I’m not sure if you’ve ever traveled to Wisconsin, but chances are, aside from Madison and Milwaukee, you think of rolling countryside, farms and the occasional sports championship. But there is a hidden side to Wisconsin that many people don’t know about. Here in Waukesha, in the birthplace of Les Paul, we love music; marching bands, local bands, classical music and even the history of music. So it’s no surprise that Waukesha has now been dubbed “Guitartown” by the Gibson Guitar company, where statues of guitars are on every corner along the sidewalks of the downtown.
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Maybe this love of music can be traced to Les Paul, the Wizard of Waukesha, born in Waukesha and the man who invented the electric guitar and multitrack recording. The Waukesha County museum in downtown Waukesha is hosting the Les Paul Experience, an interactive exhibit about all things Les Paul. The history of electric guitars, electronic recording that changed the face of music; you name it, this exhibit has it.
This love of all things guitar culminates every Friday night, June through September, where the city hosts a little thing called “Friday Night Live,” where the regional bands and musicians perform for a few hours to the people of Waukesha, whilst the patrons enjoy some of the locally made chocolate, popcorn and gourmet gelato. The bands vary from week to week boasting a variety of different genres. On one street corner, there could be the local 3-piece cover band, while on the other, a country music duo consisting of a fiddle and a bass. There’s even some solo guitar artists that play original compositions.
If you don’t think there is enough, this may satiate your hunger. Every Saturday morning during the summer, the town has the Waukesha Farmers Market, located on the beautiful Riverwalk along the Fox River. There is always live music, along with dozens of vendors selling locally grown produce, prepared food and crafts. Many vendors hand out delicious samples while the farmers in the community sell their produce for incredibly fair prices.
If you come during autumn, you can catch some of the best marching bands in the state at a football game or even the occasional marching band festival. All three of the city high schools have top notch marching bands, with Waukesha North and Waukesha West having the best in the state, and, some think, in the country. All of the schools have participated in events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the Rose Bowl parade and many other prestigious venues. The high school marching bands also perform in many of the parades that occur throughout the calendar year in Waukesha, putting on a spectacle that the townsfolk flock to see.
Waukesha is also the home of Carroll University. The University, which boasts strong music and theatre programs, hosts many fine arts events during the school year, mostly performed at the beautiful Shattuck Auditorium, which contains a large, intricate grand pipe organ. This hall is also the home of the Wisconsin Philharmonic which plays the majority of their season here.
With all of these great things going on, there’s a plethora of things to do in the city, even more than space allows. If you live and breathe small town music with loads of culture, come down to Waukesha. If you want a fresh take on the suburban lifestyle, with great organic produce and a budding arts scene, come down to Waukesha. You won’t be disappointed.
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