Orton Fest to Celebrate Survival

Park continues to triumph over tornados, boulevards and development

Anders Osborn during last year's Orton Park Festival.

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.

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Commercial Development on Willy May Dominate MNA Board Meeting

Developments at each end of street highlight contrasting neighborhood priorities

1380 Williamson Street is currently vacant, but 16 Bar Spoons wants to turn the residence into a craft cocktail lounge

1380 Williamson Street is currently vacant, but 16 Bar Spoons wants to turn the residence into a craft cocktail lounge

While every Marquette Neighborhood Association Board meeting is important, tonight’s (March 20) meeting may further illuminate the difference in preferences for development on Williamson Street. With the neighborhood already at loggerheads over too much residential development at 722 and now 706 Williamson; a proposal to convert an existing residence into a craft cocktail lounge did not earn MNA’s  Preservation & Development Committee recommendation at Wednesday’s meeting.

Josh Swentzel (Star Liquor, Grampa’s Pizzeria, Tip Top Tavern), Hastings Cameron (Forequarter, Underground Food Collective) and Gilbert Altschul (Grampa’s Pizzeria, Mickey’s Tavern) have formed 16 Bar Spoons, LLC. to lease the property at 1380 Williamson which is currently owed by Ben Altschul (Gilbert’s brother) and which Swentzel says is currently vacant. The yet to be named lounge divided the committee since the location would turn a two-unit residence into a commercial establishment.

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Willy Street Blog @ “2”

Neighborhood blog to continue hyper-focus

What do you give the neighborhood that has everything? Well certainly not another person with an opinion. When you start a blog, its like any good essay, pick a few central themes and nurture them with attribution and reasoned analysis. But it is no small challenge to write about by far the most engaged, opinionated, funky, and cool neighborhood in the nation.

Willy Street Blog was born in March 2012, in the midst of the recall drive, but soon turned away from state politics as plenty of great voices were already speaking to the issue. In a city that features stupendous local reporting from numerous outlets, why should anyone bother to read some random blog?

The key is to really not care.

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Input on Neighborhood Fests Sought

MNA survey wonders aloud if Orton Park Fest should change locations

Orton Park Festival in 2012. Photo by: Thomas Balistreri

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.

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MNA Elections Have Consquences

Annual Membership Meeting a chance to celebrate and set priorities

Former MNA President Scott Thornton addresses the 2012 meeting. MNA has seen a resurgence in membership recently and is strong advocate within the city.

Former MNA President Scott Thornton addresses the 2012 meeting. MNA has seen a resurgence in membership recently and is strong advocate within the city.

In the same month that the Marquette Neighborhood was honored for being one of the greatest places to live in America, partly due to the strong engagement by its residents, a key meeting this week by its association may play a role in the shape of the neighborhood for years to come. The Marquette Neighborhood Association will hold its annual Membership Meeting Thursday October 17, 6 p.m. in the Marquette Elementary School cafeteria.

Most years this meeting is a time for the MNA Board to present an overview of the past year and the one ahead, elect new officers, consider initiatives, collect membership dues, and approve the budget. This year seems to carry special weight as several contentious issues in the areas of development, festivals, and how the Board itself conducts business and fills vacancies have bubbled up among the members.

The jammed packed agenda was deemed so critical that guest speaker Wisconsin State Representative Chris Taylor was asked to move her appearance to the November meeting to accommodate the proceedings.

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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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You Missed A Lot at the MNA Board Meeting

Association active in every corner of life in the Marquette Neighborhood

The MNA Board meets at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center on Thursday April 18, 2013. (L to R: Ralph Kuehn, President Michael Jacob, Anne Walker, Nicole Craig, Bill Scanlon, Treasurer Cheryl Solaris and Joan Frost (foreground). Not pictured but present: Carl Durocher, Tom Boos, Vice-President Chris Lukas and Secretary Mike Soref.

The MNA Board meets at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center on Thursday April 18, 2013. (L to R: Ralph Kuehn, President Michael Jacob, Anne Walker, Nicole Craig, Bill Scanlon, Treasurer Cheryl Solaris and Joan Frost (foreground). Not pictured but present: Carl Durocher, Tom Boos, Vice-President Chris Lukas and Secretary Mike Soref.

It was a pretty busy night at the Marquette Neighborhood Association Board Meeting Thursday April 18. While decidedly the big news was the MNA letter to the Alcohol Licensing Review Committee regarding Plan B nightclub; quite a bit of ground was covered on many neighborhood initiatives including the naming of a new director of the Orton Park Festival.

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Gallery: Orton Park Fest – Sunday

Festival ends with smooth, heavy chords and sunshine

Wendell Holmes of The Holmes Brothers gets into a jam early during their Sunday afternoon set at the 47th Orton Park Festival, August 26, 2012.

The final day of the 47th Orton Park Festival began with light drizzle but ended with sunshine and dry ground, and the smooth, heavy chords of Anders Osborne. The rain never got above mildly annoying and eventually faded to local showers under specific trees when there was a gust of wind.

As the sun rose, so did the audience in front of the main stage. Food and drink vendors did a brisk business as the neighborhood gathered one last day to enjoy a late summer party which is a fundraiser for the Marquette Neighborhood Association. Proceeds raised through the auction, cake walk, along with food and drink sales supports Wil-Mar Center programs including after school programs, food pantry, health classes, and educational programs. Continue reading

Gallery: Orton Park Fest – Saturday

Photo by: Thomas Balistreri

Day three of the Orton Park Festival is underway and the park is filling up nicely. Kids games, vendors, bingo, artists, neighbors visiting, along with music on the stage are part of this warm and slightly muggy afternoon.

Madison legends Peter and Lou Berryman began the music lineup at noon and it was followed by other singer/songwriters like Tret Fure and Pieta Brown. The music will continue throughout the day with Canadian indie-rock band The Sadies taking the stage at 8:30 p.m. as the final act of the day.

Brand new Madison resident Thomas Balistreri spent his first Orton Park Festival volunteering at one of the beer stands, but took some time to pass along some photos from this afternoon.

Orton Park 2012 - Saturday

Images from Saturday August 25, 2012 during the 47th Orton Park Festival. All photos by: Thomas Balistreri

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A local artist interprets the scene during the Orton Park Festival, August 25, 2012.
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It true local festival fashion, attendees can sit for caricature sessions-airbrushed or black and white the Orton Park Festival, August 25, 2012.
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The audience begins to build for a jam-packed musical line-up. By the time The Sadies take the stage at 8:30 p.m. several thousand people will be in the park.
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A view from the center Orton Park toward the south east.
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The Orton Park gazebo which is along with the oak trees are the unique symbols of the park.
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Kids dance along to Pieta Brown Saturday afternoon during the Orton Park Festival, August 25, 2012.
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Vendors line the sidewalk that bisects the Orton park.
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Bingo under the big top; one of the ways the Marquette Neighborhood Association raises funds during the Orton Park Festival.
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All photos by: Thomas Balistreri

View the 2012 Orton Park Festival schedule here

Previous Orton Park Festival coverage:

Cycropia Dazzles Orton

Orton Park Ready to Celebrate

Mythical Tree Spirit to Fly at Orton Park Fest