A summer night in Mequon
Susan Barnett's poetical flight about a prosaic annual arts event.
At Mequon Rotary Park, old friends cluster together in chairs they schlepped from home. They unpack coolers loaded with wine and summer cocktails, spreading tables with salads, meats and cheeses. Gathering on the Green sponsors display themselves like prestige goods along the outer ring, their food catered from stainless trays. The perfect blue of the sky slowly darkens into orange and gray, a line of ominous but barren clouds to the west.
As darkness falls, what appears to be an inflatable play sculpture turned sideways becomes a projector screen, a postage stamp of sponsor logos pasted on the night sky. A few small children dance and play on the green, the tiniest standing and swaying, grasping the ropes that define section and class. Their bright faces are like flowers among the greying stalks of the aging community.
The introduction is star spangled. I catch the familiar strains from a green plastic outhouse, smells of urine and chemical mixing with PVC baking in the sun. The pick-up orchestra is decent under Richard Hynson’s able baton, playing pops selections beginning with the national anthem and moving through myriad movie scores. Carmen is on the playlist, framed as a proto Hollywood opera. Launching into a Disney medley, one familiar bit of nostalgia is connected to the next like a string of artificial pearls.
For $10, you can buy a bidding paddle, which you can have signed by Leroy Butler, inventor of the Lambeau Leap, even if you don’t win! For a few thousand more you can purchase dinner for 25, cooked and catered in your own home by Butler, and possibly other Packers royalty. Two other priceless experiences are hawked by the auctioneer, the winning bidders photographed and politely thanked, and Mequon’s outdoor tribute to the arts resumes.
After intermission a strange dance interlude, set to recorded music, features a helpless secretarial victim courted by Clark Kent/Superman, threatened by Darth Vader, and finally saved by Kung Fu Panda. The musical highlight of the evening is An American in Paris: the orchestra playfully evokes the rhythm and style of the jazz era, while clips from the movie flit on screen. A pair of dancers kicks and spins gracefully through the last segment, reviving the Charleston on a black plastic dance floor. The armed forces receive a musical salute, survivors from each branch standing through their theme, while the crowd claps just behind the beat.
I admit that for me the evening ended before the finale. I slipped out into the still-dark parking area while Private Ryan was still being saved, pointing my headlights south. Although I missed the obligatory ending of every summer event, I still caught some fireworks over South Shore Park framed by the car windshield and the yellow arc of the Hoan Bridge.