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Celebrate the Catfish River

Mickey's Tavern is on the left. If only I could still hop on the street car at Baldwin and head to Mickey's...
When I was asked to help plan the third annual "Fools Flotilla" down the Yahara, I said yes please. I love my neighborhood river! We bike along it. We canoe on it. We feed the ducks and clamber on its banks. We've walked through blizzards to get to Mickey's for bloody marys. My favorite scenic view in the city is standing on a bridge and looking between the lakes, watching the sun rise or set, depending.

And lord knows I love to wear costumes and am thrilled by anything as festive as a floating parade! The first year I happened on the Flotilla. I was biking with my oldest daughter and we went from bridge to bridge cheering the rowdy boats at they floated below. The second year we packed the baby and the two-year-old into a canoe to float along. My older daughter drummed on the side of the boat as the band played "Proud Mary" and "Row Row Row Your Boat." My husband and I agreed afterward that it was actually more than a little stressful to have two babies in a boat, even if the Mighty Yahara is only 3 feet deep, and we went to Mickey's for bloody marys to laugh at ourselves.

Aside from the opportunity to don a wig, I love public space and urban infrastructure that promotes a high quality of life. Having a river run through my neighborhood and city is worth celebrating. My first thought was that the path and parks along the river between lakes Monona and Mendota are not fully appreciated. Then I started imagining the kinds of public art that could surprise and delight neighbors. Then I started thinking about how riverways are showcased in other downtowns. My enthusiasm for this project is growing exponentially.

I live between Lapham Elementary School and the Yahara River. Increase Lapham was a naturalist who made the first accurate maps of Wisconsin. In 1844 he suggested that "the best method of increasing navigation of this stream would probably be, to build a dam at this point" so the water of all the lakes could be made level. The "stream" was then called Catfish River, but these ladies in the postcard look too lovely for this whiskery fish.

In 1855 the Legislature renamed it the Yahara. A good friend of mine insists it should, in fact, be called The Mighty Yahara. I just think we should talk about it.

The goals for the project are straightforward:
  • Provide opportunities for the River Alliance of Wisconsin to increase visibility in the neighborhood & increase membership
  • Build a neighborhood narrative about the Yahara River
  • Highlight the public space along the river
  • Increase the audience for the third annual Fools Flotilla 

The message:
Meet us on the banks of the river! 
June 9th at 10:30
Keep your eyes peeled for art showing up in sneaky spots in the coming weeks.

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