Lydia Loveless plays a late afternoon set at the 49th Orton Park Festival.
The Orton Park Festival was the same as just about every other year and to many that was just fine. After many wonderful years under the management of a few dedicated volunteers, the Marquette Neighborhood Association has spread out the roles in the past two years and guess what?
No one noticed, and that is a good thing.
From the music, to the food, to the activities, the festival was a familiar, comfortable and felt a bit more like the original picnic that started it all nearly five decades ago. While much did not change, at least one change did stand out a bit, the music did end much earlier but no one seemed to mind.
The subtle changes will have their own review when the fundraising receipts are tallied; but we have tallied images that show that many had a great time, which is by far the most important benchmark.
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 Howard, began to take shape on the median of the 600 block of Williamson this morning (August 3).
The 32-foot sculpture 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.
Damage wrought by an EF1 twister, ‘hood seeks to repurpose downed Orton trees
This Orton Park oak, stricken by the recent tornado, may soon become a playground for neighborhood kids. Courtesy: Orton Park Natural Play Structure
It sounded like a tornado, the damage looked like a tornado and on Friday (June 20) the National Weather Service (NWS) in Milwaukee updated its assessment of the storms of June 16-17 adding the Marquette neighborhood to the list of areas touched by a tornado, rating it an EF1.
The storm impacted an area from B.B. Clarke Beach to Olbrich Park, with the heaviest along a narrow grouping of streets from the Monona lake shore to Wilson Street. The damage matched many descriptions of typical tornado damage where some structures were decimated while other objects only feet away incurred nary a scratch.
In Orton Park a few trees did not survive, including an old oak next to the middle path in the center of the park. But the tree may live on as a unique and rapid effort by neighbors has delayed removal of that tree, designating it for possible conversion into a “natural play structure” for children.
Despite a downpour Saturday evening that cut short the set by Lyrics Born, the 2014 Marquette Waterfront Festival was a thrilling success. Strong attendance both days was driven by excellent weather and deft booking by lead organizer Bob Queen who along with Nancy Kathman were honored Saturday “For bringing music to our neighborhood”.
Event begun to save elementary school, tai chi and other neighborhood treasures
Poster by: David Miller
The Marquette Waterfront Festival (June 7-8) is twenty five years-old this year and while not the youngest neighborhood gathering it has the special role of heralding the beginning of summer. Just a day or two following the end of the school year for area children, it is the perfect weekend celebration for families which was the original intent of the event when it began in 1990.
The festival was born during an all-out effort to prevent the possible closing of Marquette Elementary school and other potential neighborhood elitism that was starting to bubble up on the east end of the Marquette neighborhood.
While much attention seems to be focused in the Willy Street area, our neighborhood does stretch all the way to Division street, encompassing sleepy and pleasant streets between Eastwood drive and Lake Monona. It was at Yahara Place Park, a quiet strip of land where people mostly just gaze at the lake, that parent Bob Queen and others plotted their neighborhood comeback.