Orton Park Fest organizers fine-tune event but neighbor concerns linger
For the forty-eighth time the Marquette Neighborhood and all their friends from beyond will gather under the stately oaks of Orton Park for the festival that bears its name and is emblematic of the people who live here. The Festival, which is put on by the Marquette Neighborhood Association, runs from Thursday through Sunday (August 22-25) featuring an aerial dance troupe, cake walk, auction, and three days of live music from local, regional and touring bands.
From the outside the festival will not be much different from past years, however behind the scenes there has been a reshuffling of responsibilities as longtime director Bob Queen retired last year from his leadership role. Taking over the helm is MNA Vice President Ralph Kuehn who cut his teeth in event organizing through his membership in the Madison Home Brewers and Tasters Guild and their annual event The Great Taste of the Midwest.
“In the past obviously its been mostly Bob Queen, but this year we created a committee and several individuals have taken over some responsibilities.” Kuehn said.
Queen did not go far as he focused on booking the musical acts and fundraising through sponsorships. The free festival is a major income source for MNA with nearly $50,000 flooding into its coffers through sponsors, the auction, and food and drink sales.
Neighbors deny street permit over long term festival issues
Neighbors of Orton Park kept up the pressure on MNA this year to continue to modify the festival to reduce impacts on the parks trees and grass.
Kuehn says like last year, MNA is puttting $3,000 toward aerating and reseeding of grass areas that may not survive the estimated 5,000 attendees each year.
It was proposed that the music stage be moved closer to Spaight Street so that the truck that delivers the stage (a trailer that transforms into a stage) would not further damage the grass and a few tree root systems. However neighbors along Spaight Street were concerned about the additional noise that will be constant each day from the park starting Friday night.
Kuehn says the committee ultimately decided to keep the stage in relatively the same spot and will be using large sections of plywood to help protect the turf underneath. Madison Parks did remove one tree last fall that was behind the stage and that may help with stage placement.
“It will make it easier to put the stage where it was last year, we think, without impacting the park as much.” Kuehn said.
While Kuehn says MNA has been working hard to be responsive to neighbors concerns the long term issues of number of days of the festival, hours, and size and attendance have caused some neighbors in the 1100 block of Spaight Street to push back.
Kuehn says that the street will not be closed this year because over six residents of the 13 residents on the 1100 block of Spaight (75 percent of the block was needed) did not sign the street closure waiver.
“…these issues haven’t been addressed over the last several years, some of the residents decided not to sign the street closure permit. I fully accept and respect their decision.” Kuehn wrote in an message to an MNA sponsored email group.
Kuehn adds that much of the heavy items like tents, tables, chairs, etc. are delivered on the street and then carried into the park; or vehicles drive down the sidewalk that bisects the park to deliver festival items. Also this year, like at La Fete de Marquette, the festival will attempt to compost as much as possible through the City of Madison’s Compost Pilot Program including compostable beer cups.
For the past 15 years Cycropia Aerial Dance, a local collective named for a silkworm moth that is native to Wisconsin, has electrified the first two evenings of the festival with aerial displays to entertain which last year brought thousands into the park.
This year’s show celebrates both the trees that make the park special and the evolution of an American tradition with strong Wisconsin roots.
See what happened at Thursday’s performance here
“It’s an omage to circus and the modern American circus movement…kind of a movement forming all around the world to make circus arts in their more modern form, which is a little less trick oriented and a little more dance oriented,” veteran Cycropia performer Luv Joy Seamon said as the performers were taking a break during a Wednesday evening dress rehearsal.
“Quercus” is the genus of trees that include Oak trees” Seamon adds before she is summoned by a man in a harness halfway up the massive oak that has been the centerpiece of Cycropia’s Orton performances.
This year 23 performers including a musician and two children on stilts will perform seven pieces featuring many custom-made aerial apparatuses designed specifically for the Orton show. This includes a steel trapezoid with silk fabric that creates the shape of a ship floating through the air. Cycropia will headline Family night with a performance at 7:45 p.m. and an additional Friday show at 8:30 p.m.
Music, cake, and enhanced bike parking
Music and dancing has always been a fixture at our neighborhood festivals and the 32 x 24 parquet floor will be back to facilitate good times. Friday’s music lineup features a very popular state act, Paul Cebar and Tomorrow Sound which will be making their first Orton appearance.
Saturday’s bands is “pure Americana” featuring six different styles according to the MNA website and features among the acts three Madison groups: Kissers, The Midwesterners, and Tennessee transplants Count This Penny. Sunday the festival will feature its first classical music act when the woodwind quintet Black Marigold will serenade during the Jazz Brunch.
See the 2013 Orton Park Festival schedule here
The rest of Sunday the festival will bring the blues and the funk with John Primer and guest harmonica player Martin Lang and other cross-state artists from down-south in what the festival is billing as their Chicago to Madison Blues Jam.
The day will round out nicely with Lake Street Dive’s and Big Sam’s Funky Nation.
Food vendors from many local restaurant favorites will be on hand as well as the pizza and burger stand operated by Wil-Mar Center volunteers with all proceeds going toward Wil-Mar and MNA. Bike parking will be improved this year with more bike racks, a bike livery operated by the Bike Federation and Madison B-Cycle will have a virtual kiosk set-up in the park for drop-offs and pick-ups.
Finally, two traditions that have stood the test of time, the MNA Auction and the Cake Walk (musical chairs, but with cakes!), will be held Sunday as part of the fundraising portion of the festival. Cake donations for the Cake Walk will be taken until 2 p.m. on Sunday. Plus there is even fun for grandma as Boy Scout Troop #24 will be operating the Bingo tent Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
Related: Cycropia’s Enchanted Evening
Related: Gallery Sunday 2012
Related: Gallery Saturday 2012
Related: Cycropia Dazzles Orton
Related: What Cyrcopia Aerial Dance has planned for this year’s show
Related: Is the Orton Park Festival too successful?