Out of the Darkness Community Walk Oct. 4

August 29, 2015

By Sheila Julson

Humboldt Park event promotes suicide awareness

A child drops flowers into the Humboldt Park Lagoon in a ceremony that was part of the 2014 Milwaukee Out of the Darkness event. PHOTO COURTESY GENA ORLANDO

A child drops flowers into the Humboldt Park Lagoon in a ceremony that was part of the 2014 Milwaukee Out of the Darkness event. PHOTO COURTESY GENA ORLANDO

Twenty years ago, when former Bay View resident Gena Orlando was 19 years old, one of her close friends, also 19, died by suicide. Two years later that friend’s brother died by suicide. The loss of the brothers left Orlando with countless questions and a gamut of emotions.

The experience led her to become a leader in the Wisconsin chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Orlando, who now lives in Theresa, Wis., is secretary of AFSP’s Wisconsin chapter and chair of the annual Milwaukee Out of the Darkness Community Walk.

This year the walk, which takes place in Humboldt Park, is October 4.

Founded in 1987, AFSP is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing suicide and does so through research, education programs, and advocacy. It also provides support for survivors of suicide. AFSP acts as resource, Orlando said, directing people to resources where they can find help.

AFSP is not a crisis center and doesn’t treat people, but they do fund some of those programs, Orlando said.

The Out of the Darkness Community Walk event began in 2005 and took place in 24 cities. Participants walked overnight from dusk to dawn, symbolizing walking “out of the darkness.” According to AFSP, the first year attracted 4,000 participants. This year, 350 nationwide walks are planned with the participation of an estimated 200,000 walkers. Orlando said the walks generate funding for AFSP.

Jessica Borkowski, AFSP Wisconsin board chair, organized the first Milwaukee walk in 2008 before Wisconsin had its own chapter. At that time, all money raised was given to the programs of the national office. Since the Wisconsin chapter was established in December 2013, half of all money raised from the Wisconsin walks stays in the state for its programs. The other half goes to AFSP’s national programs.

This year Wisconsin’s Out of the Darkness Community Walks will take place in Milwaukee (Humboldt Park), Madison, Eau Claire/Chippewa Valley, Wausau, Walworth County, and Antigo. Each walk has its own volunteer chairperson who organizes the walks on their own time.

Orlando said she’s looking for additional sponsors and in-kind donations for raffle prizes. She’d like to get more Bay View businesses involved. 88NINE Radio Milwaukee will sponsor this year, Orlando said, as will the Hupy and Abraham law firm, and the Bradley Corporation, a manufacturer of plumbing fixtures in Menomonee Falls.

This year’s walk, approximately three miles, will be three laps around Humboldt Park. There is no charge to participate, but individuals and teams are encouraged to raise sponsorship donations. Dogs are welcome but there is a charge. People can register their canine companions for $10 each.

Honor beads are a big part of the walk. Each walker wears a string of beads of a color that signifies their loss—white for loss of a child; red for a spouse or partner; gold for a parent; orange for a sibling; and purple for a relative or friend. Green beads represent a personal struggle; blue beads show support of the cause, and teal indicates support of a family or friend who is struggling with depression.

There are also other gestures and ceremonies that take place during the event. Flowers are floated on the lagoon before the walk. There are children’s projects that are built around themes such as “picking up the pieces together,” where they draw on large puzzle pieces. Families often bring photos of loved ones who died by suicide. After the walk, raffle prizewinners are announced.

Orlando said suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and that 20 percent of suicides are military veterans. Yet research about suicide is one of the least funded. “There’s a stigma attached to suicide and mental illness,” Orlando said. “Like any physical illness, [mental illness] can be fatal if it goes untreated. We are trying to get rid of the stigma and get people talking. We want people who are facing suicidal thoughts and depression to know that they’re not alone.”

She recalls that it was uncommon to talk about mental illness in the 1990s when she lost her two friends to suicide. “It was really shocking. It was a blow to everyone they were close to. You go through different types of emotions, like ‘is it my fault?’ Dealing with any type of death is hard but with suicide we’re often angry with the person we’re mourning,” Orlando said. “There are different stages of feelings that we normally don’t go through when somebody dies of a heart attack. You can be angry at the heart attack, but if somebody hurts themself, dealing with that and the emotions that go with it is so complex.”

Orlando said AFSP strives to start the conversation, to be a voice for those suffering, and to support people who lost loved ones to suicide. The organization also holds International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day annually on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

In attempt to bring more resources to rural areas, this year’s event is Nov. 21 at the Washington County Public Agency Center in West Bend.

Humboldt Park Oct. 4. Registration begins at 8:30am. Opening ceremony at 11am. Walk begins at 11:30am.

To donate $10 by phone, text AFSP MILWAUKEE to 85944.

Donations can also be taken by texting AFSP MILWAUKEE to 85944 (there must be a space between AFSP and Milwaukee).

More info: http://afsp.donordrive.com/event/Milwaukee.

South Shore food pantries coping with FoodShare changes, for now

August 29, 2015

By Sheila Julson

On April 1, changes went into effect for Wisconsin residents receiving food assistance benefits from FoodShare, the name of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Wisconsin.

The FoodShare program is administered by the Department of Wisconsin Health Services. According to its website, adults ages 18 through 49 who have no minor children in their home may need to meet a work requirement or meet an exemption to continue receiving FoodShare benefits. These work requirement rules will affect FoodShare members who must renew, or who apply for FoodShare benefits on, or after April 1, 2015.

Under the new changes, if participants who fall into the above category do not either work 80 hours per month, participate in an allowable work program for 80 hours each month, or both work and take part in an allowable work program for a combined total of 80 hours per month, they may only receive three months of FoodShare benefits in a 36-month period. Those requirements come on the heels of federal and state changes to FoodShare benefits in 2013 and 2014.

Advocates for food justice such as Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee, have publicly spoken out against Wisconsin’s work requirements, noting that they will put a strain on nonprofit food pantries.

The Compass contacted four South Shore food pantries to discover if they’ve been affected by the new requirements.

Linda Nieft, president and CEO of the Bay View Community Center, 1320 E. Oklahoma Ave., said its food pantry saw a slight increase in users in June, which is typical during the summer months because children are on school vacation and not receiving school lunches. In June, Bay View Community Center’s food pantry served 58 households and 160 individuals—103 adults and 53 children.

Nieft pointed out that many people who receive food assistance have their eligibility status reviewed yearly and won’t necessarily receive a reduction or be cut from FoodShare benefits until their review, so there may be adverse effects yet to come.

“I think people are confused, as [the changes to the program] happened so quickly. There was a lot of talk about it, and then, boom—it happened,” Nieft said.

She added that some people don’t keep abreast of state legislative changes to the FoodShare program. Her staff tries to keep people informed, but since recipients can only come in once per month, staff members sometimes don’t see them until after changes are announced.

Bay View Community Center also refers people to other organizations if they need more help.

To supplement the Bay View Community Center pantry’s food supply, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 3200 S. Herman St., and Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church, 125 W. Saveland Ave., donate fresh vegetables grown in their raised bed gardens. “People are excited to get fresh produce,” Nieft said. “Because prices of fresh vegetables have gone up, it’s quite a treat for people to go from canned to fresh food.”

Nieft said that she welcomes donations and encourages people to give cream and broth soups (no ramen noodle soup); cereal; canned fruit; canned tomato sauce; and canned proteins.

Debby Pizur, program director of Project Concern Cudahy/St. Francis, 3658 E. Plankinton Ave., in Cudahy, reported that the organization usually serves 30 to 35 households per month. In June, the number of new households that applied for assistance increased to 45. She said it’s too early to tell if the increase is tied to the tighter FoodShare eligibility requirements.

“Because [the work requirement] has just started, we’re not feeling stressed yet. And food donations are always down in the summer, so it would be normal for us to be running a little lean at this time,” Pizur said.

The Cudahy Community Garden, located on the grounds of the Cudahy United Methodist Church, 5865 S. Lake Dr., is in its second year of growing vegetables on its property that its members donate to Project Concern. There the greatest needs are canned proteins, canned fruits, and dried beans.

Hope House, 209 W. Orchard St., partners with Friedens Community Ministries to operate its food pantry. Friedens is a network of food pantries in Milwaukee with additional locations at their main office in the Marcia P. Coggs Human Services building, 1220 W. Vliet St., and at Despensa De la Paz, 1615 S. 22nd St.

Executive director Catherine Draeger-Pederson said Friedens has seen a lot of fear from its community members concerning the FoodShare changes, as well as members’ uncertainty about paperwork and other requirements for participation in the program. “They fear what is happening and what is going to come,” she said.

Like other pantries, summers are busy at Hope House since kids are home from school. Draeger-Pederson said that Friedens is currently meeting the needs of its users, but as the year goes on, they will probably will see more of an impact because July 1 marked the first cycle of the three-month-limit since the new restrictions went into effect. “We currently have the resources to meet a higher need, but my hope is that we don’t have to, and people will somehow be able to keep their benefits,” she said.

In June, Draeger-Pederson said Friedens served approximately 1,200 families at the three locations. Friedens’ needs include canned protein, as well as condiments people enjoy but cannot afford to purchase such as mayonnaise, ketchup, salt, and pepper.

United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS), 2701 S. Chase Ave., a nonprofit advocacy organization, also has a food pantry. Rod Ritcherson, special assistant to president Lupe Martinez, reported no change in the number of people who visit its food pantry. “It’s a little too soon to see any impact,” he said.

According to Ritcherson, UMOS’ Chase Avenue location provided 550,000 pounds of food to users during its fiscal year July 2014 through June 2015. Ritcherson said UMOS receives 80 percent of its pantry’s food from the Hunger Task Force. The rest comes from donations from Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc., Molina Health Care, and area high school food drives.

Sheila Julson, sjulson@wi.rr.com, is a freelance writer and blogs at cappersfarmer.com/blogs/return-to-our-roots

IN BALANCE — Nurturing children with ADHD

August 29, 2015

By Aleisha Anderson


Aleisha Anderson Head ShotBittersweet are emotions for many children and parents as the new school year begins.

For parents with children who struggle to tune in and adjust to new routines and expectations at school, the stress that accompanies a new school year can be overwhelming.

Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are not all the same. There is a diverse spectrum of behavior exhibited by children with an ADHD diagnosis.

Traditional Chinese medicine’s five-elements typologies can help sort out ADHD imbalances and offer valuable insight to parents about the “true nature” of their child’s attention challenges.

Chinese medicine’s five elements theory is based on the notion that all natural processes and phenomena can be classified. The five natural elements possess unique characteristics. These elements are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each individual has their own “true nature” and belongs to one of these five elements or types. One’s type influences how one asserts oneself in the world, how one copes with stressors, and how one seeks comfort.

With ADHD, behaviors and coping mechanisms can be exaggerated.

When imbalanced, a child’s (or adult’s) natural strengths are overshadowed by negative behavior.

Wood types are easily frustrated, hyperactive, angry, and have explosive outbursts.

Fire types are impulsive, silly, lazy, and get bored easily.

Earth types are worried, obsessive, disorganized, and tend to be indecisive.

Metal types are rigid, hyper-focused, stuck, and show compulsive behavior.

Water types are withdrawn, daydreaming, slow, and apathetic.

Each type benefits from different therapeutic approaches in Chinese medicine. For example, the indecisive earth child who complains of stomach aches, often cannot fall asleep at night due to over thinking and may struggle with worry about how they will fit in to a new classroom or please their teacher. Helping this child feel more secure is the first step. Adding humor will lighten this child’s mood and ease the burden of over-thinking.

Allowing the earth child to do homework in the dining room rather than alone in their bedroom can improve concentration because the child is no longer worrying about being separated from the rest of the family. Before bed, a parent can sit with the child and talk about the day or massage their child’s belly. Adding light music can soothe and prevent a child from becoming too caught up in their own thoughts.

Stagnation and food accumulations in the stomach mirror the obsessive thinking that trap an insecure earth child in their thoughts. These children should avoid foods that cause slow digestion, such as excessively cold food like ice cream and raw food. Comforting foods such as soups and stews will heal poor digestion. When the symptoms are more severe or have been occurring for a long time, incorporating gentle acupuncture and Chinese herbs that “warm the middle” can promote digestion and aid attention.

The importance of recognizing different ADHD types and how they relate to the five-element typologies helps inform how best to nurture, support, and restore balance to children with attention challenges.

Further reading: Fire Child, Water Child, Stephen Scott Cowan, MD.

Bay View resident Aleisha Anderson, L.Ac., is the clinic director and acupuncturist at Mke Mindbody Wellness, an integrative wellness center with holistic therapies focused on mental health.  More information visit mkewellness.com.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this column is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or care. 


End of an Era — Gallery Books

July 2, 2015

By Katherine Keller

Gallery Books was tucked away at 2124 E. Rusk Ave. Although it was a retail bookstore, some might say it was more like a clubhouse for its owner Frank Mente, who had a prodigious yen for collecting books.  —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Gallery Books was tucked away at 2124 E. Rusk Ave. Although it was a retail bookstore, some might say it was more like a clubhouse for its owner Frank Mente, who had a prodigious yen for collecting books.
—Photo Jennifer Kresse

The inimitable Frank Mente who operated Gallery Books in Bay View died June 6. He was 84 years old.

Mente, a passionate bibliophile, sold books and vinyl records at his store for 32 years, opening for business in January 1983, with his business partner Malcolm Nelson. Nelson later left the partnership when he moved out of the state.

Mark Gubin, who owns the building that housed Gallery Books, 2124 E. Rusk Ave, said, “Frank was always entertaining as hell. He talked three times faster than anybody else. I didn’t charge him much at all for rent, sometimes almost nothing, depending on his finances that month.”

—Photo Jennifer Kresse

—Photo Jennifer Kresse

As anyone who patronized Gallery Books will tell you, the store was stuffed to the brim with books, and it was decorated with posters, photographs, and a bricolage of kitsch. The stairway leading to the basement was piled with books. Gubin said that Mente filled the basement under the store with even more books. He estimates that there are about 100,000 volumes in Mente’s inventory “and that most are not worth much.”

Mente acquired books at library sales and rummage sales. “That was his whole life,” Gubin said. “He bought bags of books for a dollar. And he gave away lots of books.”

Born Nov. 25, 1930, Mente worked as a journalist for the West Allis Star until it folded, and then for an insurance company. He lived in Franksville, Wis.

His parents and siblings preceded him in death.

“I think he was terribly lonely,” Gubin said. “I certainly will miss him.”

Gallery Bookstore Interior SMALL KRESSEThe fate of Mente’s vast collection is up in the air, Gubin said, indicating that Mente apparently died without leaving a will.

BID’s baskets damaged by wind 

July 2, 2015

By Katherine Keller

The day the baskets were hung, they looked like they did in the above photo. But the chartreuse vines of the sweet potato plants in the BID’s floral baskets looked like dead spiders after being exposed to 36-hours of incessant cold wind on May 30 and 31. —Photo Katherine Keller

The day the baskets were hung, they looked like they did in the above photo. But the chartreuse vines of the sweet potato plants in the BID’s floral baskets looked like dead spiders after being exposed to 36-hours of incessant cold wind on May 30 and 31. —Photo Katherine Keller

Sixty floral baskets, a project of the Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District (BID #44) were hung along Kinnickinnic Avenue on May 29, where they glowed with bright chartreuse and magenta and pink hues. However, within 24 hours, a cold, incessant wind blew for a day and half, desiccating the flowing sweet potato vines. The petunias survived the onslaught, but the vines withered and turned brown.

Commenting a few days after the wind damage, Mary Ellen O’Donnell, a member of the BID board and its streetscaping committee said, “The KK BID flower basket program took a hit this past weekend with unexpected, unseasonable, seriously cold, and windy weather. There has been obvious damage to  the baskets. The plan, after an assessment by the Plant Land team, is to rejuvenate the baskets by trimming them back over the next few days. That work will be done by our maintenance partner, Black Eagle Construction. If all goes well, we should see an improvement in the appearance of the baskets in the next 10-14 days.”

Karen Matt of Plant Land garden center, who created the baskets, said that after an initial assessment, she thought that while the vines were withered, she felt confident that the sweet potato plants had survived the wind damage. On June 17, she said that when the baskets were trimmed and the dead foliage removed, that the sweet potato plants were improving. “They are recovering nicely,” she said. “The roots weren’t affected, just the foliage.”

Help make it well again!

October 1, 2013

The Pryor Street Iron Well, the only extant public well in Milwaukee, has fallen into dramatic disrepair but there is a plan afoot to repair and restore its obelisk and foundation. Project leaders are relying on the good people of Bay View and others who love the well   and drink its water   to throw in a few bucks to help fund the restoration.   —photo Katherine Keller

The Pryor Street Iron Well, the only extant public well in Milwaukee, has fallen into dramatic disrepair but there is a plan afoot to repair and restore its obelisk and foundation. Project leaders are relying on the good people of Bay View and others who love the well and drink its water to throw in a few bucks to help fund the restoration. —photo Katherine Keller

Nichole Williams of the Bay View Neighborhood Association is leading the grant writing and fundraising drive to pay for the restoration of the Pryor Street Iron Well. Over time, the original decorative stone that sheathed the structure was in disrepair and has fallen from the surface of the obelisk. Structural rebar has rusted causing the exterior to crack and crumble. The base of the obelisk is deteriorating to the point that plants are growing in its chinks and crevices.

The Bay View Historical Society has volunteered to receive donated funds for the project, which will cost about $5,000. The goal is to restore the structure as close as possible to the original appearance by the end of October. Paul Jakubovic of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission is overseeing the restoration. (The story of the restoration will be published in the November issue of the Compass.)

If you wish to contribute to the effort to restore the Pryor Avenue Iron Well, contributions should be directed to:

Bay View Historical Society — Well Fund
2590 S. Superior St.
Milwaukee, WI 53207

Please use the “for/memo” line on your check to designate your contribution as “BVHS Well project.”

BVHS is an affiliate of the Wisconsin State Historical Society and a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowable by law. Your cancelled check is your receipt.

Mid-century furniture a specialty

October 1, 2013

Evon Smith and Corey Sweet, proprietors of R Vintage N More.  —photo Jennifer Kresse

Evon Smith and Corey Sweet, proprietors of R Vintage N More. —photo Jennifer Kresse

By Sheila Julson

Evon Smith, one of the owners of R Vintage N More, LLC, 2653 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., carefully wraps a set of sleek mid-century emerald green bar glasses in tissue paper for a 20-something male customer. The glasses, decorated with images of ducks, came with  a metal display rack.

“I couldn’t pass them up,” the purchaser said enthusiastically as he paid for his vintage treasure.

Smith, who owns R Vintage N More with Corey Sweet, said their shop specializes in mid-century antiques. The term “mid-century” in antique terms is typically defined as furniture and decor from the 1940s through the 1960s and is known for simple lines, lighter finishes, bold colors, and 3D wall art.

“The mid-century look is very popular with the younger crowd,” Sweet noted, although their store attracts customers of all ages. Those who grew up in the era enjoy the trip down memory lane and fondly recall items in the store that are similar those in their childhood homes. The younger crowd is there discovering the look for the first time.

Smith pointed out that vintage items are also more durable and better quality than some new items are today that are made from pressed particleboard coated with materials that peel easily. He said his parents were antique collectors, and he often accompanied them on their hunting excursions for vintage and antique items.

Smith and Sweet sold antiques for several years at flea markets and antique malls. In 2011, they opened a store at 916 Milwaukee Ave. in South Milwaukee. They noticed their customer base was predominantly was drawn from the Riverwest, Shorewood, and Bay View communities, so they began searching for locations in Milwaukee. Before the Bay View location was chosen, they also considered sites in Walker’s Point and Lincoln Village, near the Basilica of St. Josaphat.

“The neighborhood has been very welcoming,” Sweet said of Bay View. The store opened in July in the building also occupied by Brickyard Gym and Bay View Books & Music. The new space has 2,500 square feet — up from their 625 square feet in South Milwaukee. They find items for the store at estate sales and auctions.

Smith cited the resurgence of classic television shows and movies on channels like Me-TV for motivating the demand and interest in mid-century decor. “That dining room set is like the one they had on Hazel (an early 1960s comedy about a live-in maid),” he said, pointing to a 1959 Thomasville dining set.

Their furniture collection includes sofas and sectionals, tiered end tables with a blonde or mahogany finish, buffets, wall units that have built-in locking liquor cabinets, and accents such as lamps. Sweet pointed to a pair of large ceramic lamps finished in ivory faux stucco with teak embellishments. He said that large lamps were a popular way to fill space, especially the expansive picture windows en vogue during the mid-century.

R Vintage N More specializes in furniture from the 1940s through the 1960s.  — photo Jennifer Kresse

R Vintage N More specializes in furniture from the 1940s through the 1960s.
— photo Jennifer Kresse

The store’s collection also features working radios, hi-fi sets with turntables, lots of barware in assorted colors and kitschy patterns, art, and sculptures. They carry some jewelry and Victorian-era antiques.

Sweet said he feels that R Vintage N More can coexist with other antique dealers in Bay View, including Tip Top Atomic Shop, which also specializes in mid-century items. “I’ve known Jim (Dutcher, who owns Tip Top Atomic Shop with his wife, Lisa) for years, and he carries a lot of vintage clothes,” Sweet said.

Since R Vintage N More carries mostly furniture, the two refer customers to each other.

There is also a sign-up “wish list” for customers seeking specific items. If Smith and Sweet find the item or one that is similar, they contact the customer.

R Vintage N More also offers a layaway plan.

R Vintage N More
2653 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
(414) 243-1838

Preserving maritime heritage through scale boating

October 1, 2013

By Sheila Julson

WSBA member Bill Pelky with his scale tugboat model Michael David. —photo Sheila Julson

From the bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan in Sheridan Park in Cudahy, one can spot sailboats gliding across the water, or a speedboat making waves. Occasionally a freighter can be seen in the distance, or a U.S. Coast Guard vessel. Miniature versions of these watercraft can also be spotted on Sunday afternoons on a pond on the South Shore.

Wisconsin Scale Boating Association, Ltd. (WSBA) is a group of scale boating enthusiasts who run radio-controlled (RC) or wind-powered model boats built from scratch or from kits. The group meets informally at Sheridan Park on Sunday afternoons. Members share an interest in nautical history and meticulous attention to detail, which result in scale model sailboats, speedboats, fishing boats, tug boats, barges, military fleets, and Mississippi River paddle boats — all with authentic embellishments.

WSBA has 60 members whose ages range from 40 to 80+, said president Rich Sterle. The organization encompasses people of all skill levels and interests. The group owns its own  pier that they set out at the pond in spring,  as soon as weather permits. They operate during the summer months and remove the pier in fall for winter storage.

When confined indoors during winter, Sterle said members work on their models. WSBA also participates in  events including the Milwaukee Boat Show,  the Pewaukee Antique Boat Show, events at Discovery World and Mitchell Park Domes, and in contests and demonstrations.


WSBA members add meticulous details to their scale boats, such as this crewmember painting.

Scale boats are constructed from fiberglass, plastic, or wood. Instruction guides included with replica model kits indicate what colors the vessels were painted during certain time periods. Some members follow kit instructions, while others create their own designs from photos of real boats.

Jack Dietz poses with his scale model barge. —photos Sheila Julson

Bill Pelky, who has been a WSBA member since 1987, displayed his 1/24 scale tugboat Michael David — named after his nephew — that he designed himself from a photograph he took of a full-size tugboat. “I liked the look of the pilothouse on that boat,” he said. “I’ve always had an interest in maritime aspects.”



As a youth, he enjoyed watching the SS Milwaukee Clipper dock. “It made an impression on me,”  Pelky said. He’s working on a replica of the SS Badger, the ferry that runs from Manitowoc to Ludington, Mich.

Leftover wood or parts from other projects can be useful, and action figures found at toy stores can be modified for use as crewmembers or passengers. Dollhouse furniture also comes in handy for little details on model ships. “You never throw anything away,” Pelky said.

Sterle used a 35mm film canister to shape flat, dampened sticks into cages for his scale lobster boat. Other members have used film roll canisters to replicate smokestacks on models.

Jack Dietz watched his Mississippi paddle wheeler Carol-Ann glide across the pond. He named the vessel after his wife. “It even has Mississippi music,” Dietz said, as a festive mixture of calliope and Dixieland jazz was heard from the boat crossing the lagoon, thanks to the Power POD 360 speaker mounted inside the scale boat.

Dietz’s boat is detailed with a horn, Confederate-era flags, figures, and cargo. “The paddle ships were used to transport people and cargo,” he explained. He also has incense cones he drops into the smokestacks to simulate steam.

Dietz purchased his boat from the wife of a WSBA member who died, and he continued the  work begun by the former owner. He hasn’t calculated how many hours of labor went into it, but  he said it’s never finished. He keeps adding new things.

Jack Dietz’s replica of a Mississippi River paddleboat Carol-Ann has historical details such as cargo boxes and period flags.
—photo Sheila Julson

Ray Wolf also purchased his U.S. Coast Guard scale model from the wife of a WSBA member who passed away. He cleaned and touched up the boat and added lead weight ballasts. Wolf, a model train enthusiast before he developed an interest in boats, praised his fellow club members and their willingness to help. “Someone always knows something. The sharing of knowledge is what’s really nice about the club,” he said.

Rich Andrews is fairly new to scale boating. During the 1960s, his father had a 48-inch Sterling Chris Craft Corvette model. Andrews visited the WSBA stand at the Milwaukee Boat Show in January, which piqued his interest in resuming work on the project. “That really sparked my enthusiasm,” he said.


WSBA was started in 1979 as the RC Hobby Guild by a group of RC boat modelers. The group adopted its current name in 1982 and incorporated as a nonprofit in 1987. Membership dues go toward the annual park permit, events, and special purchases such as a trailer to transport models to shows and events. Pelky said the group also has to have liability insurance. WSBA meets once a month at Greenfield News & Hobby, 6815 W. Layton Ave. They have regional locations in Manitowoc and the Racine/Kenosha vicinity.

Previously, WSBA has used lagoons at Juneau, Jackson, and Humboldt parks. Issues such as surface algae on Jackson pond and weeds in the Humboldt lagoon eventually sent the group to Sheridan Park, a choice that brought scale boating home again. “Sheridan’s lagoon was originally constructed during the 1920s for wind-sailed model boats,” Pelky said. “Regattas were also held here before World War II. We’ve been fortunate with our Milwaukee County Parks system. We couldn’t be happier with our relationship with the parks,” he said.

A device that is shaped like an “X” is propped against a picnic table, its metal frame covered with foam pool noodles. It is a rescue device that gets cast into the water to help boats that get stuck or lose power.

There is some wreckage at the bottom of the Sheridan pond. “We’ve lost a couple that sunk over the years,” Pelky said.

“We like flat water,” Sterle added. “Waves screw us up.”

Ray Wolf’s U.S. Coast Guard scale model. —photo Sheila Julson

Ray Wolf’s U.S. Coast Guard scale model. —photo Sheila Julson

Keeping Interest In the Hobby

WSBA hopes to attract younger members. “But it’s hard to compete with iPads and cell phones,” Sterle said.

Some members bring children and grandchildren who develop an interest in the hobby. Pelky noted that movies such as Titanic can pique interest in the younger set.

With Milwaukee’s location on Lake Michigan, rivers throughout the city, and Lake Superior and the Mississippi River within driving distance, Wisconsin is rich with maritime history.

Scale boating is a tribute to that, Pelky said, and it can be a fun family activity. “It teaches so much; the historical aspects, and the reading of blueprints and instructions, and helps build a skill set,”  he said.


Bubbler Studios promotes Milwaukee art

August 31, 2013

By Sheila Julson

Bubbler Studios is a new Hide House tenant. ­   —photo Katherine Keller

Bubbler Studios is a new Hide House tenant. ­ —photo Katherine Keller

Milwaukee artists Ryan Laessig, Amanda Iglinski, Carlos Herrada, and Taylor Loy have joined creative forces to form Bubbler Studios, located in the east building of the Hide House, 2612 S. Greeley St.

Laessig said that members of their group — photographers, painters, graphic designers, and mixed media artists — are motivated by a strong desire to promote Milwaukee and its art scene. They opened Bubbler Studios June 1 and staged a “soft” grand opening July 20 with a “Fresh-Ass Mustache Party” that provided a sneak peek of the studio, and the opportunity to view and purchase work from the artists. They also served up live painting, drinks, and a photo booth.   

“Milwaukee needs to be recognized,” Laessig said of the city’s art scene. He added that there is much artistic talent in Milwaukee and noted that the city’s national reputation for arts has grown. He believes Milwaukee may even surpass Chicago in the future as an arts hub.

The four artists create individual work, and have also collaborated with one another. Laessig is the founder of Milwaukee Alt, the photography business he started six years ago. He specializes in alternative model/boudoir and fashion photography, as well as mixed media. He has been published in Costa Rica and Sweden for his local alternative model and fashion photography. He has also collaborated with local tattoo artist William Arthur to create Art Fusion, making urban stencil work.

In early 2013, Laessig partnered with Iglinski to form Milrawkee Alt, building off of Iglinski’s “Milrawkee,” a series of Milwaukee-themed paintings. They print Laessig’s photos of downtown Milwaukee street scenes on vinyl. Iglinski embellished the photos with paint, and then they frame them.

Iglinski has been an artist for over a decade. She started curating shows for the Hide House summer art and music festival, Art Beat In The Heat, in 2009. She specializes in pop-surrealist paintings using acrylics and airbrush.

Herrada is also a painter and graphic designer whose art is inspired by pop, modern, and urban art, and whose subject matter reflects his interest in the human body expressed via different styles and media. He recently formed Miltography with his colleague Taylor Loy. Miltography is a graphic design and photography project based on “all things Milwaukee,” for which Loy designs Milwaukee-themed T-shirts and postcards.

Herrada has also painted murals, and his most recent is still up at 5 POINTZ in Queens, N.Y.

Loy is a photographer and designer specializing in portrait, wedding, and infant photography on location or in studio.

Bubbler Studios presented an exhibit and sold their work at the Hide House Art Beat in the Heat  in August and will be at Arts VS Crafts Saturday, Nov. 30. Their work is also on display at Tonic Tavern, Roast Coffee Company on the East Side, and The Waxwing in Shorewood.

“All four us blend,” Laessig said of the chemistry between himself and his fellow artists. Their mutual goal is to increase Milwaukee’s presence as an arts hub.

In the past, Bubbler artists participated in Gallery Night events in the main building at the Hide House, so Laessig believed it would be ideal to have studio space in the building. Laessig lives in Bay View, and he said that Iglinski, Herrada, and Loy live nearby. He said, “The Hide House is a recognizable spot. Most people know where it is.”

Bubbler Studios
2612 S. Greeley St., Suite 400


Market music sweetens Saturday mornings

August 31, 2013

By Jay Bullock

Chill on the Hill is done for the summer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get free live music in a Bay View park. The South Shore Farmers Market is still happening every Saturday through October 12 at South Shore Park, with live music every week.

This summer, Bay View resident Brad Hoernke has been helping out on the sound for other bands at the market, but on September 14, he and his band the Minor Five will be on the other side of the microphones.

Hoernke said, “I saw they were looking for volunteers, and since they were so nice to hire our band, I thought I’d help out.”

Fair Webber— from left:  Tom Webber, Barb Webber, Lon Coulliard, and Andy Waldoch. —photo courtesy Fair Webber

Fair Webber— from left: Tom Webber, Barb Webber, Lon Coulliard, and Andy Waldoch. —photo courtesy Fair Webber

The Minor Five has its roots in the Milwaukee Guitar Club, a loosely-bound group of guitarists (and others) who meet every Tuesday evening at Bay View’s Puddler’s Hall. In the fall of 2011, member Ken Baron, a retired Milwaukee Public Schools teacher and prolific songwriter, asked club co-founder Hoernke if he knew of a female vocalist who might sing some of Baron’s songs. Hoernke recommended Jamie Dixon, another Guitar Club member.

Baron brought in Ector Rogriguez, another MPS teacher, and invited Hoernke to play bass.

“It was like magic the first time we played,” Hoernke said of their early rehearsals.

They played their first shows in December that year, including a show at The Hamilton on Milwaukee’s East Side and at the Bay View Brew Haus (now the Down and Over Pub), the former home of the Guitar Club.

“We needed a name, because The Hamilton wanted to advertise our show,” Hoernke said. “We chose ‘The Minor Five’ under pressure, and though nobody seemed to like it, we went with it.”

But Hoernke also noted the name was interesting. “There is no minor fifth in music, so it’s kind of ironic,” he said.

Dixon left Milwaukee the summer of 2012, and the group asked Jalena Hegemann, who occasionally attended Guitar Club, to replace her. Hegemann’s fiancé, Dennis Jernberg, a longtime Milwaukee musician, joined the group on keyboards and accordion. James Gnas plays drums at most of their shows, and the group recently added Victor Buell to play additional percussion.

The Minor Five’s sound is hard to pin down. “We play an eclectic bunch of music,” Hoernke said, “ranging from polka to jazz to blues.” However, “everything we do tends to end up with a Latin twist on it.”

That’s because of lead guitarist Ector Rogriguez, a music teacher who is well versed in classical and Latin American guitar styles. He plays his leads on a nylon-string classical guitar, and adds a distinct Latin jazz feel to Ken Baron’s original songs.

Jalena Hegemann, meanwhile, sings with a powerful, sultry, bluesy voice, occasionally adding notes of country or Americana to the music.

Hoernke said the band’s personal diversity — the different walks of life the members have come from, adds to the group’s distinctive sound. “When we all get together, it’s like a gumbo,” he said.

Most of what listeners will hear is Baron’s original, by Baron. “We pretty much can do anything,” Hoernke said, “but we choose to play originals. That way we get to use our creativity, and we’re not being compared to anyone else. We don’t want to try to sound like some other band.”

Hoernke said Baron has written over 500 songs, giving the band plenty of material to work with as they continue to play together. They have not yet recorded their first album, but they plan to do so sometime soon after their September 14 show at the farmers market.

Longtime Milwaukee favorites, and Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) award winners, Barb and Tom Webber bring their Fair Webber Band to the market on September 21. Barb sings and Tom both sings and plays guitar, with Andy Waldoch on bass and Lon Coulliard on percussion.

Fair Webber— from left:  Tom Webber, Barb Webber, Lon Coulliard, and Andy Waldoch. —photo courtesy Fair Webber

The Minor Five — from left: Bradley Hoernke, Ken Baron, Jalena Hegemann, James Gnas, Ector Rogriguez, Dennis Jernberg. Photo by Jen Roberts, courtesy the Minor Five.

The Webbers have been playing together for 25 years, have been married for almost as long. Tom, who started playing guitar as a kid in his native Texas, taught Barb to sing harmony. “Then I wrote my first two songs on guitar,” Barb said, “and Tom said they were good.”

“We fell in love, and Tom kept encouraging my writing,” Barb added, though she gave up the guitar. “I found that I could write better a cappella,” she said, “and Tom kept pushing and growing, too, to keep up with where I wanted to go vocally.”

Where Barb has gone is pretty much everywhere; her vocals range from angelic highs to bluesy bends and fun country riffs, depending on what the song calls for. She calls her writing “oral storytelling,” with characters front and center in her songs.

“My writing is really based in valuing the stories people go through on their journey of life,” she said, though she also recognizes her audience’s ability to value the stories too. “I work hard to present the story so people can get their own interpretation,” she said. “When you tell a story about someone’s life, people take what they want, and I’m good to let it go.”

Tom arranges the songs Barb writes a cappella, and sings many of them himself in his gruff Texas growl, sensitive to the needs of the song. When they take the songs to the band, the song stays central.

Barb said, “Lon reads the words carefully, telling a story with his percussion. Andy also gets the song and what it’s trying to say, and honors it.”

Since 2000, Barb and Tom have released three CDs of original music that they recorded with their friend Greg Lindsey on guitar, and a CD of covers recorded live with the Fair Webber band.

In August 2012, Barb and Tom entered the Great River Folk Festival songwriting and performance contest in La Crosse, Wis., and won. As part of the first-place prize, they were awarded recording time at a studio in La Crosse, and in July of this year, the two recorded music for their fifth CD.

“We had an idea for a CD, but including the band,” Barb said, but Milwaukee folk icon Larry Penn suggested that they should record just the two of them. “We recorded 10 songs in eight hours,” she said. They hope to release that CD this fall.

At the farmers market, listeners can expect to hear many of Barb’s originals, some choice cover songs, and the famous Tom and Barb banter. The two have become known for good-natured sniping and ribbing between songs.

Tom said, “We’re two creative spirits, and that means two egos, and that comes out on stage.” Barb added that it’s real, that their banter “resonates with people in a relationship, where there’s give and take.”

“And we enjoy it,” she said.

They also enjoy the South Shore Farmers Market, having played there a number of times. “When we’re singing there, looking out over the lake, we see these layers of beauty,” Barb said. “There’s the awesome lake, the big, old trees casting shade, and neighbors being together. The people there appreciate the art, listen to the words.”

Tom agreed. “Out of all the farmers markets we perform at,” he said, “this one has people most attuned to the music.”

“It’s just a joy to be there,” Barb said.

The Minor Five play the South Shore Farmers Market September 14 and Fair Webber plays September 21. The starting time is 10:15am. Follow Jay Bullock on Twitter @folkbum.


THE FINE PRINT: How do construction liens work?

August 31, 2013

By Jan Pierce

janpierceConstruction liens are a very special kind of lien*. Unlike liens on your car or home, they do not require your consent. And unlike judgment liens, they don’t require the filing of a lawsuit. They are strong medicine, and they are intended to protect contractors and suppliers who do not get paid by owners or by other contractors. They arise by way of a simple filing at the Clerk of Court.

The other thing that sets construction liens apart is that they can be filed up to six months after the last date of work on your home. Upon filing, they relate back to the last date of work, and take priority over any subsequent liens or mortgages. This means that if you buy a home, you could get stuck with the prior owner’s lien problems if the work was done within the six months prior to closing.

What makes construction liens even more frustrating is that they can be filed by a subcontractor or material supplier even if you have paid the general contractor. The fact that it is the general contractor’s fault for not paying his contractors or suppliers doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that they didn’t get paid. And until they do get paid, your home will be encumbered by the lien.

Like other liens, construction liens can be foreclosed on. They can also just sit there until you try to refinance or sell your home. Then, just as with any other lien, the lienholder will be waiting at closing with its hand out. You won’t be able to refinance or sell your home until you resolve the lien. Therefore, you’re much better off doing so early, before the lienholder has so much leverage.


In order to protect yourself, make sure you ask for lien waivers every step of the way, from all contractors, and all suppliers. A lien waiver is an affirmative statement that no money is owed for work done, or materials purchased, up to that point in time in the construction process. Partial lien waivers are issued during the project in return for progress payments, and a final lien waiver is issued when the project is complete.

General contractors aren’t always the best businesspeople, so it’s not uncommon for them to run out of cash. Asking for lien waivers from suppliers and subcontractors early on will allow you to pay the suppliers and subcontractors directly, should the need arise.

Use cashier’s checks, which give you the right to ask for unconditional lien waivers. If you use personal checks, you will only be able to get conditional lien waivers.

You won’t have piece of mind until you’ve received final, unconditional lien waivers for the entire project.

*A lien is an encumbrance on one person’s property to secure a debt the property owner owes to another person.

(Source: legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com)

Send your question to jan@janpiercelaw.com. To protect your privacy, your name will not be published.

Jan Pierce, S.C. is a law firm In Milwaukee that was founded with the belief that people can make a positive difference in the world and make a profit. The firm’s emphasis is on assisting small businesses and social entrepreneurs in all aspects of launching and managing their ventures. Disclaimer: Advice in this column is general legal information and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.


South Shore Farmers Market’s delectable musical treat

August 31, 2013

By Mark Budnik

The newly released music CD from the South Shore Farmers Market, Hot Licks & Lettuce, features some of Milwaukee’s finest musicians, including many from the Bay View area. Brewtown has always been known for its musical talent, from polka meisters to top jazz players, and everything in between. 

Although truly determined and talented artists can build full-time musical careers — as several on this CD have done — for most, music is a pastime and a passion fit around a real job. Either way, our lives are all the richer for it.

Here’s a look at the artists featured on Hot Licks & Lettuce.

A visit to the South Shore Farmers Market helped draw Painted Caves founder Ali Lubbad back to his native Milwaukee from Texas in 2006. He liked the beautiful setting and the communal upbeat vibe.

In 2008, Lubbad, who is of Palestinian descent, brought his unique blend of Middle Eastern/pop/surf guitar music (known then as the Desert Sound Ensemble) to the market. The market also booked the Bay View-based Trillium Tribal Belly Dancers that day. The blend of Lubbad’s exuberant echo/twang guitar, Mike Kashou’s lute-like oud, Neil Qusba’s tablas, and the droning harmonium, along with the dancer’s swirling skirts and bejeweled navels, created a potent aural-visual mosaic that cast a trance over the crowd.

Angie Tornes captured a millisecond of that scene by camera and later transmuted it to oil on canvas. The painting became the cover of Hot Licks & Lettuce.

In 2012, after many separate market appearances, Painted Caves and the Trillium troupe (now called Tamarind) again enchanted the market together.  Several of Lubbad’s songs from that performance are included on the market’s new CD. Listen to them and you can easily imagine the belly dancers swaying in South Shore Park.

Lil’ Rev is a busy man. An award-winning ukulele and harmonica player from Milwaukee, he’s built a musical career for himself as a songwriter, performer, educator, historian, and author. His heroes include Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and the great folk and blues musician Lead Belly. He began his music career as a street musician in the early 90s after graduating from UWM with a degree in community education. He has been a grade school music teacher and an adjunct college lecturer in UWM’s Music History Department.

He is well known on the international ukulele scene as a protector of old songs and playing-styles, including early blues, Tin-Pan Alley, old time, Yiddish, and American folk styles. He performs and gives workshops nationwide on ukulele and harmonica, and he has written instructional books on both for music publisher Hal Leonard. He also sings, plays banjo, guitar, mandolin, and has a pocketful of jokes to entertain children of all ages. A very busy and talented man, indeed.

When Ron Kovach of the group Tin Foil Hat left a note at the farmers market in late 2011, it said in effect, I play a Hammond B3 organ in a little blues trio and we’d love to perform at the market.

Kovach started playing a Hammond organ at age eight, back in his parents’ home in Cleveland, Ohio. When he was 16, he had a transformative experience one long night when he visited several jazz clubs. That night his mind was opened to the musical possibilities of the Hammond. His long music career, albeit on a part-time basis, began soon after.

Since relocating to Bay View 20 years ago, Kovach has performed or recorded with many top Midwest blues and R&B bands, including Reverend Raven and The Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys and Paul Cebar. Among his top musical thrills were performing with the late, great soul singer Lou Pride and opening for Buddy Guy with the Joe Moss band at Guy’s Legends Club in Chicago. By day, he’s the managing editor of Waukesha-based Astronomy magazine.

Kovach’s love and devotion to the Hammond B3 were readily apparent last year at South Shore Park as he worked its keyboards, stops, and pedals. The multi-voiced harmonics he created wafted, vibrated, and pierced the market air. Bassist Mike Benz and vocalist Brennan Totten burnished his sound.

The highly acclaimed jazz guitarist, Bay View’s Don Linke, has been cradling a six-string instrument for almost 50 years.

The Beatles may have been his first inspiration, but strumming in The Doomsmen and Thee Avengers, high school rock bands, wasn’t quite the challenge his curious mind craved. Further exploring the guitar’s mysteries led him to the demanding jazz world.

Over his long career, Linke has released 10 jazz recordings including four critically acclaimed solo releases. Reviews of those solo recordings in String Jazz, Jazz Now, and Jazz Player magazines describe him as one of a handful of guitarists since Joe Pass to possess an immediately recognizable style and voice.

His high standards and nurturing attitude serve him well. Linke has been educating guitar students for more than 40 years, primarily at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and UWM’s Peck School of the Arts. Many of his students went on to develop successful musical careers. He has conducted workshops and master classes for the Guitar Foundation of America, Purdue University, and UW-Stevens Point.

Linke has performed in the pit at the Melody Top Theatre, Skylight Opera, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, and Florentine Opera. He has appeared as an opening act for many jazz luminaries, including Freddy Hubbard and Stanley Turrentine.

Clarinetist Sammy Armato performed with his trio July 2010, at age 94. —photo Angie Tornes

Clarinetist Sammy Armato performed with his trio July 2010, at age 94. —photo Angie Tornes

Multi-instrumentalist Sammy Armato, born July 7, 1916, grew up in Chicago and Rockford, Ill. At age five he was introduced to solfeggio, an ancient form of vocal training. He began violin lessons then as well.  At 10 he performed with the Ritz Vagabonds, a youth jazz band, his first paying job. He saved his money to buy a saxophone at age 12.

Four years later, at 16, Armato began touring with Joe Kayser’s Big Band and Wild Bill Davison. He soon left Davison’s group to form his own band in Milwaukee. In the 1930s, Armato went on the road again with Chicago jazz bandleader Maurie Sherman, and then travelled to New York to play with Woody Herman’s first band (sometimes billed as The Band That Plays The Blues). Armato soon returned to Milwaukee to lead his own bands, where he learned the clarinet and upright bass, as well.

After World War II, he worked as a staff musician and vocalist at WTMJ, WMLO, and WFOX radio stations in Milwaukee. After directing several show bands, Sammy joined Dick Ruedebusch’s Underprivileged Five in the late 50s. In 1961, he returned to WTMJ as a vocalist and clarinetist. He took his first day job in 1965 as the station’s music librarian. Retiring in 1981, he continued to perform on clarinet with several Milwaukee bands including Grant Krueger’s Orchestra and Bill Sargent’s Swing Kings. At his fourth appearance at the market in 2012 at age 96, he was finally recorded along with guitarist Dave Sullivan and bassist Rob Moore.

Today Armato has retired from performing, content to enjoy books, CDs, and DVDs of his favorite musicians.

Bay Viewer Michael Sullivan has been a songwriter and guitarist most of his life. He graduated from Hamilton High School in Sussex, Wis., in 1967, and in 1970 he traveled north to Canada, composing and performing in Northern Ontario. Returning to Wisconsin in 1975, he continued to write, developing a style based in blues, jazz, R & B, and folk.

His early influences were diverse, from the Western swing of Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks to the more cerebral urbanity of Steely Dan. In 1976 Sullivan formed a group called the Cream City Sheiks with future musical partner Rob Abell.

For many years he worked at the Milwaukee-based Narada record label, a tastemaker in many genres — world music, Celtic, new flamenco, jazz, new age, acoustic guitar, and piano. Sullivan worked closely with their artists and as executive producer on many projects. During that time he also learned database management, and eventually transitioned into web development as a career. After a lengthy hiatus raising a family, Sullivan recently returned to performing with longtime friend and bassist Rob Abell.

Electriviolet is the duo of John Plankenhorn (guitar and vocals) and Carole Ferrara (vocals). For 15 years they’ve been offering Milwaukee-area audiences their mix of jazz, blues, R&B, and original music. The duo sometimes adds drums, bass, saxophone, or keyboards to the group. They have played at many local venues over the years but the South Shore Farmers Market remains a favorite. They’ve also done three tours in Ireland, including radio performances and events sponsored by the Dublin and Waterford jazz societies.

John Plankenhorn began his music career of more than 20 years in various blues and rock & roll bands in his hometown of Chicago. He has studied both classical and jazz guitar at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. He is a prolific composer of original music and has been involved in numerous local projects ranging from reggae to Latin jazz.

Originally from Warwick, R.I., Carole Ferrara received classical voice training as a youth. She moved to Milwaukee in 1985 and has studied vocal jazz at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. She is the director of the Trinity Fellowship Program at Marquette University.

Brother and sister-in-law duo Jeff Bray and Holly Haebig Wake have been performing together for the past 10 years. Both have musical families and each has two children.

Wake (vocals, drums) began playing classical flute and singing at age seven. She performs with local bands including One Drum and De La Buena. She is also music coordinator of Express Yourself Milwaukee, a local youth creative arts group.

Her 2011 debut CD, In Love We Trust, features a variety of musical styles including world music, Latin, funk, soul, and folk-rock.

Jeff Bray (vocals and guitar) works as a local handyman and also directs his church choir.

The duo’s love of harmonizing is evident and it is augmented by beautiful settings like the South Shore Farmers Market. The duo combined their love of family and music into a show full of fun tunes for children.

The Milwaukee Hot Club trio plays gypsy jazz, the music of the late great Django Reinhardt and his modern descendants. The trio’s music is a high-energy mix of swing, bossa nova, and gypsy samba rhythms. Primarily instrumental, they occasionally add vocal tunes.

The group features Guy Fiorentini and Scott Hlavenka who play gypsy guitars (modeled on the original Selmer acoustic guitars designed by Mario Maccaferri and played by Django Reinhardt) and Evan Paydon on upright bass. The trio occasionally adds players on clarinet, sax, violin and/or percussion. They perform acoustically and with amplification designed to preserve the acoustic qualities of the instruments.

Informal Blues. From left: Sam Gehrke, Sean Hirthe, Jake Balistrieri and Sam Kacala performed in July 2010. The musicians were still in high school at the time.                     —photo Angie Tornes

Informal Blues. From left: Sam Gehrke, Sean Hirthe, Jake Balistrieri and Sam Kacala performed in July 2010. The musicians were still in high school at the time. —photo Angie Tornes

Sam Gehrke on acoustic bass guitar, Jake Balistrieri on guitar, Sam Hirthe, tenor sax, and Sam Kacala on congas were a familiar sight at the market in 2008, where the then 15 year olds started out as sidewalk buskers, who called themselves Informal Blues.

They soon caught the attention of Angie Tornes, who suggested they had potential as headliners, part of the market’s annual music-tent lineup. In 2009 they got their chance when a scheduled group cancelled. They sprinted over to fill in, and subsequently headlined the market tent three more times since their 2009 debut. A testament to the teens’ blossoming skills is our 2009 recording of their solid jazz version of the song “Comin’ Home, Baby.”

The band members, now college students, are involved in separate, varied musical projects, including the groups SoulLow and Informal Blues (Gehrke, Balistrieri and Hirthe) and Three. Stacks. Eliot (Kacala).

These musicians featured on Hot Licks & Lettuce are just a sample of the incredible musical talent Milwaukee has to offer. The South Shore Farmers Market has been privileged to showcase them live and to present them on the new CD.

Disclosure: Mark Budnik is the South Shore Farmers Market music coordinator, involved in booking, live sound, and production. He co-produced the CD Hot Licks & Lettuce. He is married to Angie Tornes.


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