Each summer, my family celebrates the third Sunday in August. The cause for celebration isn’t a birthday or anniversary or even a holiday, however. The third weekend in August is the Allenton Picnic – a hometown festival with a fish fry, lots of food, music, and a parade – like many others around the state.
Allenton is the small, unincorporated town in southeastern Wisconsin right off US Highway 41 where I grew up. It’s a town that you drive through and if you blink you might miss it. In the 1970s, my parents purchased a log cabin in this small town that they renovated and made into the home where they raised three children (including myself). The original part of the home was built in the 1860s and my dad and grandfather built an addition to the house with reclaimed railroad ties salvaged from the property. One of the things I love most about the Allenton Parade is that it gives me an excuse to spend time with my family in this house and continue our annual tradition.
For nearly 40 years, my parents have celebrated the third weekend in August by opening up their home for a Sunday lunch, post-parade. Friends and families gather in the morning at their house and caravan to “downtown” Allenton for the parade, which has been well-known for years as one of the most entertaining in southern Wisconsin, with performances by the likes of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, multiple marching bands, local politicians riding in classic cars, and floats from the winning youth organization’s softball teams.
Like most things, this annual tradition had its ups and downs and evolved with the times. After a brief hiatus with cancelled events during the pandemic, it feels like the Allenton Parade and Picnic is back up and running at full speed. Now, it’s my nieces and nephews collecting the free parade giveaways instead of my siblings and I. Although we’ve gotten older and the childhood excitement of free candy has dwindled, our parade tradition still sparks joy in all of us each year.
Not unlike the Allenton Parade, the 2023 Birds in Art exhibition and Preview Experience has evolved in many ways over the course of its 48-year lifetime. This year, many are eagerly awaiting the return of a well-regarded tradition at the Woodson Art Museum – the naming of a Master Wildlife Artist. Paul Rhymer, the 2023 Birds in Art Master Wildlife Artist will give a talk on Saturday, September 9. While this is only my third year experiencing Birds in Art, I can tell that this evolving tradition feels like magic to all that attend. Museum staff, members, volunteers, visitors, and artists continue to sustain our annual tradition with enthusiastic attitudes and innovative ideas that makes each year feel brand new.
I’m most excited to spend time in the galleries with artworks from 112 artists and experience the opening weekend of Birds in Art, celebrating the internationally-renowned exhibition with over 60 artists in attendance. I hope to see you there as well, taking part in our evolving, annual tradition. Maybe one of these years we will throw some free candy to the crowds in attendance.