Located in the circus town of Baraboo, around the corner from the Circus World Museum, the International Clown Hall of Fame is tucked away in the back corner of a local business multiplex. Look beyond this unassuming exterior, and inside is a bright and colorful ode to clowning and clown culture in the circus and beyond.
This oddball one-room museum has had a storied history. Originating in 1987, the International Clown Hall of Fame started its run in Delevan Wisconsin, which over the years has been home to no less than 26 circuses and has hosted many more. The museum moved to Milwaukee in 1997 where it had a short run before being sent into storage.
Facing the auction block, the museum was salvaged by current curator Greg DeSanto, a former professional clown and circus performer himself. He reestablished it in Baraboo, setting up displays to the hallmark clowns of yesteryear and today. The hall of fame induction process began in 1988 as a way to recognize performers’ outstanding contributions to the legacy of clowning. It began with six initial inductees, and since then 61 renowned clowns have joined the ranks.
Displays range from an explanation of the different types of clowns and their costumes, to the mini car driven by Chester “Bobo” Barnett, to a travel trunk full of clown shoes, plus countless other costumes, portraits, posters, paintings, and clowning paraphernalia.The collections bring back the fond memories of the red nose, the brightly colored suites, and the fun of the circus.
Located in the historic downtown of Baraboo, this museum is an easy walk from any point within town and is a worthwhile visit for children, and children at heart.