By Paul Barnes, For the Ashland Daily Press
The year 2020 was a closed-for-the-season deal for much of the live entertainment industry. Bayfield’s Big Top Chautauqua was no exception.
For the most part, there were no tours, no live shows, no special events. Musicians, planners, tech crews and many other people who produce concerts and events were suddenly out of work.
Big Top Board members held out hope that the summer season would not be completely cancelled. But in April, as the depth and breadth of the pandemic became clear, board members canceled the season.
And with that, the resilience, management, and generosity of the organization's leaders, members and benefactors were put to test.
The results? High marks, all around. Expenses were cut as much as possible. Fundraising and outreach were ramped up, while the staff and leadership of the Blue Canvas Orchestra — Big Top’s resident band for 35 years — began creating a new virtual, program: Tiny Tent Show.
“In addition to our long-standing public radio program, Tent Show Radio, Tiny Tent Show truly brought our community together in ways we couldn’t have imagined,” said Kate Barido, advancement director at Big Top. “We had several guest artists join us from as far away as Ireland, Nashville and British Virgin Islands.”
Tiny Tent Show, a weekly venue that began on April 4 and airs every Friday via Facebook and YoutTube, has found many fans while generating more than 12,000 hours of viewing thus far. It’s a success story — one that listeners and supporters have called a bright spot in dark times.
“Before 2020, folks might only experience Big Top one time over the summer while on vacation,” she said. “With our new virtual Tiny Tent Show, we were able to connect weekly and in more intimate settings,” Barido said.
Washburn resident Ness Pierce, a mother of two, recognizes the value of Big Top Chautauqua to local communities and families.
“My experiences at Big Top have always been outstanding,” Pierce said. “It not only brings in artists from far away, but also offers local artists and performers the opportunity to display their talents.”
Like other live-music fans, Pierce was bereft by the season’s cancelation — but determined to make the best of it.
Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua receives a grant from the Wisconsin COVID-19 Cultural Organization Grant Program.
Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua is excited to announce that it has been awarded a grant from the Wisconsin COVID-19 Cultural Organization Grant Program!
Administered by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA), the COVID-19 Cultural Organizations Grant program provides grants to nonprofit organizations whose primary missions are to produce, present, or exhibit cultural disciplines such as music, dance, theater, literature, and the visual arts, or items of environmental or scientific interest.
“We are proud to be recognized as a cultural organization that makes a direct and vital impact on our community and the state of Wisconsin,” said Big Top’s Executive Director Terry Matier. “These grant funds will help our organization continue to provide the creative energy of music and culture at a time when we so sorely need inspiration and connection. With the need to cancel our summer season, Big Top has been faced with expense cuts of all kinds, but has been able to continue connecting with our fans online through our new Tiny Tent Show program staring members of the Blue Canvas Orchestra and special guests, and through our Tent Show Radio program broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio and online. Our fans and supporters have stepped up to the plate to help replace some of the lost income of the cancelled season, and to all of them we are so very grateful! The support of Governor Evers through these cultural grants helps get us closer to bridging the income chasm for this year without a summer of Big Top performances at the Tent."
“Just like small businesses, cultural organizations have taken a major financial hit,” said DOA Secretary Joel Brennan. “We’re all in this together. We hope that these funds will make it possible for us to be able to enjoy the museums, theaters, and music from these organizations once it is safe to do so again.” Grant awards can be used to cover pandemic-related impacts such as lost revenue, increased workers' compensation costs, cleaning and sanitization, and purchases of services or equipment to facilitate telework by employees.
A total of $15 million has been awarded to 385 cultural organizations across Wisconsin. To view the full list of recipients, please click here.
“Just like small businesses, cultural organizations have taken a major financial hit,” said DOA Secretary Joel Brennan. “We’re all in this together. We hope that these funds will make it possible for us to be able to enjoy the museums, theaters, and music from these organizations once it is safe to do so again.”
Gerald “Jerry” Carlson, 86, of Bayfield, Wisconsin passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family on June 7, 2020. He was born in Almena, Wisconsin on April 17, 1934. Jerry graduated from Barron High School in 1951 and went on to receive a degree in Electronics from DeVry University of Chicago in 1953. He then joined the Army during the Korean conflict and served from 1953 through 1956. After an honorable discharge from the army he went on to reside in Minneapolis until 1964 repairing televisions and building electronic devices such as amplifiers. In 1964 he moved to Bayfield and began his lifelong passion of developing Mt. Ashwabay Ski Area, which he operated for the next 48 years. He was also involved in the development and management of Port Superior Marina in the 1970’s and co-owned and operated Salmo Construction with Jim Smith. In 1986, when Big Top Chautauqua raised its first blue tent and every year thereafter, Jerry was not only the crew chief for the tent raising and take-down, he and his wife Carol operated the Mt. Ashwabay concessions until 2012. Jerry was a friend to all who knew him and was the Town Supervisor serving on the Bayfield Town Board for approximately 25 years. He also served on the Bayfield Heritage Association board.
Aside from work, Jerry had many interests throughout his life including skiing, studying history, and astronomy. You could point to any star in the sky and Jerry could tell you its name and how far away it was. He made many close friends throughout his life and to many growing up skiing at the hill, they saw him as a father figure. He will forever be known as the original “King of the Mountain”.
Jerry is survived by his wife, Carol and his children Jodi (Ken) Halida, Corey (Carole) Carlson, Mike (Raena) DePerry, Cheri (Ronald) Moore, grandchildren Kayla DePerry, Dalton DePerry, Deklan DePerry, Sara (Joe) Pelzek, Caitlyn Lautenschlager, Aaron (Courtney) Mick, Taylor (David) Mick, Ronnie Moore, Cohen Moore, and great grandchildren; Abigail Pelzek, Ruth Pelzek, Caden Manceaux, and Connor Manceux.
A private graveside service will be held for family with a Celebration of Jerry’s life to be held at a future date. Family requests in lieu of flowers donations be made to Mt. Ashwabay Ski Area or Big Top Chautauqua.
To view this obituary online, sign the guest book or express online condolences, visit us at www.bratleyfamilyfuneralhome.com