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Tommy Bartlett Show closes permanently after 69 years in Wisconsin Dells

The Tommy Bartlett Show cited business losses and crowd restrictions related to COVID-19.

The classic water ski pyramid is performed by members of the Tommy Bartlett Water Show.
The classic water ski pyramid is performed by members of the Tommy Bartlett Show.
Tommy Bartlett Show

After nearly 70 years as a staple attraction in Wisconsin Dells, the Tommy Bartlett Show in will close permanently due to business losses suffered during the pandemic.

Company President Tom Diehl announced Wednesday the show would not be returning after its 2020 show season was canceled due to COVID-19 related restrictions.

The show, started by Tommy Bartlett in 1952, touted a unique touring water ski exposition and has run annually since 1953, even after Lake Delton was drained in 2008 when heavy rains caused a washout. Since 1953, there have been more than 18,700 shows on the lake.

The show season usually ran from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day. The company said it planned to open next summer for its 70th year, but those plans won’t be coming to fruition.

“From May through September 6, we experienced a complete loss of revenue when we had to cancel our 2020 summer season on Lake Delton due to the pandemic,” Diehl said in the statement.

“Each fall, we begin to plan for the next season, and with so much uncertainty surrounding the future of the pandemic and travel, we cannot undergo additional financial risk and investment to begin planning for summer 2021.”

Diehl said while the company was grateful for nearly seven decades of entertaining visitors in Wisconsin Dells, they had “no choice but to close the show.”

The closure eliminated 115 seasonal jobs tied to the show. The company’s year-round attraction, the Tommy Bartlett Exploratory, will remain open and plans to retain its staff of seven year-round employees.