My New Favorite Wisconsin Town: Port, Washington, That Is

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Rest assure, kind readers, that after this post — my latest in the 2015 “summer travelogue” series — I’ll get back to commenting on topics that are fully ensconced in the public relations arena.

Promise.

But had to share thoughts and images from my visit earlier this week to what I’ll christen my new favorite Wisconsin town: Port Washington, or Port as the locals call it. So what about this former commercial fishing village 25 miles north of Milwaukee on Lake Michigan commanded my attention? Lots of stuff, as reflected in the photos below.

But a few other random thoughts:

1. This Town Has Hills. In fact, there are seven hills in Port. The geography made for interesting (and at times, challenging) walking tours around town to visit places like the old light house and the St. Mary’s Church campus.  But the good people of Port installed a convenient public stairway network to facilitate pedestrian travel and exploration.

2. Really Nice People. Really. From the lady at the Chocolate Chisel ice cream shop to the staff at ZuZu Pedals where I rented a bike for a few hours to the young guy at Smith Brothers Coffee Shop who brought me my delicious salmon wrap for lunch, everyone I met were genuine and welcoming. The people of Port demonstrated small town friendliness at its best.

3. Preserving the Past Well.  As noted by some images below, Port has kept its architectural and maritime heritage intact. Yes, there are many modern buildings, and there’s even a big power plant along the waterfront, but they blended well into the streetscape.  (Okay, the power plant is a bit imposing, but it has four towers, so I called it the “Titanic.”) Learn more by visiting the Historical Society website.

4. Yes, There’s a Harbor and Lots of Water. Well, it wouldn’t be called “Port” Washington without, well, a port. And the town has one, although now it’s a bustling marina with lots of charter fishing boats, pleasure power boats and sailboats.  Strolling along the marina is a great way to relax and watch water, birds and of course, boats. Lots of people fish off the break walls.

The view of Franklin Street from my room at the Holiday Inn Harborside.

The view of Franklin Street looking north from my room at the Holiday Inn Harborside. The steeple of St. Mary’s Church can be seen from most places in town.

As noted, they like to preserve history in Port, including this cool old light house.

As noted, they like to preserve history in Port, including this cool old light house. It’s also a museum.

What a way to spend a summer Sunday evening: At a church-sponsored chicken dinner at the Veteran's Memorial Park.

What a way to spend a summer Sunday evening: At a church-sponsored chicken dinner at the Veteran’s Memorial Park. The band even played “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

The town is built among hills, kind of like Rome, I've heard. Public stairs help you reach the top.

The town is built among hills, kind of like Rome, I’ve heard. Public stairs, many adjacent to private homes, help you reach the top, where there are great views of the Lake and more.

The view from Upper Lake Park. Try to match that anywhere in the Midwest.

Looking north from Upper Lake Park just above the beach. Try to match this view anywhere in the Midwest. Try to match it anywhere there’s a large body of water.

The Ozaukee County Courthouse is under renovation.

The awesome Ozaukee County Courthouse is under renovation. The stone masons working on the project were serious guys who spoke Italian.

Yes, there is an awesome harbor in Port Washington. Looking west with St. Mary's in the distance.

Yes, there is a working harbor and marina in Port Washington. Looking west with St. Mary’s in the distance.

A great way to get the blood pressure down: Watch the daylight fade from the marina.

A great way to get the blood pressure down: Watching daylight fade from the marina. Ahhhh!

A final thought: Each work day I board a rapid transit train to get to and from work. At rush hour, the cars often are at capacity of around 80 people. Spending a few days in an unhurried place like Port Washington proved the perfect antidote for the complexities of modern urban living.

Want to revisit my past sojourners to the Dairy State?

Okay. My next post will tackle a public relations topic. Promise, but hope you enjoyed this travelogue. The end.

 

 

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How I Spent a Not So “Square” Summer Afternoon

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

This past Sunday, July 12, was the kind of day we here in Chicago dream about in late January: Sunny, breezy with temperatures in the 80s.  The perfect day to get outside and do something active, fun and memorable.

So how about a neighborhood festival?

There were many to choose from last weekend, including the Taste of Chicago.  Now in its 35th year, this downtown summertime soiree probably energized communities around here to designate a weekend,  barricade streets and take over parks in order to let vendors sell brats and ribs, beer and lemonade, art and artifacts.

And, let’s not forget the musical entertainment, as musical performers of all types, styles and levels of success and accomplishment are mainstays on the summer festival circuit.

The goal behind the ubiquitous neighborhood fest, I gather, is to inspire a sense of community, and possibly earn a profit for the sponsoring organizations. (Although, I believe Chicago’s big gathering ends up in the red, a reason they reduced the event from like 11 days to four.)

As exciting as the Taste of Chicago most assuredly would have been, I wanted something more low-key, less costly and closer to home.  So, I set out to participate an event billed as being “square.”

The Square Roots Festival, a collaboration between the Old Town School of Folk Music and the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, met my requirements perfectly. Let me point out that I’ve been a member of the OTS for 25 years, have taken classes there and regularly attend concerts. It’s a true national gem in terms of its impact on inspiring current and future generations on the value and beauty of music while preserving what’s good about the past.

From the images below — all musical — you can get a visual perspective on how I spent a not-so-square summer afternoon in Chicago.

OTS 1

Not sure what kind of music these folks were playing; but rest assured: There were no Led Zepplin or AC-DC covers.

OTS 3

Yes, there was something musical for the kids, although the Old Town School brands them as “Wiggleworms.”

OTS 4

You don’t see this very often at at neighborhood festival: A marching band. These guys played, “I’ll Fly Away,” a song you don’t outside a Coen Brothers movie.

OTS 5

I’m not sure what this device is called. But it’s a “drum machine” that’s powered by kids propelled on a swing. A “swinging drum machine?”

OTS 6

This band, the Otis Redding Ensemble, actually had a lot more fans than these two young guys. And, yes, these guys had soul.

OTS 7

Inside the Old Town School, visitors could participate in a sing-along. Flashback: I once performed on this stage during a class recital of “Hey, Hey I’m Memphis Bound,” a Delmore Brothers chestnut.

OTSW 2

What would the Square Roots Festival be without a tent filled with folk singers. Visitors were welcomed to join in.

 

What a Short, Predictable Visit It Will Be: The Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well Tour

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Pop quiz: Can you identify band member's from this 1972 image?

Pop quiz: Can you identify Grateful Dead band members from this 1972 image?

They’re here, man. Well, at least I think they’re here. Haven’t seen any on the “L” or tailgating in Grant Park. Yet.

Referring to the thousands of Deadheads (or is it Dead Heads?) who will spending the Independence Day holiday here in my home city of Chicago for the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well tour.  Well, perhaps “tour” is a misnomer because the band is performing only three shows before unplugging their amps, hanging up the tie-dye shirts and parking the VW bus for good.

At least, that’s what I think will happen.

In the full disclosure department, I have never seen the Dead except on television and videos. I don’t particularly like their music, although I think “A Touch of Grey” is a brilliant song. I don’t understand why people followed the band’s tours back in the 1970s and 1980s and created a way of life, but hey it takes every kind of people (to steal the title and line from a popular song by an artist I really appreciate).

So as long as the current Dead members — and those fans who could afford tickets and travel here for these “final” shows — are in town, I’m inspired to share some random thoughts. In keeping what I believe is the true spirit of the Dead and Deadheads, I’ll be spontaneous, even organic, man.

The Venue. The band, which has “dead” in its name, is performing at Solider Field, a stadium built in part as a memorial to U.S. soldiers who died on the field of battle.  I hope the band, the fans, the promoters and all affiliated with the shows here will be grateful for the sacrifices other Americans have made over the centuries to preserve our freedoms. Like the right to assembly peacefully, wear tie-dyed clothes and twirl like a dervish to songs that last 47 minutes.

Got to hand it to these guys: They've maintained the brand very well.

Got to hand it to these guys: They’ve maintained the brand very well.

The Fans.  The big question I have: Can every fan of the Grateful Dead still consider him/her self as a real “head” anymore?  Back in the day, a “head” was most equated to someone who regularlyindulged in certain (mostly illegal) substances or was passionate about something. Since the full band hasn’t played live in 20 years, does the “head” moniker still hold water? Can you be a “head” forever — Deadhead or otherwise? Do you qualify to be a Deadhead if you paid $5,000 for a ticket and are staying the night in a $750 hotel room?

The Tickets. When Fare Thee Well tickets went on sale earlier this year, news feeds announced reports of astronomical amounts on the secondary market. Somehow, this falls contrary to the true spirit of the band and Deadheads, where in the past fans could shout “I need a miracle” and score tickets at face value. As a public service, the PRDude is providing a link to this online site, where obstructed tickets can be had for low three figures. From what I’ve learned about past Dead shows, seeing the band doesn’t matter because they don’t move once they step up to the microphone.

Deadhead nation: The Parrotheads are a formidable force, too.

Deadhead nation: The Parrotheads are a formidable force, too.

The Dead. In my long and (in my mind) illustrious career as public relations and marketing communications guy, I’ve never had the pleasure of crafting strategies for anyone in the creative fields.  But, I must take my hat off to whoever manages communications for the Dead. Think about it: The Dead brand — old Hippie millionaire musicians performing a “spiritual” style of rock and roll  in a communal setting — has not only endured, but thrived for decades.  Is there a rival in popular music? Perhaps the Parrothead followers of Jimmy Buffett, those sunburned hoards of fans who buy into the “life’s a beach” philosophy, don brassieres made from coconut shells and indulge in many, many margaritas before, during and after concerts.

As I get ready to publish this post, the weather here is spectacular: Sunny, warm and comfortable — perfect conditions for tonight’s first Fare Thee Well show.

In fact, not a box of rain in the weekend forecast. To the Deadheads who are truckin’ to shows, remember to wave that flag in true Chicago style — early and often.