Crowd Celebrates City Birthday Party
Politicians, PR people and other notables schmoozed away. The best rumor was that Chief Flynn might be retiring.
The 169th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Milwaukee was celebrated by the Milwaukee Press Club at its annual party, Thursday, January 29th, at the Grain Exchange Room of the historic 1879 Mackie Building, 225 E. Michigan St.
This event, which draws hundreds annually, follows a predictable pattern of mingling, socializing, snacking and networking interrupted by only the most perfunctory of presentations.
The audience included the shrinking pool of journalists and public relations people in town, with a decided uptick in the participation of younger professionals.
Among the honorees of the event’s “Milwaukee Made: Products, People and Places that ‘Make’ Milwaukee Great” was Amy Grau, the director of Doors Open Milwaukee, the event that draws tens of thousands of people to the city to look at old buildings each September.
Among those enjoying an adult beverage at the event was the Chief of Police, Ed Flynn, a regular fixture at the City Birthday Party.
But there was something different about the chief and the event this year. As noted, he was quaffing a brew — a Buffalo Water Bison Blonde brought by Craig Peterson, the anti-streetcar advocate, PR man and beer brand owner. Also in attendance was Peterson’s fellow streetcar opponent, CRG Network leader Chris Kliesmet.
Flynn, chief since 2008, was attired in regular street clothes, and not his uniform, as he had always been in the past at this event. And cops in uniform — even the chief — may not drink adult beverages. This led to all sorts of talk that perhaps the chief will hang up his uniform for good at the expiration of his term, which was extended by four years in 2011.
A year ago, at the event, the chief and his police force were busy tracking down the missing Lipinski Stradivarius violin that had been forcibly stolen from Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond on January 27th, 2014. It was recovered a week after the city’s 168th birthday party, held on January 30th that year, which Flynn, a symphony fan, celebrated in uniform, strictly business.
Flynn spent some time jawboning with Ald. Michael Murphy, the president of the Common Council, Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice and Milwaukee Magazine editor Kurt Chandler. Bice also chatted with Urban Milwaukee editor Bruce Murphy and Journal Sentinel scribes Erin Richards and Bill Glauber. Murphy (the common council president) had a few words with veteran journalist James B. Nelson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a regular at this affair.
The only other aldermen in sight were Bob Bauman and Jose Perez. In past years, the party has had a considerable county representation, and I remember the particular fun of watching County Executive Chris Abele and County Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic trying to keep the maximum distance between themselves in the 10,000 square foot, three story ballroom.
But there was no such excitement this year, since neither was present, and who can blame county supervisors (I only saw Martin Weddle and Steve Taylor in attendance), who will soon see their pay cut to under $20,000 per year, for economizing and skipping an event that would cost them a good $35 to attend? Economy begins at home.
The mayor declined the honor of singing “Happy Birthday” to the city, but this is not new. Barrett has steadfastly refused public singing, which was considered a compulsory job requirement during the lengthy tenure of Mayor Henry Maier (1960-1988) and Mayor John Norquist (1988-2003).
Instead, he did a bit of exhorting — not enough to weary himself too unduly — and left the singing to the hundreds of joyous voices in the audience, while his was mute. He first passed the singing baton to Ald. Murphy, who declined the honor in favor of Doc. Ryder, who did a capable job in the remarkable task of subbing for song-averse Irishmen.
Kent “Colonel” Knapp, a Third Ward-based blacksmith, was the winner of the “What” category of honorees, and that is appropriate, since he sure is somewhat of a character. Knapp celebrated his victory with an enthusiastic dance on the dais of the great room. His performance was hot and riveting, leaving me in search of an appropriate vessel to dunk and quench him.
Walker’s Point was also represented by Clive Promhows, the London-born artist whose Live Artists Studio, 228 S. 1st St., recently worked on a lovely new New England fish-shack installation at the St. Paul Seafood shop at the Milwaukee Public Market. He was joined by Dieter Wegner, an early investor in the neighborhood who also operates Altec Roofing Co., which comes in handy when he has to keep a lid on his old buildings. Most recently, Wegner bought a building at 3126 W. Pierce St., a very old tavern structure that he hopes to add to his portfolio of urban rescues. Wegner spent some time talking to Ald. Bauman, who was familiar with his work.
Also seen chatting were Paul Mathews, longtime head of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and Leo Ries, head of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which does much to support neighborhood development.
The event was catered by Bartolotta, with several stations throughout the room featuring pastas, cheeses, salads and other tasty goods.
For the second year, Meijer, the grocery chain that hopes to make a go of it in this notoriously competitive market, had goodie bags to go for attendees, including a Milwaukee Press Club coffee mug, and a bag of Meijer trail mix that gets about half its calories from M&M candies.