Each year in May, a sure sign of summer is the raising of the Big Top tent near Bayfield, where Big Top Chautauqua holds its summer season of concerts and performances.
Since 2019 a permanent shell over the tent makes the annual tent-raising a thing of the past, but the return of shows to the big tent is still a rite of summer — and a ritual that was not possible last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the music began to flow again on Mt. Ashwabay last week and will continue through Sept. 17.
This year’s 35th anniversary season opened Friday, June 18, with the resident troupe, the Blue Canvas Orchestra, hosted by author and humorist Michael Perry. And in the weeks to come the Big Top will offer a full season with some 50 shows, including nationally-touring artists such as Wynonna Judd, Ani DiFranco, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Mavericks, Tanya Tucker, Garrison Keillor, Steve Earle and Paula Poundstone, plus many more.
Two new shows will feature members of the Blue Canvas Orchestra and special Native American guest artists from the region. Dear Earth: A Love Song/Letter of Hope is a new show featuring the celebrated conservationists from Wisconsin, with beautiful musical compositions, poetry, big-screen photography and lots of humor. Debuting on July 8, the show is written by Ed Willett and Big Top Founder and Visuals Director Betty Ferris.
Anishinaabe Dibaajimowin: An Ojibwe Story is a new show written by Michael Laughing Fox Charette with Big Top Musical Director Severin Behnen. The show features the stories, music and traditions of the Ojibwe people of the Great Lakes region; it debuts on July 30.
Other Blue Canvas Orchestra shows include a BCO Variety Night led by Corey Carlson and the classic Riding the Wind led by Big Top Founder Warren Nelson. For a full schedule of performances and to purchase tickets go to www.bigtop.org or call 888-BIG-TENT (888-244-8368).