Atwood Summerfest

The future of theyears popular Atwood Summerfest is up in the air.  After 31 years, the Goodman Center, which sponsors the annual event, is looking for another group to take charge of the event.

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After more than three decades, the fate of Atwood Summerfest is up in the air.

“It’s a great event. For us, it’s just the amount of time it takes from other more mission-driven activities,” says Becky Steinhoff, director of the Goodman Center, which, with its predecessor the Atwood Community Center, ran the popular street fair for 31 years.

But she stresses that the decision doesn’t necessarily mean the end. On Thursday, Goodman staffers met with the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara Neighborhood Association to see if the group was willing to take charge of the festival, which takes place in July on the 2000 and 2100 blocks of Atwood Avenue during the height of the east side fest season, two weeks after the Fete de Marquette.

East side resident Ben Anton, who has helped organize La Fete de Marquette since its inception, was at the meeting and says he’ll sit on an exploratory committee to see if SASYNA can keep the Summerfest going.

“A group of interested individuals has decided to form an exploratory committee and to meet with Becky and learn if there are some systems in place that can be replicated,” he says.

Another nearby neighborhood group, the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center, probably can’t be involved. Wil-Mar’s director, Gary Kallas, says the association is already plenty busy with its own festivals.

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“We kind of have our hands full. We’re Willy Street Fair, we’re La Fete de Marquette. And we participate with the Marquette Neighborhood Association festivals also,” he says. “We’re already June, July, August and September.”

He notes that La Fete de Marquette this year will have the added feature of taking place at the Madison Central Park, where it started eight years ago, before shifting to a couple nearby properties as the city moved ahead with plans to revitalize the park.

He says he holds out hope that others can step up for Summerfest.

“I believe in these community gatherings and these festivals on a personal basis,” he says, “and I think they’re great for building community.”

Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.