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Archive for wisconsin

Circus History in Wisconsin

By Linda Tancs

Ringling Brothers is synonymous with the circus. And it all started in the unassuming city of Baraboo, Wisconsin. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the locale hosts Circus World, a large museum complex devoted to circus-related history. In addition to the usual artifacts and exhibits (as well as daily circus shows during the summer), you can visit historic Ringlingville. A National Historic Landmark, it represents the site where the Ringling crew would return for the winter months to prepare for the next season. Of the 25 Ringling structures that once existed in Baraboo throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, 10 winter quarters buildings remain today, the largest grouping of circus structures in America.

Superior Architecture in Wisconsin

By Linda Tancs

Fairlawn Mansion is an authentically restored 1890 Victorian house museum in Superior, Wisconsin. Built as the family home for lumber and mining baron Martin Pattison, the Queen Anne structure with its four-story turret is an iconic landmark. Among the jewels restored during extensive renovations are gilded murals on the ceilings and frieze, a grand entrance hall and open staircase, marble and tile fireplaces and original leaded and stained glass windows. The master bedroom suite on the second floor also includes period family furnishings. All tours depart at the top of the hour from the gift shop.

Where the North Begins

By Linda Tancs

Portage, Wisconsin, dubs itself a city “where the North begins.” Located along the Fox/Wisconsin water route, it certainly was an important asset in the Northwest Territory, leading to the construction of a fort there (Fort Winnebago) in the 1800s. The location of the town at the split of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers is what gives the site its name “Portage,” which means carrying a boat or its cargo between two navigable waters. The third oldest settlement in the state, it also boasts the historic Indian Agency House, one of Wisconsin’s earliest houses. The Federal-style house served as the residence of the family of John Kinzie, the U.S. agent for the Winnebago Nation.

Air Adventure in Oshkosh

By Linda Tancs

AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin is the largest annual gathering of aviation enthusiasts. A summer staple, this year’s festival kicks off today through July 31. Some of the world’s top air show performers, including national aerobatic champions, longtime favorites and some talented Oshkosh first-timers are coming to this year’s event. One notable (returning after 30 years) is the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, one of the most popular military aerial demonstration teams in the world. A favorite reunion spot for aircraft clubs, the festival also spotlights milestone anniversaries (30 to 75 years) of aircraft types from across the spectrum, including homebuilts, vintage aircraft, warbirds, aerobatic aircraft and ultralights. More than 10,000 planes will descend on the runways of Wittman Regional Airport, giving much anticipated bragging rights to both national and international pilots. For spectators, several airports served by major carriers are a short drive to all the fun.


World’s Largest Talking Cow

By Linda Tancs

Larger than your average Holstein, Wisconsin’s Chatty Belle in Neillsville is the world’s largest talking cow. Sixteen feet high and 20 feet long, the fiberglass replica is equipped with a voice box, the operation of which has been leaving Belle much less chatty these days. So much for the dairy lecture. Her much smaller son Bullet (at a size befitting an actual Holstein) was also removed from the premises due to vandalism. What does remain nearby is the Wisconsin Pavilion from the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair, used today as a radio broadcasting center.

An Open Door in Wisconsin

By Linda Tancs

Resembling the jagged blade of a knife, Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula separates Lake Michigan from Green Bay. Its sandy reefs and shoals present a hazard for mariners, especially around the treacherous strait between the tip of the peninsula and Washington Island. The number of shipwrecks in this area accounts for its moniker, Death’s Door. It should come as no surprise, then, that lighthouses adorn the area. Some are accessible during the summer months. But three (at Plum, Pilot and Chambers islands) can be reached only during Door County Maritime Museum’s annual Lighthouse Festival in June. Those opportunities include a highly anticipated cruise through the middle of Death Door’s Passage to a tour of the ruins of an 1848 lighthouse, a visit to an 1868 lighthouse and a hike to the 1837 Pottawatomie Light (Wisconsin’s oldest). Tickets for these three tours go on sale the first week of April and sell out quickly.

The Newport of the West

By Linda Tancs

Southwest of Milwaukee, Lake Geneva is a resort city located on Geneva Lake in Wisconsin.  Its lakeside “cottages” evoke the splendor of Newport Rhode Island’s mansions of the Gilded Age–hence, the area has earned the nickname “Newport of the West.”  It’s also the one place in the country where mail is traditionally delivered to the lakeside estates from boat to dock by swift-footed jumpers whose goal is not to miss the boat as it plies the lake without missing a beat.  Legend has it that over 70 species of evergreens are planted on Black Point, one of the most historic mansions ringing the lake.  Other landmarks include The Oaks (where First Lady Nancy Reagan was once squired) and Maple Lawn, the oldest mansion.


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