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Tommy Bartlett – The Man, The Legend

Tommy Bartlett is a household name. When you think Tommy Bartlett, you think skiing in Wisconsin Dells. Bartlett had an illustrious entertainment career spanning more than 70 years. His roots were in broadcasting. He started at age 13 working for WISN radio in his hometown of Milwaukee. He later moved on to television where, during a broadcast, he saw a water-ski show that became his inspiration.

The Tommy Bartlett Water Ski & Jumping Boat Thrill Show was born in 1952 – a traveling show out of Chicago. At only its second stop, Wisconsin Dells, the show was a hit, and local leaders asked Tommy and his crew to stay permanently. The Wisconsin Dells Water Show was born. Since then, what has evolved into the Tommy Bartlett Show has wowed audiences of all ages on the scenic shores of Lake Delton. The show’s timeless appeal continues to make it one of the most favorite shows for families in Wisconsin Dells enjoyed by generations.

Throughout the decades, the show continued to tour, performing at World’s Fairs and embarking on U.S.O. and other good-will tours that exposed millions of people worldwide to the thrill of water-skiing. In the 1970s, Bartlett significantly expanded his show, which helped turn Wisconsin Dells into a major tourism destination. To this day, the Tommy Bartlett Show is a must see Wisconsin Dells tourism event.

Tommy Bartlett Show Evolution

Throughout its history, Bartlett’s water extravaganza has continually evolved, combining choreography, famous entertainers, amazing stunts and state-of-the-art sound and visual technologies. It is the longest-running, live, outdoor entertainment show of its kind. Tommy Bartlett created good, wholesome family-friendly entertainment. He brought it to the Dells and shared it with the world. More than 20 million spectators have experienced the vision of Tommy Bartlett at the Wisconsin Dells family show.

In 1993, after years of dedication to the sport, Bartlett, at age 79, was inducted into the Water Ski Hall of Fame in Cypress Gardens, Florida. Ironically, he only ever water-skied once in his life – on his 70th birthday. Bartlett passed away in 1998. He was 84.

By: Tommy Bartlett Staff
Last Updated: 05/19/2016