Who Saved Greendale Village Days?
Week#48: The Greendale Entertainment Association is formed by Community minded residents to preserve the tradition of celebarting Greendale's Birthday with Village Days.
History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember.
History and Folklore!
Village Days is held on the second weekend in August annually and provides the community with a venue to come together and celebrate Greendale’s birthday. This tradition started in 1958 and for many years the Greendale Lions, the American Legion Post 416, the Jaycees, and the Village Promotions Committee organized the event. Staples of the event were the Legion corn roast, the Lions food tent, the Lions rummage sale, the Jaycees beer tent, and entertainment at the Lions and Jaycees areas. Of course there was the Village Days parade, and sometimes fireworks. Then after the 1995 celebration one of the participants, the Jaycees, dropped out. This signaled a potential problem for the continued success of the celebration.
The Greendale Jaycees had been a major force in the Village since being chartered in 1958. The amount of projects and events they sponsored were numerous (see Week #67). One of their most visible legacies is Jaycee Park on Broad Street. But their membership had dwindled mostly because of an upper age limit of 41. At a Village Board meeting attended by current Village President John Hermes, it was announced that the Jaycees would no longer operate the beer tent during Village Days (note: John did not run for election or serve as a Village Trustee until 1998). This announcement really registered with John. After the meeting he approached several of the Village Trustees and started to ask what it would take to continue what the Jaycees had been doing for Village Days.
John's chance attendance at that meeting would eventually lead to the formation of the Greendale Entertainment Association, but not immediately and not without the help of a few friends.
In the weeks following the announcement John and some of his friends bemoaned the loss of the Jaycees beer tent and entertainment. The Lions, the Legion, and the parade committee would still be active, but with the fear that without the added variety provided by the Jaycees the future of Greendale Village Days would be fragile. What if one more of the participants would drop out? So, this small group of Community minded citizens decided to take ‘a leap of faith’. I may not have all of the names so please contact me if I missed anyone, but John Hermes and his friends Al Sikorski, Ron Barbian, Mark Eckhardt and Cynthia Jahn were the first wave of volunteers to sign up for this adventure.
It was determined that they would need $5,000 to organize and sponsor a beer tent and entertainment area for the 1996 Village Days. The focus was put on quality entertainment. They reasoned that if they developed a quality product it would be easier to get corporate sponsorship, and keep people coming to the Village celebration. The biggest problem initially was liability insurance. The Village Manager at the time, Frank Pascarella, said that the first year the area on Parking Street was covered under the umbrella of the Village insurance. Then the Greendale Chamber of Commerce stepped in and made a contribution of $1,500. That was huge.
John and Cynthia worked the corporate side of the street for additional sponsors. Al Sikorski knew the vendor side of the equation from his work on Greek Fest and provided that expertise. Miller was specifically selected as the beer vendor because of their roots in the Milwaukee area. Everyone else went door to door, friend to friend, and solicited donations.
The hard work prompted by their love for Greendale and belief in service to the community paid off. Village Days 1996 was a huge success for the Parking Street beer tent and entertainment area. Enough money was realized to ensure that they could operate the area again in 1997. On December 26, 1996 the Greendale Entertainment Association (GEA) was incorporated as a non-profit. John Hermes was the first president. He served as president from 1996 until 2005. Thomas Neumann was president from 2006 until 2009. And starting in 2009 and still ‘el-presidente’ is current Village Trustee Greg Turay.
Did the GEA save Village Days? Who knows? Maybe some other group or the Village itself would have stepped up to the challenge. Maybe the other existing participants would have expanded. But that was not necessary. This small group of individuals threw their hearts and souls into preserving the tradition of Village Days. Thank you George Spuda, Mark Eckhardt, Rick Bartman, Jeff Birmingham, Janice Hermes, Karyn Birmingham, Greg Korenak, Marsha Isherwood, Julie Campbell, Mark Duchin, Al Sikorski, Cynthia Jahn, John Hermes and all the volunteers that have followed them. Village Days is alive and well in the Village of Greendale.
The New GEA – Proud Sponsors of the 2013 Village Days Fireworks!
I sat down recently with the current president of the Greendale Entertainment Association (GEA), Greg Turay. I wanted to know more about the organization. I found out that what I knew about the GEA was like the tip of an iceberg. The GEA means much more to the community of Greendale than beer, brats, bands, and kid games. Underneath the surface is a model organization that not only supports the community, but is designed to preserve Greendale as the charmed place it is. Greg believes “You only get out of a community what you put into it.” And from what Greg told me, the GEA puts a lot into the community, and we all benefit by what is given back.
I knew the GEA donates money to many community clubs, organizations and events. However, I did not know there were so many, like the Greendale Library, the Booster Club, the Scouts, Garden Gazing Club, Christmas Tree Lighting (glow necklaces), Home Run Club, High School music program, Hay Days, Dickens of a Christmas and more. These organizations contribute to the quality of life in Greendale and why so many residents find it a great place to raise a family. While these donations are significant, they are not the best thing that I think the GEA gives to the community.
By design, the GEA involves the youths of the community in some way in all their events. During Village Days the high school band provides manpower for setup and takedown, the Booster club sells tickets for the Family Entertainment Area, the Boy Scouts help with cleanup. Different youth clubs operate the games and merchandise booths in the entertainment area. For the fall and spring resale events the Pom Pons and Cheerleaders unload cars and move merchandise. By involving youths in these events they learn how they are organized and run, have some fun, and learn an important lesson for the future. You get out of a community what you put into it.
Of course none of this happens without leadership, and the GEA is loaded with that. Greg Turay is the president, Jim Birmingham vice-president, Princess Barutha treasurer, Lori Koch secretary, Donna Ouelette resale coordinator, and Sue & Frank Bunker family entertainment area to name a few. Thank you for what you do annually to support Greendale, but more importantly for what you do to preserve Greendale as the charmed place it is.
Oops! Almost forgot. The GEA also provides the entertainment for the Saturday night Gazebo concerts. This six concert series began about 12 years ago and is regularly attended by approximately 400 people. It has that small town feel to it, and about 40% of the people who attend are from outside Greendale. The proud sponsor of these concerts along with the GEA is The Starr Group. It’s great fun to see their two costumed lions, Lionel and Lionardo, passing out popcorn and water before the performance.
Gold Rush This Saturday September 15th!
How do you know when you have a successful event? Maybe when people start lining up in the wee hours of the morning and at 8:00am over 600 are waiting to get in you might be onto something. I confess to not knowing much about the ‘Annual Fall Children’s Toy and Clothing Resale’ event. I was shocked to find out that buyers and sellers come from all over SE Wisconsin to take part in this event (note: There is a spring resale event also). A group of Illinois moms regularly make the trip to Greendale, staying in a hotel Friday night so they can get in line early Saturday morning (I know Packer fans, but Illinois moms are people too.).
Needing to understand this phenomenon more, I asked the coordinator Donna Ouelette to explain the event to me in terms even I could understand. First, she explained the merchandise being sold and purchased is limited to that sized or appropriate for infants up to juniors. The event is promoted thru advertising and direct marketing, but a lot of it is just word of mouth. Especially in this tough economic environment the ability for families to sell and purchase children’s slightly used merchandise at a reduced cost is priceless. Also, the convenience of going to one location on a specific day and having so much merchandise available is a real time saver. Briefly Donna explained how it works.
At 4:00pm on Friday night some 200 sellers in cars and trucks pull up in front of the Greendale High School. They are assisted in the unloading onto carts by the Pom Pons and Cheerleaders. Once in the building volunteers tag and direct the merchandise to the appropriate location. Clothes, spring/summer jackets, shoes, purses, dresses and maternity clothes go to the high school lunch room and stage. Toys, sports equipment, legos, books, tapes, dolls, baby feeding supplies to the upper gym. Finally, strollers, high chairs, bouncy seats, cribs, toys, bikes, baby furniture, bedding, outdoor play equipment to the upper balcony. Sound easy? Not to me. We’re talking about a Walmart super store of children’s toys and clothing here.
Once everything is in place, from 8:00pm until 9:00pm on Friday night the volunteers get to pre-shop the merchandise. It’s a little perk that helps attract some of the 80 plus volunteers needed to manage the event. Then at 8:00am sharp on Saturday morning the selling and buying begins. I’m told it is hectic, that is why no children are allowed before 10:00am and no strollers or wagons at any time. Safety is of the utmost importance. The doors close for an hour at 11:00am for lunch and reorganizing. Then from noon until 2:00pm the half-price sale is conducted. Finally the doors close for good to the relief of everyone.
Financially the event is a win-win-win. The sellers get 70% of the sale, the GEA keeps 30%, and much of the unsold merchandise is donated to charity. A large truck loads up and delivers clothes etc. to various organizations. Some is dropped off at Children’s Hospital Emergency room for kids whose clothes were ruined. Some goes to Kids Kloset and gets used for victims of a fire and needy moms. And St. Al’s Parish in Greendale receives goods that they use in their outreach programs. How cool is that!
Donna summed it up for me this way: “The resale event makes a difference. It helps families and charity, especially in these difficult times. I love that is raises money for Greendale. Without the money from the resale events the GEA could not give so much back to the community.” Well said. Thanks Donna. And kudos to Carolann Matzek, Gail Ream, Karyn Birmingham, Suzette Brahm, Debbie Barney, Kathy Kasza, Sue Bunker, and Jackie Kramer and all the other volunteers without whom this wonderful event would not be possible.
But did you know?
During the 1998 Village Days celebration, Ron Barbian dragged a basketball hoop over to the green space in front of the Middle School and like magic the Family Entertainment Area was born. Well it didn’t exactly get started that way…..but almost. Ron grew up in Greendale and remembered always being down in the Village Center. Kids back in the days of Ron’s youth played outside, with dinosaurs, square wheeled carts and other prehistoric toys like stones and sticks. He thought that creating a play area for kids would be a good reason for more families to come down to the Village during the day.
At first it was difficult finding a location to establish the youth area. One day he happened to notice Sally Chadwick, then president of the Greendale Historical Society, with a booth by the flagpole and Alonso Hauser statue. He walked over and asked if she thought there was room for some children’s games. Sally saw no problem with that and thought it was a great idea. Ron got permission from the Greendale School District and the next year the Family Entertainment area got started, with a basketball hoop and basket balls…….
Other members of the GEA immediately also saw this as a great opportunity and pitched in. Over the next few years the area was expanded to include rides, more games, and an entertainment stage. Layton State Bank was excited about the games area and became the long term sponsor. Likewise, The Starr Group thought the Family Entertainment Stage would be awesome and became the long term sponsor of that venue. Every year the area seems to improve. This year a tent was placed over the entire booth area with the games. While the weather was great this year, if it had rained the party would have gone on without a hitch.
Ron’s idea was a good one, and the Family Entertainment Areas of Village Days does bring back memories of the good old days, minus the dinosaurs for most of us.
Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:
Week#49 Answer – There once was the buzz of airplanes in Greendale. From approximately 1945 until 1951 Trimborn Farm was used as a private and commercial airstrip. Planes were used for crop dusting, aerial photography, sky writing etc. The flyers from this airstrip went on to form the Experimental Aircraft Association now in Oshkosh, WI.
Week#48 Question – When did postal delivery service start n Greendale?
** Week #48 contributors Sally Chadwick, Greendale Village Life, Ron Barbian, Greg Turay, Donna Ouelette, John Hermes, Greendale Life, Greendale Entertainments Association, Jackie Kreamer.