WisBusiness: Circus Parade will return to Milwaukee


After a six-year absence, the Great Circus Parade is due for a return to Milwaukee next summer.

City officials said bringing the parade to Milwaukee will cost $1.5 million. Though they have no specific figures, they hope the parade and related activities will bring in at least $25 million.

That was the figure cited in a 2003 UW-Milwaukee study that said as many as 400,000 people came to Milwaukee to see the parade.

Steve Freese, executive director of the Circus World Foundation Museum Foundation, predicted the parade will be one of the largest the city has seen. It was held in Milwaukee every summer from 1963 to 2003 before financial problems ended its run.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett pledged to raise, by himself, the estimated $15,000 to pay for city permits for the parade, which is expected to include as many as 50 horse-drawn, painted antique circus wagons from Baraboo’s Circus World Museum.

In addition, Barrett’s office said lakefront show grounds will feature entertainment several days before the parade, including big-top performances by the Kelly Miller circus.

Dave Fantle, vice president of public relations for the Visit Milwaukee convention and visitors bureau, said he hopes the parade can become a national attraction.

“This is a wonderful event and should be great for Milwaukee,” he said. “The question from the economic impact point of view is how do we increase impact for hotels, restaurants and other businesses.

“As we move forward, our goal is to attract national attention to generate positive public relations. But I certainly think we can do it.”

He said he believes people from around the Midwest and beyond – especially those with young children – will want to watch the parade.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Barrett, she is hoping a “perfect storm” of interest will draw even more than a crowd of 400,000, as it has done in the past.

She said 2009 would be ideal timing to bring back the parade because it is the 50th anniversary of the Circus World Museum, the 30th visit of the parade to Milwaukee and the first circus parade in the city in six years.