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.
MNA survey wonders aloud if Orton Park Fest should change locations
Orton Park Festival in 2012. Photo by: Thomas Balistreri
The Marquette Neighborhood Association is seeking input from residents through a survey, regarding the scope of their two sponsored neighborhood gatherings: The Orton Park and Marquette Waterfront Festivals. The events are a major city-wide and regional draw and provide a majority of the operating funds for MNA’s other activities. However debate has simmered in recent years about whether they are most effective in their current form and location
While it seems unbelievable to hold the Orton Park Festival somewhere else, the event is bursting at it’s seams. Central Park is now finally taking shape and some have suggested large neighborhood events like OPF and La Fete de Marquette should be held at that location, just like La Fete was during its first years.
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.
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.
Orton Park Fest organizers fine-tune event but neighbor concerns linger
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.