Crazy Daze: Center Street Daze September 23

by Jim Loew

A positive and a positive is a positive. Remember that from your high school math class? This lesson is relevant as Riverwest’s popular Center Street Daze and RockerBox MotoFest are joining forces and converging into one big festival this year. The extravaganza will take place Saturday, September 23. With this partnership, the event will extend along Center Street all the way across the neighborhood, from Humboldt to Holton.

“Dream big,” is what this year’s coordinator, Jeff Platt, said to those participating in the planning of the event. “There are going to be seven live music stages, with over 25 bands,” he announced.

The RockerBox MotoFest portion will feature a British, Japanese and vintage motorcycle show and competition, plus motorcycle vendors. Bikes on display will begin setting up about 11 am.

By noon, the Center Street Push Cart Races are scheduled to begin. According to Sparky (race coordinator Mark Lawson), the push cart races are now in their sixth year. “It used to kick off the Art Walk event,” said Lawson, but combining with the Center Street event was a better logistic fit. Because many of the Push Cart creators are also neighborhood artists, no one had enough time to put a cart together and prepare for Art Walk. So the push cart races were incorporated into Center Street Daze with much improved results.

Even though Lawson puts out flyers advertising the races, he never knows until the day of the event how many people will be participating. “There is no entrance fee,” said Lawson. There aren’t really any rules either. “The only rule is that there can’t be a motor,” Lawson said. “The carts must be pushed or pulled.”

Winners are judged in three categories. “One, we judge for speed; two, imagination; and three, the ‘pluckiest’ cart,” said Lawson. Pluckiest as in “sheer funniness, weirdness,” Lawson said with a laugh. “We also give trophies.” Winners are chosen by a panel of celebrity judges, some of whom are actually famous, or at least notorious.

After the push cart races, there’ll be plenty to do at the festival. The Uptowner will once again host the Eddie Favorite Outdoor Pool Tournament. The House of Frank N Stein will host a hotdog-eating contest, which organizers hope will be recognized by the International Food Eating Competitors. “It’ll include the hotdog and the bun,” said Platt.

New this year will be the Brew City Bruisers roller derby team leasing the Milwaukee Public School’s skate van and hosting a skate clinic. In addition, there’ll be face painting and sidewalk chalk for the kids.

This year, though, look for a diverse selection of food. “We want to get away from the hamburger and hot dog mentality,” said Platt. Instead, look for Persian and Puerto Rican dishes, Virginiastyle pulled-pork sandwiches, perch, catfish, turkey drumsticks and plenty of barbeque. Another new addition will be the Milwaukee Beer Barons’ homebrew competition and demonstration.

“I was merely point man for all this,” said Platt, summarizing his role. “This came about through weekly group meetings. This group made a lot of things happen.”

Riverwest Currents online edition – September, 2006