Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Floods, aftermath cost Circus World over $89,000 (From Bob Cline)

79809_thumb, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

The Pawnee Bill circus wagon will be one of 52 elaborately-carved and colorful wagons that will go to Milwaukee for the Great Circus Parade next summer.

By Brian D. Bridgeford / News Republic

June floods cost Baraboo's Circus World Museum $89,000 in lost revenue from being closed a week, and many potential visitors were unaware the museum reopened quickly, the museum's board heard Tuesday.

However, the message the museum is open has been getting out, attendance is rising and there is reason for optimism, CWM Director Steve Freese said.

Circus World Museum Foundation Board members held their regular meeting and reviewed the museum's progress in the aftermath of flooding that shut down performances for five days and caused damage on the museum grounds. The foundation is a nonprofit body that runs the museum on behalf of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, which owns the facilities.

"We get about 50 calls a day from people still thinking we're closed because of the flood," CWM receptionist Deb McCarthy said.

Comparing revenue through July 2007 and the same period this year, income from admission fees, the museum shop and other visitor purchases is down about $89,000, Freese said. Revenues to this point in 2007 were about $471,400, while it is at $382,300 this year.

When the museum re-opened after flooding, attendance was down about 12 percent per day, said Gary Baker, CWM's accountant. And visitors have been spending less.

"I think a fair amount of it is just the economy and the price of gas," he said.

When the museum re-opened June 15, about 11,000 visitors had come through the door, Freese said, compared to more than 14,000 people up to that date in 2007.

Freese said attendance seems to be headed in the right direction, with visitor numbers in four of the last six days substantially above the same days in 2007.

Another sign of a positive direction is that Saturday attendance at the museum has risen substantially, Baker said.

"Last year, I think the first thing people did when they came to the Dells was to go to a water park," he said. "This year, they're obviously doing something different because this year our (Saturday) attendance is maybe 40 or 50 percent higher."

Making and saving money

Baker reported the Circus of Chefs Gala produced $186,000 net revenue for CWM, about $40,000 above expectations, and that will help close the revenue gap. The museum also saved a substantial amount in expenditures and salaries while it was closed.

"The difference (between income and expenditures) is really only about $20,000," he said.

Board member Jonathan Lipp of Madison encouraged museum managers to keep a close eye on the financial situation.

"There is a big gap in the fundraising that cannot be ignored," he said.

Freese said the museum still has a month of the performance season left before it ends after Labor Day. That is enough time to attract more people and make up for losses.

CWM will be working with local radio stations WOLX and Q106 to draw visitors, he said.

Board Chairwoman Renee Boldt said when the museum ends its performance season, staff will intensify their preparation for the next Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee, set for July 12.

"When (singing Ringmaster Dave Saloutos) blows his whistle for the last time, it's parade time," she said.

Freese said they have 52 wagons to prepare for the parade. Right now, restoration staff are working on three of them, the Pawnee Bill wagon, the Elephant Tableau wagon and the Cole Bros. Air Calliope, because they need the most work to be ready for the parade.


Mike Naughton said...

I thought it was appropriate to put this clip with the museum's news.

CUT AND PASTE the link above for some home movies of RBBB setting up during the 30's; it still amazes me that this operation moved everyday.

There is a name on the harness of the elephant -- perhaps someone can make an ID.

Anonymous said...

Many of the wagons seen in this YouTube clip have rubber tires which first suggested that it couldn't be very many years of the 1930s. A second look gave evidence that this was when the big top was air conditioned so it can be dated between 1939 and 1942. By the way, the A/C units could only reduce inside tent temperatures, which already were warmer than outside, about 5-10 degrees. Plus, the A/C units used ice which was not always available.
Dick Flint