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Janesville Farmers Market manager: New home at town square a hit with vendors, customers


As the Janesville Farmers Market finishes its first season after moving from North Main Street to the Janesville’s downtown riverfront town square, a Janesville Farmers Market official said vendors and customers consider the market’s new home a hit.

“We’ve gotten zero feedback from any vendors that have said this was a bad move and we should move back,” market manager Emily Arthur said.

Arthur was addressing a specter raised earlier when Janesville’s city administration forced the private farmers market to move to the newly completed town square after the market had spent the prior 15 years cultivating a following along North Main Street.

Arthur said some first-time customers never knew the difference—but what’s more, several new and varied vendors joined the market midyear as word spread that the Saturday morning fresh food and crafter’s market was drawing 3,000 people a weekend in the early spring.

“That’s July foot traffic,” Arthur said.

Next year, Arthur said, the market’s management hopes to hatch a new method to tally customer foot traffic.

She said the former market grounds along North Main had only two or three main entry points, whereas the town square has about 20 places people can come and go. That makes it more difficult to analyze foot traffic in real time.

Arthur said the nonprofit farmers market’s board will be digesting a member survey in the coming weeks and addressing “a lot of suggested tweaks” by vendors and customers, but she said the early consensus is that customers and vendors alike generally have approved of the new market location as being more spacious than the former spot.

Unlike that location, which operated on a barricaded section of street, the market’s layout at the town square allows customers to move back and forth across to parts of the market laid out along the east and west sides of the Rock River.

“I think that has helped us because everybody doesn’t want to be in a smaller confined area during COVID,” Arthur said. “So that was a huge hit, just having spread out spaces, lots of places for people to hang out. That part went really well.”

Arthur said the board wants to take time in the coming weeks to inventory and discuss feedback from vendors and customers, but early indications are that customers would like to see the market partner up with other groups for special events during some market weekends.

Other customers and vendors, Arthur said, would like to see musical performances be spread out throughout the square, and some customers have asked for more space at the market for food trucks and prepared food vendors.

Some customers said the new location with its extra elbow room and river-spanning pedestrian bridge that connects a two-sided market in the middle gives the market more of a feel of an event, like a bustling street festival.

“We heard from a lot of people saying they came out because they were so curious, they’d never been to the Janesville farmers market before,” Arthur said. “They really wanted to see how we were activating this new downtown space. A lot of comments have been like, they feel like they were coming to like a festival or an event or something rather than like, I’m going grocery shopping.”

The farmers market added several midyear vendors, lured back a few who had left the market in recent years and a few longtime vendors said they had their best sales volumes ever at the new location, Arthur said.

The Janesville Farmers Market is now moving into its late fall and winter season, which is just as active as during spring and summer months.

The market over the weekend cranked up its winter market in the center shopping concourse at Uptown Janesville, the city’s main shopping mall at 2500 Milton Ave.

Arthur said the winter market has jumped from about 25 to 30 vendors on weekends last year to nearly 40 vendors, with a waiting list for others who want to join.

Arthur said the market likely will seek extra space at the mall to fit up to 50 vendors. A share of those vendors could make it back to the town square next year when the outdoor market reopens.

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A fetching addition: While still months from completion, humane society eager to open new shelter

Despite a steel shortage and a subsequent design change, the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin is on pace to open its new shelter on County G between Janesville and Beloit by March 1, shelter officials said.

The 16,500-square-foot facility, located about 2 miles north of Blackhawk Technical College in the town of Rock, was expected to be completed last winter, but a shortage of steel stalled construction. The facility needed a new roof designed to bypass the shortage of steel trusses that the original design called for.

Executive Director Jim McMullen said the society is excited to transition the animals and staff out of the 9,500-square-foot building on Janesville’s west side in which they operate.

“There’s just incredible improvements from our current situation,” he said of the new facility.

McMullen says the current 45-year-old facility is over its capacity, an issue the new shelter is designed to address. The new site accommodates 54 kennels for dogs and will have a significant expansion of space for cats. In addition to more space for animals, the new shelter will offer state-of-the-art amenities that were chosen largely by staff members.

Anthony Wahl 

The first walls to go up were those of the new dog kennel area that will feature six bays for the animals, each with an outdoor patio area. The new 16,500-square-foot building is scheduled to be finished in March.

It takes an imaginative mind to envision all the new features when touring the construction site. Walking through what will be the front door, McMullen stood in front of the space for the new intake area, which is accentuated by a two-story tall foyer with ample windows to let in natural light. In the same space, five meet-and-greet rooms allow prospective owners to interact with pets.

During the planning stage, McMullen and members of his staff toured other animal shelters to get ideas for elements they thought a new facility would need. Some of the coming “fan favorites,” according to McMullen, are the commercial washing machine and dedicated pet washing room. In the Janesville shelter, items are hand washed, and animals are bathed in an elevated bathtub in the staff break room.

McMullen said there is a shared excitement among staff members because of the intentionally collaborative process of picking amenities for the new shelter.

“They are fully 100% invested because they helped create it,” he said.

Another service that is absent from the Janesville facility that will be at the new site is a surgical suite where animals can undergo surgery and be treated for injuries. The new facility is even getting its own X-ray and ultrasound machines, which are currently only accessible off-site.

Anthony Wahl 

The first walls to go up were those of the new dog kennel area that will feature six bays for the animals, each with an outdoor patio area. The new 16,500-square-foot building is scheduled to be finished in March.

The kennels and cat cages are also designed to be more spacious and accommodating, with each section equipped with easy access to outdoor play areas and larger kennels with tapered floors that are easier to clean.

In addition to the usual dog runs and shared spaces for animal socialization, the new site sits on roughly 45 acres, much of which remains wooded and is crisscrossed by walking trails. A short walk into the forest exposes a vista among a natural clearing.

“It’s stunning. You can see for miles and miles in almost every direction,” McMullen said.

The facility was made possible through “a hell of a lot of fundraising,” as McMullen puts it. Aside from a one-time $100,000 amount provided by Rock County, the $4.4 million project was privately funded.

With the new facility sitting at a more centralized location in Rock County, McMullen thinks it will serve the county’s 23 affiliated municipalities better and bring awareness to the number of cities and towns it serves outside Janesville.

McMullen sees a bright future for the humane society, especially considering the potential growth having extra space allows. He said there is a chance the shelter could work in conjunction with Blackhawk Tech to give students seeking veterinary or other animal-focused careers some real-world experience.

“One area we are really excited about is engaging the public and having the community come out and utilize some of our spaces,” McMullen said.

“We really want to have the public engaged more so they experience the value and the impact the shelter has on the community.”

Anthony Wahl 

Work is underway to build the walls that will separate each of the six dog kennel bays at the new Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin animal shelter in the town of Rock.

Obituaries and death notices for Nov. 8, 2021

Justin Aaron Black

Lois Jean Bright

Russell W. Burns

Silvia A. Christianson

Judy A. Dishneau

Carl E. Hugg

Pauline Knoerr

Richard J. Lantz

Sandra Kay McCall

David G. “Dave” McKaig

Nanette Marie Reed

Thomas L. “Tom” Smith

Carol L. Tumas

EXPLAINER: Prosecutors play up Rittenhouse inexperience


Prosecutors trying to convict Kyle Rittenhouse of murder have been working to paint him as an inexperienced teenager who misrepresented his age and medical training to other armed civilians in his group on the night he shot three men during a protest against police brutality in Wisconsin last year.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger has drawn out testimony during the first week of Rittenhouse’s trial from several witnesses, including two military veterans, saying the Illinois teen appeared inexperienced, that he falsely claimed that he was old enough to possess a gun and that he was a certified medic when he was really just a lifeguard.

Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor and attorney in Chicago who isn’t involved in the case, said Binger is trying to show jurors that Rittenhouse didn’t know what he was doing and that they shouldn’t believe his self-defense claims.

“In terms of how he reacted, they want to show it in context that he’s young and he’s not experienced and would be more likely to perceive (the protest) as a more threatening situation (than an older person),” Turner said. “A younger guy is going to think this guy is going to hurt me when really it’s not true.”

Rittenhouse brought a semi-automatic rifle to the protest in Kenosha in August 2020. The city on the Wisconsin-Illinois border was in the throes of several nights of chaotic demonstrations after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, who was resisting arrest during a domestic dispute. Rittenhouse was 17 years old at the time and said he had gone to Kenosha to protect downtown businesses from looters.

Just before midnight, he shot Joseph Rosenbaum, killing him, after Rosenbaum chased him into a parking lot. Bystander video shows a crowd chasing Rittenhouse down the street. In a matter of seconds an unidentified man tried to kick him in the head, Anthony Huber hit him in the head with a skateboard, and Gaige Grosskreutz charged at him with a pistol. Rittenhouse fired at the man who kicked him but missed, shot and killed Huber and wounded Grosskreutz in the arm.

Prosecutors have charged Rittenhouse with multiple counts, including homicide and being a minor in possession of a firearm. Rittenhouse has argued that he shot the men in self-defense. That means his attorneys must persuade jurors that he reasonably believed his life was in danger and that the amount of force he used was reasonable. Binger maintains that Rittenhouse was the aggressor and overreacted to the situation.

Ryan Balch, a former U.S. Army soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, testified Thursday that he traveled to Kenosha on the night of the shootings armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a pistol to help protect businesses, and that he met Rittenhouse there.

Balch later told FBI investigators that Rittenhouse seemed very interested in him and his military deployments. He said Rittenhouse told him that he was 19 and a certified emergency medical technician; he was actually a lifeguard at a recreational complex in nearby Pleasant Prairie, which is between Kenosha and Rittenhouse’s hometown of Antioch, Illinois.

“He seemed like a young and impressionable kid,” Balch said. “He seemed a little under-equipped and under-experienced as well, which is one of the reasons we kind of stayed with him.” Balch did not say why he felt Rittenhouse was under-equipped.

Balch said he kept an eye on Rittenhouse throughout the evening, protecting him as Rittenhouse walked around shouting that he was a medic and could help anyone who was injured. Balch recounted one protester insulting Rittenhouse with profanity and Rittenhouse yelling back “I love you, too, ma’am.” Balch said he told him not to respond because it would only antagonize the crowd further.

“That’s when I told him, ‘hey, don’t say that,’” Balch testified. “It can cause somebody to escalate the situation if they feel like you’re making fun of them a little bit. So, just wasn’t needed.”

Former Marine Jason Lackowski testified Friday that he also traveled to Kenosha armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a knife to protect businesses.

He said Rittenhouse introduced himself and said he was an emergency medical technician. Rittenhouse didn’t say how old he was, but Lackowski testified that he thought Rittenhouse was at least 18 because minors can’t possess firearms in Wisconsin and he thought a person had to be 18 to get an EMT license.

He went on to testify that Rosenbaum was acting “belligerently,” tried to start fights with Lackowski’s group and asked members of the group to shoot him. He said he didn’t consider Rosenbaum a threat to him or anyone else, however.

Richie McGinniss, a videographer for the conservative website The Daily Caller, testified Thursday that he met Rittenhouse while documenting the protest and asked him how old he was.

“I believe the response was something along the lines of ‘I’m an adult,’” McGinniss said. “I actually told police the night of that I believe that he was in his mid-20s. But I believe I said exactly that he had a baby face.”

Rittenhouse’s attorneys pushed back at any suggestion that Rittenhouse overreacted to a non-threat. They noted that Lackowski’s encounter with Rosenbaum occurred in a group setting and that he never faced Rosenbaum one-on-one like Rittenhouse did. When defense attorney Corey Chirafisi asked Lackowski if he would feel threatened if Rosenbaum charged him at full speed and tried to take his gun, Lackowski responded, “Yes.”

But Rittenhouse’s team left unchallenged the testimony that Rittenhouse had lied about his age and his medical certification and that he appeared inexperienced.

Turner, the Chicago attorney, said the defense might be content to let jurors believe Rittenhouse is basically just a kid.

“If I was defending this case, I would be happy with that because it’s true. He’s young and inexperienced and that goes to your intent to kill because you perceive a situation as being dangerous,” Turner said. “His youth actually helps him. If it’s an older person, then they think ‘this guy knows better.’”