District 1 Alder Barbara Harrington-McKinney knows that people like to focus on some of the negative things that they hear and read about Madison’s southwest side, but she wants people to know that there are way more positive things happening in that part of the city.
“Sure, we have our series of problems and things that we have to work through – we’re not denying that. But we also have a richness of people on the southwest side that really care about each other and humanity and are doing great things,” she says. “We want to highlight that at West Fest.”
The 4th annual Westfest will be held this Saturday, July 6, at Elver Park and it will be a fun-filled, intergenerational summer festival that will showcase the diversity of Madison’s southwest side.
“I’m really excited about this year’s fest. We are in our fourth year and we have a really good team who have fundraised really well and we will be even bigger this year,” Harrington-McKinney tells Madison365. “We will have so many activities and some incredible performers on the main stage.”
There will be a community resource tent with local community organizations and businesses and plenty of great food and live entertainment and family fun. West Fest will feature things like Neighbor-to-Neighbor Craft & Gift Market, food cart vendors, a celebrity dunk tank and hot dog grilling by the Madison West Police Department.
“It’s a great chance for community to come together and celebrate. That’s our intent,” Harrington-McKinney says. “When we lost the Elver Park fireworks when I first became an alder in 2015, West Fest became an opportunity to really bring together the cultural diversity that’s on the southwest side and a chance to appreciate some of the many positive things that we do on the southwest side. We get an opportunity to highlight that.
“Elver Park is such a beautiful park. We have a brand-new playground; it is one of four playgrounds that is totally accessible. It’s amazing,” she adds. “The city invested $400,000 in this playground and it is so beautiful. There is activity there all the time. We love Elver Park and more and more people from outside of the district come and enjoy it, too.”
The Westfest Opening Ceremony will take start at noon and will include the recognition of sponsors. It will be followed by a performance by the drill team.
For the kids, there will be face painting, jolly jesters clowns and balloons, a bouncy slider, an obstacle course and a climbing castle along with ice cream and a library bookmobile. The Teen Zone will have a celebrity DJ.
“We’re adding something different this year – we’re going to have a community art stage,” Harrington-McKinney says. “We’ll have spoken-word poetry, live entertainment, comedy and DJ Pain. We are bringing these genres into the same space and that is really what West Fest and Elver Park is all about. It’s an opportunity to really bring the diversity of the southwest side together and we’re able to do this with two entertainment stages.”
There will also be a drumming circle and international dancers. The Center Performance Stage performers will include Kraus Family Trio, Sunshine Dance Group, Isthmus Arts & Culture, Time Release Drumming Circle, MTrain & The Music Man.
Harrington-McKinney stresses that they are still in need of volunteers.
“When you have that many activities and the big, beautiful Elver Park, we need a lot of volunteers to make sure that things flow efficiently,” she says.
“I’ve got this five-year vision and we are building the foundation with West Fest. It really is going to be community-driven and community-led,” she adds. “I’m putting some very strong community leaders in place that are committed to making this work. That’s the key to making this event sustainable whoever the alder may be in the future.”
Harrington-McKinney wants to see all of Madison come out for Westfest 4.
“It’s not just District 1; it’s the whole southwest side that we are promoting. You don’t have to be from the area to come and have fun at West Fest,” she says. “We will have great food, activities, fun and music. It’s going to be a very exciting day. It’s a family-orientated event.”