Sun Prairie is a growing city of over 30,000 just northeast of Madison. The history of how it got its name is quite interesting. In 1837, President Martin Van Buren commissioned a party of 45 men to build a capitol building for the territory of Wisconsin. They left from Milwaukee on May 26, 1837. They traveled many days in the rain to scout out the area near Madison. On June 9, they emerged at the end of a prairie and the sun came out for the first time at that moment. They carved the words “Sun Prairie” into a tree and the name stuck. We were able to find the site of where that famous tree was. Take Highway 19 out-of-town about two miles, heading toward Marshall. On Skala Road to the left, the tree was located between the railroad tracks and 19. A farm is here.
Charles Bird was the first settler. Bird Street in the city was named after him.The town of Sun Prairie was created on Feb 2, 1846 (Groundhog Day!). The city, which grew out of the town, was incorporated in 1858.
Some of the city’s historical buildings remain and their downtown is quite active with many festivals throughout the year. Let’s explore the local history. A good place to begin is the Sun Prairie Historical Museum. They have displays that change yearly and seasonally, and with an appointment you can make use of the research room with a docent who can help you find historical information. The museum was built on the site of the home of the first settler, Charles Bird. A street is named after him.
The museum also has received historical records from the Town of Burke, a town that being dissolved by 2026. We live in Burke. The first Burke Town Hall strangely enough, is in Sun Prairie, still in use. It is behind McGovern’s Club and Restaurant.
McGovern’s itself has been a mainstay of Sun Prairie since 1935. Visitors can stay at the hotel for a night or an extended stay.
The Adam and Mary Smith House was built between 1856-1860. It is located at Smith’s Crossing homes community on the outskirts of Sun Prairie.
Sun Prairie also has the distinction of being the first city in Wisconsin to implement free rural mail delivery, you will find the marker at the Post Office.
Downtown you will find the former City Hall building.
Across on the left you will find Ski’s Saloon, open from 2011 to 2016. In the fall of 2016 it has new owners Cory and Abby Barr reopening it as The Barr House. The building was a tobacco shed originally.
July 10, 2018-The Barr House building exploded, possible natural gas. The building is now gone.
Across the street is a row of buildings, including the former hardware store on the left. There now is Atlantis Taverna, a great Greek restaurant. Also Sun City Cyclery and Skates. Al bought a pair of ice skates here too. Emery Art is on the right.
We now come upon Cannery Square, the heart of downtown and the current site of Jimmy the Groundhog’s annual prognostication on Feb 2nd. We have attended many of these since 2002. This used to be where the factories in Sun Prairie were in the 19th and early 20th centuries were. Renovation was complete in 2004 and it’s now a mixed living and retail center. In the square proudly stands a wood carving of Jimmy. You can see it on the right side of this picture of the square. Many festivals now take place here, this is the annual Fall Festival in October.
Famous artist Georgia O’Keeffe was also born in Sun Prairie and a marker can be found on Main St. across Cannery Square. The city has a festival every year to celebrate her contributions to the world of art.
The performing arts also have a strong foothold here. The Sun Prairie Civic Theater puts on four performances each year. This is “The Barn”, where the stage parts and props are stored. They always need more people to come join the fun!
We have enjoyed many great meals at the Market Street Diner on the square. Carl’s Cakes is another business inside of this one, a fine partnership!
Just opened Fall 2013 is The Nitty Gritty, located in the nearby historic Fuhremann Canning Factory, built in 1900. it was a place for farmers to sell their produce. Now it is mixed retail. The Nitty Gritty is on the right.
The Dr. Charles D. Crosse House is another museum in town. They also are a part of many of the city’s festivals throughout the year. He was the city’s doctor early in the city’s history and helped establish the first high school. He later served as a state legislator also.
No longer in use is the Chase Grain Elevator, an interesting structure.
At Angell Park is a mural with all the important landmarks in Sun Prairie. Angell Park is also home to Angell Park Speedway, for Midget Car Racing. The annual Sweet Corn Festival is also here.
On the left side of the mural is the historic water tower on Columbus St., built in 1899.
On Windsor Street is the beautiful Birkinbine House.
This concludes our visit to the historic downtown Sun Prairie. It is expanding way beyond this area, with many businesses on the edges of the city in all directions. It’s called Prairie Lakes and is still growing. Sun Prairie is your destination for fun events and shopping. To learn more, stop at the Chamber of Commerce downtown on Main, next to the Historical Museum.
THIRD SATURDAY IN SEPTEMBER 9-20-14
We are back in Cambridge for their Fall Festival since it has been about 14 years since we went. Lots of fun activities for all. There were craft vendors, this one was a favorite, GET Carving. Artist Glenn Thompson even made a carving during the festival.
Balloon artists making cute balloons for the kids.
A petting zoo by the Cambridge FFA.
Scarecrow making contest, very impressive! The pink cowgirl at the top of the page was one of the big winners.
And what is a fall festival without a hayride? We had one, provided by Schuster’s Playtime Farm from nearby Deerfield. Come ride with us!
We even live entertainment. Jeff Onsrud of Jeff’s Guitar Clinic in Fort Atkinson played familiar tunes adding a great ambiance to the festival fun! Let’s listen in..
This great event was sponsored by the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce. We hope to come back next year!
It was opening day at Schuster’s, and it was busy! It is open between September 20-Nov. 1 in 2014. for the fall season. In Wisconsin, the farm IS a big attraction and fun for all ages. This place opened to the public in 1990 and is is a lot of fun. The round barn can be seen from the road and draws you in. There happened to be a wedding here today too.
The first thing we saw upon arrival was lots of pumpkins and the hayride just coming back.
They have a corn maze too, very popular in the Midwest.
A big play area for the kids, even little playhouses.
In this area was also a BIG rocking chair. We couldn’t resist getting a selfie here.
This is a great place to visit in the fall, be sure to get here for a great time!
First Saturday in September
It was my first time attending the Pardeeville Watermelon festival and it sure was fun! The local people are friendly and I sure felt like one that day. Photographer Mark D. Taylor and I hit it off right away. He assisted in many of the events at the festival. This festival is full of great kid-activities. There is a hay dive, kids search a big pile of hay for prize tokens.
Wayne the Wizard entertained also, mixing fun tricks with science. There were many more games too.
There was a watermelon carving contest too. This Viking ship and shark were quite cute!
There was also a watermelon seed spitting contest, as well as speed eating by all age groups. Both are officially sanctioned contests.
There were also many vendors selling great watermelon crafts. Wesleyan Bible church sold these cute watermelon necklaces. Picket Fence Boutique had these cute visors and fly swatters.
Local groups participate in making the festival a great success. Concessions were provided by the Pardeeville EMS. Another group is the Pardeeville Cub Scouts. They participate in July 4 events as well. They are always looking for new members. Call Adam Milkowski at 608-617-0580 or email email@example.com if you are interested.
This was a great festival, I hope to go next year!
- Summer Fresh: Frozen Watermelon Drink (potterybarnkids.com)
- 9 Health Benefits of Watermelon (lifehack.org)
Hyde Mill is one of Wisconsin photographers favorite subjects. Its located in Ridgeway in Iowa County in Southwest Wisconsin. It’s future is uncertain since the parcel of land its on has been up for sale since 2008. The mill was built in 1850 and is no longer functioning. Mill Creek still flows by, providing a relaxing sound. However, the area surrounding the mill is replete with artifacts left from when it was a functioning mill.
There is a row of millstones on display on the grounds. This was two years ago, now they are behind a fence. There are other artifacts as well.
Up on a hill nearby is the Old Mill House, built in 1876.
Other interesting places are in Hyde near the mill. The Hyde Chapel.
The Hyde Store. A busy establishment, the store host many parties and live music performances.
7-26-16, 2017, 2018
It was time to revisit the mill, AT NIGHT. I had just bought a new camera, the Canon Rebel T6i after learning it was capable of astrophotography. We also found out the mill is located in one of the darkest spots in Wisconsin. This Light Pollution map was our guide and is updated yearly. This was the result, wow! My objective was to photograph the Milky Way as a backdrop behind the mill.
The darkness of mill location in 2016.
The view behind the mill was just as impressive, both photos taken on the bridge.
In 2018 I did a time-lapse.
We are at the tail end of the Milky Way season. I just got a new lens meant for astrophotography. Its aperture is 1.8, as opposed to the 3.5 lenses I have used at this point. Here is what it looks like.
I took a look at the light pollution map, it’s getting worse but it’s still good enough.
Light Levels in 2019
It is always enjoyable to visit here no matter the season.
- Spooky Ridgeway (lauriesportraits.wordpress.com)
Nearly every Saturday, also Wednesdays in the summer
Wisconsin is becoming well known for it huge Farmers Market on Saturdays from April until November. After that it moves inside for the winter. The variety is incredible in all seasons. The rules for members is very strict, all produce must be grown by the vendors and and everything else must be made by them. Enjoy some scenes from the market. If you come, go COUNTERCLOCKWISE around the Capitol Square, an unwritten rule 🙂
One of my favorites vendors, Dale Marsden. He makes the most delicious honey and is known for his famous beehive hat. He will be happy to pose for a picture for you, do him a favor though and buy some honey 🙂
Locally produced food is very popular in Madison, and there are many restaurants downtown that buy food at the market. Here is a chef pulling a wagon to load up on local produce. One of the flower beds around the square has been converted into a garden in recent years.
In the fall, it’s really pretty. I just showed you spring and summer. On 10-8-11 we went to the capitol Observation deck and got great views of the market from the below. Also a great view of Lake Mendota around fall color peak time.
Another favorite vendor is Stella’s Bakery. They make the best spicy cheese bread around. In fact, they are able to bake it right there and sell it hot. Yum!
That about wraps it up. If you get to come to the market, come hungry!
- Dane County Farmers’ Markets close this week (host.madison.com)
- Farmer’s market fall colors (westcentric.wordpress.com)