Talk about iconic, that ski pyramid at the close of the Tommy Bartlett Show never fails to delight show-goers. Plus there’s Aqua the Clown, always a crowd favorite. And the trick skiers, who invariably get the most oohhs and ahhhs. Time to go behind the scenes and learn more about one of the country’s favorite ski teams.
This is the 65th season for the Tommy Bartlett Show in Wisconsin Dells. And while that number is most closely associated with retirement age, the show’s performers are anything but ready to retire. We caught up with Jill Diehl, Executive Vice President and Assistant General Manager there, just days after the show’s Memorial Day weekend opening (which went well, by the way, following five days of solid rehearsals and with the weather doing its part too) to find out what’s new and learn more about the skiers.
Jill paged through bios of the performers to tally their home states and home countries - five from Illinois, 11 from Wisconsin, five from Florida, one from Minnesota, one from Michigan, one from South Dakota, one from Australia, and one from Belgium. Many return year after year, with some of the more senior members of the team serving as mentors to the newbies. Most are college students, but Jill noted there is a skier who’s been with them since the ‘80s and is now into his 50s. Seems skiing keeps you young.
The show has a new theme this year – appropriately “Summer Vacation” – with the Bartlett family taking a summer vacation trip around the world before returning home to the Dells. The costumes are new too.
There’s also a new act this year that’s a first for the show. Evan Krefski from Iron Mountain, Michigan, performs jet ski stunts, like creating his own wake and then jumping the wake, along with flips and twists. He uses a super light jet ski – not the kind you’d tool around on during your summer vacation. And his act is already eliciting a ton of “wow” responses from the crowds.
As for most popular performer, it has to be Aqua the Clown, who’s been featured in the show all 65 years. Skiers in the show get to take turns performing as Aqua.
So, just how much skill is required to be in this show? In a word, lots! Jill noted that their application process is very thorough, as it must be, given the demands of skiing in such a unique show site. Think climbing to the top of the pyramid and then taking a sharp turn in front of the stage on Bartlett Bay. And they do it flawlessly, night after night, all summer long.
Oh, and in case you were wondering (we were), is Jill ever skied in the show, the answer is no. Even though she grew up skiing, she opted to do it just for the fun of it!