A Family of Quality Publications Celebrating the Place We Call Home
The Polar Express isn’t just a train ride, Bob Lettenberger says, it’s an experience.
The National Railroad Museum’s annual production of The Polar Express brings the classic Christmas tale to life in a multi-faceted experience. Participants explore the Festival of Trees in the Lenfestey Center before the show. Children play Reindeer Games, including Mr. Snowman’s Big Snowball Toss, see the Hot Chocolate Dance and enjoy a cup of hot
chocolate before a dramatic reading of the original Polar Express book.
When the Polar Express itself is ready to leave the station, the conductor calls, “All aboard!” and participants join the train crew on an expedition to the North Pole. On board the train, the crew provides a host of entertainment including songs, pointing out sights, and handing out chocolates & sleigh bells for the children.
“It’s really just a neat, fun train ride for everyone to participate in,” Lettenberger says.
When the train arrives in the North Pole, each child will have the chance to visit Santa before he embarks on his trip around the world. The Polar Express is a massive undertaking for the National Railroad Museum. On Nov. 1, the entire staff and a host of volunteers spent the day unloading a full 53’ semi-trailer of decorations and using them to bring the Festival of Trees to life. On a single day when the shows are running, Lettenberger says there are 30–40 staff members working and the kitchen brews over 30 gallons of hot chocolate.
Unfortunately, the Polar Express has limited seats. Tickets go on sale on July 25 each year and for the 2013 season, the premium class tickets sold out in nine and a half hours.
“Circle July 25th, 2014 on your calendar in big red marker, because that’s when the tickets will go on sale and when you can grab them,” Lettenberger advises.
When asked what children love most about the program, Lettenberger struggled to pick one aspect.
“Coming somewhere in their pajamas, drinking hot chocolate. The train ride is a big deal and of course seeing Santa,” he says. “It’s just a really happy time.”
Visit nationalrrmuseum.org to learn more about The Polar Express.
Behind any thriving community exists a strong commitment to the arts that fosters dynamic creativity. This creativity flows through the Fox Cities as tenaciously as the Fox River.
Much like the river’s current, this driving force is not always seen on the surface, but is ever- present and responsible for unique ideas and cutting-edge innovation within the Fox Cities. It encourages free thought and enables expression of humanity.
The heart of this spirit can be found in the collaborative efforts behind the recently renamed Fox Cities Building for the Arts.
“We decided to change the name of the building to the Fox Cities Building for the Arts because it better represented what was going on in the building,” says Pamela Williams-Lime, Trout Museum of Art and Fox Cities Building for the Arts president, “[It] is more reflective of what is happening here and it’s a better way for us to communicate that to the community.”
The building, formerly known as The Reigel Building, The Appleton Art Center, and The Trout Museum of Art was recently rechristened The Fox Cities Building for the Arts and houses five of the Fox Valley’s most prominent arts organizations: Appleton Boychoir, Fox Valley Symphony, Makaroff Youth Ballet, newVoices (formerly White Heron Chorale) and the Trout Museum of Art.
“When the Appleton Art Center became the Trout Museum of Art, a lot of the local community just looked at it as a museum and didn’t really feel they needed to be involved in it anymore, [and that] it wasn’t a community group,” says Michelle Richeson, a local visual artist and Fox Cities Building for the Arts board member.
But the changes extend beyond a name change; new opportunities and more accessible space are in store for all five organizations.
“We are in the middle of a capital campaign to address the needs of all the organizations living in here,” says Williams-Lime.
Often forced to rent space to hold meetings, the organizations residing in the building are now able to use renovated office space on the third floor. The space includes a board room conducive to holding rehearsals, receptions and small performances.
Along with a revamped third floor, renovations to the fifth floor will take place to better address recently kick-started educational programming.
The name change and inter-group cooperation will also serve as a collaborative model for non-profit organizations.
“The capital campaign, in the process of changing from the Trout Museum to the Fox Cities Building for the Arts, was done intentionally to better serve both what we as a non-profit are trying to do, but also to help the other organizations as well,” says Williams-Lime. “We’re talking about a collaborative business model and collaboration between the organizations.”
Kathi Seifert, chairman of the board of the Fox Cities Building for the Arts, says this model will produce and encourage ideas that better define operations within non-profits, whether they are arts-related or not.
“If we work on how more effectively we can work together and share resources or learn from each other, utilizing the same resources could not only save money, [but] provide more efficiency for each and every one of the organizations,” says Seifert.
The increased efficiency and communication between the arts organizations within the building are expected to not only provide an example for other non-profits, but also allow for more joint projects that include multiple, or all, groups.
The Young Audiences Fine Arts Series, one of the first collaborative projects set to run from January through May, will involve all five organizations and aims to introduce families into all areas of the arts. Each organization in the building will stage a 40 minute interactive educational performance for audiences of young children and families. With each performance, audience members will also complete a hands-on arts project relevant to the presentation.
“It’s an example of where we’re looking to collaborate because each of our missions has a piece of education in it,” says Williams-Lime. “You find common threads and you make a bigger presentation instead of each organization programming independently.”
Seifert says more collaborative programs will help increase engagement in the arts by community members.
“The collaborative programming will bring people together and help them not only learn about the arts but have fun, enjoy the arts and feel proud of the different things they can do from a creative standpoint,” says Seifert.
Rebecca Fitton, an alumnus of both the Fox Valley Youth Symphony and Makaroff Youth Ballet, participated in a collaborative performance with the two organizations this past spring.
“Not only did the dancers and musicians learn from the performance, but many community members were entranced by the power of youth artists,” Fitton says.
For Fitton, these collaborations can both involve the community and enhance the arts themselves.
“Different art forms are both naturally intertwined and compliment each other well,” Fitton says. “It makes complete sense to honor their relationship by renaming the building.”
Williams-Lime says she hopes the Fox Cities Building for the Arts collaborations will accentuate this relationship.
“[Art] is woven into everybody’s soul whether they know it or not,” says Williams-Lime. “What we’re trying to do is put a little emphasis on that.”
With fine arts often one of the first programs to be cut in schools, the revamped Fox Cities Building for the Arts can help fill the void and serve as a hub for artists both professional and amateur.
“It really made me think about where I put my money and my time,” says Richeson. “So few people give to the arts and it’s something the whole community does enjoy.”
Along with engaging the community in the arts, the Fox Cities Building for the Arts programming can help foster important skills and allow for creative development among youth.
“It’s so important that we engage our youth in the arts and really help them focus on creativity and problem solving,” Seifert says. “Not only is art something to enjoy, but I truly believe that engaging in the arts encourages creativity, which can in turn encourage innovation, which helps drive the future.”
Those looking forward to the exciting and diverse 2013–14 Fox Cities Performing Arts Center season have themselves and the rest of the community to thank, says Maria Van Laanen, vice president of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. While the final decisions on shows included in the season are made by a committee, its decisions are swayed by community opinion and ticket sales for past events.
The process of putting together a season is a complicated and lengthy one, Van Laanen says. The serious scheduling starts about 15 to 18 months before the season begins. Some Broadway touring shows are scheduled as early as two years in advance, while individual musicians or comedians can be booked as late as three or four months prior to the performance.
New shows are found in a variety of ways, but Van Laanen says a “trade show” of sorts in New York, where producers, promoters and performers come together, gives “an opportunity to start to gain some awareness of the new artists that may be up-and- coming.” High quality music and family friendly shows are particularly appealing to loyal local audiences, but efforts are made to diversify the season, not only bringing in big-name Broadway shows, but giving Valley residents a chance to see something new.
The upcoming season features everything from an intimate concert with Judy Collins—a show to which Van Laanen says she is particularly anticipating—to the return of the Broadway favorite Wicked.
Visit foxcitiespac.com for the full 2013–14 lineup and ticket information.
Katharine Hepburn once famously said, “Anytime I hear a man say he prefers a woman in a skirt, I say, ‘Try one. Try a skirt.’”
“Katharine Hepburn: Dressed for Stage and Screen” opens September 13 at the Trout Museum of Art in Appleton and runs through December 15. The exhibit will feature Hepburn’s private collection of personal and performance clothing spanning her six decade career, from elaborate dresses of silk and lace to her iconic khaki pants. Having appeared at only four other locations before the Trout, this is the first time the exhibit will travel to the Midwest.
Museum president Pamela Williams- Lime says that nationally, many museums are curating exhibits that combine fashion and art to appeal to a wider audience. “We hope the exhibit will help attract more people outside the area to the Trout, helping it to become more widely known,” she says.
The exhibit extends beyond the walls of the museum with special events and partnerships in the Fox Cities community. Large groups will have the option of having a special guided tour and presentation accompanied by brunch, tea or cocktails. Additionally, the museum hopes to integrate the community into the exhibit through collaborations with the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, Appleton Public Library and Lawrence University.
Hepburn had an influential style for generations of women, and her allure continues into the present day. “She was a strong woman, and that still resonates with people,” Williams-Lime says. “There’s interest in her as a person as well as the exhibit.” Visit troutmuseum.org for museum hours and more information.
—Photo courtesy of the KSU Museum.
Rocky Horror Picture Show Sep 14, 8pm.
Time Community Theatre, Oshkosh
This interactive screening will have you yelling, dancing and singing along to a Halloween classic. Kicking off the party with a costume contest, Time Theatre promises a night to be remembered for both Rocky returners and virgins. The event will also include raffles, concessions and official Rocky Horror Survival Kits.
Sep 3, 7pm & Sep 4, 12pm.
John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan
Part of the Community Cinema film series, The Graduates is just one of many documentaries scheduled to play between September 2013 and May 2014. This film gives first-hand perspective on the challenges facing Latino high school students while making their way through our nation’s public education system. Facilitated discussions about issues addressed in the film will follow the screening.
Oct 21, 6:30pm
History Museum at the Castle, Appleton.
Enjoy this classic silent horror film at Appleton’s History Museum at the Castle to get into the Halloween mood. Portraying the story of a clay statue brought to life in 16th century Prague, this film tells a tale of love, murder and revenge. The showing will feature Frank Ripple’s original organ score along with popcorn and beverages for purchase.
Civic Life Project
Oct 30, 7pm.
Fox Valley Technical College, Menasha
Attend this special screening of local documentaries and engage in discussion about relevant civic issues. The Civic Life Project challenges students to use technology as a way of exploring civics and democracy in their own community. Each participating student conducts interviews, research and investigation to create their own 8-12 minute video. These one-of-a-kind documentaries not only involve community members, they allow students’ own voices to be heard.
Weyauwega International Film Festival
Gerold Opera House, Weyauwega.
This three day movie marathon is sure to present new insight into foreign cultures and garner appreciation for Wisconsin-made films. Coordinated by Wega Arts, Weyauwega’s own theatre and visual arts organization, this international film festival will showcase around 35 independent films and documentaries. Complete with discussions, Q&A with film makers and cash prizes for film contest winners, this interactive marathon will educate and entertain.
—By Siri Pairin
Jazz in the Gardens
Sep 7, 5 pm.
Paine Art Center, Oshkosh
Inspired by the style and sounds of Palm Beach, Jazz in the Gardens features fine wine, seasonal food and a performance by The Lighthouse Big Band. The Paine’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Jazz in the Gardens gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy radiant gardens while supporting a great cause.
Elephant Revival & Greensky Bluegrass
Sep 15, 7 pm.
Door Community Auditorium, Fish Creek.
Presenting a fresh take on the Bluegrass sound, Greensky Bluegrass promises a youthful and energetic show featuring banjo, mandolin, guitar, dobro and bass. This critically acclaimed group is set to perform alongside “transcendental folk” band Elephant Revival, who’s sound embodies elements of Celtic fiddle tunes, reggae, jazz and hip-hop.
Sep 20, 9 pm.
Copper Rock Cafe, Downtown Appleton.
Self-taught singer-songwriter, John Lambert, will perform his pop-rock tunes in Copper Rock’s casual coffeshop atmosphere. Influenced by The Beatles and Elvis Costello, Lambert’s set includes both covers and original songs. Sit down to enjoy a night of live, local music with a fresh cup of coffee.
Oct 4, 7:30 pm.
Grand Opera House, Oshkosh.
World-renown pianist, Alpin Hong, is set to give a stunning and entirely unique performance. Known for his showmanship and youthful energy, Hong’s performance showcases inspiring technique, emotion and humor. A popular returning act at The Grand Opera House, Hong’s show is sure to please audience members of all ages.
St. Louis Brass
Oct 5, 8 pm.
Lawrence Memorial Chapel, Appleton.
Known as one of America’s longest- standing brass quintets, this group has played over 2,500 shows over the past 40 years. Originally from St. Louis, Mo., the quintet now performs all across the United States.
Oct 19, 7:30 pm.
Mosquito Hill Nature Center, New London.
Dubbed an “Americana Sensation”, Harpeth Rising combines sounds of the banjo, fiddle, cello and percussion to create a unique blend of bluegrass, classical and folk music. This Nashville-based quartet brings together the sounds of different ethnic and musical backgrounds to create an altogether brand new fusion of harmonies.
FV Symphony & Patti LuPone
Nov 1, 7:30 pm.
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, Appleton.
Two-time Tony-Award winning Broadway actress, Patti LuPone, joins the Fox Valley Symphony to perform her original show “Far Away Places” for the first time with symphony orchestra. Trained at Julliard, Ms. LuPone has received high praise for her roles as Eva Peron in Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Evita, Fantine in the original London production of Les Miserables and Mama Rose in a recent revival of Gypsy.
Nov 3, 2 pm.
Neenah Public Library, Neenah.
Folk musician, Anne Hills, will bring her original songs and “stunning soprano tone” to the Fox Cities this fall. Accompanied by guitar, banjo or Tibetan bell, Hills’s music reaches out to her audience through beautiful melodies and honest lyrics.
Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy
Nov 10, 7pm.
Door Community Auditorium, Fish Creek.
Bringing the sounds of Cape Breton and Canadian folk music to the Fox Cities, these masters of the fiddle will have your foot tapping along to reels, jigs and hornpipes. MacMaster and Leahy, who happen to be married to each other, put on an energetic show filled with music, dance and song.
The Alley Cats
Dec 7, 3 pm & 7:30 pm.
Thrasher Opera House, Green Lake.
The Alley Cats combine music and comedy in their renditions of songs of the 50’s and 60’s. “America’s Premier Doo-Wop Group” promises both humor and harmonies enjoyed by all.
Green Apple Folk Holiday Concert
Dec 14, 7:30 pm.
Mosquito Hill Nature Center, New London.
“Local performers and/or groups will each share their favorite original and traditional songs of the season in a family-friendly setting.”
—By Siri Pairin
Flashdance: The Musical
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center
Tells the inspiring and unforgettable story of Alex Owens, steel mill welder by day and bar dancer by night, a girl with dreams of one day becoming a professional performer. Featuring a score that includes the biggest hit songs from the movie.
The Intergalactic Nemesis
John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan
Live Action Graphic Novel (Book One: Target Earth) teams old time radio drama with comic book art for a theatrical experience that has caught the eye of Conan O’Brien, NPR, and the Wall Street Journal.
Miracle on South Division Street
Sep 4–Oct 20
A heartfelt and hilarious family comedy by Tom Dudzick. All heck breaks loose on South Division Street when a deathbed confession shakes the Nowak family to its core. In 1942 Buffalo, New York, Grandpa Nowak had a vision of peace and the Blessed Mother while working in the family barbershop. Since then, Clara and her three children have kept the faith and tended to Grandpa’s sidewalk shrine, which has been a beacon of hope to the neighbors and given prestige to the family. Unraveling the family legend leads to unexpected and uproarious results.
The Amazing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
Perry Hall, UWFox Valley
The Missoula Children’s Theatre proudly presents an original musical. Robinson Crusoe teaches the lesson that reading invites more than observation. We arrive on Robinson’s island years after he and his sole companion, a goat named Wilson, are shipwrecked and find the island has turned into a tourist destination.
Flamenco Viva Carlota
Nov 12 & 14
John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan
Flamenco Vivo returns to the Arts Center with The Soul of Flamenco, a fierce and eclectic program of Spanish dance and music featuring lamenting solos, sizzling duets, and festive company dances. Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the company presents an all-star cast in newly created pieces and Luz y Sombra, an early work reconstructed by company cofounder Roberto Lorca, which revels in the light, joy, and shadows of life.
Let Me Be Frank Productions: MY BIG FAT PULASKI WEDDING ~ THE HONEYMOON’S OVER
Sep 20–Oct 12.
Meyer Theatre, Green Bay
Ah, wedded bliss. It’s really something, isn’t it? It is if it lasts! Frank and Amy are having some tough times and best friend, Pat, tries to get the couple back together with a reenactment of their wedding. Is that all it will take? You’ll find out when you attend this show.
Grand Opera House, Oshkosh
A musical comedy focused on a rather peculiar group of nuns. Join five of the Sisters of Hoboken as they try to present a fundraiser performance for their abbey. This audience- participatory musical features songs such as "The Dying Nun Ballet" and “I Could’ve Gone to Nashville”. You won’t want to miss the hilarity which unfolds on stage in Nunsense! But pay close attention - there may be a pop quiz!
Dec 13–15 & 19–21
Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Art, St. Norbert College, DePere.
Evergreen Productions presents this timeless classic. Veterans Bob Wallace and Phil Davis have a successful song-and-dance act after World War II. With romance in mind, the two follow a duo of beautiful singing sisters en route to their Christmas show at a Vermont lodge, which just happens to be owned by Bob and Phil's former army commander. The dazzling score features well known standards including Blue Skies, I Love A Piano, How Deep Is the Ocean and the perennial favorite, White Christmas.
—By Rebecca Turchan
Sep 1–Oct 13
The Paine Art Center, Oshkosh
A stunning exhibition of 47 vessels, 12 drawings, and a monumental chandelier in the Venetian style. Featured are works from Chihuly’s Venetians series—intricately formed and brilliantly colored objects inspired by Art Deco Venetian glass vases from the 1920s and ‘30s, which the artist saw during a 1987–88 trip to Venice.
MuseumPLACE: A Celebration of Community
Sep 1–Nov 17
Neville Public Museum, Green Bay
MuseumPLACE is more than an exhibit; it’s a hands-on, participatory experience about the community we call home. MuseumPLACE features a series of thematically linked, interactive stations and immersive environments designed to engage visitors in activities, challenges and storytelling, while collecting visitor responses to “big idea” questions about our museum’s – and our community’s - future.
The Open Eye
Sep 1–Mar 2
John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan.
A series of five exhibitions, aims to stretch the viewer’s ability to receive the messages conveyed through the images found in everyday surroundings. Visitors will be presented with the proposition that the more one observes, the more one is able to discover, interpret, and, by extension, create.
Bells and Whistles, Flags and Flashes: Lost Languages of the Lakes
Wisconsin Maritime Museum, Riverside Gallery, Manitowoc
thru March 2014
Come learn a language unlike any other at this exhibit that explores the various methods used by mariners to communicate with other sailors, vessels, and people along the shores. Visitors can spell their names with signal flags, test their Morse code skills on a telegraph, blow whistles, and try their hand at semaphore.
Glass Artists of the New North
Sep 14–Feb 16
Experience the creativity in our midst with this exhibition featuring glass artists from Northeast Wisconsin, including Beth Lipman, Stephany Trenchard, Jeremy Popelka and Mick Meilahn.
The St. John’s Bible
Sep 30–Oct 26
Baer Gallery, St. Norbert College
This traveling exhibition features Heritage Edition prints of the St. John’s Bible, commissioned in 1998 by Saint John's Abbey and University and created by calligrapher Donald Jackson. The St. John’s Bible is a handwritten, hand-illuminated Bible. The Smithsonian Magazine cited it as “one of the extraordinary undertakings of our time.”
Oct 7–Nov 2.
Godschalx Gallery, DePere.
See sketchbook drawings Peter Poplaski completed as daily warm-ups prior to his work as an inker at Superman DC and Marvel Comics.
Christmas in the Mansion
Nov 20–Jan 5
Rahr-West Art Museum, Manitowoc.
Christmas in the Mansion sings an old fashioned holiday song highlighting the unique architectural style of the Victorian era. Ribbons, packages, lights, and frivolities will warm your visit with a chorus of traditions from Christmases past.
—By Rebecca Turchan
The abundant waterways of the Fox Cities offer hours of fun for locals and visitors alike — whether riding the wake or viewing safely from shore. Presented here, in no particular order, are our top picks for making the most of our rivers and lakes this summer.
A lack of sailing expertise needn’t limit who may enjoy this wonderful pastime. Organizations like the Neenah Yacht Club hold community events to help nautical neophytes experience the joys of sailing. Join them June 15 at Neenah’s Riverside Park from 10am–2pm for their Sail Expo and cruise with experienced sailors.
For those yearning to ‘yak but new to the sport, the North East Wisconsin Paddlers (NEWP) offer local classes for paddlers of all experience levels. For those just looking to get on the river, the Fox Valley Yakkers organize online informal meet-ups for enthusiasts of all levels.
Water Ski Show
While you may not be in the water, watching the Webfooters perform twice a week in Fremont is a novel way to enjoy the water this summer. If watching the performance gets your adrenaline going, the Webfooters’ “teach-a-kid-to-ski” class will help you get your feet wet.
Take a dip outside the community pool this summer on a real sand beach. Explore Sunset Beach in Kimberly in a lifeguard-supervised oasis. For the more daring, the unsupervised sandy beaches of Lake Winnebago located in High Cliff State Park make for a great day in the sun.
With the purchase of a Wisconsin Fishing License, enjoy hours of this great sport at your local public park along the river. High Cliff State Park offers fishing spots both on Lake Winnebago and Butterfly Pond with free equipment rentals from the park office.
Follow the winding banks of the Fox River on public hiking trails like Appleton’s Newberry Trail or Green Bay’s Fox River Trail. For a more educational experience, explore the paths of 1000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna which boast signage and protected wildlife habitats.
The Fox River offers the unique experience of viewing operational commercial locks. Having been refurbished in recent years, Kaukauna, Appleton and Menasha are all home to historic locks, free to view and fun to explore. Watch the lock tender work Menasha’s hand crank lock at 2 Broad Street any day of the week.
Pontoon Boat Rentals
To enjoy a leisurely day on the lake, a pontoon boat offers a floating island of relaxation. The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway offers guided river tours by pontoon boat, or to drift more freely, consider renting your own from Party Doll Fleet in Fremont.
If you crave excitement and are willing to make the drive, Wind Power in Fond du Lac offers windsurfing lessons for beginners and children on Lake Winnebago. Take their weekly group or private lessons to discover the rush of freedom offered by open lake windsurfing.
During high water when the dams are opened, powerful white waters form. For those boat enthusiasts, this stunning display of nature’s might is best viewed from shore. But there are always plenty of parks (Kaukauna’s Central Park) or even restaurants (Fratellos Waterfront Restaurant in Appleton) ideally located to offer a terrific view.
Bonus Idea: Canoeing
As a great way for a family to enjoy the scenic waterways, canoe through 1000 Islands Environmental Center’s wooded preserve. For group trips, consider the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway’s September Locks Paddle, launching from Appleton’s Lutz Park, or the annual Park-to-Park paddle in July from Neenah to Appleton.
There’s no denying the growth of the last 30 years (check out our population if you don’t believe us), but when it comes to things like poverty, ethnic diversity and unemployment, has much changed since FOX CITIES Magazine was founded?
Fox Cities population
Ethnic demographic breakdown
Then: Caucasian - 98.5%
American Indian - 0.8%
Asian - 0.4%
African American - 0.2%
Hispanic - 0.1%,
2 or more - 0.0%
Now: Caucasian - 93.5%
Hispanic - 3.5%
Asian - 2.9%
African American - 1.8%
Two or more - 1.7%
American Indian -1.6%
Median household income
Median home value
Percent of persons in poverty
Average price for a gallon of gas*
Cost of an old fashioned**
Residents with at least a high school diploma
Number of chain restaurants in the Fox Cities
**Mark’s East Side, of Appleton, prices
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry 2012 Community Profile, 1984 Appleton City Directory, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Energy
Children let loose, act silly and live it up in a way most adults envy — so what would our weekends consist of if we left the scheduling up to them? We asked our smallest Fox Citians where they would choose to have fun with the whole family.
The Town of Menasha boasts 23 parks, but Fritse Park on the western shore of Little Lake Butte des Morts is one of the most popular among the under 12 set. The SCA Adventure Play Area features an interactive family playground and a nearby train station play area, developed by the Neenah Rotary, is another popular attraction.
Six-year-old Elliott Laczny’s favorite part of Fritse Park is ascending the steps to the top of the park’s popular hill slide which was renovated in 2010.
“There are so many [steps]!” Laczny says. “At least 11.” Not for the faint of heart, Laczny suggests sliders ditch their shoes for increased speed. “Socks are more slippery than shoes,” he says. “When you get to the bottom, you feel like you had just started!”
If slides are not your speed, a 15 minute car ride can get you to Menasha’s Heckrodt Wetland Preserve, a favorite spot of many young nature lovers. Open year-round, the 76-acre urban nature reserve allows little ones and their families access to nearly two miles of elevated boardwalks through the wetland environment. Children delight in spotting all kinds of critters including reptiles, amphibians and mammals.
“Usually we go there to learn a lot, but also we go there for fun,” says Gabi Feavel, a fourth grader at Tullar Elementary School in Neenah. “We learn about butterflies and all kinds of animals.
When you’re a kid, enjoying the outdoors can even be done in the heart of the city. Eleven-year-old Josh Ziesemer is already anticipating the open-air Downtown Appleton Farm Market along College Avenue, which will begin for the season on June 15. He enjoys the handmade items and, of course, the food.
“Me and my sister make sure we get roasted corn in a cup every year,” Ziesemer says. “It gets pretty messy, but they give you napkins.”
With energy to burn, some of the most adamant suggestions from children involved sports. Brady Baker, 9, says if he ruled the weekend, it would be spent at Badger Sports Park in Appleton.
“There’s batting cages and a bunch of games inside like skeeball and basketball machines and there’s mini-golf too,” he says. “You could pretty much stay there all day.”
In February, Badger Sports Park debuted the new “Mission Impossible” laser maze, an interactive game where participants must navigate through a complex maze of laser beams.
Addison Witthun, a fifth grader at Hoover Elementary School, says the Fox Valley Roller Rink in Neenah is the place to be on weekends.
“The man there taught us how to backwards skate which I thought was kind of hard,” she says. “They play fun music like ‘Gangnam Style.’”
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers kick off the 2013 season on April 8, which can’t come soon enough if you ask Jaeden Carstens, a third grader at Neenah’s Hoover Elementary. Carstens remembers fondly a birthday party he attended at Fox Cities Stadium.
“We practically didn’t sit down for the game, but we ran around a lot,” he says. “We got hotdogs and popcorn.”
Fridays are North Shore Bank Family Night at Fox Cities Stadium where children under 12 receive a free hot dog and soda and can run the bases post-game.
In the Fox Cities, budding artists have abundant opportunities to hone their craft.
“The arts are high on the priority list in the Fox Cities,” says Mary Hirvela, marketing communications manager at the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Our museums allow kids to use their imaginations and creativity.”
A favorite among minors is Neenah’s Bergstrom Mahler Museum. Emily Bemowski, a fourth grader at Nicolet Elementary School in Menasha, enjoys being able to create her own paperweights during the museum’s Art Activity Days. The next program is April 13 where children can make fused-glass cat or dog portraits.
“I got to make a small paperweight and a big paperweight,” Bemowski says. “It was cool how it turned out. I made a flower and put it in the middle.”
Seven-year-old Jamison Hawley appreciates the leisurely pace taken through the museum, which focuses on glass arts. “I just think it’s a cool place because you can look all over, you can’t touch it, but you can explore it for as long as you want,” he says. “Like you can stand in a room for an hour and nothing will happen.”
The Building for Kids Children’s Museum in downtown Appleton is a popular destination for little ones who enjoy a more tactile experience. Miles Weaver, a kindergartner at Hoover Elementary, says the Story Tree exhibit with five different tree forts to explore is his favorite attraction at the museum.
“It has leaves so it’s kind of realistic, but it’s a fake tree. You get to climb inside of it and there’s a net where you sink your fingers into it and push yourself up,” he says. “There’s a window and you can call ‘hi’ to your parents.”
Many children cited their local library as a go-to place for fun. Area libraries offer an oasis for children to relax with a book, check out a movie or attend an interactive program.
“I like to go to the Neenah or Menasha Public Library and watch a movie with the family or go to a program like when they did the Soda Pups,” Feavel says.
The Soda Pups Dog Show, coming to the Neenah Public Library June 11 and 13, includes agility, dog tricks and plenty of audience participation. Even parents will get a kick out of a pomeranian riding a remote-controlled Hummer.
“I like El Azteca because they have really good service and the guys like to play around there,” says Feavel, who loves celebrating birthdays at the restaurant. “They make you do the chicken dance in Spanish!”
“Nakashimas is sort of ninja samari-ish. They only serve Japan food,” Hawley says. “They have this awesome Japanish music that they play for you. Not like a concert, just like you can’t see where it’s coming from. It makes you feel like Kung Fu Panda is going to break through the roof.”
“I’d go to Cherry On Top because they have the best ice cream,” says Luke Maurer, a fourth grader at Nicolet Elementary School in Menasha.
“There’s a place downtown in Neenah called Cannova’s,” Carstens says. “It’s very old inside. There’s lots of exposed brick. I like their pizza. My favorite is cheese and pepperoni, but I just hate mushrooms.”
Chickenfest in Darboy, this year on June 20–22, is an anticipated yearly tradition for seven-year-old Alivia Meyer and her family. Meyer particularly enjoys the festival’s carnival rides. “There’s this one where you sit in a bucket and it spins around and around and you get really dizzy,” she says. There’s only one thing Meyer thinks is missing from the festival. “I wish there was a gianormous real chicken there,” she says. More information at darboyfest.org.
When farmers sow a sense of community, everyone reaps the benefits, including restaurants, businesses and our own bodies. The Fox Cities are well on their way to establishing this all-encompassing agricultural ideal through collaborative community initiatives.
With advances in technology and transportation, we now have access to any food we desire, regardless from where it comes. It is easy to consume without considering a food’s origin and its effects on the world. The Community Initiatives in Sustainable Agriculture (CISA) in the Fox Cities is making an effort to bring the community back to its roots and alert locals to resources available in their own backyards.
Riverview Gardens, a 70-acre urban farm near downtown Appleton, and Lawrence University will be hosting a CISA conference April 5–7. The conference will include hands-on informational workshops, farm tours and farm panels with a primary emphasis on recruiting new farmers. CISA will function as the annual conference for the new Community Farm Incubator program in the Fox Cities area, which focuses on creating a tight local food community. The Community Farm Incubator program ensures that new farmers have the resources and opportunities to grow through relationships with restaurants, agriculture-related businesses and activities that the community has to offer.
“We want to build confidence in sustainable agriculture as a worthwhile pursuit,” declares Riverview Gardens Manager Oren Jakobson, who volunteered to help organize the conference. “The limiting factor [in the Fox Cities] is production and access to food, not demand.”
He explains that although farming may not bring in the big bucks, one can be financially successful, and the intrinsic benefits – time outdoors, flexibility of hours and access to high quality food – are invaluable.
As Jakobson suggests, demand for local food in this area is significant. Riverview Gardens, which is preparing for only its second growing season, has already made enough connections with farms, distributors and restaurants to create a Local Food Academy (LFA) that Jakobson refers to as a “local food marketing coalition.” The LFA, which includes local establishments such as Gourmet Grassfed in Oshkosh, Kangaroostaurant, Sun Brothers Naturals and Keune’s Authentic Foods among others, meets four to six times annually to promote collective learning and networking for a varied group of participants in the Fox Cities’ food economy.
Brady Ahrens, head chef of Appleton’s Stone Cellar Brewpub, has been cooking with local and organic produce for the last four years. He buys produce extensively from Riverview Gardens, Keune’s Authentic Food in Seymour, Parkridge Organics in Fond du Lac, Gourmet’s Mushroom Delight in Eden, Good Grief Market Gardens in Appleton and Springdale Farm in Plymouth. He attributes his access to local food to the area’s progressive demographic and their support of local food producers. Ahrens elaborates, “People around here are educating themselves on food. And with the presence of new documentaries that address the issue, people are concerned about their health.”
This community concern manifests itself in many ways. Kirk Vosters, co-owner of Sun Brothers Naturals Farm in Appleton, notes that farmers markets have been growing in popularity since he and his brother Kendall started the farm in 2010. Although Vosters believes that “local agriculture is just a part of life,” as it is essential for people to grow food when a community demands it, he also acknowledges the instrumentality of the community’s forward-thinking attitude in allowing local agriculture to thrive in the Fox Cities.
CISA is recruiting from a broad range of community members, all of differing ages, interests and professions. Jakobson comments that the Fox Cities area is currently at the bottom of what they can support agriculturally so there is huge potential for growth. Every new producer will either address or create a different demand for the community and a diverse group of farmers can help meet these growing demands. Ahrens agrees that currently, more local farms can only benefit our community.
Ideally this more-the-merrier attitude will help grow agriculture in the community, but differing opinions about farming complicate the idea that quantity is the solution to agricultural growth. Vosters asserts, “you have to want to be a farmer, not a businessman, in agriculture. [One’s] motives cannot be financial. That will work itself out if you believe in what you’re doing.”
Ahrens believes that farming should be business-driven, though he also wants a quality product. “Knowledge of the source is important...I want to know how [the food] is grown and the soil contents, as well as the farmers and family,” he says. In Voster’s view, the farmer whose true passion is agriculture will generate the superior product. In turn, Ahrens will purchase that farmer’s product, as the success of his restaurant depends on it.
Though financial success may not be every farmer’s main concern, it is essential to their growth. Jakobson stresses the importance of simple business concepts like resource management among producers to create a unified agricultural community. Jakobson uses the example of seed-purchasing. If one farm can coordinate its seed-purchasing with surrounding farms, they can place a bulk order and distribute the seeds to the other farms at a cheaper price. The CISA conference will address business planning concepts such as these.
Distributors such as Trust Local Foods in Little Chute and Jakobson’s meetings with the Local Food Academy bridge the gap between agriculture and business. Trust Local Foods compiles the products of 54 farms from Appleton to Janesville, and distributes them to coffee shops, restaurants and nutrition centers from Green Bay to Sheboygan. This “mediating” makes access to food convenient for businesses and aids small farmers in distributing their product.
Whether your passion tends toward business or agriculture, it is possible to contribute to the success of local food in the Fox Cities. “[When] local chefs purchase good, healthy food from honest local farmers and showcase it on their menus for hungry patrons, [it] completes the circle in the community, Economically, socially and environmentally,” says Vosters.
The Community Initiatives in Sustainable Agriculture (CISA) conference will be held April 5–7. Registration is open online at communityfarmincubator.org until March 15. Contact [email protected] for more information.
More Americans are streaming and sharing videos than ever before. According to the Pew Research Center, 71 percent of online Americans in 2011 used video-sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo. With the advent of smartphones and improved mobile networks, video has become the media of choice for many reasons — it’s a fast, effective means of obtaining information as well as entertainment and video has the ability to spread like wildfire.
Two local educational institutions are preparing students for a film-obsessed world by using the medium to teach not only production techniques, but a few other important lessons along the way.
Film as Career Prep
Anna Young is a 17-year-old junior at Appleton’s Renaissance School for the Arts. She wears large, dark-rimmed glasses. Her golden brown hair falls past her shoulders in a natural, wavy texture. When she speaks, it’s with a gentle confidence rarely seen from a high school student, but that’s not the only way Young appears to differ from your average teenager. During a hour-long conversation, she doesn’t fumble for a cellphone once. Not one time check, text or tweet (or at least no obvious ones).
In a world obsessed with constant chatter, Young believes silence is still golden.
“Our society is very noise-filled and we don’t value silence perhaps as much as it used to be valued,” she says. “But there’s a certain aspect of silence that’s necessary for humans to develop.”
Young became intrigued by silence, a concept not often associated with our nation’s youth, after reading James DeVita’s dystopian novel “The Silenced” in her 9th grade civics class. Young obtained the rights from the author to adapt the novel for the stage and spent her summer break working on the script. That experience combined with one of the Renaissance School’s course offerings, music composition for silent films, planted the idea of producing a silent film in Young’s head.
Young began writing a script for a 30 minute film, but was advised against it by Frances Perkins, assistant professor of communication theatre arts at UW-Fox Valley in Menasha, who was recruited to assist with various facets of the film’s production such as cinematography, lighting and post-production.
“Thirty minutes is an awkward length. It’s too long to be online; it would be hard to distribute and get people to watch it,” Perkins says. “The number one way to share video is online so ideally these films should be 10 minutes or less.”
Young began drafting scripts last fall for three 10-minute silent films all revolving around the theme of silence. For instance, in one story Young explores the danger of silence in an abusive relationship.
Young and one of her mentors, faculty member Michael Pekarske, plan to incorporate Renaissance School student artists in all aspects of the film’s creation, from the score to the actors.
“Anna’s working on the script, one of our advanced fashion classes will be creating outfits, acting classes will talk about silent acting,” Pekarske says. “Next fall we will shoot it and then give the rough version to Matt Turner [musician faculty member] so he can start composing music. Then we’ll start editing it in the spring and it will all come together.”
Perkins believes a collaborative film project such as this will not only teach students the technical aspects of filmmaking, but will also show them how careers in the arts function beyond the classroom.
“They will learn that most of the arts are collaborative,” she says. “The lone artist sitting in their garret isn’t something that really happens. If they want to tell their own stories, they have to be able to do it with other people.”
Film as Community Engagement
The Civic Life Project, which piloted on a tutorial basis at Lawrence University (LU) in January, is an educational initiative that engages students in civic action through the use of documentary filmmaking. Students will explore the role of documentary video in public life, the way in which new digital media are reshaping communities and the potential of video as a medium of democratic engagement. They will investigate social issues affecting the Appleton area, conduct research, interview community members and create a short documentary that details what they discover.
Dominique Lasseur, co-founder and executive director of the Civic Life Project (CLP), believes film can be a tool to engage a dynamic audience.
“For young people, most of the way they apprehend the rest of the world is through media. The visual quality of video is something they are very comfortable with, it’s what they grew up with,” he says. “It’s a good way to engage them. The methods of learning are much less passive then."
Lasseur and his partner Catherine Tatge, both award-winning documentary filmmakers, first launched the project at Hotchkiss School, a small private school in Connecticut three years ago and is now being taught across the state at public high schools. Tatge decided to pilot the project at the university level by returning to her alma mater.
“We thought [LU] would be the perfect place to pilot the program in an undergraduate, small liberal arts college that is ensconced in a community where there’s that division, the bubble of the university and the community around them,” says Tatge, a 1972 Lawrence grad. “In some ways, [the CLP] breaks down that barrier.”
LU senior Camilla Grove has worked with Tatge, who is in her second year as LU’s artist-in-residence, on various film projects.
“Film is the new, big thing. For my generation, I feel film is the best way to communicate,” she says. “That’s all people are doing with YouTube and all the ways to come in contact with film, that’s what people are interested in.”
Grove, an English major and film minor, hopes to investigate homelessness in Appleton as part of the CLP this semester. She believes investigating this issue through film will allow her some powerful advantages.
“Film tells a more whole story, one that the filmmaker wants to tell. Artistically there’s different elements to work with that use more of your senses,” she says.
Provost and Dean of the Faculty David Burrows, who has been involved in the expansion of the university’s film studies program, is a supporter of the CLP in part due to its timing.
“Several things have emerged at the same time,” he says. “One of them is obviously film and video. The second is an increased awareness of community engagement on the part of students. I think film provides a tremendous energy and facilitation for it.”
Burrows believes that documentaries in particular are a natural fit for students obtaining a liberal arts education which emphasizes gathering and evaluating evidence. Lasseur adds that these are also the skills necessary to tell a story effectively and with civility.
“The skills you need to be a good documentary filmmaker — curiosity, ability to see both sides of an issue, empathy — are the qualities that you need to be a good citizen,” he says.
In the next school year, Lasseur and Tatge hope to bring this project to the Appleton public school system. They hope that eventually the CLP will replace the civics requirement in public high schools across the country as well as have an impact on communities beyond the classroom.
“It would be wonderful if LU and Appleton become a model for how other small cities can learn and be together and nurture each other in a positive way, using young people as a catalyst,” Tatge says.
Get in on the Action
Public screenings of the Renaissance School’s short silent films will be held in the spring of 2014. The Civic Life Project is anticipating community screenings of the student-made documentaries in May. Stay tuned to foxcitiesmagazine.com for screening dates and times.
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