A little more than a week ago, the news came out that the legendary, world famous Tommy Bartlett Ski, Sky & Stage Show in Wisconsin Dells was closing permanently due to the economic fallout from the Covid 19 virus.
The announcement was a shocker to most of the show ski community and employees of the Bartlett Show as well as to the Wisconsin Dells/Lake Delton tourist area.
Since 1953, the show had been a fixture of the summer season in Wisconsin Dells. A lot of shows have come and gone over the years, Storybook Gardens, Stand Rock Ceremonial, Fort Dells...but, nothing ever came close to the family fun and thrills of experiencing the Tommy Bartlett Show...live!
I had first seen the waterski show as a young boy when our family went to a performance by the traveling version of the Bartlett Show at McCormick Place in Chicago around 1960. Soon after, we made a trip to the Dells to witness it in its natural habitat. I will never forget that first trip to the show.
The program was always great family entertainment. Show skiers doing big jumps and amazing slalom patterns, the speed boats, the pyramid ski act, the man carrying kite act, the graceful swivel routines of the women skiers, and of course, that crazy but lovable Aqua the Clown.
One of the acts that always brought the crowd to a higher level of excitement was when the Space Shuttle Atlantis speedboat would skim across the water complete with flares lighting up the night sky. From my vantage point on stage, I always loved to see the crowd react when they first saw his monster space-boat open its cargo bay doors and 3 skiers would jump out as I would shout, "Here come the Aqua-Spacemen...Get ready for lift-off...three, two, one!". It was always a crowd pleasure and an adrenaline rush for everyone...what a blast!
In the second half of the show, the stage would bring out the daredevils...the Nerveless Nocks, the Fausto Family acrobats, T.J Howell family jugglers...for many years sound-effects man Wes Harrison was a big crowd pleaser, and of course the finale of the Entrancing Waters.
Over the last 3 seasons, I had the honor of being one of the regular emcees, which was so much fun...I was thrilled to be sharing the stage with all the amazing performers. I sure will miss this great one-of-a-kind family spectacular.
The Dells will never be the same without it.
One part of it will live on. The Tommy Bartlett Exploratory will continue with year round hands-on science base exhibits. It even has one wing devoted to space travel which includes one of the original Mir space station modules which is really something you have to see.
Speaking of space, this episode features my friend Greg Cisko, Independent UFO Investigator. We talk about the recent sightings in New Jersey and the recent report that Russia is claiming the planet Venus as their own.
Anything goes in space, I guess!
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