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Muskego Fest: from highwire acts to today's rockin' bands

Organizers have balanced its entertainment for a quarter-century

The high-energy Kids From Wisconsin will be a special feature of the 25th anniversary of Muskego Fest this year.

The high-energy Kids From Wisconsin will be a special feature of the 25th anniversary of Muskego Fest this year. Photo By Jack Spoerl of Muskego Fest

Aug. 10, 2012

Muskego - It's hard to believe, but elephants have actually lumped around Veterans Memorial Park across from the Muskego City Hall.

And a famous highwire act once kept their careful balance above the treetops at the park.

All that and more are packed into the 25-year history of the Muskego Community Festival, shortened lately to just Muskego Fest.

Jack Spoerl, this year's entertainment chairman, has been a part of it all, even serving as chairman of the community event in its second year.

So Spoerl remembers firsthand more than one circus coming to the festival with elephants and other animals, and when a trio of Wallendas, members of the Flying Wallendas, one year thrilled the local crowd by riding a bicycle on the highwire and tripping lightly above the treetops.

Where credit is due

Spoerl paid tribute to the Muskego VFW as the first to recognize that a community festival would be a good thing.

For many years, the VFW ran the Country Fair Days festival the weekend before Labor Day weekend. That event grew too large for the group to handle and Country Fair Days wasn't held one year, Spoerl said. That's when two VFW members Ron Bohrer and the late Paul DeAngelis got seven community groups together to explore working with the VFW to try to revive it.

Those original seven - the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce, the Muskego Lions Club, the Muskego Icetronauts, the Muskego American Legion, the Muskego Moose Lodge, the Muskego Athletic Association and the Little Muskego Lake Association - and the Muskego VFW all chipped in cash and volunteers to make a new festival happen.

It got a new name and was moved from the VFW festival location beside Pick 'n Save on Janesville Road to Veterans Memorial Park across from the City Hall. The next year, the eight were joined by the Muskego Woman's Club.

The first two years of the Muskego Community Festival, there was no carnival and only one entertainment stage. The carnival was added in the third year. Within two years, an entertainment area was added to the food court. Shortly thereafter, the second entertainment stage was added.

Over time, the event expanded from two days to four - the fourth day is the relatively new non-alcoholic family day added only three years ago.

In the 25-year history of the fun weekend, the nine community groups have put substantial amounts of money into the grounds, mainly to expand the park, which was probably a third of its current size, Spoerl said.

Today's entertainment

While the show may not feature the same circus acts of its earlier renditions, the goal is still to please the crowds.

The entertainment all depends on what's out there, Spoerl said. And this year they made a special effort.

Among the elements he is "very excited" about is the appearance of the Kids from Wisconsin on the main entertainment stage - the group's third appearance in those 25 years.

"We wanted to bring in something special and they are special," he said of the 20 singers and dancers and 13-piece show band.

Add to them the performances of two well-known, high-energy bands, Rhythm Method and Mt. Olive, to the Saturday night lineup along with two lesser known bands that also impressed organizers.

Spoerl has noticed that the music has changed greatly over the quarter century of Muskego Fest. Big bands and polka bands have given way to rock bands and country acts, he said.

Not only has the music changed, but many of the bands put on amazing light shows, Spoerl said.

- Jane Ford-Stewart

Muskego Fest

Veterans Memorial Park across from the Muskego City Hall, S8200 Racine Ave.:

Thursday, Aug. 23

6 to 10 p.m. - Family Night (alcohol free), Calkins Midway wristband special $16

6:30 to 9:30 p.m. - Muskego Teen Idol semi-finals (Family Stage) presented by Muskego Performing Arts Council & Muskego Teen Advisory Board

6:30 p.m. - Muskego's Maxine's Studio of Dance performance (Miller Lite Stage)

Friday, Aug. 24

5 p.m. - Opening ceremony

5 p.m. - Fish fry (Hawg City Grill - Food Court)

5 to 7 p.m. - The Orphans band (Food Court)

7 p.m. - Kohl's Wild Theater presented by Zoological Society of Milwaukee (Family Stage)

7 to 11 p.m. - Rabid Aardvarks, 2012 WAMI Cover Band of the year (Miller Lite Stage)

7:30 to 11:30 p.m. - Rhythm Method (MGD Stage)

Saturday, Aug. 25

Noon - Grounds open

Noon to 5 p.m. - Calkins Midway wristband special $16

3 to 6 p.m. - Muskego's Anita's Dance Company performance (Family Stage)

3 to 7 p.m. - Crossfire (Food Court)

7 p.m. - Muskego Teen Idol finals (Family Stage) presented by Muskego Performing Arts Council & Muskego Teen Advisory Board

7 to 11 p.m. - Georgia Overdrive (Miller Lite Stage)

7:30 to 11:30 p.m. - Mt. Olive, 2007 WAMI Cover Band of the year (MGD Stage)

Sunday, Aug. 26

Noon - Grounds open

11 a.m. Festival parade honoring Muskego Woman's Club with the parade theme "Hometown of Happiness"

1:30,3 and 4:30 p.m. - Nick's Kids show (Family Area) sponsored by Cousins Subs of Muskego

2 to 3 p.m. - Anita's Dance Company (Family Stage)

2 to 4:15 p.m. - Kids from Wisconsin (MDG Stage) sponsored by InPro Corporation of Muskego

4 to 6 p.m. - The Groove Therapy Band (Food Court)

6 p.m. - Festival closes

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