It was a cloudy start to Sunday but even Mother Nature sensed today was special and the sun emerged as the Willy Street Fair Parade prepared to launch. As it circled through the nine block route in the Marquette neighborhood, the phalanx of fun proved to be one of the largest by way of participants.
Three marching bands at the beginning, middle and end, punctuated appearances by the familiar: stilt walkers, Hoopelation, the circus wheel and the Forward Marching Band; along with new entrants like the Madison Circus Space and the Mustache Beard Wearers Union: Local 608.
Down on Willy Street the thoroughfare filled quickly as temperatures in the middle 60s and possibly a late-afternoon Green Bay Packer kickoff brought people out early. Over 150 vendors filled the curb spaces and the larger presence was notable. The food offerings were diverse and plentiful but the retail booths did not break much new ground.
37th Annual Willy Street Fair to give us one last great summer weekend
Poster by: David Micheal Miller
The final festival of the summer is here and just in time as fall stares at us all from off stage. The Willy Street Fair (September 13-14) is this weekend, heralding the end of a great season of celebrations within the neighborhood.
For 37 years we have gathered along several blocks of Williamson to recognize many things; but mostly the spirit of neighborhood togetherness, action and culture. While the event is a fundraiser for both Common Wealth Development and the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, organizer Gary Kallas says the community aspect of the fair has always come first.
“It’s more about community building, it’s more about bringing people together,” said Kallas who is Wil-Mar’s executive director. “I like to think of this as sort of secular spiritualism and it culminates the summer, the Willy Street Fair, with the grand, grand ceremony of em all the Parade on Sunday at 11 a.m.”
The first annual Yum Yum Fest held forth in the newly opened Central Park as members of the Madison Area Chefs Network offered their most creative dishes to attendees. The event was created to highlight the strong connection many Madison restaurants have with local food vendors.
Along with the food were four strong musical acts to entertain the throng on a glorious late summer Sunday afternoon.
Madison chefs to serve creative dishes, share skills
Courtesy: Yum Yum Fest 2014
Some may think Madison is one of the snobbiest cities in the land, but there is one thing we won’t apologize for: the festivals. This city packs an incredible amount of these celebrations in our small window of temperature appropriate weather each year. One more event has been added to the summer lineup with tomorrow’s Yum Yum Fest in Central Park.
Created by the newly formed Madison Area Chefs Network; the festival will highlight the incredible, and nationally recognized, dining options that have emerged here in Madison and their kitchen leaders who have committed to sourcing much of their food locally.
Park continues to triumph over tornados, boulevards and development
Anders Osborn during the 2012 Orton Park Festival.
In its long history, Orton Park has had to survive many threats. In 1924 the City of Madison proposed a boulevard with a 12-foot median that would bisect the park. Proponents argued this would improve traffic flow from King Street to the Eastside following the recently opened Rutledge Street bridge across the Yahara. It seems that this route had become a very popular artery for “far” Eastsiders who wanted to avoid railroad crossings at Williamson Street and Atwood Avenue.
The opposition to that project ninety years ago echoes the same reasons why today’s residents guard the tranquility of Madison’s oldest park: its too popular with children. The festival, begun in the middle 1960s, is in its 49th year and grew out of general neighborhood organizing against various development schemes and for neighborhood strength and cohesion.
In the last days of spring, despite rabid stewardship over the years by park lovers including the Friends of Orton Park, Mother Nature also attempted to remake the land when an EF-1 tornado barreled through the Marquette neighborhood early on June 17. While some trees were lost, the park never lost face with even the fallen trees repurposed in a resourceful way.
Metal sculpture installation on 600 block of Willy is complete
Gateway tree just after installation was completed. Courtesy: Facebook
The long awaited Williamson Gateway Tree, created by metal artist Erica Koivunen with assistance from her husband welder and blacksmith Aaron, began to take shape on the median of the 600 block of Williamson this morning (August 3).
The 32-foot is a welding tour-de force involved both rough and finite touches from the trunk to the over 200 flowers that will form the canopy. Koivunen even included insects and birds throughout the tree.
The $60,000 tree is one of several signature art projects forwarded by the MNA Arts & Culture Committee with support from several benefactors including the Madison Arts Commission.
Michael Owen paints a gritty, active, energetic version of his signature piece
Michael Owen’s 22nd Baltimore Love Mural adorns the east side of Plan B Nightclub.
It didn’t take long for Artist Michael Owen to transform the beige, moribund east wall of Plan B nightclub into a vibrant Madison version of his Baltimore Love Mural. It took about two and a half days to finish the work which is only the second version of the mural to have color in the background
Deep blue colors, punctuated by reds dashed on top graffiti-style, fill the street end of the wall before they are abruptly halted by an off white background. In the center the iconic black hands that spell “love” give the viewer a breath and respite.
The blue does not hide for long as it slowly grows from below after the first hand, filling each space before exploding past the “E” hand in a joyful dance of colors toward the end of the building.
Masked Ball for adults and kids joins french, cajun and blues music festival
Underground house music DJ Derrick Carter will headline the Masked Ball Saturday at La Fete de Marquette.
La Fête de Marquette, the French-infused neighborhood celebration of music and culture that raises money for the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center is returning to a familiar but much improved place. Central Park was officially opened this year and La Fête will be the first festival to be held after long delayed plans to develop the space as a park were finally realized.
The first two festivals were held to promote the idea of Central Park and were located on the grounds of the current park. For seven years the festival has grown and matured while it dwelled at the corner of Dickinson and Main Streets. This year features a vast and inspired mix of events including one named Big Top, which suggests the return to a larger space is just in time.
Two Plan B murals and long-awaited Gateway sculpture to debut this month
A version of the Baltimore Love Mural which always features the hands in black. Courtesy: Baltimoreloveproject.com
Symbols of love will begin to grow on the east wall of Plan B nightclub today (July 9) as muralist Michael Owen starts painting a version of his Baltimore Love Mural. The mural features four hands, painted in black, spelling out the word “love” in sign language and is named for the effort to paint 20 walls throughout Baltimore, Maryland.
The project is coming to Madison as part of the Marquette Neighborhood Association’s (MNA) ongoing Arts Initiative which has, along with the City of Madison and other benefactors, sponsored several unique projects known as the Public Art Concept, with a goal of placing art in different forms along Williamson Street.
The initiative, which began with Poetry in Sidewalks, is nearing a crescendo as the Williamson Gateway Sculpture will likely be in place this month. Owen’s mural is the second major mural project in as many years after graffiti artist Panmela Castro’s prodigious piece “The Siamese Twins” evolved on the west wall of Willy Street Co-op East over four days in July 2013.
‘Locally grown ingredients’ for some Willy eateries mean the backyard
The extensive garden in the backyard of Grampa’s Pizzeria which supplies fresh ingredients for their menu.
“Garden Fresh”, the bastardized phrase that appears on just about every menu from fast food joints to high-end restaurants. In recent years there has been a push by local groups such as Dane Buy Local and REAP Food Group and restaurants to use locally grown or produced ingredients like fruits, vegetables and meats.
Some Willy Street restauranteurs are even cutting out that step too by growing their ingredients in their own backyards. Many of the commercial buildings on the street don’t have the space to support gardens, but some places do make it work.
On a small parcel of walkway between the Third Lake Ridge shopping center building and it’s credit union drive-thru is a side door to Bahn Thai where several large pots with green vegetables are growing including a rather precocious basil plant.