Delavan celebrates its diverse heritage with four-day festival

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Saturday, August 9, 2014

DELAVAN--Arts colony, prohibition settlement and circus home.

Land of Native Americans and the newest immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

Home to the Dutch, the English and other western Europeans.

Defining the “heritage” of Delavan isn't easy. It's influenced by all of the above and more: the Wisconsin School for the Deaf, its turn-of-the-century resort beginnings, area ballrooms from the Big Band era and the community's agricultural history.

From Thursday, Aug. 14, to Sunday, Aug. 17, the city of Delavan—and all of its history—is coming together for Heritage Fest. The festival is an expansion of A Taste of Delavan.

Events include narrated tours of Delavan's architecture, music and dance performances at the Phoenix Band Shell and Maxwell Street Days downtown.

Kids can attend a “circus camp” and learn about pioneer life.

Artists will work in Tower Park, and an “arts studio” featuring the work of the early arts colony will be set up at the Aram Public Library.

The library will also be home to other activities for children and families.

The event is sponsored, in part, by the Wisconsin Arts Board, which now operates under the auspices of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

What connection does the arts board have to a community festival?

Ann Pryor, folk and traditional arts specialist, said her organization's mission is to connect “creativity, culture, community and commerce.”

Heritage Fest does exactly that, bringing together the fine arts, dance, music—and even the art of circus performers—in the same event. 

More than that, it reminds long-time residents of the value of what they've always taken for granted.

“It's a way to shine a spotlight on another town that has a deep well of interesting assets,” Pryor said.

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