Message from 2020 Festival President Mark Opitz

For the first time since 1964, the Middleton community will not be able to gather at Firemen’s Park in late August for the annual Good Neighbor Festival. Construction at the high school was already going to present some logistical challenges, but the pandemic was simply too much to overcome.

Rather than simply cancel the event outright, festival organizers felt it was as important as ever to continue Middleton’s cherished tradition—to encourage and celebrate each other, our six Good Neighbor Award recipients, and our community’s resilience and perseverance.

When planning began for this year’s festival, it felt natural to select a theme that looked ahead to the coming decade. Given that the person chosen to lead the festival in 2020 is someone who enjoys plays on words, it should be no surprise that the selected theme “lens” itself to making (insert adjective of choice) puns.

Of course, what the trustees from the ten community organizations who make up the festival couldn’t foresee at the time was what a spectacle this year’s event would truly become. So much for the vision of parade participants traveling along University Avenue and Parmenter Street wearing whimsical oversized glasses.

So festival organizers shifted the focus away from planning activities at Firemen’s Park and instead fixed their gaze on organizing events that would create a more virtual, weeklong spectacle. 

This year, the festival provides the opportunity to:

  • Hunt down Scavenger Hunt clues and submit results for prizes, presented by TDS.
  • Submit a photo and receive a themed portrait (for a fee) from Expressively You Caricatures.
  • Participate in Kiddie Time via Facebook Live: a performance by James the Magician (Thursday, August 27 at 4:00 p.m.) and a virtual storytime from the Middleton Public Library (Friday, August 28, at 4:00 p.m.).
  • Take in a free 45-minute Yoga session for all levels of ability by Harbor Athletic Club (Saturday, August 29, 9:00 a.m.).
  • Join in the fun of our 2020 theme and participate in an online pun contest (Sunday, August 30, 7:00 p.m.).
  • Enjoy specials at, or order take-out from, various Middleton restaurants, thereby supporting both the business and the festival.
  • Bid on donated Silent Auction items throughout the week to benefit our trustee organizations.
  • View Middleton’s Got Talent finalists videos, presented by Madison Gas & Electric.  
  • Run or Walk our Virtual 5K Route — or cheer on those who do! 

For more information about these or other festival events, go to www.goodneighborfestival.com.

On behalf of all trustees, I would like to thank the over 40 Middleton area businesses who are providing financial support as sponsors of this year’s festival or as silent auction donors.  I particularly want to recognize the generosity of Willy Street Co-op for continuing as the Festival’s Presenting Sponsor. The proceeds from the Festival help these trustee organizations fund the community projects that are part of their mission. 

Although technology is helping us remain connected, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone has access to the communications that many are able to take for granted in 2020. Good Neighbor Week is a perfect time to call neighbors or friends whom you haven’t seen or heard from in a while. 

Let’s keep sharing our Good Neighbor spirit throughout the community, during our weeklong spectacle and beyond.

Mark Opitz, 2020 Good Neighbor Festival President