The most unique circus you'll ever see is on its way to Wisconsin and Iowa in the coming weeks.

A troupe that's been bringing a river circus to the west coast over the last several years is taking on a big challenge this summer. A trip down the Mississippi River from the Twin Cities in Minnesota to St. Louis, Missouri. Along the way, they plan to do 33 floating circus performances. All of them are free.

The event is called Flotsam River Circus. If you're like me, you've never heard the word "flotsam". Merriam-Webster says it's "floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo." An additional meaning is "a floating population (as of emigrants or castaways)." It is the perfect name.

Flotsam River Circus describes itself as "Foolhardy musicians, circus, puppeteers, a ramshackle raft."

In 2019, the circus traveled the Willamette River in western Oregon. After a couple years away due to COVID, it returned for a tour of the Seattle, Washington area and a series of shows from the Sacramento Delta to San Francisco Bay. In 2023, it's the mighty Mississippi River's turn.

A Kickstarter campaign for the circus is over 95 percent of its goal. The 650-mile trip down the Mississippi River is scheduled to begin on Friday, August 4 with a show in Minneapolis.

Below are the cities in Wisconsin and Iowa where shows will be performed and the dates they're scheduled to happen. Please note, the dates are subject to change. One Illinois show is also included in the list. That date is near Sabula, Iowa.

  • August 12 & August 13: La Crosse, Wisconsin
  • August 15: Lansing, Iowa
  • August 16: Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
  • August 17: Cassville, Wisconsin
  • August 18 & 19: Dubuque, Iowa
  • August 21: Savanna, Illinois
  • August 22: Clinton, Iowa
  • August 23: Le Claire, Iowa
  • August 24-26: Quad Cities
  • August 27: Muscatine, Iowa
  • August 29: Burlington, Iowa
  • August 30: Fort Madison, Iowa
  • August 31: Keokuk, Iowa

The exact locations in each city are to be determined. You can see the full schedule here.

The video below is from a California show last year.

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