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Racine’s Calliope has been saved by generous donation, once again.
The Calliope is an instrument similar to an organ, which produces circus-reminiscent music by forcing steam, gas or compressed air through whistles. And this is the third time Racinians have forked over money to save the instrument so that they can hear it in the parade on the Fourth of July.
The latest rescue was typical for the 21st century. The old instrument needed repairs, so a Go Fund Me campaign was established, and voilà: it’s been repaired.
The instrument was purchased by Walter “Doc” Gearen, a local dentist, in 1938. And he played it in the parade for 40 years.
Racine lost the Calliope for just under a decade between 1979 and 1987 when it was sold to some Milwaukee circus collectors. Thus, in the late 80’s, like the creature from the black lagoon, it returned. This was thanks to Ross and Terri Blomgren. Ross then played it the next five years, until he left for Los Angeles.
So in 1993, following the Blomgrens departure from this fair city, Dr. Joseph Geenen along with his wife Nancy, bought the instrument and donated it to the Kiwanis Club of Greater Racine, which in turn donated the thing to the Fourth Fest of Greater Racine in 1999.
It was also the Geenens who stepped in with a $5,000 donation to the Go Fund Me campaign this year to finance repairs and maintenance.