Mama Madison: Fabulous family-friendly fests

One for every girl and boy...

We aren't much more than a week in to summer vacation and already my kids have broken every "screen time" rule I've laid down, have eaten popsicles -- just popsicles, mind you -- for dinner, and have mastered 101 creative ways to let me know just how bored they are. I totally sympathize with Phineas and Ferb's older sister; we all need a little more structure to our days.

But all whining aside, both theirs and mine, there's a lot to be said for June, July and August in Madison. No snow (let's hope), Mallards' games, Farmers' Market and the return of Babcock Union Utopia-flavored evenings on the Terrace. But perhaps one of my favorite things about summer in and around town is the plethora of festivals the weekends bring. A couple weeks back it was the chance to do some 11 a.m. dancing to Bonobo Secret Handshake's rousing cover of "Groove Is In The Heart" at the Marquette Waterfront Festival. And last Saturday brought even more lakeside booty shaking, this time at Wingra Park's Jazz in the Park.

This weekend is no exception, with even more fabulous family-friendly festivities. And what I like best in particular about a couple of these offerings is how they honor two distinct cultures in our area. One pays homage to a community's Swiss heritage; New Glarus is whole lot more than a brewery. The second is a celebration of all things Latin American, but conveniently located on Madison's south side.

As my daughter learned in social studies this past school year, northern Europeans settled much of the Dairy State--- a hearty stock well represented by the characters of Heidi , Johanna Spyri's classic Swiss children's story. And the pre-Katniss heroine in braids gets her moment in the sun this coming weekend at New Glarus' annual Heidi Festival. The event gets off to a yummy start on Saturday with the Taste of New Glarus. And there is a craft fair in the village park both weekend days.

But the festival highlight is a chance to take in one of four performances of the famed Alps orphan's tale in the air-conditioned auditorium of New Glarus High School. The play is staged by local actors and features both live goats and kittens; it's hard to go wrong with cute furry animals.

On Saturday, June 23 only, a little closer to home (my home at least), Nuesta Fiesta 2012, formerly Fiesta Hispana, will be taking place at Centro Hispano on West Badger Road. The celebration is Dane County's premier salute to Latin American culture and will play host to big musical performances from Quinto Imperio (a cumbia band from Chicago), Bompleneras, an all female bomba/plena group (from the Windy City, as well), and Francisco Gonzalez, one of the founders of Los Lobos. Fiesta Hispana will also feature a low rider car show, lots of kids' activities and, of course, delicious food. I am hoping to sample some tamales de huitlacoche, the delicacy I miss most from the years I lived in Mexico.

So this summer, when I hear the first strains of a "What are we going to do today?" complaint, I'll remind the kids that the weekend, and some festival fun, isn't too far away.

And that neither is school in September. Thank goodness.

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