Dane County Fair, Thursday-Sunday, July 15-18, Alliant Energy Center, 9 a.m.-11 p.m.: It’s the county fair, so there are baby animals. You might even get to hold a baby duck. There are kids there with the animals they have raised since birth, hoping to win a blue ribbon, and there are smells and big fans in the barns. If that’s not your scene, there’s the standard contingent of carnival rides, funnel cakes, bands, and a magician called Lady Houdini who is performing every day at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. She has broken Harry Houdini’s record for the most water torture cell escapes ever (at 2,744 before the Dane County Fair). Seeing that might even be better than the baby duck. Your call. Find the full schedule at danecountyfair.com.
Maxwell Street Days, Thursday-Sunday, July 15-18, State Street & Capitol Square: More than 60 State Street and Capitol Square businesses will celebrate four days of discounts, expanded outdoor dining opportunities, live music and other activities during this annual summer sidewalk sale. Returning for its 44th year, this Madison tradition couldn’t take place in 2020 due to COVID-19. “It will be especially beneficial for the downtown businesses after last year’s event was cancelled,” says Amy Moore, owner of Little Luxuries, in the event’s press release. It takes place from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, and note: State Street becomes a full-on pedestrian mall and is closed to all traffic during the event.
The Emmylous, Thursday, July 15, Nau-Ti-Gal Restaurant, 5:30 p.m.: Fans of vocal music will want to get acquainted with The Emmylous, whose folk and pop originals and cover tunes feature immaculate three-part harmonies by Kristi Blitz, Katie Lowery and Ryn Thoen. They will perform as part of the Nau-Ti-Gal summer concert series, which continues Thursdays and Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. outdoors along the Yahara River north of Lake Mendota. Fun fact: The group is named not after Emmylou Harris but for the First Aid Kit song “Emmylou.”
Katherine Addison, Thursday, July 15, East Side Park, Stoughton, 6:30 p.m.: In celebration of the publication of The Witness for the Dead, Stoughton Public Library welcomes author Katherine Addison (aka Madison-area writer Sarah Monette) to read a passage from her new book and answer audience questions. The sequel to Addison’s The Goblin Emperor follows Thara Celehar, former member of the emperor’s court. Though Thara prefers a quiet life, his ability to communicate with the recently dead and his commitment to the truth make that nearly impossible.
KG & the Ranger, Thursday, July 15, Dean House, 7 p.m.: East siders will know the stately brick frontier farmhouse at the corner of Monona Drive and Dean Avenue: It’s the Nathaniel and Harriet Dean house. The Historic Blooming Grove Historical Society (right, not a typo, that’s the name) has been restoring the Greek Revival-style home, and it is the site of an ongoing series of Back Porch Concerts in summer. On July 15, KG & the Ranger perform classic cowboy songs and harmony yodeling. Yep, we’re back in the saddle again. Bring a lawn chair or blanket; donations requested to help the completion of restoration.
Rashomon, Thursday, July 15, UW Vilas Hall-Mitchell Theatre, 7:30 p.m.: If a samurai falls in a forest, can the truth be found? Akira Kurosawa pondered that in his 1950 film Rashomon, the story of a crime involving a dead samurai, the assault of his wife, and a well-known bandit. Based on short stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, the tale was revisited for a 1950s Tony Award-nominated play written by Fay Kanin and Michael Kanin; David Furumoto directs a new adaptation of the Kanins’ work for University Theatre. ALSO: Friday-Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.), July 16-18; through July 25. Tickets here.
Home Stretch, through Sept. 22: Home Stretch is a “distributed festival” — not “disturbed,” you goof, “distributed”! What does that mean? Well a lot of things, and you may not be surprised to learn that Home Stretch is the brainchild of Spatula&Barcode, or UW art profs Laurie Beth Clark and Michael Peterson. It’s a series of small art events from a varied group of artists that are meant to expand all kinds of thinking, including “how forms of performance and other kinds of aesthetic sociality can help us re-learn how to be together.” For instance, sign up for Michael Peterson’s “Cow by Coffee,” which asks why “nature” is seen as feminine, while “the outdoors” is seen as “masculine.” And freshly brewed fair-trade coffee is involved. Sign-ups are at homestretch.art. All events are free, though some performers may pass a hat or request donations to specific causes.
Willy Street Chamber Players, Friday, July 16, Orton Park, 6 p.m.: Chamber music lives on the near east side. This summer, the neighborhood quartet heads outside with performances like this one in Orton Park, highlighting the harp with guest Johanna Wienholts. The WSCP will perform works by Debussy, William Grant Still and Brahms. Tickets ($20) are available here. There will also be free “pop-up” concerts this week in Warner Park (6 p.m., July 20) and Penn Park (6 p.m., July 22).
Orquesta SalSoul del Mad, Friday, July 16, 100 block of State Street, 8 p.m.: Mad Lit is a new biweekly summer concert series from the Greater Madison Music City Project highlighting local artists of color, as well as providing a space for pop-up shops by local businesses, exhibits and community workshops. This week features Orquesta SalSoul del Mad, a dynamic ensemble which won the 2020 Madison Area Music Award for Latin Performer of the Year. Get a sneak preview by watching their 2020 awards show performance here. With DJ Chamo.
LANCO, Saturday, July 17, KEVA Sports Center, Middleton, 4 p.m.: You may be asking yourself, “A concert at KEVA?” Well, you read that correctly. The sports spot will be remaking its outdoor fields into a concert venue twice this summer, kicking off with modern country quintet LANCO, whose 2017 breakout, “Greatest Love Story,” hit the top of Billboard‘s country charts. The debut concert also includes a trio of acts mixing country, rock, pop and more: Madison native turned Nashville up-and-comer Kirstie Kraus (formerly of Thirsty Jones); Elizabeth Mary, an Iowa native currently based in Madison; and rockin’ outlaw country experts Michael Alexander & Big Whiskey. Find tickets here.
Sheltering with Poems, Saturday, July 17, YouTube or Facebook, 7 p.m.: Anyone into Wisconsin poetry will be thrilled with the lineup of readers at this Arts + Lit Lab reading, Sheltering with Poems, celebrating a new anthology of the same name. Thematically, as the title suggests, the poems in this work reflect on the last 16 months of our living-with-COVID-19 existences. “If there is shelter in poetry, or art itself, it’s a movable shelter,” editor Max Garland writes, “an ancient antigen, shelter that preserves, but also reinvigorates; comforts, but also reawakens our latent capacity for healing.” Readers include Angela Voras-Hills, Ron Czerwien, Lora Keller, Lee Kathryn Hodge, Ae Hee Lee, Katrin Talbot, Scott Lowery, current Madison poet laureate Angela Trudell Vasquez, UW-Madison’s Jesse Lee Kercheval and the great Susan Firer of Milwaukee. The event will be livestreamed on Facebook and on the A + L YouTube channel.
Capital K9s Sunday Funday, Sunday, July 18, Wisconsin Brewing Company, Verona, noon-5 p.m.: The Capital K9s — made up of the dogs and partner officers of the Madison Police Department Canine unit — host this annual outdoor fundraiser for the organization. These working dogs help find missing persons and evidence, search buildings, detect drugs and apprehend suspects. Along with demonstrations, Sunday Funday also features DJ Aaron Jai, food carts, vendors and a raffle.
COPA Presents, Sunday, July 18, 2823 Index Road, Fitchburg, 2 p.m.: Community Organizations Promoting the Arts is a new support organization coming together with the initial goals of making performing arts participation affordable to all, and building a facility where that can happen. This concert event is a fundraiser for the building and takes place at its future site. Mike Leckrone, the former UW Varsity Band director, is also COPA’s lead community ambassador. Along with celebrating his 85th birthday, he will also lead the COPA All-Star Jazz Ensemble for the concert, which includes performances by Latin Pride Orquesta, Dance Wisconsin, Madison Jazz Jam, Capital City Theater, and others. Find tickets here.
Sweet Josephine, Monday, July 19, High Noon Saloon, 7 p.m.: Local music fans may not recognize the band name, but many likely know the singers in this pop-Americana band: Connor Brennan, formerly of Woodrow, and singer-songwriter Sam Sardina. They met during a past incarnation of the annual 105.5 Triple M songwriting contest, but didn’t get together musically until Sweet Josephine coalesced in Nashville. Check out their new songs at this homecoming show, which also features an opening set by Chloe Louise.
It Takes a Village, Tuesday, July 20, Penn Park, noon-5 p.m.: Learn about resources for south-side residents and reconnect with community members at a fair hosted by Goodman South Madison Library (rescheduled for July 20 after a rainout in June). Learn more about the library’s services, as well as those offered by various community organizations. The festivities also include free books for kids (from Madison Reading Project), food, activities led by artists from The Bubbler, and Madison police and fire vehicle displays, as well as a free, mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic by Public Health of Madison and Dane County. Register here for this free event.
Michele Harper, Tuesday, July 20, Crowdcast, 7 p.m.: The Wisconsin Book Festival and the UW-Madison All of Us research program collaborate to host a talk by Dr. Michele Harper. An emergency room physician for more than a decade, Harper recounts her experiences in the memoir The Beauty in Breaking. On Living author Kerry Egan writes of the book: “In sharing the stories of her patients and her own life, Harper shows us that that healing begins only after we are broken open ourselves.” Harper will participate in a virtual conversation with Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness founder Lisa Peyton-Caire; register here.
Hmong Institute Open House, Wednesday, July 21, Life Center, 4402 Femrite Drive, 10 a.m.-noon: An initiative of the Madison-based Hmong Institute, the Hmong Language and Cultural Enrichment Program was named a 2021 Human and Civil Rights Awards winner by the NEA in June. Learn more about the impact of the program, serving Madison Hmong students ages 6-13, during this open house event. The program was honored with the Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award; it is named for the first NASA astronaut of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage, who lost his life in the 1986 Challenger explosion.
Brews for Books, Wednesday, July 21, Brasserie V, 4-7 p.m.: All summer long, the Madison Reading Project’s Big Red Reading Bus has been making stops across Madison, providing free books and literacy activities to 1,500 children weekly. Support the Madison Reading Project at its next event in the Brews for Books fundraising series at Brasserie V. Enjoy some specials, and bring any new or like-new books to donate to the Big Red Reading Bus (guidelines here). If you can’t be at the event, you can still support the Madison Reading Project with a monetary donation or by donating books from its Books4School Wish List.
Ferguson, Carbone & Peck, Wednesday, July 21, The Bur Oak, 7 & 9:30 p.m.: The Ferguson of this trio is Pat, a Madison singer-songwriter and former Smokin’ Bandits lead guitarist. Fans of adventurous acoustic music will certainly know the other two names as well: Tim Carbone is a multi-instrumentalist and member of Railroad Earth; and Elliott Peck is a Midnight North member and solo artist. Carbone produced and Peck plays on the forthcoming new album by Ferguson, and before its release they are heading out on a brief tour for a new collaborative trio project that emerged from the album sessions and continued to grow remotely during the pandemic. (Hear the first single, “The Confidence Man,” here.)
WaunaFest, July 22-25, Centennial Park, Waunakee: The good times are rolling in Waunakee! Coming off its fairly big WaunaBoom event for the 4th of July is the traditional WaunaFest, four days of small town festival writ large. There will be bands, not one but two beer tents, softball games, a craft fair, a car show, midway carnival rides, a food court, and, on Sunday morning, a breakfast, a church service and a parade. But worry not, the beer tent will be open by 10:30 a.m. Our sub-pick for pick of the fest is a performance by the Big Squeezy Accordion Band in the Chamber Beer Garden “after the parade” (which starts at 11 a.m.). Full schedule at waunafest.org.
We hope it’s handy for you to find the Picks in a single weekly post. The individual Picks can still be found in the usual places online: collected here, and sprinkled throughout all the events.