It wasn’t the festival that any of the organizers envisioned when planning began for the 2020 Good Neighbor Festival, and the theme “2020 Vision: A Middleton Spectacle” was chosen. But the very first (and hopefully last!) Virtual Good Neighbor Festival still provided an opportunity for the Festival Trustee Organizations to raise needed funds as well as bringing the community together for fun activities. The Virtual Fest also sustained the legacy of this important community event, which has brought good neighbors together since 1964.
Presenting sponsor Willy Street Co-op provided critical support. In addition to a generous financial contribution, Willy Street donated over $5,000 in prizes and silent auction items to the festival. Many other sponsors and individuals stepped up too. While final numbers are still being tallied, the virtual Festival likely brought in over $25,000 in proceeds to support the Festival’s non-profit trustee organizations.
The Good Neighbor Awards have been part of the Festival since 1980, and this year was no exception. Bartlett Durand, Adrienne Hulburt-Stroud, Josh Marron, Jeff and Jan Martin, and Stephanie Mueller were all recognized for their outstanding contributions to the community. All will be invited to participate in the 2021 Good Neighbor Festival Parade.
A number of Middleton restaurants partnered with the Festival to present Middleton Restaurant Week. Many of the restaurants offered specials benefiting the trustee organizations, and all provided patrons with opportunities to donate. Restaurant Week gave these important community businesses an opportunity to showcase their safety protocols, and the many ways to enjoy their offerings.
Stone Horse Green in downtown Middleton was the hub of operations for the Virtual Fest, with trustees staffing a table each night collecting donations and publicizing the various activities. T-shirts were given to thank donors of $20 or more. There are still some T-shirts remaining, and anyone who is interested in making a donation should contact the festival at Middletongoodneighborfestival@gmail.com.
On Sunday afternoon, a Pun Slam was held in Stone Horse Green. 2020 Festival President Mark Opitz was the Master of Punnery, leading contestants through a series of challenges judged by Mike Davis, Kristi Warriner and Robert Mirshak. Former Middleton City Council Member Rob Conhaim came in first as the best punster, but all participants entertained the small, socially distant group of spectators.
There were fun activities for the entire family throughout the week. A scavenger hunt presented by TDS Telecom required participants to visit locations all over Middleton to take photos and answer questions about Middleton’s past and present. A description of the answers and a list of winners are at goodneighborfestival.com. Gerry Klump took first place with a perfect score, while the Petranek family was close behind in second place.
A talent contest was also held virtually, presented by Madison Gas and Electric. Judges selected finalists, who then competed for a public vote.The winners in each category included:
12 and Under: Addy and Maleah performing the song Wonderland, singing and playing ukelele
13-17: MHS Junior Avery Brutosky singing Part of your World from The Little Mermaid
18 and over: a tie between Steve & Nancy Kurr playing multiple string instruments, and Justin Fitzgerald singing What a Wonderful World
Videos of all the finalists are available on goodneighborfestival.com. All winners and finalists received Willy Street gift cards.
A virtual 5K was also organized, starting at Middleton High School, and ending at Fireman’s Park. Over 100 people entered the virtual 5K, and enjoyed running or walking the route during the week.
Many local businesses and art fair vendors provided great items for a silent auction, which raised over $4,000 for the festival trustees. Funds were also raised with online caricatures offered by Expressively You.
Finally, the virtual festival featured several entertaining online presentations, including magic from Festival favorite James the Magician, a themed story time from the Middleton Public Library, and yoga from Harbor Athletic Club & Wellness Studios. The videos were presented on the Festival’s Facebook page, and can still be viewed there or at goodneighborfestival.com.
The Festival Trustees are immensely grateful to the many businesses and individuals who contributed to making this a great week. They are looking ahead to, and already planning, an in person Festival on August 27-29, 2021!