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Thursday, 25 September 2014 00:00

Celebrating all things Irish

MESSENGER -- Irish culture and heritage will take center stage next weekend during Janesville Irish Fest.

The festival, in its second year, will be held Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 2 through Oct. 5, at various locations throughout Janesville.

The festivities begin from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, with the Piper’s Ball, which will be held at the Janesville Performing Arts Center, 408 S. Main St. The ball will include an opening ceremony, food, drinks, raffle drawings and music by Borderlands. There also will be a CD release party, featuring music from local artists.

“We are doing a commemorative CD for Irish Fest with local bands,” said Dan Fredricks, co-chair for the Irish Fest Committee. “The nine acts that contributed a song will come that night and play their songs.” Read the current edition here: http://www.server-jbmultimedia.net/CSI-JanesvilleMessengerSunday

The Irish Family Reunion will be held from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, at the Pontiac Convention Center, 2809 N. Pontiac Drive in Janesville, and will include an Irish buffet, costume contest and music from Tallymoore. The Rock County Historical Society will offer free genealogy research assistance and have members of local Irish families sharing their stories about Ireland.

“There will be 13 Irishmen on stage telling stories and jokes about Ireland, including the Ryans, Fitzgeralds, Sheridans and Cullens, so that will be a lot of fun,” Fredricks said.

Several activities will be held in downtown Janesville on Saturday, Oct. 4, including the Leprechaun Run/Walk with registration beginning at 7:30 a.m. in the municipal parking lot at 20 W. Main St.

The Irish Hooley will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring nine bands performing on three stages in downtown Janesville. Gray Brewery Co., 2424 W. Court St., will be offering tours, and Blackhawk Credit Union will be hosting a family picnic with Irish entertainment.

Gaelic Storm will make a return appearance to Janesville at 7:30 p.m. at the Janesville Performing Arts Center.

The festival continues on Sunday with Irish dancers and a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Rotary Botanical Gardens. Members of the Kinsella Academy of Irish Dancers will be performing during the breakfast, and the proceeds will benefit Independent Disability Services and Rotary Botanical Gardens.

The Emerald City Children’s Fest will be held from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5, at Palmer Park and will include games, prizes, children’s activities and music.

“You can start at the pancake breakfast and then go to Palmer Park with the kids and have lots of fun,” Fredricks said.

Gaelic Storm closes out the festival with a second Janesville performance at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5, at JPAC.

Several Janesville businesses will be hosting events and activities during the four-day festival.

“This year, there’s going to be a lot more to do,” Fredricks said. “The community wants something fun to do, so here’s an opportunity. People will have an opportunity to get outside and participate in fun activities before winter starts.”

The Rock County Historical Society will host several activities during Irish Fest, said Michael Reuter, the society’s executive director.

“We’re going to be looking at the genealogy and ancestry of the Irish culture in Janesville,” Reuter said. “We’re going to be showing the documentary ‘Irish in Janesville,’ and we’re going to be offering free genealogy research during the Irish Family Reunion on Friday.”

Members of the Irish Fest committee have been working on the event for the better part of the past year, Fredricks said.

“We’re meeting more often than before, but ever since last year’s event we had a wrap-up meeting and then we began planning again,” he said. “Now that it’s the second year, it’s a little easier.”

Finding and scheduling Irish bands has taken a lot of work, Fredricks said.

“We’ve developed a list of area Irish bands in Milwaukee, Madison and Rockford,” he said. “Last year it was a little harder to find out who could play and who we could afford. Now that we have a list and that we’re getting our name out there, a lot of bands are contacting us.”

The idea of having an Irish festival really took shape after Gaelic Storm was booked for 2013, Fredricks said.

“Once Gaelic Storm got booked, we said, ‘We should have an Irish Fest in Janesville because there’s so many Irish people,’” he said. “So, that’s how that happened.”

Response to the festival has been favorable among residents and business owners, Fredricks said.

“Venues that held activities were really happy. Basically, all of them came back this year,” he said. “Some of the venues even expanded from last year because they were so successful.”

Fredricks said he hopes Irish Fest continues to be an annual tradition in Janesville.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun to see it take shape and grow from just an idea to something that has become part of the community now,” Fredricks said.

Reuter said the festival gives residents an opportunity to recognize Janesville’s Irish heritage.

“It’s always great when we have the opportunity to promote the rich heritage of Janesville’s culture,” Reuter said. “There’s a strong Irish heritage in Janesville.”

For more information about Irish Fest, go online to JanesvilleIrishFest.com.

MESSENGER -- The Art Institute of Chicago last week was named the best museum in the world, according to a survey done by the website TripAdvisor.com.

It's true that the museum is well known, particularly here in the Midwest, and features classic works of art such as Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” by impressionist Georges Seurat.

But what if you’d like to see an authentic 5-cent phone booth or find out why tobacco was the cash crop of the last century?

For that, you'll have to visit one of the many off-the-beaten-path museums that can be found in communities throughout our area. Read the current edition here: http://www.server-jbmultimedia.net/CSI-JanesvilleMessengerSunday

The Messenger stopped in at several recently, and here’s what we found: 

Footville Telephone Company Museum

The telephone industry has played an important role in the history of Footville for more than a century.

Residents can relive that history and view some classic telephones at the Footville Telephone Company Museum, 115 W. Centre St. The little museum features antique crank phones, wall phones and desk phones, as well as early cellular phones from the 1980s and phones featuring cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse, Snoopy and Garfield.

“(The telephones) all have a story,” said Myron Bohn, a member of the Luther Valley Historical Society. “We have old crank phones and a candlestick phone because it looked like a candlestick. (One phone) looks like a modern phone, but it’s a crank phone… We’ve even got modern ones that don’t work anymore.”

The museum features a 5-cent phone booth, which was one of the last such operating phone booths in the country.

“They had that here for years,” Bohn said.  “Even after everyone went to the quarter phone booths, they were still using the nickel phone booth.”

The museum, which is open for tours and field trips, also includes a Morse code machine and antique switchboards. Children who don’t even remember phones with a cord attached to the wall can tour the museum and try some of the phones.

“It’s popular with kids. They usually have a class on communications and school kids come through,” Bohn said. “This is probably one of the only hands-on museums that I know of where kids can crank the phones, operate the switchboard and touch anything in here.”

Adult visitors seem to enjoy the telephone nostalgia, as well, he said.

“These phones are popular with a lot of people, because a lot of people remember having these on grandma’s farm,” Bohn said.

Most of the phones have been donated by area residents.

“Anybody that has a phone and they don’t know what to do with it, they can donate it,” Bohn said. “We have a donated switchboard and a lot of donated antique phones.”

Footville Telephone Co. was established in 1902 and originally operated out of several homes until a building was constructed for it in 1914.

“They had a switchboard in the house, and as they got more and more customers, they needed more space, and they built (the telephone company) building,” Bohn said. “This building was actually run by a family, too. There was a bedroom and the night operator was there.

“At night you couldn’t make a phone call, but if there was a fire or an emergency, they would get the night operator out of bed. It was a mother, father and two daughters.”

The telephone company included a siren system to alert volunteer firefighters when there was an emergency.

“They had a switch in here where they could turn on the siren alert ... “ Bohn said. “It was a necessity for fires and for medical emergencies and for communications.

“These old operators that were in here, they told people everything. They even told the weather report.”

Bohn said there also were party lines, which the operators could use to share information with up to 20 people.

“There were 20 people on the line, and you could pick up and talk. One person had to be talking and the other people listening,” Bohn said. “People would eavesdrop, because they would pick up the phone and listen to people talking. They had to wait to get off the line to use the phone, but instead of getting off the line they would stay on the line. Everyone knew everything.”

The Footville Telephone Dial Building, which is still used as a meeting area, was constructed behind the phone company building in 1954 to accommodate dial telephones. The Footville Telephone Company was sold to the Northwest Telephone Company in 1983. The company closed the building in 1988, and it was renovated for the museum in 2001.

To schedule a tour of the Footville Telephone Company Museum, call 608-752-1104 or 608-876-6892.

Banking on history

The former Footville State Bank building, 158 Depot St., also is open for tours. The building has been restored to its original condition and includes tellers’ windows, vaults and safes. The bank building also includes a collection of photographs, genealogical materials, township journals, church records and books, as well as information about a bank robbery that occurred in 1965.

“(The building) is in good shape,” Bohn said. “It’s got the old bars in the tellers’ windows and everything… They had the gun to the robbery at one time, but I don’t think they have the gun anymore. They have an old safe in there. ...

“They did a beautiful job on the building.”

Tours of the bank building are offered from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday. For more information, call 608-752-1104.

“If you want to go through both (the bank building and the telephone museum), they will accommodate both,” Bohn said.

Tobacco heritage preserved

The city of Edgerton once was known as the tobacco capital of the world, a distinction that still is celebrated in the community.

“It was the sole reason that people moved here,” said Paula Carrier, vice president of the Edgerton Chamber of Commerce. “Growing the tobacco, the farmers did everything from the harvesting and stripping of it to the shipping of it. It’s been told that our tobacco leaf was used for cigar wrapping. It wasn’t used for cigar filler. It was actually the healthy leaves that were used for cigar rolling.”

The Tobacco Museum, 20 W. Main St., located next to the Depot Café, highlights the history of the tobacco industry in Edgerton. The museum features tools that were used for growing and harvesting tobacco, tobacco-rolling equipment, pipes, cigar molds and photographs of tobacco farmers.

The museum also includes artifacts and photographs related to the history of businesses, churches, schools, sports teams and bands that were once located in Edgerton, as well as information about Sterling North, a well-known author who lived in Edgerton.

“A lot of this is put together as a collaboration of what was Edgerton all about, everything from our hospital to our school district,” Carrier said.

Most of the items in the museum have been donated by area residents, who are welcome to contribute their items, Carrier said.

The museum is operated by the Edgerton Chamber of Commerce and local volunteers. More volunteers are needed so the museum could expand its hours, Carrier said.

“I think the people who know the history are older, and it’s harder for them to commit. A lot of people who are volunteering are volunteering for four or five different things, so it’s really hard to find that time,” she said. “I have complete confidence that this will grow. We will get the help that we need, eventually. We try to be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That’s our goal.”

The city highlights the history of its tobacco industry each year by hosting Edgerton Tobacco Heritage Days in July.

Carrier said there are local farmers who still raise tobacco.

“They still go through the whole process of the setting, hoeing, topping, cutting, stringing, stripping and selling,” Carrier said. “It’s very, very hands-on. It’s a delicate plant, so it requires hand touch and it’s not like other crops where you can bring in equipment to take of it. It actually has to be taken care of by manual labor.”

For more information about visiting the Edgerton Tobacco Museum, call 608-884-4408.

JANESVILLE -- The Janesville Police Department is working to address concerns in the Fourth Ward.

Police Chief David Moore, during a news conference Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, outlined several initiatives to help officers become more aware of what is occurring in the Fourth Ward and to work more closely with residents to help reduce crime in that area.

JANESVILLE -- Speed, quickness, versatility and athleticism. That’s why they call them skill positions. And Janesville Craig’s offense features plenty of them to torment Big Eight Conference opponents this season.

MESSENGER -- Jared Boyd plans to follow in his uncle’s footsteps with a career where he can help others in emergencies.

JANESVILLE MESSENGER -- Show ski teams from around the globe are practicing this week on the Rock River in Janesville as they prepare for this weekend's World Water Ski Show Tournament at Traxler Park.

This is the second time Janesville has hosted the tournament, which officially begins at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 13-14, 2014. Admission is $5 for spectators 6 and older.

STATELINE NEWS -- Autumn Douglas is following her grandfather’s footsteps into the art of wood carving. The 11-year-old Clinton Middle School student will be the first  junior featured carver at this year’s Rock River Valley Wood Carvers show and sale, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Rock County Fairgrounds, 1301 Craig Ave. in Janesville.

Friday, 05 September 2014 00:00

Parkview schools embark on long-term project

MESSENGER -- As students returned to class this week in the Parkview School District, there were plenty of school projects getting started.

Friday, 29 August 2014 00:00

Voices of hope raised in song

MESSENGER -- A group of young singers from Africa will travel to the area soon to share their musical talents and their stories.

The African Children’s Choir, Choir 42, will perform at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5, at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 700 N. Bloomfield Road, Lake Geneva; and at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 7, at Faith Community Church, 2931 Lucerne Drive, Janesville.

It's a little more than two months until the 2014 general election, and Paul Ryan and Rob Zerban are ramping up their campaigns.

The winner of the Nov. 4 general election will be Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District congressman for the following two years.

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