August 19th, 2003

Steven Vincent Johnson Birthday Party 08-16-03

A couple of weeks ago, our friend artist Darlene P. Coltrain phoned us up with mischief in hand. It seemed that, last year, her husband, Steven Vincent Johnson 9also a fan and an artist) had extracted a promise from her that she would not surprise him with a birthday party for his 50th birthday. However, his 51ST birthday was now on the horizon, and such a promise had neither been asked for nor given. So, would Georgie provide a cake? Yes, she would, and we went to Steve's own website to choose a subject. Steve's wonderful art can be seen at

We chose to render one of his UFO series, "Down the Road a 'Ways," which depicts a couple of flying saucers searching along a country road. Georgie added a "Route 51" signpost in the spotlight to commemorate the day.

On the afternoon of the 16th, we packed up the cake, some Kopp's custard on dry ice and headed off for the Stevens Street playgound in Madison, a postage-stamp park across the street from the home of Madison fans Hope and Karl Hailman. Surprise was achieved! Steve had shown up at the supposedly ad-hoc picnic, and his curiosity was apparently not aroused by the bunch of balloons or small stack of cards and gift. When we showed up with the cake, the trap was sprung.

There was a yummy potluck and the lemon cake and custard wer of course delicious. There was a further surprise when Darlene's talented daughter Fritha showed up to belly-dance for the guest of honor, much to the crogglement of nearby neighbors and fascination of children in the playground.

As darkness drew on, the party dispersed, but some few of us adjourned briefly back to Steve and Darlene's for an hour's more very enjoyable chat before we took the long road home.

IrishFest, 08-17-03

Milwaukee's Irish Fest is the world's largest Irish Music and cultural festival, and is held every year on Milwaukee's lakefront festival grounds in mid-August. Events start Thursday night and end Sunday evening. Sunday was our day to go this year, and we headed down about 12:30 in the afternoon. It was a beautiful clear day, but HOT in the sun. Fortunately, the grounds has shady spots, tents, and it is always cooler within a few yards of Lake Michigan, so relief is available. Interestingly, this year, we seemed to spend most of our time listening to local groups: Blarney, Leahy's Luck, and the Billy Mitchell Scottish Pipes and Drums are all Milwaukee-based groups. We caught a bit of the set by Gaelic Storm, which was expectably standing-room only, even in the vast Miller Stage area. We also made a point to take in the Clan Donald pipes and drums out of Green Bay. They are not as polished as Billy Mitchell, but still a very up-and-coming pipe band. Of course you can soak up a lot of music just walking around the grounds from one area to another, and we did that to check out the dealers and cultural exhibits. (We bought a book on Irish folk tales and some lovely jewelry.) We were interested to see that the Irish Tourism displays focused on Galway and the midlands of Ireland, where we are going this fall, which seemed like a sign. We picked up lots of literature.

Scottish band Altan had been a big draw for us, but their show was at 8:00PM, and by 7:00 we were worn out, so we decided to retreat home and listen to them on the stereo. All in all it was one of the better days we've had at Irish fest in recent years. (Irish Fest Discography) (Clan Donadl Pipes and Drums)