people in Juneau county that plays an important role in the bicycling community by being the half-way point of the 400 State Trail. The community was originally settled by Yankee colonists from New England. The name Wonewoc means “howling hills”. This is the “driftless area”, untouched by the glacier. George and Lucinda Willard settled here in 1851. The railroad helped build this community, it is no longer here though.
Lets begin by exploring downtown Wonewoc, most buildings are made of red brick here. I also noticed nearly every storefront was occupied too, a good sign of a healthy economy. The town keeps the residents informed of local events and supports their business with their Facebook page, Wonewoc Main Street Merchants.
The first store on our left is Beyond Boundaries, LLC (formerly Talg’s Feed Mill, over 100 years old!). They rent canoes, kayaks and bikes. The Baraboo River flows through town a short distance from here and helped power early industry. Across the street from Beyond Boundaries is the Veterans Memorial.
The side street is Washington Street, where we find the original City Hall building.
I even found a plaque recognizing all the people and organizations that helped re-vitalize downtown. Also a great mural.
We come to the other end of the street and Old Blue’s Pizzeria and the Wonewoc Bakery. I stopped in the bakery and got 6 doughnuts, only $3.60 and very good! The owners are very friendly and would love it if you stopped by. Here are their hours.
Wonewoc was also home to noted Dode Fisk, gravestone monument located in Pine Eden Cemetery at the edge of town. He owned a circus and traveled the country.
Now for the 400 trail. Just behind downtown is the trail, with a depot, restrooms and signage listing the downtown businesses. Hungry bikers will have plenty of options for refreshment at this convenient midpoint.
Our final destination here is the Canoe Landing. This used to be where the mills were located, powered by the Baraboo River. It is now called “The Lost District”, where Wonewoc Began.
That summarizes our visit to Wonewoc. We look forward to our return, perhaps at one of their many festivals.