by Nic Waerzeggars, DCW staff
This article originally appeared in the May 2006 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 35, Number 2), mailed to subscribers on April 20.
A promising student turns 150
It seems outlandish to compare a city celebrating its sesquicentennial to a young, precocious student, but the inseparable nature of Madison to the University of Wisconsin-Madison beckons such a comparison.
Madison’s recent string of ‘best-ofs’ and ‘top 10’s’, as well as its ambitious array of expansions and forward thinking nature, feels reminiscent of an aspiring student’s seemingly endless involvement in every extra-curricular activity listed in the high school yearbook.
Within the last three years, Madison has been named one of the brainiest cities, one of the most wired cities, one of the best cities for women to live, the healthiest city for men, a top-10 greenest city, the best college town and the city with the best party school
Madison has taken on the identity of the less naive runner-up to valedictorian and appears increasingly able to compete with the allure of far larger, more highly-recognized cities, where there is always something to do, always something on the way, inviting you to be either a passer-by or an explorer, to discover as little or as much as you want and, most notably, almost always free of charge.
To complete and perhaps overindulge the student analogy, Madison can’t wait for summer.
With that in mind here are two itineraries to explore Madison, meant to be as flexible and as interchangeable as possible to work within your DCI week schedule, for a very student-like budget of $15.00.
#1 — Nature and celebrity
This route would be made most easily by bike, but certainly can be enjoyed afoot or by automobile. Exit your seat at Camp Randall Stadium, or your season-long spot on the corps’ bus, and head East on Regent Street for two blocks. Here, Budget Bicycle Shops rents 10-speed Schwinn bicycles for $10 a day, with upgrades. Tandems are also available.
Go back a block to Randall Avenue and turn left. The Henry Vilas Zoo (http://www.vilaszoo.org), one of the largest free admission zoos remaining in the world ($1 donation encouraged) sits at the end of Randall Avenue.
The zoo is located comfortably between three more attractions — Henry Vilas Park, Lake Wingra (bring your suit for the beach) and the UW Arboretum, considered to be the birthplace of ecological restoration.
The also free-of-charge Arboretum features 20 miles of exploratory trails and foot paths, the world’s oldest restored prairie, the site of a soon-to-be restored savannah, the 4-acre Wisconsin Native Plant Garden and the quietest refuge found within city limits. There are guided tours, lectures and numerous educational opportunities updated throughout the season on their Web site (www.uwarboretum.org).
The Arboretum’s trails provide just a scant portion of the mileage that contributed to Madison being called the #1 city for cycling by Bicycling magazine, as well as one of the 20 Best Walking Cities by Prevention magazine.
Make a straight shot back out of the UW Arboretum to Brittingham Park and follow the bike path around Monona Bay to the Lake Monona Bicycle Path and Pedestrian Walkway (one mile). Here you’ll discover the most appreciated convenience of nestling a city into an Isthmus; if you’re lost, keep going, because you’ll quickly run into a lake and reduce your possible directions to three — or simply ask someone in “the Midwest’s most friendly city” for directions.
You’ve reached Frank Lloyd Wright’s contribution to the city of Madison, Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center (http://www. mononaterrace. com), which he accurately termed “the long awaited wedding between the city and beautiful Lake Monona”.
The Monona Terrace project prevailed over countless difficulties and efforts of resistance during its 60-year conception period, the least of which weren’t the 90 feet the building extending over Lake Monona or the personality of Frank Lloyd Wright himself.
Wright signed off on the final design only weeks before his death in 1959, though the construction was not completed until 1997. Now, Monona Terrace stands proudly as a gathering place for everyone who lays claim to or visits the city of Madison.
The architect’s design was intended to capture and mirror the curving contours of the Wisconsin State Capitol dome and Lake Monona’s shoreline. To witness for yourself, bring your bicycle to the rooftop in the specially-designed bicycle and pedestrian elevator where, among the William T. Evjue Gardens, there are a dozen light domes and spheres that replicate the Capitol’s dome.
Publisher’s note: see if you can find the Drum Corps World tile located toward the west end of the rooftop garden and nearest the lake.
To the south is the city’s best unimpeded view of Lake Monona. While you’re here, take a moment to view the Otis Redding Memorial. He died when his plane crashed into the lake in 1967. Follow any of wheelchair-minded ramps to the Olin Terrace entrance and descend another level to Wright’s architectural triumph.
In the Grand Terrace, though it is almost inconceivable, the view of Lake Monona is somehow sweetened, despite looking out a window. You’re invited to unravel that mystery, as long as you wish for free or, better yet, take one of the daily guided tours for $3. Tours last approximately 45 minutes.
Head back out onto Olin Terrace and walk or ride your bike two blocks to the Wisconsin State Capitol, which ranks second in size and majesty only to the United States Capitol. Before you enter, take a moment to appreciate the manicured lawns or enjoy the shade of the massive elm trees.
Publisher’s note: one of the people responsible for the beautiful park-like grounds is Madison Scouts alum Bill Beckman.
Once inside, witness the astonishing array of precious stones, marble and materials from around the world that make up the Capitol interiors. You’ll see a lot more, including the view of Madison from the Capitol rotunda, however, if you take one of the daily complimentary guided tours Monday through Saturday at 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00 AM, and again at 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 PM; and Sundays at 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 PM (groups of 10 or more call 608-266-0382, www.wisconsin.gov/state/capfacts/tour_select.html).
The Capitol Square, the immediate eight-block circumference that surrounds the Capitol, features hundreds of events throughout the year, including the Wednesday evening “Concerts on the Square” series (June 19-August 2), the “Taste of Madison” (Labor Day weekend), “Art Fair on the Square” (mid-July) and many Madisonians’ weekly Saturday morning favorite, the Dane County Farmer’ Market, the undisputed largest farmers market in the United States (www.dcfm.org).
A spectacular variety of items will be available at the market come August, including several varieties of heirloom tomatoes that will rank among the best you’ll ever taste. A smaller version of the DCFM pops up on Wednesdays between the Capitol and Monona Terrace.
If you exit the Capitol on the opposite side you entered, you will encounter State Street, one of the most pedestrian-friendly streets in the United States. The 200 block of State Street is home to the Overture Center for the Arts (www.overturecenter.com, discussed in detail in the previous issue of DCW, April) and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (www.mmoca.org — MMoCA’s grand opening is April 23, described in detail in the next issue of Drum Corps World, dated June 2 and mailed to subcribers on Thursday, May 25).
#2 — Ice cream and the university
Head North out of your seat at Camp Randall Stadium, across University Drive and over the Campus Drive pedestrian bridge, to Babcock Drive. Here you’ll find Babcock Hall, home to the first dairy school in America and 20 of the best flavors of ice cream in the world.
Treat yourself to a Union Utopia or Cherries Jubilee, made with real port wine cherries, and take a tour of the dairy’s facilities (http://www.wisc.edu/foodsci/store) . . . or continue two blocks down Babcock Drive to Allen Centennial Gardens. Here you can sit among the trellised gardens and watch the Koi or explore dozens of site-specific gardens from around the world. Admission is free and ice cream consumption is encouraged.
Take your new-found knowledge of Latin species identification and backtrack one block to Observatory Drive, then head east for breathtaking views of Madison’s largest lake, Lake Mendota.
Observatory Drive features a significant amount of the UW’s history. Washburn Observatory sits atop the picturesque hill, housing a 500x magnification telescope, inviting visitors to drop-in every Wednesday evening (weather permitting), free of charge, and observe the summer sky up-close.
Just beyond Observatory Dive is Sterling Hall, the infamous site of an early-morning 1970 Vietnam protest bombing which claimed the life of one university physicist and reshaped the views of much of the nation regarding the Vietnam War.
You’ll arrive shortly at Bascom Hall, which shapes much of the University’s identity. Take a step inside the hall and read the famous ‘Sifting and Winnowing’ plaque that has made the UW famous. Share the view of the hill with Abraham Lincoln, who sits proudly overlooking State Street and the Capitol.
Express your gratitude at getting to walk down the hill instead of up it, turn left and enter Memorial Union, commonly referred to as The Union or The Terrace, but is officially named Wisconsin Union.
The panoramic view from the Memorial Union Terrace is my favorite Madison experience. Based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s sentiments of Monona Terrace and Lake Monona, I feel entitled to call Memorial Union Terrace the “unceasing flirtation of the university and the friendly Lake Mendota”.
On a warm August afternoon, you can follow the sailboats and swimmers, as well as canoes and the bluffs, across onto the opposite shore. Wisconsin Hoofers, inside The Union, invites you to join those enjoying the lake. They rent every water-going vessel imaginable.
As you enter the Union from the terrace, you’ll immediately encounter the interior highlight, the unique 1930s Bavarian-style Der Rathskeller. The space is replete with hundreds of formerly suds-filled steins and dozens of murals painted by native German Eugene Hausler in the late ’20s, depicting sloth and other potentially debilitating student habits.
To most Madisonions, it’s inconceivable that beer not be offered at the UW’s Union and partially, therefore, The Union is one of only three known Unions to do so (one of the two others is also on the UW campus, at Union South just east of Camp Randall Stadium).
To add to the conviviality of Der Rathskeller, you’re likely be invited to an impromptu game of chess or to enter into a hot political debate. As night falls Wednesday through Saturday, you’ll be treated to free live music on the Terrace or in Der Rathskellar, if weather threatens.
If you resisted the temptation for ice cream earlier — or if you’d like a second go-around — the Union offers most, if not all, flavors of Babcock’s famous ice cream.
Exiting the front doors, you’ll see Library Mall and its signature fountain. During the school year, Library Mall is a blur of frisbees and flip-flops; in the middle of summer, it’s a quiet refuge for a read or a nap among a trio of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Just beyond the mall, the best fruit stand in Madison provides an opportunity to relieve your conscience of ice cream and butterfat.
You’ve reached State Street, home to boisterous Saturday nights and silent Sunday mornings. On either side of the street, you’ll discover an array of single-proprietor shops, stores, bars and restaurants, and a per capita of coffee shops second only to Seattle. Drop in any one of these and pick up a free copy of The Onion, a satirical newspaper founded in Madison, and laugh your way to the 200 block of State Street.
On the way, you’re likely to encounter a number of street performers and the like, some of whom may ask you for a quarter or two which is not calculated by the way I developed your $15 budget.
At this point, it’s important to mention the second convenience of nestling a city on an Isthmus. The main thoroughfares have been set up in a more triangle-like grid so that, even though you think you’re getting farther and farther away from Camp Randall Stadium, you’re actually on your way back. Students — remember the hypotenuse?
Take a right off of State Street and you’ll be led to Randall Avenue, immediately adjacent to the stadium.
The 200 block of State Street features the Overture Center for the Arts and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
Once you’ve toured those, if you’re a pleasure-delayer, you might resist the magnetic draw of the Wisconsin State Capitol momentarily and first enjoy any of the three museums along this corner of the Capitol Square, all three offering admission under $5: the Wisconsin Historical Museum (http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/museum), Wisconsin Veterans Museum (http://www.dva. state.wi.us), or the Madison Children’s Museum (www.madisonchildrensmuseum.org).
Keep in mind, Monona Terrace is located just two blocks on the opposite side of the Capitol, should you prefer this route.
Leave some time to discover those secret places along the way us Madisonians would rather keep to ourselves or, better yet, to discover things we haven’t.
In the next issue of DCW look for places to eat while you’re in Madison; by August you should be begging for a break from regular stadium drum corps food.