Thursday, February 18, 2010
Remembering when Lady Liberty planted her torch on Lake Monona instead of Mendota
I was going through some old prints I shot with my old Olympus XA film camera, when I came across this 2001 photo of Lady Liberty on Lake Monona near the Monona Terrace. Her torch was taller and it had a hand holding it, unlike the current iteration on Lake Mendota in front of the UW Memorial Union. I had completely forgotten that she had spent any time on the other major Madison lake, but seeing is believing.
It happened in February of that year, during the first of the short-lived Kites on Ice festivals at Monona Terrace and the frozen lake out front. It was a great venue, and a marvelous event. Kiters came from all over the world to fly their kites on the lake. There were indoor workshops and demonstrations, and Monona Terrace provided the perfect vantage point to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the colorful action on the ice. There were fireworks at the close. I still miss it.
In 2002, the on-ice activities shown here were moved across the lake, offshore from Olin Park, because the ice in front of Monona Terrace wasn't safe. But after a strong initial run with thousands of spectators, including many families with kids, the festival sort of petered out and came to an end after several years. As I recall, there were both scheduling and cost conflicts with Monona Terrace, which had been happy to host the first festival, because it was new and hadn't lined up much winter business yet, but after that it seemed to become a less hospitable venue. Whatever the reason, I think Madison really missed an opportunity. City leaders could have embraced Kites on Ice as a catalyst and built a unique and exciting ice carnival around the event. It would have brought thousands of people to downtown Madison in the winter, and anything that does that is all to the good. Maybe one of these days...