All posts by Courtney

Virtual “Good Neighbor Fest Week” Events Unveiled

Middleton area residents—and anyone online—will still be able to celebrate the community’s annual Good Neighbor Festival in late August during “Good Neighbor Fest Week,” scheduled to run August 24-30.  

“The reports of the demise of the 2020 Good Neighbor Festival are greatly exaggerated,” according to Festival President Mark Opitz. “As promised in June, when we sadly announced the cancellation of the annual in-person event, we have remained committed to the vision of celebrating good neighbors and supporting our non-profit trustee organizations that make such a positive impact on the Middleton community.”

One of the Festival’s most popular annual events, the 5K Run/Walk, will be held virtually this year. Registered participants can run or walk the route at any time during Good Neighbor Fest week, receive a race t-shirt, and be eligible to win door prizes upon submitting their completion time. Registration for the 5K Run/Walk is $25 for adults and $15 for kids 12 and under, and is now open at  

Other announced events include a scavenger hunt, a virtual storytime and performance by James the Magician, a Middleton’s Got Talent contest, Expressively You Caricatures, a Restaurant Week featuring specials at Middleton establishments, a silent auction, and a “pun slam” contest centered on humorous word play as evoked by the 2020 festival theme.

The annual Good Neighbor Awards will also remain a prominent component of the festival. “Now more than ever, as we work together to overcome the serious challenges facing our community and the world around us, we should take a moment to recognize some of the amazing Middleton residents whose contributions to their neighbors and to the community at large help the city live up to its moniker,” said Opitz. An online nomination form is available at, the deadline to submit a nomination is August 10.

Willy Street Co-op will serve as presenting sponsor of the event. The Festival is actively seeking additional sponsors and silent auction items for the silent auction, with the goal of replacing some of the income that the non-profit trustee organizations rely upon from the annual Festival, and use in service of the community. Good neighbors and businesses interested in contributing should email the planning committee at  
Visit for additional, up-to-date information and to learn more about the Festival’s trustee organizations and how to help support their non-profit missions.

Good Neighbor Festival Announces Cancellation of an In-Person Event for 2020

It is with heavy hearts that the Board of Trustees of the Middleton Good Neighbor Festival announces the cancellation of the 57th Annual Good Neighbor Festival on August 28-30.  Organizers worked diligently to find a way to preserve this cherished community tradition, but decided that it simply was not responsible to plan an in-person event that could increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19.  

The Festival Trustees plan to hold virtual events during August, both as an opportunity to celebrate the  community, and to support the non-profit missions of the organizations that present the Festival.  The Festival will select Good Neighbor Award participants, and recognize and support the community in many other ways that will be announced in coming weeks. 

“With 2020 hindsight, the Board of Trustees has sadly concluded that our original vision for this year’s festival is no longer feasible,” said Festival President Mark Opitz. “Although we will not be joining together at Fireman’s Park this August, we remain committed to finding creative ways to celebrate the good neighbors and service organizations that comprise the Middleton community.”

The Good Neighbor Festival is presented by a group of Middleton non-profit organizations, which have raised funds at the event to support the community since 1964.  Cancelling the Festival will be costly for these organizations and the causes they support.  But when people are in close physical contact, the virus spreads.  The trustees concluded that any event encouraging people to congregate would be a disservice to the community under the current circumstances.

Please visit to learn more about the Festival’s trustee organizations, and how to help support their non-profit missions.

“We will continue to celebrate our resilience and our support for one another,” noted Opitz. “The Good Neighbor Festival Board of Trustees looks forward to gathering virtually this August, and we intend to have double the fun in 2021!” 

Planning Proceeds for 2020 Good Neighbor Festival

These are uncertain times, and the entire Middleton community is faced with new challenges. While many activities have been cancelled through the spring and early summer, the Good Neighbor Festival Board of Trustees continues to plan for the 57th Annual Good Neighbor Festival on August 28-30, and they remain cautiously optimistic that the event can take place. 

Although organizers are seeking to preserve this cherished community tradition, there will be changes to adjust to the COVID-19 situation as necessary. One significant change that was already in the works is that the Festival will adopt an “open campus“ concept in 2020, allowing alcoholic beverages to be consumed on most of the Festival grounds instead of being limited to two separate beer tents. William “Sonny” Simon VFW Post 8216 and Middleton Youth Hockey will operate individual beer stands as in the past, with the VFW focusing on domestic beer and Hockey featuring craft beer options.

In addition to avoiding crowding, this approach also allows patrons to enjoy the many food and drink offerings and activities of the Festival while choosing either to be close to live music or farther away to allow for more conversation with their families and friends. A wristband system will be used to prevent underage consumption of alcohol. 

Free live entertainment will also be a part of the Festival, but will be presented on a single stage located in between the beer stands. The lineup is still being finalized, but the Festival expects many favorites to perform, including The Jimmy’s, Lube, Red Hot Horn Dawgs, Mascot Theory and Pacific Coast Highway. 

This year’s Festival will also feature a return to a more “homegrown” feel for entertainment. The Festival is asking the community to bring its creativity to exciting parade floats, particularly those that incorporate a pun (this year’s theme, 2020 Vision: A Middleton Spectacle, is an example). A local talent stage will feature acts that wish to perform without pay, but for much appreciation. This stage will also include good-natured competitions, like a Pun Slam contest. Good neighbors interested in participating in these events should contact the Board of Trustees at

Traditional Festival activities are also currently scheduled to return, including the Good Neighbor 5K Run/Walk, Good Neighbor Parade, Kiddie Parade, the Art and Craft Fair and the Carnival. There will also be other free entertainment and delicious food throughout the Festival, including a return to individual food concessions by Festival trustee organizations. 

Although the Middleton High School expansion project has gotten under way, the construction does not directly affect the festival grounds. There will remain a paved, unobstructed walkway between the main high school parking lot and Firemen’s Park. Festival organizers are exploring ways to make sure the impacts are minimized, including the possibility of alternative parking sites with a shuttle system.

Registration for the parade, 5K and the Art and Craft Fair is now open at Fees are fully refundable if the Festival must be cancelled, but at this point the Festival trustees are hopeful that they will be able to present the Festival in some fashion.  They view the Festival as a perfect opportunity to come together and celebrate the Middleton community’s perseverance!

GNF President Mark Opitz Announces 2020 Theme

The Good Neighbor Festival is delighted to announce that the theme for this year’s event is “2020 Vision–A Middleton Spectacle.” A play on words, the 2020 theme invites a whimsical look at the festival while also looking ahead to Middleton’s bright future.

As noted by 2020 Festival President Mark Opitz, “this year’s theme ‘lens’ itself well to having some fun with language, if you’re in that frame of mind. It also seems fitting to focus on the new decade ahead. I envision we’ll have a lot of creative parade entries this year!”

The Good Neighbor Festival will be held August 28-30 at Fireman’s Park in Middleton. Since 1964, people from Middleton and surrounding areas have enjoyed live music, carnival rides, delicious food, activities for kids, the Parade, the Art and Craft Fair, the 5K Run/Walk, and more.

The festival is completely run by and for the benefit of several non-profit organizations serving the Middleton area.

Some exciting changes are in store for 2020, including a return to individual food concessions run by festival trustee organizations. Opitz said that organizers are focusing in particular on enhancing the experience while on the festival grounds, and he added, “we are eyeing a few surprises.”

For the second year, Willy Street Co-op will be the presenting sponsor of the Festival. Many more sponsorships are needed to make the festival possible. Visit our sponsor page to learn more!


Good Neighbor President Curt Fuszard has chosen the 2019 recipients of the Keith Hinsman Award: Anamika Holke and Courtney Reichard.  The Hinsman Award is given each year to a Trustee Board Member who goes above and beyond in their commitment to the Festival.

Holke and Reichard were recognized for their work on publicity for the Festival through newspapers, television, radio, website and social media.  Fuszard said: “2019 was a record-setting year on some many fronts, in large part due to the exemplary work of our communications team.  Anamika and Courtney leveraged all possible resources and their amazing skill set to raise awareness, engagement and, ultimately, attendance.  We are very grateful!”

Holke has been a member of the Middleton Jaycees since 2014, and became a Festival Trustee Board member shortly thereafter.  The Middleton Jaycees, a young professionals volunteer group, organize the Art and Craft Fair for the Festival.

Holke has served as a board member for the Jaycees and has chaired many fundraising events. She is passionate about volunteering, and motivating others to get involved by creating awareness of events and the needs of the community. Serving on the Publicity Committee for the Festival was a natural fit. She enjoys working with trustees from the other groups and feels its great opportunity to meet new like-minded people.

Holke has been in the Madison area for almost 11 years. She works at Guild Mortgage, and also has a graphic design business. Holke has embraced the summertime culture by spending weekends at the Farmer’s Market, checking out other local festivals and enjoying the local breweries with her husband and friends.

“Seeing the community come together and enjoy the Festival, makes all the time volunteered throughout the year completely worth it! It’s an honor to receive this award along with Courtney, and to serve amongst the other amazing trustees.”

Reichard has represented the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District Education Foundation on the Trustee Board since 2016.  She has lived in Middleton with her family since 2011, and works as an attorney with the Minneapolis law firm of Nilan Johnson Lewis, a firm she helped start in 1996.  She divides her time between offices in Minneapolis and Madison, representing corporate clients in products liability and employment matters. 

She loved working on social media and website for the Festival.  “We were drawn to Middleton because of the strong community spirit and excellent schools.  Nothing embodies the wonderful community of Middleton more than the annual Good Neighbor Festival, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to this great annual event while also helping fund the non-profit missions of all trustees, especially the MCPASD Education Foundation.”  Reichard also serves on the Board of the Middleton Public Library and is involved in booster organizations for Middleton High School Theatre and Choir. The Award is named for Festival co-founder Keith Hinsman.  On a cold night in February 1964, Amos Colby – a pharmacist who was President of the Middleton Chamber of Commerce – invited his friend Hinsman over for a beer, and shared an idea: a community Festival, getting volunteer groups to work together on a single event instead of running their own fundraisers throughout the summer. Hinsman and Colby brought these groups together for the first Festival in August 1964, and both remained involved with the Festival for many years, with Hinsman serving on the Trustee Board from 1964 to 1989.

Message from GNF President Curt Fuszard

Soon it will be time for our annual Middleton Good Neighbor Festival, being held on August 23-25 at Firemen’s Park.  What can you expect?  Our mission statement says it all:

“To host the region’s finest community festival by offering a superior client and volunteer experience for the benefit of the sponsoring non-profit organizations.”

The 57th rendition of the festival will be the best yet as we introduce new features (Pickleball, the “Wisconsin Remembers” memorial wall, the new Middleton PD K-9 team, etc.) while bringing back some old favorites such as Bingo and the fabulous chicken dinner.  Great musical acts and the family focused carnival will be complemented by great food from Club Tavern Catering.

Children will enjoy the Kiddie Parade on Friday.  A huge crowd will participate in the 5K Run/Walk on Saturday to join Chief Chuck Foulke, Chief Aaron Harris and other “Celebrity Runners”.  The community parade on Sunday will be led by Parade Marshal Mike Leckrone.  Other “can’t miss” events include Movie Night, Laser Tag and the craft fair.

The festival is the perfect place for recycling.  Every dollar goes to a Middleton Trustee organization to fund the many projects they support.  

Please join us an attendee, a volunteer, a sponsor or all of the above.  Thank you for your support of the area’s final community celebration of 2019!

Curt Fuszard, Good Neighbor Festival President

Carnival rides are supported by founding Trustee Group

Photo by Jeff Martin

The Auxiliary to VFW William “Sonny” Simon Post 8216 was one of the founding members of the Good Neighbor Festival and has been operating the carnival since the Festival’s beginning.

The group is comprised of military and veteran family members age 16 and up.  The VFW Auxiliary provides funding for services that support military families in times of crisis and deployment at both state and national levels. The Auxiliary also supplies financial and in-kind support to our Wisconsin VA Hospitals. The organization donates to a number of area groups such as: Middleton-Cross Plains Elementary Schools, Middleton Outreach Ministry, Madison Dry Hooch, local scouting programs, school scholarships and many other local organizations in their charitable efforts.

You can enjoy the Carnival Rides, featuring Wenzel Amusements, every day of the Festival. Hours are Friday 5pm-11pm, Saturday 11am-11pm, and Sunday 11am-5pm. Tickets are $1 each and rides require 3-4 tickets. Unlimited ride wristbands are available Saturday from 1pm-5pm and can be purchased as early as 12pm on Saturday for $20.

Optimist International Turns 100

This year, the Optimist International Organization celebrates 100 years of serving the youth of our communities.  From a single gathering in Buffalo, New York in 1919 to now hosting chapters in 23 countries on six continents, the Optimist brand is virtually everywhere.

As one way to celebrate this milestone, the Middleton Optimist Club will hold a gathering at Lakeview Park on Saturday, June 15 from noon to 3:00pm.  Current and former members of the Club are welcome as are all friends of the organization.  Those joining us will be invited to bring a dish to pass. Stories will be told and photographs will be shared as we recount the evolution of this Club over the past 40+ years.  The public is encouraged to stop by and learn about the ways we serve the community. 

The celebration is following their annual event “Cops & Bobbers”.  On Saturday of Father’s Day weekend, they welcome families to join in from 8:00am to noon also at Lakeview Park.  The first 200 kids receive a free fishing pole along with related gear and bait.  They have “Fishing Coaches” available to assist.  Those coaches are members of the Middleton Police Department.  The families also enjoy a complimentary lunch afterwards.

To learn more about the Optimists or how to get involved you can visit or find them on Facebook. Their meetings are held most Wednesdays at 7:00am at Sofra.

You can see the Optimists in action volunteering at The Good Neighbor Festival, Friday August 23rd-25th at Fireman’s Park.

Leckrone will serve as 2019 Good Neighbor Festival Parade Marshal

The Good Neighbor Festival Board of Trustees is honored to announce that Michael Leckrone, retiring director of the Marching Band and Director of Bands at the University of Wisconsin – and a long-time Middleton resident – has accepted the role of Parade Marshal for the 2019 Good Neighbor Festival. Leckrone will lead over 100 entries during the August 25th parade through the streets of downtown Middleton.

Leckrone holds memberships in numerous professional organizations, as well as several honorary fraternities. In 2007, he was presented with a  “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music (this was only the second time this preeminent award had been conferred), and in 2010 the Wisconsin State Historical society presented him with the “Spencer Tracy Award for Distinction in the Performing Arts”, and in 2013 the Madison Area Music Association named him the recipient of the Michael St. John Lifetime Achievement Award.

Leckrone retires this year after 50 years as Director of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band.  He has had a remarkable career, and has served as a clinician, guest conductor and adjudicator for concert and marching bands throughout the United States and Canada.  His experience also includes considerable professional work as an arranger, composer and performer.

This will be Leckrone’s second time leading the Good Neighbor Festival parade.  The first time was in 1983, as part of the Festival’s Music! Music! Music! theme.  That year, Leckrone was parade marshal along with the band directors of Middleton High School and Kromrey Middle School – Vern Pieper and Lois Gurske.

The Festival’s annual parade will be held on Sunday, August 25th at noon on University Avenue and Parmenter Street. Get there early and get a good spot to see Michael and over 100 entertaining entries. This year’s theme is “Superhero City- Celebrating Those Serve”.  The public and a panel of judges select entries for awards based on how well they express the theme. 

Leckrone has composed or arranged music for numerous high school and university bands, and over 200 of his arrangements and compositions for marching band and concert band have been published.  He is also the author of two texts for use by marching band directors, a handbook for band arranging and a text dealing with popular music in the United States. 

Willy Street Co-op Named Inaugural “Presenting Sponsor” for Middleton Good Neighbor Festival 

The Good Neighbor Festival (“GNF”) is thrilled to announce a three-year partnership with Willy Street Co-op as its Presenting Sponsor beginning with the 2019 Festival.  This is the first time in its 55 years of celebrating with and for the Middleton Community that the Festival has fostered such a partnership.

The GNF Board of Trustees identified Willy Street Co-op months ago as the ideal candidate for the Presenting Sponsor status, given its history of support for the Festival, its anchor location for the Festival Parade and its ongoing commitment to our community.

Willy Street Co-op is a cooperative grocery store that is owned by the members. The store is known for its large selection of organic fruits and vegetables, delicious deli menu and friendly and helpful staff. Every year, Willy Street Co-op works to help other nonprofits and co-ops in the community through programs such as their Community Reinvestment Fund. GNF President Curt Fuszard said: “Needless to say, GNF could not be prouder to have Willy Street Co-op as our Presenting Sponsor over the next three years.”

The Festival has been a staple of the Middleton and surrounding communities for generations.

Kicking off with the Kiddie Parade on Friday night, patrons of all ages enjoy carnival rides, live music, a craft fair, a 5K race, delicious food options and so much more. The Festival is presented entirely by volunteers, representing a group of service clubs and other non-profit organizations in our community.  The 2019 GNF will be held August 23-25 at Fireman’s Park in Middleton.

“Helping to create a sense of community is very important to us,” said Lindsey Hardy, the director of the Co-op’s Middleton store. “The Good Neighbor Festival is such an important event here that we knew we had to support it and help it grow.”