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Zitzners Named Big Top Parade Grand Marshals

Zitzners named Big Top Parade grand marshals

A partnership more than a century strong will continue June 8 as Jenele and Merlin Zitzner lead the Big Top Parade as grand marshals.

The couple are longtime supporters of the parade, and Baraboo State Bank – whose board of directors Merlin Zitzner chairs – has partnered with the Ringling Bros. Circus since its early days. The bank extended the Ringling brothers credit during their offseasons as they launched what would become the “Greatest Show on Earth” and Baraboo’s favorite sons later stopped a run on the bank by walking in with bags of cash to deposit, quelling a panic.

“It’s an honor to carry on this tradition of partnership between the Ringlings and the bank,” Merlin Zitzner said.

On June 8, he and wife Jenele will lead the parade through the streets of downtown Baraboo, waving to thousands of onlookers. “I think there’s a lot of people that look to the circus as the backbone to their community and their culture,” Merlin Zitzner said.

The parade will highlight a day full of circus-themed fun, including live entertainment on the courthouse square before the parade and matinee performances of Circus World’s big top show afterward. The parade typically brings 20,000 to 25,000 people downtown, with children of all ages enjoying historic circus wagons, marching bands, animals and community floats.

“It’s a big economic boost for the city,” Jenele Zitzner said. “It’s a big production to put this on.”

The Zitzners fell in love with the circus in 1972, when Merlin Zitzner came to Baraboo to help lead the bank, a key Circus World sponsor. The couple went on to become co-chairs of Circus of the Chefs, a fundraiser that benefited Circus World.

The Zitzners and daughter Tara have appeared in circus parades in Milwaukee and Baraboo. “It has been a family tradition,” Merlin Zitzner said.

For him, that ride down the street will be a trip down memory lane. He remembers seeing his first circus in the 1940s. “It’s always good to re-establish those memories,” he said.

Watch for updates on this summer’s parade and related events at

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