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Jefferson pedestrian bridge decor on order

JEFFERSON — As part of its quickly progressing downtown renovations, the Jefferson Common Council agreed this week that City Administrator Tim Freitag should order the materials for the Milwaukee Street Pedestrian Bridge lighting project.

The components for this portion of the project will come at a cost of $39,059.

“We are happy to be able to move forward with the project to put programmable colored floodlights on the Milwaukee Street Pedestrian Bridge,” Jefferson Mayor Dale Oppermann said. “We believe that this will be a welcome attraction in the downtown area and something that is unique in a community the size of Jefferson.”

The project, when finished, is expected to resemble the larger project that recently was undertaken on the Hoan Bridge, located just south of downtown Milwaukee, on that city’s lakefront.

“We encourage anyone interested in donating to help fund this to express their interest either at Jefferson City Hall or to the Jefferson Community Foundation, where a fund has been established to collect donations,” Oppermann said.

That fund presently is at approximately $35,000 with an ultimate goal of $75,000 to light the bridge. Oppermann said the city is placing a purchase order for the lighting equipment soon and fully expects it will be able to cover the remaining costs through pending donations.

“This project will be funded solely by voluntary donations from the public and local businesses,” Oppermann said. “No tax dollars will be used for the installation of the lights.”

The City of Jefferson will be responsible for the cost of electricity for the lights and any ongoing maintenance, which is expected to be minimal.

“We believe that this will be another good reason to come to downtown Jefferson at night — to see what colors light the bridge at any given time,” Oppermann said.

The endeavor to the light the bridge received substantial assistance recently with a $10,000 contribution from the Jefferson Rotary Club.

Ellen Waldmer, past president of the Rotary Club and someone who has been involved with the bridge-lighting initiative from the start, said the club was happy to make the donation to improve the downtown area and the neighborhood of Rotary Waterfront Park, which is situated alongside the bridge.

It was the club’s feeling that the lighting would make an already beautiful area even more appealing.

The goal is to have the lights installed this year.

The plan calls for 24 programmable, color-changing LED floodlights to illuminate the bridge in a decorative and eye-catching fashion.

The expectation is that the bridge will be lit every night from sundown until 1 a.m., with the ability to change the color of the lights to honor holidays, feature local sports teams’ colors and highlight civic events, Oppermann said.

The fundraising goal has been set at $100,000, of which approximately $36,000 has been raised so far. In addition, the Jefferson Community Foundation has committed to increase that funding to at least $54,000.

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New royals to be crowned at May Ball Saturday night

JEFFERSON — Billed as Jefferson’s biggest secret, the identity of the new Gemuetlichkeit Days king and queen for 2022 at last will be unveiled Saturday night at the Gemuetlichkeit May Ball.

A night of German music, costume, dance and tradition, the May Ball has served for 50 years to kick off the Gemuetlichkeit season, which culminates with the three-day Gemuetlichkeit Days festival in September.

It also serves as the community’s introduction to the new Gemuetlichkeit king and queen, whose identity has been closely guarded by the selection committee for the past few months.

The Gemuetlichkeit German heritage organization puts out the call of royal candidates in January, when community members are invited to nominate a couple which exemplifies the Gemuetlichkeit culture of good friends, good cheer and good times, and who can serve as community ambassadors, promoting the fall festival and Jefferson in general.

Selecting the top couple from the pool of candidates is the selection committee, comprised of the past three royal couples.

After months of clandestine planning and furtive field trips, the new king and queen finally emerge into the public eye on the evening of May Ball, when they’re greeted by a sea of family members, friends and community members.

That’s also when the current king and queen, Jeff and Debbie Hans, will finish their reign, doing the honors of introducing the new royals with a series of ever-more-specific clues.

Saturday’s May Ball, which will take place Saturday evening at the Fairview Sports Bar and Grill in Jefferson, marks a return to the normal rhythm for the Gemuetlichkeit Days organization.

The 2021 king and queen actually had to wait a year and a half for their identities to be revealed, due to pandemic-era cancellations. They finally were announced last May and reigned over a successful “50th anniversary” fest last September (in G-Days’ 51st year).

The coronation of the new king and queen marks the final official duties for the Hanses before they join the procession of past royalty.

The 2022 May Ball will take place from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday at the Fairview Sports Bar in Jefferson, preceded by the May Ball euchre tournament.

Music for the evening will be provided by Gemuetlichkeit regular Mike Schneider. The Variations actually was scheduled initially, but one of the members suffered a health emergency and has to take three months off.

Fortunately, Schneider happened to be available Saturday night and was happy to be able to support an organization for which he has performed numerous times.

A simple menu of festival food — brats, hot dogs and the like — will be available at the May Ball, as well as soda, beer and drinks from Fairview’s full bar.

The presentation of the new king and queen will occur at 8 p.m.

The whole event is a celebration of Gemuetlichkeit, which is a German concept that roughly translates to good food, good friends, good times and good cheer.

May Ball serves as a prelude to the German heritage organization’s three-day September Gemuetlichkeit Days festival. This year’s main G-Days fest will take place Sept. 16-18 at Jefferson County Fair Park, with the theme of “Polka Band Bash.”

Following this kickoff to the season, the new king and queen and the rest of the Gemuetlichkeit organization will be involved in numerous activities over the summer and into the fall, culminating in G-Days itself.

Tickets for the May Ball will be available at the door at a price of $3 each or two for $5. Each ticket also includes a raffle entry, with numerous prizes to be drawn at 10 p.m. before the May Ball wraps up around 11. The music will extend through 10:30 p.m.

Tickets for the associated euchre tournament will cost $2. Registration for the tournament will start at 3 p.m., with play beginning at 3:30. Cash prizes will be awarded for the top several places, courtesy of Griffin of Jefferson.

Proceeds from the May Ball will go toward the two community scholarships the Gemuetlichkeit organization supports.

Mike Landers, Gemuetlichkeit Days president, said that the Gemuetlichkeit organization was happy to see tremendous crowds both for last year’s May Ball and the main festival in September, and organizers hope to see similar enthusiasm for this year’s events.

“Everyone loves to celebrate, and even though we’re celebrating this area’s German heritage, you don’t have to be German to join in,” Landers said. “German heritage is Wisconsin heritage and Jefferson heritage.

“A lot of the early settlers in the area came from Germany and they settled here because it looked like home,” he added. “Then they helped to shape this community into what it is today.”

Landers said the Gemuetlichkeit organization always welcomes new members as well, German or not, to help keep this tradition of community and goodwill alive well into the future.

“We have such a diverse group of people coming out to our events,” Landers said. “It’s just a great way to meet people and get involved in the community.”

Jefferson Middle School restructuring set for next year

JEFFERSON — Students at Jefferson Middle School will get twice the math as this year’s students, as the School District of Jefferson rolls out a middle school schedule restructuring.

This change and others come in response to pandemic learning loss and changing student needs, with the idea of better positioning the school to meet standardized learning goals.

Mike Matteson, Jefferson Middle School principal, said the process has been under study for some time, including under the prior principal and the previous superintendent.

The core justifications for the restructuring include the following:

The schedule as currently laid out provides insufficient instructional minutes to meet curricular standards in the core subjects.

The school needs to align classes with the district strategic plan and the priorities it lays out.

The school needs to respond to current achievement and growth data in math.

The school needs to align its requirements to assure compliance with Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction expectations.

Among the other changes, Matteson said that students’ gym schedules also will change, with phy ed offered on a regular basis as opposed to having students in gym for a full quarter and then having a quarter off, as the current schedule dictates.

Matteson noted that the Jefferson Middle School schedule has been totally restructured a few times and tweaked several other times to meet new mandates or address the needs of incoming students.

“School schedule changes, especially at the middle school level, are complex, with many moving parts and implications,” Matteson said, noting that, as such, they’re not easy to make.

Some of the factors planners took into consideration as they started eyeing another restructuring included:

Staff licensure issues (for example, some staffers have K-8 certification while others only are licensed to teach sixth-graders, and others are certified only to teach a certain subject); how the middle school schedule affects other buildings in the district, as when an advanced math student is traveling to the high school to attend classes there; student enrollment projections which affect the size and number of sections of each class; fiscal impact; state statutes and DPI mandate and the middle school philosophy.

Jefferson first adopted the “middle school” model — transitioning out of the high-school-like “junior high” format” in 2001.

The school started with four quarters, then in 2002 added semesters. In 2010, the school also added a five-class “wheel” of exploratory classes.

In 2021, the whole building moved to quarters and semesters plus a trimester wheel of tech ed, Spanish and health classes.

Last year, the whole building then moved to trimesters, with the exception of sixth grade art, physical education and keyboarding (which remained semester classes), and seventh- and eighth-grade art, computers and PE, which were structured into quarters.

As the school moved toward restructuring again, it created a schedule change committee comprised of teachers, parents, building and district administrators, and school board members.

The committee was tasked with recommending a new structure for the building.

All JMS staff and parents had opportunities to provide input on this process through surveys that went out in the fall.

The biggest change in the new schedule is the move toward 80 daily minutes of instruction in the area of math as well as English/Language Arts.

The restructure maintains the “exploratory model” for all middle school students.

The new schedule provides time for teachers to meet in their professional learning communities in each core content area.

Under the new schedule, nine of 15 core staffers will stay with one grade level and the rest each will have one content area in two different grade levels.

The new schedule provides students not in band or choir to take a class rather than just having the option of a study hall.

The new schedule also puts the building on a universal grading period of quarters and semesters.

Matteson said these changes will help the school to comply with state statute, and will better enable the school to work toward and meet aspects of the strategic plan.

This new schedule also will work better as the district faces projected declining enrollment — a trend seen statewide and nationally as well as in the local community as demographics change and people have fewer children.

As the school works toward implementing this new schedule in the fall, Matteson said, it has informed core teachers of their new teaching assignments and the teachers have begun meeting with their new Professional Learning Communities.

The school also is working to solidify exploratory rotations for the coming year, while informing stakeholders of schedule changes.

The model for the upcoming year will keep the middle school in an exploratory mode, giving students exposure to many different subjects but not providing a lot of opportunity to take electives.

However, the new schedule will allow the school to move toward more elective choices (i.e.: take a foreign language or not, take tech ed or not) in future years should the district decide to move in that direction, Matteson said.

Fort Atkinson Club sets two final FACTalks seminars

The Fort Atkinson Club Community Center continues with its schedule of the two final FACTalks, its free seminar series for this Spring.

The Fort Atkinson Club is a renovated, historic building on the Rock River at 211 S. Water St. E. in downtown Fort Atkinson.

The next talk, “Paean to Place,” will be held May 11 in the theater, which is on the top level of the building. There is an at-grade entrance, and an elevator. Street parking is available.

Talks begin at 7 p.m. and run for about 45 minutes, followed by a Q&A. The Fort Atkinson Club FACTalks always are free and the public is invited to attend. These talks are geared toward residents of Southeastern Wisconsin, and anyone interested in lifelong learning.

The fifth and final talk, ”And the People Stayed Home” will be May 25, via Zoom at the following link:

“I am so pleased to be able to welcome noteworthy people in our immediate area this Spring,” said Jill Kessenich, FAC director. “We have Kitty O’Meara, an award-winning poet and author from the Lake Mills and Jefferson area, and two others, speaking on artworks inspired by Lorine Niedecker. All cultivate creativity, in different ways.”

Upcoming speakersThe following are the final two topics and three speakers.

• Wednesday, May 11: Paean to Place: How the poetry of Lorine Niedecker inspired local, public artworks — Ann Engelman and Amy Lutzke.

Ann Engelman learned about Lorine Niedecker when she went to get a library card after moving to Fort Atkinson in 2001. Ann has been a friend ever since, creating opportunities for others to be captured by Lorine’s poems about her “place” on Blackhawk Island along the Rock River.

Ann and Amy Lutzke created the Friends of Lorine Niedecker in 2004 hosting poetry festivals, visitors curious about Lorine, and public art installations. The poetry walls in Fort Atkinson have created publicity, selfie opportunities and an invitation to absorb lines of poetry into our own lives.

Amy Lutzke is the assistant director at the Dwight Foster Public Library. In 2004, along with Engelman, she began the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, Inc. (FOLN).

The FOLN is an educational organization that offers access to research archives and educational materials, and publishes The Solitary Plover, a semiannual newsletter, and What Region, a monograph series.

Amy has coordinated poetry/art installations in the public schools of Fort Atkinson, is general editor of The Solitary Plover newsletter and obtained grant funding to digitize the Lorine Niedecker archives at the Hoard Historical Museum and the Dwight Foster Public Library.

• Wednesday, May 25: And the People Stayed Home — Kitty O’Meara. Tune in via Zoom at

Kitty O’Meara lives and writes near Madison. Her poems and essays have appeared in several publications and often are featured in her blog,

Her children’s book, “And the People Stayed Home” (Tra Publishing, 2020; Illus. by Stefano Di Cristofaro and Paul Pereda), is a bestseller, and was named by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the Top Ten Children’s Books of 2020.

A second picture book, “The Rare, Tiny Flower” (Tra Publishing, 2022; Illus. by Quim Torres), will be published May 31, and was featured in an article by O’Meara in the March 28 edition of Publishers Weekly.

Her third picture book, “Oliver and the Night Giants” (Illus. by Anna Pirolli) is due for publication with Tra Publishing in the spring of 2023.