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Remembering the Great Circus Parade

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Milwaukee PBS Premieres Remembering The Great Circus Parade
Thursday, February 29, 2024, 7:00 pm, Milwaukee PBS 10.1

Milwaukee PBS is excited to premiere our newest one-hour documentary, Remembering the Great Circus Parade. Between 1963 and 2009, The Great Circus Parade was presented 37 times, and 30 of these were staged in Milwaukee.

  • This is a story of the vision of C.P. “Chappie” Fox, to recreate an old-time circus parade, complete with historic circus wagons, and the efforts of Ben Barkin to bring this amazing extravaganza to the streets of Milwaukee.
  • Producers Dale Palecek and Joseph Sankey explored the video archives of Milwaukee PBS to uncover historic parades and moments, some not seen for 60 years.
  • We learn how Ernie Borgnine, after an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, was to become the Official Grand Clown of The Great Circus Parade. We’ll meet Bob Keeshan, aka Captain Kangaroo, and learn of his circus related past. And, we’ll explore the elements that once made The Great Circus Parade the 3rd largest parade in America.
  • Remembering The Great Circus Parade travels on the circus train drawn by a steam locomotive, we’ll meet a costume designer from original historic circuses of days gone by and see the spectacular of the 40-horse hitch.  And most importantly, this special highlights the beautiful restored and historic wagon collection of the Circus World Museum.


The Great Circus Parade was truly Wisconsin’s National Treasure. The Milwaukee PBS broadcasts were seen nationally on the PBS Network of stations, and at its peak, was seen in over 80 countries and on the Armed Forces Radio and Television network.  The 2000 parade was the first live high- definition television event on PBS.

Joe Sankey had this to say about the documentary.  “While watching the videos of past parades, it struck me how the parade was made to be different each year, with new wagons and bands, always keeping it fresh and exciting.” Palecek added, “It is a salute to the countless volunteers who made this vision of Chappie Fox and Ben Barkin possible.”

Watch Remembering the Great Circus Parade, beginning on February 29 at 7pm on Milwaukee PBS Channel 10.1 with multiple airings on both channels 10 and 36.