La Fete de Marquette is Magnifique

Four day music festival growing with style

La Fete de Marquette, July 12-15, 2012 in the Marquette Neighborhood.

The seventh annual La Fete de Marquette, celebrating French music and culture, begins today (July 12) at the corner of South Dickinson and East Main Streets. While Pere Marquette did traipse through these lands in the 1600s (see Portage, Wisconsin), the relative lack of a historical French connection to the Marquette neighborhood will not stop them from holding a really cool party for Bastille Day.

The free four-day event is one of the “Big Four” Marquette neighborhood summer festivals and is a fundraiser for the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center.

For the second year in a row a vintage 1930s ferris wheel will be on Main street offering festive views of the grounds and the Capitol on what is supposed to be a glorious weekend in Wisconsin. Photo Courtesy: Willy Street Co-op

“When you celebrate community you promote community…you bring in attention, you bring in pride, you bring in a sense of belonging and that’s all good,” said Gary Kallas, executive director of the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. “This event is growing and growing along with the neighborhood.”

La Fete was conceived to help promote Central Park, a long-time project to re-develop the rail corridor that slices through the area. La Fete was first held in Central Park (Ingersoll and Main streets) and has steadily grown into the destination festival it was designed to be.Much like last week, the first year featured extreme temperatures, but Kallas says it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm. “It was scorching, 103 on Saturday, 104 on Sunday…we knew we had a hit the first year.”

The festival migrated in its third year to the former Marquip parking lot off Baldwin due to potential drainage issues in Central Park, but Kallas says that the festival is likely to return to its original home in the future now that park development is beginning in earnest.

The complete schedule is here

That third year the festival was bursting at the seams which prompted Mullins family the following year to offer the lot where the festival is currently held. Now Mullins’ newest tenant across the street in the old Gisholt Machine building, is also sponsor this year.Kallas says La Fete has grown exponentially over the years and they have tried to make it a destination event, “[The Mullins lot] is double the size of

Marquip…plus we take over the street (Main) and put the ferris wheel (1930s vintage) up so you can see the Capitol building at night and your friends down below.”

New Orleans legends, The Iguanas, will play Saturday featuring a Caribbean style that became part of the heart and soul of music in the Crescent City. Photo courtesy: MNA

The event has grown so much that people are now traveling from out of state to attend. According to Kallas; holding it on the same weekend as the Art Fair on the Square, which is two miles away, only serves to encourage more people to attend.If you attend, La Fete starts off with a unique event held by the presenting sponsor the Willy Street Co-op, which will be holding its annual membership meeting and party on the La Fete grounds through a partnership with Wil-Mar. Co-op members will be treated to dinner, drinks, and music from Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble. The event is open to the public after 7 p.m.

The music begins in earnest on Friday as the afternoon is kicked off by the “Hooray for Heartland Happy Hour” featuring free Hors d’oeuvers and attractively priced drinks from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Music acts will be playing on the Main Stage featuring musicians from the Gulf Coast on Friday, and a more international flavor on Saturday. Sunday is considered Louisiana Day, with all New Orleans-based acts, kicked off at noon with Madison’s own Mama Digdown’s Brass Band leading a march.

A stellar line-up of highly regarded DJs including Madison’s Nick Nice will perform.

La Fete’s other music venue, Le Bistro Tent will host part of two day concert series Musique Electonique featuring Chicago DJ Mark Farina (Friday 8:45 p.m.) who is known for his trademark style of electronic music known as Mushroom Jazz, fusing jazzy Chicago House mixed San Francisco style.

“This year is going to be huge. Mark Farina is a worldwide talent who used to play here often in the early to mid 1990s,” says local DJ Nick Nice (Saturday 6:45 p.m.) who says this is the second year electronic music been part of the lineup. “To say I and many others are excited for his set is an understatement. You won’t want to miss this. Same thing goes for Paul Johnson too, another true legend. Honestly this weekend is going to be amazing!”Farina, along with DJ Paul Johnson (Saturday) and Nick Nice will play teaser sets at La Fete and then crank up extended performances (with special guests) at nearby venues including High Noon Saloon and Plan B night club.

Bios of the performers are here

Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk will finish out the festival on Sunday July 15, 2012. Photo Courtesy: MNA

Also on Sunday is the Acoustic Café, a quiche breakfast prepared by Chef Markos, acoustic music, and interviews with some of the weekend’s performers. The sit-down breakfast will be served by members of the East High School French students and Wil-Mar’s Teen program. According to La Fete’s website this event is already sold out.

Will you be in the crowd? WillyStreetBlog is looking for crowdsourced photos of the event. Be sure to upload your pics to our Facebook page and you can also post your updates on our Twitter feed.

Updated Post: Corrects the beneficiary of the festival to solely for the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center

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2 thoughts on “La Fete de Marquette is Magnifique

  1. This is a fine blog however the information you offer about La Fete’s beneficiary is not correct.
    La Fete is completely a production of the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, and is completely a benefit for Wil-Mar. Neither MNA or Common Wealth are directly involved.

    Common Wealth is partner producer/beneficiary of Willy St. Fair.
    MNA produces Waterfront Festival and Orton Park Festival as their own fundraisers.

    Thank you. Paul Abramson, Wil-Mar Board

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