An eventful summer

Dane County cautiously rolls out the red carpet for summer events.
06 Biz Rep Opener Issue 1

Last month, more than 5,000 people flocked to Camp Randall Stadium to attend the commencement ceremony for the University of Wisconsin’s class of 2021. Although graduates and attendees were assigned to “pods” and family and friends watched via livestream, the ceremony was the first in-person gathering in a year and a half, and enthusiasm for the return to normal was infectious.

Madison is ready to mingle

Updated statistics at press time show that more than 61% of Dane County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 50% of county residents are fully vaccinated, the highest rate in the state. While Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical advisor for the pandemic, isn’t ready to advise fully relaxing pandemic precautions just yet, event planners in Dane County are itching to move forward with summer plans. Infection data and vaccination metrics seem to bolster people’s willingness to dip a toe into connecting with others outside of their own backyards.


The American Family Insurance Championship will return this year and be played June 5–13 at University Ridge Golf Course. Player-host Steve Stricker, two-time U.S Open champion and Wisconsin golf legend Andy North, and defending champion Jerry Kelly will play in the tournament. While the fan field is limited to 5,000 attendees per day, and masking protocols will be followed, the event’s return is an indicator of the confidence that big events can be held safely.

Since its inception, the championship and associated events have raised $10.2 million for the American Family Children’s Hospital and other charities. The canceled 2020 event still generated more than $3 million in donations to nonprofit organizations when American Family Insurance reallocated its tournament title sponsorship investment and combined it with financial resources within the Steve Stricker American Family Insurance Foundation.

Taking the lead from this and other larger events such as Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair, and EAA’s AirVenture aviation event, smaller local outdoor events are moving forward with summer and fall plans. The Sessions at McPike Park will return this August with five sessions from Aug. 6–13. Organizer Bob Queen hopes the park is “full of smiling, responsible, vaccinated music lovers.”

Opera in the Park, a Madison event held at Garner Park, is planned for July 24 with organizers noting they “are monitoring the public health situation closely and will keep the public informed of any changes and safety protocols as they are developed.”

The Memorial Union at the University of Wisconsin–Madison has reopened to the public with safety protocols in place, but the much-awaited event lineup, including live music, has not yet been announced.

Always a favorite, American Players Theatre in Spring Green is cautiously moving forward with performances that began on May 14 with The Mountaintop in the Touchstone Theatre. In the outdoor Hill Theatre, Jim DeVita’s new Shakespeare-inspired play, An Improbable Fiction, opened on May 27. An Iliad will open in late June and Rough Crossing will open in early July. Depending on health orders, APT might allow larger audience numbers than those currently being planned.

Some events, however, are cancelling again this year. In April, La Fete de Marquette was canceled with the hope of returning in 2022.

Adapted, not canceled

Rather than cancel, many popular events have been adapted to protect attendees and adhere more closely to safety precautions. The Wisconsin Film Festival continued to be a virtual event in May while the Dane County Farmers’ Market moved to the Alliant Energy Center, Concerts on the Square relocated to Breese Stevens Field, and Jazz at Five is temporarily trying out McKee Farms in Fitchburg.

Organizers of relocated events cite the need for more space according to projected attendees. MMoCA will not be relocating the popular Art Fair on the Square but instead hold the event the weekend of Sept. 25–26.

Privileges for the protected

For fans who have been fully vaccinated, Forward Madison FC will offer designated sections where attendees will be able to sit unmasked and cheer on the team without social distancing. The Madison Mallards, who play at Warner Park, have announced a similar option for baseball fans. Perhaps the freedom of cheering and high fiving will be a pleasant perk in exchange for the vaccine poke.

It’s on!

Highlighted Dane County events

June 10–13 — Mount Horeb Summer Frolic
A full weekend of entertainment to kick off the summer includes a carnival, bingo, live music, the Norsk Run, a youth baseball tournament, fireworks, and a parade.
Location: Grundahl Park and other locations, Mount Horeb

June 19 — Cottage Grove “Hot 2 Trot” Fireman’s Festival Run
A fundraiser for the Cottage Grove Fire Department with half marathon, 5K, 1K kids run, and virtual run options
Location: Fireman’s Park, Cottage Grove

July 4 — WaunaBoom
Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Village of Waunakee with live music, free family activities, food, an F-16 flyover, and a fireworks display
Location: Ripp Park, Waunakee

July 17–19 — Mount Horeb’s 50th Annual Art Fair
This special event showcases fine artists and crafters from around the Midwest, Norwegian culture, food and music, a silent art auction, and downtown amenities.
Location: Main Street, Mount Horeb

July 21 — Middleton Chamber Golf Outing
The “Bogey Boogie” will include a 10:30 a.m. shotgun start, games, hole contests, and networking.
Location: Pleasant View Golf Course, Middleton

July 22–25 — WaunaFest
A summer festival featuring a carnival, beer garden, softball tournament, fun run, food stands, and live music
Location: Centennial Park, Waunakee

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