Every small town in the US has their city festival. In the Lodi Valley, Dane has the Fireman’s Picnic, Harmony Grove has the Beer & Brat Fest, and Lodi has Susie the Duck Day.
Try explaining these festivals–and how important they are to us–to someone from the big city, and they might not understand. But we Lodians do. Last year hit us hard–no Susie Day, no Brew-B-Que, and no Ag Fair. This year, we’re back–with style.
The Women Behind the Waddle
Art in the Park kicked us off at the start of July, Brew-B-Que is happening September 18th, and the Lodi Ag Fair is taking over Labor Day weekend. But this Saturday was the re-imagined Susie the Duck Day. And it happened thanks to the power trio of Mayor Ann Groves Lloyd, Chamber President Melissa Card, and local business owner Heidi LeHew1She has the pop-up store in the little Winnebago..
Main Street Isn’t Entirely Ours
Mayor Ann has always been a loud voice in finding ways to promote the Lodi Valley–not just the city, but the entire valley. She’s also the one who has to deal with the bureaucracy involved with city-wide events like Susie Day. We sometimes forget that our Main Street is a state highway, and we need to get permission to close it down for events–or even to hang banners across sit. This is one of the primary reasons that the new Spring Street Market was located where it was. As it’s just a city street, only the City Council had to approve closing it down.
It Takes One to Know One
Heidi LeHew took on the responsibility of organizing, setting up, and managing the Spring Street Market–a first for Susie Day. As an owner of a pop-up store (she’s the woman with the little Winnebego), she “groks”2Grok: transitive verb: to understand profoundly and intuitively pop-up retail–which is what single-day markets are.
For its premier, the Spring Street Market did very well. Over half of the street was lined with stalls from local and area vendors–many of them artists who sell their work as a side-business. The Spring Street Market gave them the opportunity to showcase their work.
Jewelry-maker Annette Fassbender set up her first vendor tent at the market–which showcased her work, as well as some from her sister, Therese Miskulin-Brethorst3Full disclosure: Yep. They’re my sisters.. Annette said she was very impressed with the organization and efficiency of the Market with regards to vendors. LeHew said she wanted to eliminate any bottlenecks for the vendors, and according to Annette, that’s how it worked.
New Leadership, New Vision
Melissa Card is the new president of the Lodi & Lake Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce. And with this new leadership has come a new vision–one that sees us getting back to the basics of promoting businesses in the Lodi Valley. This means that things will change–and not everyone likes change.
The decision to move the Susie Day events from Goeres & Habermann parks to Spring Street was met with some unfavorable responses. But Card points out “It’s the job of the Chamber to promote our members–the businesses in Lodi. There aren’t any businesses in the parks.”
A Success Within the Constraints
COVID has had a devastating impact on community events. Planners have had to plan within guidelines that could change from one day to the next. And they’ve had to contend with the specter of full lock-downs returning. This has placed planning committees in a difficult position.
Comments and reactions from vendors and attendees at this revamped Susie the Duck Day overwhelmingly agree that the event was a success, and they look forward to its expansion next year.
A Lodi native, Blaze attended the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay where he graduated with a degree in theatre technology & design. He has traveled extensively throughout the United States and the world–including a 6-year stint in China. He has been a teacher, a writer, a designer, and is the founder of the Redleaf Consulting Group.