Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison

Summerfest–Join Us for our 50th Anniversary Celebration!

submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Jeff Burkhart

Bob Babisch 6 6 2018

Bob Babisch with Club President Donna Hurd

Bob Babisch, of Milwaukee’s famous Summerfest, shared the history and stories about the annual music festival held on Milwaukee’s lakefront park.  This year it runs for 11 days from June 27 to July 8 and is expected to draw 850,000, making it one of the largest music festivals in the world.

Summerfest started in July 1968 to bring Milwaukeeans together during a period of racial and civil strife and was modeled after the German Oktoberfest in Munich.  Initially, it was a city-wide event held at various public venues but was eventually consolidated at the current 75 acre lakefront site near downtown Milwaukee at a former Nike missile facility.  It is also the site of many ethnic festivals held during the summer.

Milwaukee World Festivals is the umbrella organization and has 43 full time and up to 2,500 seasonal staff.  Summerfest has gained a worldwide reputation for the excellence and variety of musical talent and performances.  The facilities have been consistently improved and upgraded to keep pace with the growing professionalism and standards of the live music performance industry.  Between 2005 and 2016 they invested $69.2 million in new stages, entry points, food venues, and facilities.

Mr. Babisch gave us a quick overview of the business model and economics of Summerfest and the facilities.  First, they have many corporate sponsors that support and upgrade the performance stages and venues.  Without this support they would not be able to have first-class amenities and keep the base one-day ticket price at $21.  Second, one might assume that ticket prices provide the bulk of revenue used to run the enterprise.  However, in order to attract and incent the best talent, the performers usually receive up to 90% of the net revenue with a guaranteed minimum.  Although this exposes Summerfest to some risk, it helps attract the best headliners.  The bulk of the revenue and profit that accrues to Summerfest comes from the ancillary sales of food, beer and other beverages.  Their goal is to make Summerfest a people’s festival by keeping entry costs affordable and the standards high.

So, with 11 days, 11 stages and 12 hours of non-stop entertainment each day there should be something for everyone!

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

The Latinx Story: How They Came to Wisconsin

submitted by Linn Roth; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Sergio Gonzalez 5 30 2018

From left: Dawn Crim, Sergio Gonzalez and Club President Donna Hurd

Professor Sergio González of Marquette University gave a lively and informative presentation chronicling the growth and importance of the Mexican population in Wisconsin, using his family as one example of how that evolution took place.  The journey for this group of people – not an easy one – began in the 1920’s when laws were passed that limited immigration from Eastern Europe and resulted in an increased need for factory workers, particularly in and around Milwaukee.  These early Latino workers were considered “scabs,” and integration into the greater community was largely non-existent.

Subsequently, these immigrants established their own communities, which grew as the demand for agricultural and other workers increased.  In the 1940-1950’s, an average of 15,000 immigrants came to Wisconsin for each growing season, and, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, a much larger population began to unionize and advocate for basic rights in housing, schools and treatment by police.

By 1980, the population of Wisconsin residents of Latino descent was less than 70,000 but mushroomed to over 400,000 by 2010.  In 2016, state legislators proposed a law to tighten this immigration pattern, but their effort was met by large public protests and an outcry by Wisconsin’s dairy industry which was dependent on this Latino labor pool.

Today, Wisconsin’s Latino population is over 420,000, and contributes greatly to Wisconsin’s economy and culture.  Although many of them live with uncertainties created by the US’s fractured immigration policy, this vibrant community is critical to the future of Wisconsin and is doing everything possible so they can be considered “true Wisconsinites.”

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

An Update on Stretch Targets for Wisconsin

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

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Dave Baskerville and Club President Donna Hurd

Fellow Rotarian Dave Baskerville spoke to Rotarians and guests about “Stretch Targets for Wisconsin,” an effort he heads dedicated to the proposition that this state can do much better economically than it has for the past forty years. It must set targets for ten years ahead and work to achieve them, just as new or struggling businesses do. Dave emphasized two areas: The economy and education. First he compared trends in Wisconsin to what has been happening in Minnesota. Thirty-eight years ago, the two states were virtually equivalent economically. In the years since, Minnesota has done far better in various important economic statistics, especially job growth and average wage growth. One difficulty, as both Dave and questioner Marv Levy pointed out, is that Wisconsin has had a hard time retaining its formerly great businesses, either because they relocate or the industry atrophies; and, as Dave indicated, Wisconsin has done a poor job of attracting new ones.

Education is an important element in this story. In math, science, and reading, the U.S. ranks 36th among the nations of the world; Wisconsin is better, but can do better. A goal would be to equal such national performers as Singapore, Japan, or Canada by 2038. Dave argued that it can be done, just as nations have arisen from destructive wars to become leaders. In 1993, Massachusetts and Wisconsin were about equal in achievement rates. Now, Massachusetts is in the top ten. It succeeded by establishing rigorous goals for teachers and students. Today, the poor in Massachusetts have the highest wages in the country. There are several schools in Milwaukee that have demonstrated great success despite the prevailing poverty of its children, including one high school that was rated the best in the country by US News.

Success in these Stretch goals can lead to progress in job skills, social mobility and justice, and national security. Wisconsin has great resources and people, and these have to be mobilized. The state’s white high school students currently rank 41st in reading, and its black students rate 49th. The state ranks 40th in average wages. But just as Vince Lombardi transformed the lowly 1958 Packers into the powerhouse teams of the 1960s, Wisconsin can achieve great things by setting goals and working to meet them.

Our thanks to WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting this week, and you can watch the video here.

Ted DeDee on His Tenure at Overture

submitted by Dave Nelson; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Ted DeDee 4 25 2018Ted DeDee outlined the challenges he faced when he became president and CEO of the Overture Center for the Arts in 2012 and the achievements at Overture during the six-year period that will end with his retirement at the end of the 2017-2018 season. DeDee inherited a public dispute about the management of Overture, as Overture was transferred from city management to private nonprofit status.  He organized Overture as a start-up company while respecting the history of the Center and the role of the extraordinary Frautschi contribution. During those six years, Overture maintained a positive financial situation with donor support going from $12.4 million to $22.6 million; generated a cash reserve of a million dollars; and developed programming that included 11 weeks of Broadway shows that brought ticket buyers from all over the Midwest. DeDee particularly noted that the Frostiball had become an invaluable part of the Overture fundraising program.

Another change under DeDee’s leadership was an increase in diversity and inclusion. People of color now comprise the Overture Board, and Overture works with over 200 community partners to make performances accessible to students who might not otherwise afford performances. Club 10 offers $10 tickets to more than 50 shows during the year.

As DeDee’s retirement approaches, Overture is beginning to develop a “living strategic plan” that will provide flexible directions for the next decade.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Culinary Arts Fellowship Enjoys a Spanish-Inspired Feast

submitted by Annette Hellmer; photos by Charles McLimans & Steve Wallman

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Chef Tory Miller’s latest restaurant, Estrellon, opened its doors to the Culinary Arts Fellowship on Monday April 23rd.  Nearly 40 Rotarians enjoyed an array of Spanish-influenced dishes made with an abundance of locally-sourced ingredients accented by delicacies imported from Spain.

The restaurant is stylish and sophisticated with a white interior and dark exposed beams.  The open kitchen allows guests to watch as the chefs masterfully prepare the food.

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Chef Miller was unable to join us because he and his wife are expecting a new baby imminently.  Not to worry…the rest of the Estrellon team, led by Executive Sous Chef Kyle Thomas, had things covered.  The preparation and presentation of our meal was flawless.  We enjoyed a wide assortment of tapas, all of which were served family-style.

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Words cannot do the flavors justice.  The feast included tastings of 4 flavorful small plates, 5 delicious large plates, 2 varieties of Paella, and was capped off by the restaurant’s signature Basque cake.  The flavors ranged from delicate to bold, from simple to complex.  The meal, which featured twelve separate dishes in total, was downright amazing.

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Thank you to Glenda Noel-Ney and Loretta Himmelsbach who planned this great event.  We hope to see even more Rotarians join us for the next outing!

Visit our club’s Facebook page for more photos.

Brandon: Behold the New Madison Economy!

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by Mike Engelberger

Zach Brandon 4 18 2018Zach Brandon, President of the Madison Chamber of Commerce, wants civic leaders to see a great new future for Madison.  Today’s perception is that Madison is a place of government and education and not a very good place for business.  But that is not the Madison that is evolving before our eyes, he asserted in a spirited talk.

In 1948, Life carried a cover story with a question: Is Madison the best place to live in the country?  Since then dozens of magazines have trumpeted Madison’s superlatives.  But in the last twenty years national writers have been touting a new surprising set of superlative metrics, a place that is among the top cities in the country measured in economic momentum, confidence about the future, percentage of tech workers, educational attainment, millennials in high tech positions and overall innovation.  These are the qualities of the future workforce, which we ignore at our great peril.

“How can we best nurture this exciting new future for this special city?” Brandon asked.  Only if we find better ways to recruit our future work force, he replied.   To find out how to do this, the Chamber hired Brainjuice, a London company that specializes in effective recruiting campaigns.  Their 500-person national survey produced some surprising and critically important findings.

Workers in Madison’s new economy consciously seek something special—a city where their experience is more important than possessions, a city where natural beauty abounds, a city that crackles with spirit, life of the mind, cutting edge knowledge, justice and equity.  This is the city our discerning future workers seek, Brandon emphasized.

Armed with this template, the Chamber is creating new communication tools using drones and state-of-the art video techniques to give prospective new economy workers a vivid and compelling image of the city.

What a privilege to hear this new vision!

Madison Public Market Coming in 2020

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Mike Engelberger

Trey Sprinkman & Amanda White 4 11 2018Two Rotarians, Trey Sprinkman and Amanda White, are part of the effort to create a public market in Madison, and they reported to us today at the Alliant Energy Center. In addition, nine vendors were available prior to the meeting to provide free samples of the goods they might have available at the new market. These vendors remained after the meeting to show and sell their goods (including dog treats made from Wisconsin trout!).

The new Madison Public Market, which will be located at First Street and East Washington Avenue, seeks to replicate public markets that exist in many cities in America and elsewhere. It will open in 2020 after groundbreaking next year. The project will be financed with $8.5 million in contributions from the city, $2.5 million in tax credits, and perhaps $4 million in contributions from the community. A major fund-raising effort has been launched. When the Market is opened, it is expected that thirty-five new businesses will be launched in the first year and that the Market will attract 500,000 visitors every year, with sales of from $16 million to $20 million annually. One hundred and eighty businesses already have expressed an interest in participating.

The market will celebrate local cultures and the local economy. It will make available food that is to be found nowhere else in the city. Unlike the farmers’ markets, it will be indoors and year round. Its 30,000 square feet will become a hot place in town. It’s the “next big project” in Madison. After three years of city support, the Public Market will be self-sustaining. It will be a driver of entrepreneurial development and diversity: 83 percent of the workers will be people of color, 60 percent will be women, 33 percent will be first-generation immigrants. There will be a hybrid of old established businesses and new ones. Trey and Amanda encouraged members to join in the effort to create this Madison Public Market. Their brochure invited people to visit their website, www.madisonpublicmarket.org, to learn how they can support this “next big project.”

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.