Is it summer yet?
I do not want to jinx it, but I think it might be finally here. All of the signs are there. Kids are graduating. Grass is being cut. Crossing guards are enjoying sleeping in. Air conditioners are kicking on. Fragile winter skin is burning. After a long, cold winter and a nonexistent spring, the first warm days of summer appear to be upon us.
Summer is a glorious time in Wisconsin. I spent my youth in the desert sands of a foreign country and then the broiling summers of Texas. These are places where the seasons are defined by hot and slightlyless- hot. When I moved to Wisconsin nearly 20 years ago, the joy of summer was lost on me. Then I spent the winter here. I get it now.
I have a confession to make. Despite living almost within sight the old Washington County Courthouse — one of the most beautiful county courthouses in the state — I have never toured the inside of it. It is a shameful admission given my penchant for wandering into any old museum, historic building, battlefield, or historical marker when I travel. Like many, I am guilty of failing to appreciate what is in my backyard. I blame my negligence on the fact that there is so much to enjoy in Wisconsin during the warm summer months.
As I write this column, I am sitting on the SS Badger awaiting a trip across Lake Michigan. Like many of Wisconsin’s gems, a trip on the Badger is something that generations of Wisconsinites have enjoyed. The history of the vessel is like that of Wisconsin. Once an industrial ferry, now it carries everything from foreign tourists to Harleys to young families looking for a nice getaway.
Of course, one cannot pass through Manitowoc without spending little time on the USS Cobia and the Maritime Museum to explore Wisconsin’s rich seafaring legacy. Sitting betwixt two gigantic Great Lakes, Wisconsin has been building and sailing for generations.
One of the great things about Wisconsin’s summers are the public festivals available every weekend. While the big ones in Milwaukee like Summerfest get most of the attention (rightfully so), almost every Wisconsin community of any size has a festivals throughout the summer. It is a fantastic way for communities to celebrate their cultural heritage or just get together and have some fun.
Wisconsin has a lot of big events during the summer that draw people from all over the world. EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh is one of the largest and most unique. Little Oshkosh becomes the aviation center of the world for a week in July. Drawing well over a half-million attendees, AirVenture is a place for novices and aviation enthusiasts to see and learn about every form of aviation known to humankind.
Most of my favorite things to do in Wisconsin during the summer involve getting outside and enjoying our state’s natural beauty. Wisconsin is full of marvelous trails, parks, lakes, and other ways to enjoy nature. Many of the rails to trails, like the Eisenbahn or the Ozaukee Interurban trails, offer a smooth path for running, biking, or just walking. Trails like the many segments of the Ice Age Trail offer something bit more rugged. State and County parks are always a great way to find a campground, beach, path, swimming hole, wildlife, and fantastic views.
Summers in Wisconsin are short. That is part of what makes them so delightful. A Wisconsin summer always leaves you wanting more. Let us all get out from behind our screens, push back from our desks, jump off the couches, and get out to enjoy all that our wonderful state has to offer.
(Owen B. Robinson is a West Bend resident. He can be reached at owen@bootsandsabers. com.)
A Wisconsin summer always leaves you wanting more.