Open and ready for fun

Dane County’s remaining 2021 events shift into high gear.
07 Bizreportopener Panel

With COVID-19 getting smaller in the rearview mirror, Dane County residents are becoming increasingly comfortable socializing in groups and enjoying live events again. For businesses in the area, this means enthusiastic crowds for networking events, concerts, sporting matches, and fundraisers. To be sure, willing participants will be necessary to put the local business economy back on track.

In a recent Downtown Madison Inc. event, Tim Sauers, vice president of programming and community engagement at Overture Center for the Arts, says his organization is ready to welcome back artists and patrons this fall. “Before the shutdown, we were poised to have our best year ever with the most shows,”
Sauers laments. Now, the organization is ready to make up for lost time with a lineup that includes the Broadway Series, the Cabaret Series, National Geographic Live, and Overture Presents.

The touring shows include Mariachi Herencia de México Esencia, Mannheim Steamroller Christmas, Phantom of the Opera, Hairspray, Hamilton, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Concert. Overture performances mean more than just revenue to a performing arts organization, it means more business for downtown restaurants as visitors make a night of their favorite performance.

The Dane County Farmers’ Market’s return to the Capitol Square will also have a ripple effect on local businesses. As America’s largest producers-only farmers market, it draws crowds that bring valuable dollars to State Street and downtown Madison businesses.

World Dairy Expo is one of the more lucrative events, which brings more than 60,000 participants from more than 100 countries. After canceling the 2020 show, organizers considered sites outside of Dane County, but negotiations with Dane County landed the 54th annual event back at the Alliant Energy Center from Sept. 28–Oct. 2. World Dairy Expo continues to consider a 10-year contract proposal from Dane County to keep the event local.

However, smaller events that are the cornerstones of summer in Madison are the most anticipated for many Dane County residents. The return of Atwoodfest on July 24, although abbreviated to one day, will feature four live bands headlined by the local disco band favorite, V05.

Live music has also returned to the University of Wisconsin–Madison Union Terrace and will feature Handphibians and Steely Dane as part of the July lineup. In addition, Madison Opera fans will be happy to note that Opera in the Park will return to Garner Park on Saturday, July 24 for a free, open-air performance featuring soprano Amanda Majeski, mezzo Rehanna Thelwell, tenor Andrew Stenson, and bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen in a program of opera arias and ensembles. They will be joined by a small ensemble of solo instrumentalists, comprised of Madison-area musicians led by John DeMain.

Local sports enthusiasts are already enjoying Madison Mallards baseball and Forward Madison FC soccer, which are back in full swing and full kick. For local athletes who prefer to be more physical, the Rockin’ Brews Marathon will combine running events with a craft beer festival and live music. The event features a Boston-qualifier full marathon, a half marathon, and team relays. Musicians will play at the finish line and participants can enjoy beer from more than 10 breweries. Another fall running event, the Haunted Hustle, is also back for 2021 on the weekend of October 23–24 with running events that include a 5K, 10K, half marathon, a dog jog, and a kids run.

With opportunities in the arts, music, craft-beer tasting, and local athletic competitions, Dane County residents will have a difficult time finding reasons to stay home, not that anyone even gave that a thought.

Highlighted Dane County events

Aug. 12: Classic Cars and Bluegrass
See vintage and classic cars from Road Apples Car Club with live bluegrass music from Kodey Feiner of the Soggy Prairie Band and Marta Hansen of The Piano Gal Shop. There will be a Children’s Museum table and balloon sculpting for kids.
Location: Cannery Square and the corner of Market and Main streets, Sun Prairie

Aug. 15: Roll & Stroll for Pancreatic Cancer
Bring your bike, scooter, rollerblades, or running shoes and raise money for the UW Carbone Cancer Center. Funds raised help support treatment and care of pancreatic cancer patients.
Location: Capital Brewery, Middleton

Aug. 18: Pressure Chamber
Watch emerging companies compete for the coveted “Golden Suitcase” as well as a reserved spot in the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s exclusive Greater Madison startup meetings with top Silicon Valley investment firms. Participating companies will pitch in front of a panel of out-of-state investors, business executives, and a live audience.
Location: To be announced

Sept. 11: Thirsty Troll Brew Fest
The Thirsty Troll Brew Fest is an intimate beer sampling that features 30 craft brewers serving over 125 different beers, plus live music and food.
Location: Grundahl Park, Mount Horeb

Sept. 17–19: Wauktoberfest
This fall festival features food, beer, live music, inflatables, hammer sluggin’, and pumpkin decorating. Special events include homebrew beer tasting, wine tasting, and a fun run.
Location: Endres Manufacturing Grounds, Waunakee

Sept. 25–26: Art Fair on the Square
Enjoy an outdoor celebration of the arts with nearly 500 artists exhibiting paintings, prints, photographs, sculpture, jewelry, handmade clothing, fine crafts, and a mix of music, entertainment, and outdoor dining.
Location: Madison’s Capitol Square

Oct. 2–3: Fall Village Market
Mount Horeb’s historic downtown is the site of this festival filled with vintage and handmade goods, live music, and food trucks.
Location: Downtown Mount Horeb

Oct. 7: Witches Night Out
Grab your best witches, brooms, and hats and fly to the Trollway for a frightening amount of fun. Dress up and enjoy specials at Mount Horeb shops and restaurants.
Location: Downtown Mount Horeb