Ella’s Carousel Preparing to Twirl

Landmark restaurant readies its showcase attraction for 2014 season

First tangible sign of spring? Ella's 1927 Parker Carousel is being prepared for the season.

First tangible sign of spring? Ella’s 1927 Parker Carousel is being prepared for the season.

There are many signs of spring: ground hog predictions, re-discovered yard implements from six months ago, as well as sand and grime-infused mounds of recalcitrant snow that defy solar. One additional sign noticed this week is that the process has begun to rouse the Ella’s Deli and Ice Cream Parlor carousel from hibernation.

Ella’s Deli has been a wonderland for children since they opened their East Washington Avenue location in 1976. The fanciful mechanical “animations” as they are termed on the restaurant’s website, are perfect distractions when dining with young children.

Many of these creations as well as the theme of the restaurant was inspired by a visit owners Ken and Judy Balkin made to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo. Ken, along with other employees and local artists, would add to the collection over the years which is like a kaleidoscope, ever changing each time one enters the restaurant.

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These Kids Are All Right

East High cultural series hopes to encourage more involvement by neighborhood

The Accidentals play Cargo Coffee on March 21, 2014.

The Accidentals play Cargo Coffee on March 21, 2014.

Jazz music wafting through a coffee shop on a Friday evening is not uncommon, nor impressive unless you were at Cargo Coffee Friday night (March 21). A spoken word performance usually garners an echoey smattering of applause, and maybe a spirited “Woo!” from a patron, but not this night.

It could have been their ages, but more likely it was the polished, inspired, and passionate performances of Madison East High Students that brought enthusiastic applause from supporters and customers during a fundraiser to help make healthy snacks available to students at East.

Hungry students is not just an East high problem but is leading some to raise a larger question: Are Near East Side neighborhoods too detached from East High students? Friday’s event at Cargo Coffee shows there is much young talent to appreciate and support.

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East Students to Fight Hunger With Jazz & Spoken Word

Event to raise money for healthy snacks for EHS students

FrontView_H650A unique event will be held this Friday from 6-8 p.m. at Cargo Coffee on East Washington Avenue to help Madison East High Students struggling with hunger to have better access to healthy snacks. East students will present “An Evening of Jazz and Spoken Word” to raise money for a healthy snack program for students.

Marquette Neighborhood Association Board Member Lynn Lee who also is co-owner of Cargo Coffee says there is little in the way of healthy options for students at East and many, due to their economic situation, come to school without breakfast.

“MNA and Cargo [Coffee] are going to hold a series of fundraisers to donate money to help stock these snack supplies.  Besides the Peat-Piper Scholarship, MNA has been looking for other ways to have a positive impact on our neighborhood schools.”

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Star Bar Ready to Shine

One Barrel and Jade Monkey owners collaborate, open bar in Capitol East District

Star Bar, 756 East Washington Avenue, is on the first floor of The Constellation building.

Star Bar, 756 East Washington Avenue, is on the first floor of The Constellation building.

A new bar opening in the 700 block of East Washington Avenue plans to fuse Madison’s near-East Side industrial heritage with the present-day funky vibe of the Tenney and Marquette neighborhoods.

Star Bar, operated by Peter Gentry and Hawk Sullivan, opens January 16 on the first floor of The Constellation building, part of a slate of first floor retail offerings for the 12-story mixed-used building which opened last year.

Both men grew up in the Marquette neighborhood and hope to create a bar that is accessible to the surrounding neighborhood while also seizing on the rising activity in the Capitol East District. Gentry opened One Barrel Brewing on Atwood Avenue in 2012, while Sullivan is a longtime business owner with three other hospitality establishments in greater Madison.  Continue reading

My Fair Willy

36th Annual Willy Street Fair prepares to make us happy to be neighbors

Courtesy: David Michael Miller

Have you got time for one last summer festival? The Willy Street Fair will straddle the Autumnal Equinox this year with sunny and 65 predicted for Saturday September 21 and Sunday September 22, the first day of fall.

The fair is a major fundraiser for Common Wealth Development and the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. Common Wealth Development and the neighborhood at large have gotten pretty good at putting on this event. The food and retail vendors are more numerous, the music stages highly coordinated and more spophisticated, but the inclusive soul of the neighborhood still shines through.

Maybe its just me who has noticed this but, now fair Saturday is named as “The Willy St. Warm-up” and the actual fair is Sunday. Don’t be confused by these marketing semantics, there will be music, fun, dancing, and food each day, all day.

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Cycropia’s Enchanting Evening

Circus Quercus amazes and delights Family Night at Orton Park

Luv Joy Seamon (center) and two other Cycropia performers during the opening act of Circus Quercus on Family Night at the Orton Park Festival, August, 22, 2013.

Luv Joy Seamon (center) and two other Cycropia performers during the opening act of Circus Quercus on Family Night at the Orton Park Festival, August, 22, 2013.

Several thousand people, most of them families, gathered under the grand oak next to the Orton Park gazebo to watch Cycropia’s salute to the trees of the park and the modern circus movement with their performance of Circus Quercus.

Crycropia uses various rings, trapezes, and custom-made metal apparatuses adorned with colorful silks and suspended from trees in their performances. Thursday (August 22) was a veritable mid-summer night’s dream as theater-style lighting allowed the performers to fade in and out of the darkness like one had happened upon playful forest creatures in a clearing on a glorious summer evening.

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The Festival Among The Quercus

Orton Park Fest organizers fine-tune event but neighbor concerns linger

Anders Osborn during last year's Orton Park Festival.

Anders Osborne during last year’s Orton Park Festival.

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.

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Scenes from La Fete de Marquette

A view from the Big Wheel of  La Fete de Marquette, Saturday July 13, 2013.

A view from the Big Wheel of La Fete de Marquette, Saturday July 13, 2013.

La Fete de Marquette benefited from glorious weather this weekend with sunny skies and highs in the 80s. The sun splashed French music and culture festival to benefit Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center overcame the slightly uncomfortable temperatures at times to provide foot-stomping music both on the main stage and underneath the big tent.

One of the highlights so far has been the performances of Mama Digdown’s Brass Band which is celebrating 20 years as a Madison stalwart. The New Orleans style brass band raised the big tent Saturday afternoon with a raucous performance.  Continue reading

La Fete de Marquette Begins Today

7th Annual French music and culture festival benefits Wil-Mar Neighorhood Center

Its been called one of the best music festivals in the City of Madison. Even the New Orleans musicians invited north to play the event say it outclasses many gatherings in the Crescent City. For the Marquette neighborhood its just good fun for a good cause.

The 7th Annual La Fete de Marquette begins tonight through Sunday (July 11-14) at the corners of East Washington Avenue and South Dickinson Streets. Its is just the right mix of great music, carnival fun (the Ferris Wheel is back!), and the best of East Side area restaurants.  Continue reading

Born To Bun

Chance encounter with two Wienermobile drivers on their first day

Oscar Mayer Hotdoggers Attadog Alex Connett (left) and Sizzlin' Stephen Hays. made an an impromptu stop by at Ella's because they were desperate to nosh.

Oscar Mayer Hotdoggers Attadog Alex Connett (left) and Sizzlin’ Stephen Hays made an impromptu stop at Ella’s because they were desperate to nosh.

If you are from Wisconsin you KNOW about the Wienermobile. If you are from Madison a Wienermobile driving by may not create tourist whiplash but it is a source of pride. Lunch this past Tuesday was quite the nostalgic day for me as I dined with a high school friend and her kids and witnessed the crossroads of Americana, the Wienermobile dropping by Ella’s Deli.

The arrival of a hot dog and bun on wheels at the very end of our lunch was not a planned event, but ironically an impromptu stop by its drivers who were desperate to nosh.

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