Lake Mills Bandstand Re-Dedicated

Lake Mills Bandstand Re-Dedicated

The Franklin Else Memorial Bandstand, which is located in the heart of Lake Mills’ Commons Park, was re-dedicated during a special “Bandstand Encore Celebration” ceremony Wednesday that drew over a hundred community members, supporters and other folks from the regions.  The celebration was the result of hard work and fundraising over the last five years by the Franklin Else Bandstand Renovation Group. The renovation project cost about $100,000.  The bandstand was first built in 1880 and dedicated on July 4 of that year. In January 1880, the Village Board accepted the low bid of $90 to build the bandstand (the other bid was for $128.50). However, the cost of painting was not included, so the board had to pay an additional $20 for the paint.  Franklin Else served as director of the Lake Mills City Band from 1932 to 1970 and was a Lake Mills public school music teacher from 1932-75. The bandstand was dedicated in his name in 1994.  The renovation project had donations from the Arts Alliance of Greater Lake Mills, grants program; Funds for Lake Mills, community scavenger hunt fundraiser; Lake Mills Chamber of Commerce; Lake Mills City Band; Sons of the American Legion; Townline Mothers Club; patrons of Lake Mills Market’s “Round Up” program; donors making memorials to Shirley Wolff Else and Kay Else Miller; and citizens and businesses making contributions directly to the bandstand fundraiser. Russ’ Painting LLC did all of the work in repainting most of the bandstand and donated two-thirds of the cost, while Watson Ace Hardware donated all of the paint needed for the project.  The city of Lake Mills allocated $10,000 in its 2015 budget to go toward bandstand improvements, and the initial seed money for the project, $5,000, was raised by the Lake Mills City Band.  Renovations include upgrades to the main lighting, electrical work in the basement and redirecting the controls upstairs, installing a new door into the basement of the bandstand, painting the bandstand, replacing the flooring, installing a retaining wall on the exterior and a railing around the bandstand, and rebuilding the cupula. The railroad tie retaining wall was replaced with interlocking concrete blocks.  Renovation Group and Chamber of Commerce member Carol Burrows spoke about the process before the concert began. “We started in 2013, and that is when everything was formulated,” Burrows said. “We need cement, we needed new lighting — sometimes the band could not see their sheet music — there were a lot of things that needed fixed. So, we updated the cement work, the electricals, the lighting, and the cupola on the top. We really wanted to make it the icon for the park, and actually for many of the businesses too. We did a lot of individual fundraising and we had a lot of very generous community members, and we had a lot of goodwill gestures from people.”
A key aspect of the renovated bandstand, located just above the new concrete retaining wall, is a series of decorative metal panels, designed by Renovation Group board member Karen Crosby.
The decorative panels are made from powder-coated steel and are mounted so that the top of each one is level with the bandstand. The images cut into the panels reflect the spirit and environment of Rock Lake. Each panel has a representation of the lake habitat — ducks, turtles, dragonflies and fish, for example, along with several “hidden” hearts. Rock Lakes famous pyramids are represented as well. The materials and installation were provided by the Seljan Company.  Crosby explained that she used a style of German artistic scissor-cutting called scherenschnitte but applied it to the metal panels instead of paper. The panels are attached to a bronze-colored backing, so when light hits the panels, it creates a sense of depth and shadow.  “I designed three different designs, and this one was chosen,” Crosby said. “This one represents the lake; each panel has the waves of the lake. Each panel starts with the waves and then has things that you find around the lake, like cattails and seaweed, schools of fish, all of that is interpreted in there.”Long-time Lake Mills City Band member Mike Bade — who has played bass horn with the band for over 60 years — said he was happy with the renovations. “It is much better than it used to be,” he said. “I am very happy with it.”  Additionally, band drummer Bill Sargent — who is a professional drummer and photographer by trade — said he enjoys playing with the Lake Mills City Band; he was a student who studied under Franklin Else.  Wednesday’s Bandstand Encore Celebration opened with comments from both Lake Mills city council president Diann Fritsch and Sue Else Eslinger, the daughter of Franklin and Shirley Else.  Fritsch welcomed everyone and called the band “a group of very special people” and thanked the volunteers to make the renovation possible.  “When this came up to the city council, the council decided that we needed to do something so that we did not have buildings going to ruin in the city in the future,” Fritsch said. “So, we have now added into the city budget a maintenance program to watch over all of our city buildings and Rob Goetz, the head of our Parks Department, gets to head that up. He and his hard working staff are the ones who make everything possible in our parks. In the future, we hope our buildings will be kept up to date on a regular basis. We are thankful to everyone who donated to this project tonight.”  She then introduced Else Eslinger.
“I want to thank the Lake Mills community, both here and far away because there are alumni and people who have moved away, who have contributed to this,” Else Eslinger said. “I want to thank you for everything and the volunteer work has been incredible. Ann Hundt came with plans for this change four summers ago to share them with my mother and me and it was very exciting that this was all going to happen. It took a while to get it all together but the end result is just incredible. It honors my father, but it also honors the community and the uniqueness of this place, as wonderful as it is. It is in the center of the community and it draws people in, and I think that is what makes it so special.”  Else Eslinger then shared the story that her 10-year-old granddaughter is playing the exact same (but renovated) clarinet that she, her sister and her dad all played in the Lake Mills City Band.  “She did very well in her first solo,” she shared. “It was a tender moment. The Else legacy continues not only hear but also in Ithaca, New York.”  After Else Eslinger concluded her comments, the band played the first half of their concert.
During a break, Chairperson of the Renovation Group and City Band member Ann Hundt made a public recognition and thank you to all the individuals, businesses and organizations who made the renovation possible. She also unveiled a new painting of the refurbished bandstand by local artist Joyce Edfors. The painting will be placed in the Lake Mills City Hall. The band then continued with the rest of the concert.  While the majority of attendees for Wednesday’s celebration were from Lake Mills, people from the wider region attended the event as well. One of those people was retiree Marjorie Kozich from Middleton in Dane County. Kozich said she has visited many bandstands and band-shells across Wisconsin, and she is going to launching a website dedicated to the structures very soon. The website will be called WIbandshells.com.  “I think this is a lovely band shell,” she said of the Franklin Else Memorial Bandstand. “It captures the heart of the community, reflects the nature of the area and it is great to see so much support for it.”  There are usually several Lake Mills City Band concerts in the summer. Upcoming dates include June 20, June 23, July 4, July 18, July 21, August 1 and August 8.