Special guest Billy Rainbow to join Labor Day Parade this weekend in McGregor

submitted by Lucy (Rodenberg) Anderson

McGregor’s Labor Day Parade this year will ‘tickle’ kids, and grown-up’s fancy’ more than ever with the appearance of a special guest appearance of ‘Billy Rainbow.’ Area residents familiar with local history just might recall Billy as  he was connected to the Ringling Brothers of worldwide circus fame. To those unfamiliar with this history, let’s go back to the time that the Ringling family lived in McGregor from 1860-1872 and where four of their sons were born.
Augustus Ringling was a harness maker in several places before settling in McGregor where he operated his own shop. One day, a circus visited town and the family received a family pass to the performance due to the fact that Augustus had repaired some leather for one of the performers.
The older boys were enthralled by the performances they viewed and decided they should have a ‘circus’ of their own. The boys disregarded the fact that they had  no money, or other resources, to accomplish this and using what they had available, and with determined perseverance, they presented their first show. This mostly consisted of a ‘moving panorama’ picture show from old wallpaper with scenes from ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’  ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ ‘Bluebeard,’ and others. The older brothers put their heads together and creativity into play by providing ‘rollers’ to move the shows along and a frame covered with brown wrapping paper disguised the apparatus.
This proved not to be successful enough and  the  brothers were more determined than ever to make their ‘circus’ better and learned new tricks such as acrobatics, juggling and plate spinning. They added pets with imaginative names  and  learned to play some  instruments as time went on. Now, we finally reach the point where ‘Billy Rainbow’ came into play.
Seeing a goat wandering around much of the time, the boys adopted the apparently abandoned Billy goat, painted his horns red, and   presto, ‘Billy Rainbow’ became the leader of some of the first parades by the brothers. History shows that Billy led at  least  two of  the brothers’ more accomplished  parades in McGregor before the family moved to Prairie du Chien, WI due to Augustus Ringling’s decreasing business. It’s not shown in records what happened to Billy Rainbow, but we would hope that he had a happy life and that this present Billy Rainbow will again bring a smile to parade goers as the first did so many decades ago.
Besides Billy Rainbow’s guest appearance, the parade will include fortune teller ‘Madame LuSay,’ who will give parade watchers their fortune for a mere 10 cents. Another very special appearance will be that of the Shriners as they once again provide entertainment at its best among other  fun entries.  Those interested in participating in the parade may call the McGregor Chamber at 563-2186.
An added  note of interest is that the parade will be honoring the upcoming (2016) 150th Birthday Anniversary of  John Ringling, who with his brothers gained the title of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.’