The Late Great Circus Parade.
The Great Circus Parade had been a Milwaukee tradition since 1963.
It had been an American tradition for a hundred or more years before;
but it was a tradition that had mostly died out. In the early days,
circuses had traveled the countryside in wagons, stopping at the edge of
town to set up their tents and put on a show.
The circus brought great excitement to the various towns in which it stopped; but the 20th century was not kind to the institution. First came movies, and then radio and television, so that people were suddenly used to being constantly entertained. Then came the growth of the cities. In the old days, the circus was always a welcome and anticipated event - no one gave any thought to having the circus wagons and performers proceed down main street. Suddenly, it was different. Now you needed permits, licenses, and special permission. It was also getting to be much more complicated to find a place to set up and perform. Vacant lots and open fields were getting hard to come by, and were much more expensive. Then there were taxes, visits by city inspectors, and a whole gamut of legal requirements. Suddenly, the circus didn't feel so welcome anymore. Even so, the circus was still a classic and viable institution well in to the thirties.
The Second World War probably sealed the fate of the traditional circus. Train transport, gas for vehicles, feed for animals, and other resources were harder to come by, and everything was dedicated to the war effort. After the war, a comeback of sorts was attempted; but tastes had changed, and old habits had died. Today, people go to NAASCAR, theme parks, and various sporting events, or they simply hit the road, and travel. For many, amusement and entertainment come from the cable, the Internet, or the home DVD player. If you want to see an elephant, you turn on the nature channel. We have become quite used to doing things by proxy, or watching other people have our fun , and even play our games, for us.
I am not a circus expert, though I always enjoy the circus, and the parade when they come to town. Fortunately, Dave SaLoutos
and Circus World Museum kindly sent me a list and marching order for the parade. I thank them for this, as it saved me from many hours of research, and probably a number of mistakes. Many of the captions are taken pretty much verbatim from this list. The parade took place on Sunday July 12th at 1:30, and lasted around two hours. According to the program, there were 132 units in the parade. I am looking forward to the next one, whether it is next year, or in a few more years.