Milwaukee PBS is premiering a documentary on the Great Circus Parade

Milwaukee PBS is premiering a documentary on the Great Circus Parade

The iconic Great Circus Parade is making a comeback, albeit in a different form—this time on television. Milwaukee PBS is set to premiere the documentary “Remembering the Great Circus Parade” at 7 p.m. on February 29, airing on WMVS-TV (Channel 10).

Originating in 1963, the Great Circus Parade became a beloved fixture of Milwaukee summers, intermittently gracing the city’s streets for over 45 years. Conceived by then-Circus World Museum director C.P. “Chappie” Fox and enthusiastically promoted by Milwaukee PR figure Ben Barkin, the parade became a cherished tradition along Wisconsin Avenue, culminating at the lakefront.

Initially, the parade received funding from the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co., but waning financial support in later years led to several extended hiatuses. The last Milwaukee circus parade took place in 2009, marking the end of an era.

Channel 10 played a pivotal role in the parade’s history, broadcasting the inaugural event in 1963 live and continuing to do so for decades. Eventually, these telecasts gained national attention, further solidifying the parade’s place in American cultural memory.

The documentary “Remembering the Great Circus Parade” delves into the rich history of this beloved event. Producers Dale Palecek and Joseph Sankey painstakingly curated footage from Milwaukee PBS’ archives, unearthing footage that hasn’t been seen in over 60 years. The documentary explores the involvement of various celebrities in the parade, including the intriguing story of Oscar-winning actor Ernest Borgnine’s appointment as “the official Grand Clown of the Great Circus Parade.” Additionally, experts on circus history lend their insights, and viewers are treated to glimpses of the historic circus wagons housed at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo.

For those unable to catch the premiere, Milwaukee PBS has scheduled repeat airings of “Remembering the Great Circus Parade” on March 2 at 10:30 p.m. on WMVT-TV (Channel 36), and on March 3 at 5:30 p.m., March 9 at 7 a.m., and March 10 at 10 a.m., all on Channel 10. This documentary promises to be a nostalgic journey through a cherished chapter of Milwaukee’s cultural heritage, offering viewers a glimpse into the magic of the Great Circus Parade.