Two major outdoor festivals are fast approaching and both are celebrating anniversaries this year. The next few weeks will mark both the 25th anniversary of the Taste of Madison and the 30th anniversary of the Willy Street Fair.
The Taste of Madison is, of course, all about eating, with 67 restaurants slated to serve some 200 dishes on the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend. One regularly heard complaint about the event is the number of chains included, a sentiment that is not without merit. Nearly 20 of the participating restaurants -- more than a quarter -- are indeed national or regional chains. The other fifty or so are locals, meanwhile, though more than a few of these are caterers or event restaurants located outside of Dane County. This rough proportion likewise stands among the menu items selected as stand-outs at the festival.
Most importantly, though, proceeds from beverage sales fund United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Dane County.
Music is the other main feature of the Taste as four stages, sponsored by Madison radio stations will host live acts over two days. While the rock and country stages on East Wash and Wisconsin are stalwarts, some of the biggest crowds can be found at the top of State Street at the Carroll Street stage that will feature reggaeton, Norteño, and other Latin music groups.
The summer festival season in Madison doesn't end with Labor Day, though. That honor goes to the Willy Street Fair, held every September just before the official start of autumn.
Drawing some 30,000 people to three blocks of Williamson Street over two days, this year's fair will feature its afternoon preview on Saturday, September 15 and its full-day party complete with its famous parade on Sunday, September 16. "This year we'll have a few surprises up our sleeves including a fantastic spectacle of 30,000 bubbles and a special drawing to give away 30 totally cool giant bubble making machines," promise organizers in an official announcement made last Friday.
It's the fair's music lineup that's particularly noteworthy, though. The Willy Street Fair continues a strong tradition of booking some of Madison's strongest acts.The entertainment lineup for this year:
Saturday, September 15:
- MadCat DJ Stage (located at 901 Williamson near Corner Grocery)
- 2:30 p.m.: DJ El Niche
- 4:30 p.m.: DJ Laurie
- 7:00 p.m.: Center Stage Entertainment
- Kickoff Stage (located at 924 Williamson near Star Photo)
- 2:00 p.m.: Queenie and the Blue Cats
- 3:30 p.m.: Dobet Gnahorê (presented by the Madison World Music Festival)
- 5:30 p.m.: TBA
- 7:00 p.m.: Campbell Brothers
Sunday, September 16:
- Underground Stage (located at 826 Williamson near Struck & Irwin Fence)
- 12:00 p.m.: Earl Foss' Brown Derby
- 1:10 p.m.: Gut Reactions
- 2:20 p.m.: Pale Young Gentlemen
- 3:30 p.m.: Ouija Radio
- 4:40 p.m.: Shazy Hade
- 5:50 p.m.: Know Boundaries
- Rock Stage (located at 924 Williamson near Star Photo)
- 12:00 p.m.: Honor Among Thieves
- 1:30 p.m.: Blueheels
- 3:00 p.m.: Little Blue Crunchy Things
- 4:30 p.m.: Pupy Costello & His Big City Honky Tonk
- 6:00: p.m.: The Kissers
- Kid's Stage (located at 1019 Williamson near Nature's Bakery)
- 1:00 p.m.: Denise Jackson
- 2:00 p.m.: Handphibians
- 3:00 p.m.: 5th Annual Kid's Fashion Show
- 4:00 p.m.: Truly Remarkable Loon
- 5:30 p.m.: Elements of Change
- 6:30 p.m.: Willy Street Raffle
- Culture Stage (located at 1101 Williamson near Mother Fool's)
- 12:00 p.m.: Yid Vicious
- 1:45 p.m.: The Cajun Strangers
- 3:15 p.m.: Sadira & the Riad Dance Co.
- 4:30 p.m.: Estrella's Guajira
- 5:45 p.m.: Grupo Candido
Like the Taste, the Willy Street Fair also has a charitable goal, its annual raffle serving as a fundraiser for youth programs provided by Common Wealth Development and the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center. This traditional end to summer in Madison is less than three weeks away, so mark your calendar.