WORT-FM: Hundreds tune in at once

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Posted by Ka-Blooey on June 06, 2011 at 12:17:02:

Around Town: Hundreds tune in for Boombox the Wasteland

A few hundred Madison neighbors synchronized battery-powered radios Sunday for a neighborhood party called Boombox the Wasteland on a tree-shaded patch of grass next to the site of one of the city�s most prominent failed development projects.

On folding chairs and blankets, they tuned their bulky, retro radios to community radio station WORT-FM (89.9). The station�s disc jockeys mixed shout-outs to the partygoers with a prearranged playlist to accompany groups who performed an eclectic variety of dances, including break, belly and Indian classical.

�This is pretty spectacular,� said Tom Taagen, surveying the brat-munching crowd after he and other members of the Forward! Marching Band kicked off the entertainment by playing New Orleans-style music. They marched around a little-used traffic roundabout that was paved as part of the 11.4-acre Union Corners development, which fell through in 2007.

In December, the city bought the former industrial site near East Washington Avenue and Milwaukee Street and has been using it to store road construction material.

The party came from a simple idea, said Wendy Schneider, a local music producer best known as singer-guitarist with the defunct rock band Bugatti Type 35.

�I just thought it would be really fun to do a party with boomboxes,� Schneider said. The Union Corners site became part of her inspiration after she heard friends talking about it as �the wasteland.�

Schneider sent emails inviting arts groups, and a new neighborhood festival was born.

In addition to the dancing and music, the party featured areas for mural painting, sidewalk chalk, T-shirt stenciling and hula hoops, along with a few lemonade stands and grills.

Notably absent were commercial vendors and tables for political causes, although Schneider said many of those present had spent the previous night camping at the Walkerville protest campsite Downtown.

�Everybody at this party knows what�s going on,� Schneider said. �Nobody needs any more buttons.�

And the old boomboxes scattered throughout the crowd worked perfectly, much better than the high-volume, amplified speakers used at most community concerts.

�They don�t stick out,� Schneider said of the portable radios. �You can talk over it.�

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