Puerto Rican Family Festival to bring music, food and classic cars to Wilson Park

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The Puerto Rican Family Festival is back for the eighth year this Sunday, August 1, 2021, at Wilson Park from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Filled with culture, great music and, of course, the best food in the world (I am biased) the festival has everything to bring you a fun family-friendly experience. This year’s festival will play host to a children’s area, car show, dominoes tournament and job fair.

If you’ve been to a Puerto Rican festival then you know the music, dancing and food take center stage; below you can find some of the things you can enjoy while visiting Wilson Park this Sunday.

Here are a few things to enjoy:

  • Tostones Eating Contest – Tostones are plantains fried to a crip and typically served as a side dish that may accompany a plate of Arroz Con Gandules and Pernil (Yellow Rice and Pigeons peas with Roast Pork).
  • Dominoes Tournament – Growing up in a Puerto Rican household, I understand first hand how serious a Domino game gets, so make sure you stop by, learn and have a laugh.
  • Car Show – In every culture cars plays an important role. This show will not be short of decked out Jeeps, loud bike and funky lowriders, so Make sure you get your camera ready for a cool photo op.
  • Music & Dance – This year’s lineup is filled with talent. Gego Y Nony, Poporo Y Sus Pleneros, Salsa Power, Zona De Fuego, Cultura Viva, Salsabrosita and so many more. Below is a musical playlist that I put together to give you an idea of various sounds that will fill the air come this Sunday. Enjoy!

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Milwaukee will host a parade for the Bucks on Thursday

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No, it wasn’t all a dream.

Last night the Milwaukee Bucks really won an NBA championship for the first time in 50 years — and in six games and at home, at that. And with 65,000 thousand fans cheering from the Deer District, and tens of thousands more packed into surrounding bars and watch parties, it was an unforgettable scene.

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Now comes the parade. In a, uh, rather informal interview, Bucks president Peter Feigin told WTMJ last night that a parade will take place Thursday.

And that’s more than just a wishful promise from a man who had clearly been celebrating. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel confirmed that the city is indeed planning a Thursday parade. We’ll have more information about it when it comes.

UPDATE: And now we know the details.

The parade will start at 11 a.m. The route is below.

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The Deer District will host up to 65,000 fans for Game 6

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One of the biggest stories of the NBA Finals has been Milwaukee’s Deer District, and the ever-growing crowds that the plaza outside of Fiserv Forum has attracted for each game. With the Milwaukee Bucks set to host Game 6 of the Finals on Tuesday — and potentially fulfill their long-prophesied “Bucks in Six” victory — the Deer District is now preparing to host a larger crowd than anybody could have imagined at the start of the season.

This afternoon the team announced that it is expanding the Deer District to host up to 65,000 fans Tuesday night (yes, you read that right).

Deer District | Courtesy Milwaukee Bucks

Here’s everything you need to know about the change, according to the team.

“The main stage and screen will now be located on Block 6 of Deer District, which is directly north of Fiserv Forum between Vel R. Phillips Ave. and Fifth St. The main stage and screen will be setup on the north end of Block 6 near the intersection of Fifth St. and McKinley Ave.”

“The watch party will then stretch back across Juneau Ave., which will be closed between Sixth St. and Old World Third St., and continue onto the plaza at Fiserv Forum. Vel R. Phillips Ave. will also be closed between McKinley Ave. and Juneau Ave. Additional viewing screens will be setup on the plaza.”

“Gates to the Deer District watch party will open at 6 p.m. CT. Fans planning to attend the watch party in Deer District are encouraged to RSVP at www.bucks.com/playoffs to receive the most up-to-date information and guidance.”

It goes without saying that Milwaukeeans should expect some seriously heavy traffic on Tuesday night, and that ticketholders for the game should try to arrive early.

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Milwaukee Pride announces PrideoberFest this fall at the Summerfest grounds

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When Milwaukee’s PrideFest canceled this June’s festival for the second year in a row, the beloved festival hinted another event this year might still be in the cards. And today the organizers have revealed that another big event is indeed on the way: The Summerfest grounds will host PridetoberFest on Friday, Oct. 8, and Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.

“We just couldn’t wait until 2022 to see our LGBTQ+ family and allies again,” Milwaukee Pride Vice President Luke Olson said in a press release. “October is LGBTQ+ history month along with National Coming Out Day. What better moment to gather and reflect on the long journey that got us to this point and of course, to celebrate!”

Via facebook.com/mkepride

PridetoberFest won’t be as big as June’s traditional PrideFest, but it will feature many of the same draws, including an emphasis on entertainment and local acts. It will also feature local food trucks.

“We are excited to bridge the gap between recent summers and what we expect will be a fully open and back to normal 2022,” Milwaukee Pride’s Wes Shaver said in a statement. “It’s time to bring businesses and communities back to life.”

We’ll share the lineup when it’s announced.

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Summerfest’s Community Park is already Milwaukee’s most popping playground

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I must have always understood that playgrounds were important, but it wasn’t until I became a dad that I fully grasped just how indispensable they are for many families. Being a parent of a restless toddler means almost daily trips to the nearest playground, along with special trips to further-away playgrounds on the weekends. Playgrounds begin to occupy the space in your life that had once been dedicated to pre-parental concerns: bars, movie theaters, the ballpark. It’s hard to imagine how we’d survive the week without them.

Hence the excitement for the grand new playground unveiled at the Summerfest grounds this month, Northwestern Mutual Community Park. It’s a rarity: a true destination playground in downtown Milwaukee (a part of the city that hardly has any playgrounds at all), and it’s easily one of the biggest in the county, with multiple play areas for kids of different ages and capabilities. The grounds are wheelchair accessible, thanks to abundant ramps and a thoughtfully spacious layout, and include three sensory rooms for kids who need quiet spaces. There’s even shaded picnic seating, which may sound like a small touch but as any parents who’s ever baked in the sun at other playgrounds knows is inexplicably rare.

Northwestern Mutual Community Park

The playground will be open during Summerfest and other ethnic festivals. It’s also open for free to the public on weekdays from noon-4 p.m. and on Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — but not for very long. This year its season only runs through Aug. 1, which leaves a lot of prime summer weeks off the calendar. (Asked why the playground’s season is so short, a representative from Summerfest responded “It’s because of the events and load in and load out – we can’t have it open with event traffic, due to safety concerns.”) 

If those limited hours are a little disappointing, the playground itself is anything but. As a parent, you start to realize after you’ve been to enough of them that most playgrounds are more or less the same. Even the good ones are mostly made up of different permutations of the same slides, swings, teeter totters and steering wheels that don’t actually steer anything.

But Summerfest’s new playground really is something special. Playing off the Summerfest grounds’ music motifs, the playground is filled with interactive musical instruments, various xylophone-like metal bars and pipes of all sizes, along with towering climbing structures for older kids. Even the most traveled kid is likely to see some equipment they’ve never encountered before.

If there was any doubt about the demand for a playground like this, given the scarcity of young families that live downtown, this weekend put it to rest. This Sunday morning, despite periodic rain showers, the playground had already drawn about 300 people by 11 a.m. During my visit about a hundred children zipped around the playground at any given time, though the grounds were big enough to comfortably absorb the all those kids and the adults shadowing them.

The instant popularity of Northwestern Mutual Community Park has been great to see although for most parents it shouldn’t come as a surprise. They already know that a baller playground is worth traveling for.

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What were the Hawks thinking inviting Crime Mob to play a Bucks anthem?

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Look, I understand why at first blush the Atlanta Hawks thought it was a great idea inviting Crime Mob to play their 2004 crunk hit “Knuck If You Buck” before halftime. Crime Mob, of course, is an Atlanta group, and while “Knuck If You Buck” isn’t yet a stadium standard on the level of, say, “Seven Nation Army” or “I’m Shipping Up To Boston,” it could get there one day — it lights up arenas. Plus it’s Crime Mob. At the playoffs. That’s awesome.

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The problem, of course, is that “Knuck If You Buck” is a Bucks anthem, too. Buck is right there in the title. Milwaukee radio stations spin it before playoff games. Fans have made their own bootleg “Knuck if You Buck” T-shirts. There’s even a Bucks podcast called “Knuck If You Buck.”

That song belongs to the world, but as much as any team could own it, the Bucks do. And sure enough, after drawing the game to a tie at halftime, the Milwaukee Bucks sealed the deal in the second half, winning 113-102.

The Milwaukee Bucks Twitter account couldn’t help but rub it in.

For game four, the Hawks might as well invite Coo Coo Cal to play “My Projects.” Or play a polka medley of the “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley” theme songs. Or a mix of Greek music personally curated by the Antetokounmpo family. The effect would have been the same.

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Here’s what’s lined up for Saturday’s huge Juneteenth celebration in Milwaukee

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One of Milwaukee’s oldest cultural celebrations is back. After taking a year off due to Covid-19, Milwaukee’s Juneteenth Day celebration will return on Saturday, June 19. The day kicks off with a parade at 8 a.m. starting at 14th and Atkinson and traveling to Burleigh and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. It’ll be broadcast on TMJ4, and followed by a 9:30 a.m. opening ceremony with remarks from local dignitaries.

Juneteenth Day, which commemorates the end of slavery, is celebrated in cities across the United States, but Milwaukee’s celebration is one of the largest and oldest in the country. This year’s celebration is likely to be the city’s largest public gathering since the city eased it Covid-19 restrictions earlier this spring. There will be more than 200 vendors, according to Northcott Neighborhood House executive director Tony A. Kearney, Sr. — 65 of which will be food vendors.

MLK Health Center will provide COVID-19 vaccines in partnership with Walgreens at King and Hadley. Walmart and MLK Health center will offer free health screenings and eye exams.

The festival’s main stage will have live music beginning at 10:30, with headliner Rodney Poe beginning 3 p.m. Jammin’ 98.3’s Earl Stokes will emcee the stage.

Teen Zone at the Clinton Rose Center stage will have a DJ from 98.3, plus musical and spoken word performances by teens. Teens will also be invited to apply for summer work though the city’s Earn and Learn program, offering paid summer jobs at $11 per hour (an increase from the previous rate of $7.25). Bell Ambulance will also be on site recruiting cadets.

For the first time ever, a basketball matchup between young adults 15-20 years old and Milwaukee Police Department will take place between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. Teams will compete in multiple games. Northcott Neighborhood House, the main organizer of the celebration, worked with MPD District 5 to organize the basketball matchup. “We want to improve community relationships with police,” said Kearney.

An additional Kids Area will offer an carnival experience for kids under the age of 12 starting at 10 a.m. There will be a stage for entertainment, carnival games, rides and a petting zoo. Free food will also be provided to children under 12.

“Everybody is welcome. And we mean everybody,” Kearney said.

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Senate unanimously approves a bill to make Juneteenth a public holiday

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The Senate unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would make Juneteenth, the date commemorating the end of chattel slavery in the United States, a legal public holiday.

The holiday is celebrated on June 19, and it began in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned they had been freed under the Emancipation Proclamation.

President Abraham Lincoln had signed the proclamation outlawing slavery years earlier, but it was not until 1865 that those in bondage in Texas were freed.

Juneteenth marks when enslaved people in Texas learned they had been freed under the Emancipation Proclamation.
AP This updated handout photo provided by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 shows a signed copy of Emancipation Proclamation. The Library, in Springfield, Ill., will mark Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, by displaying the rare signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. The copy of the proclamation that’s signed by Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward will be displayed between June 15 and July 6. The original document is kept in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum photo via AP)

The measure is expected to be approved by the Democratic-led House of Representatives as well, but the timing is unclear.

“Making Juneteenth a federal holiday is a major step forward to recognize the wrongs of the past,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement, “but we must continue to work to ensure equal justice and fulfill the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation and our Constitution.”

The recognition of Juneteenth as a legal holiday comes amid a broader national reckoning on race and the racism that helped shape America.

Academic calls to more critically examine the lens through which race has molded public life, including in economics and the justice system, have prompted backlash by some Republican lawmakers who say that viewpoint unfairly villainizes white people and overstates the extent to which racism is foundational to American society.

Republican legislation to limit teaching a historically accurate picture of U.S. history in public institutions has advanced in some half a dozen states. Teachers have warned that these efforts limit their ability to engage critically with their students at a time when much of the national conversation revolves around issues stemming from race.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
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Watch Trixie Mattel learn how to make an Old Fashioned at This Is It

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As co-owner if This Is It, a historic Milwaukee LGBTQ+ bar, drag queen Trixie Mattel has been spending more time in the city. In addition to performing, she is also learning to make a few cocktails and, fortunate for us, she is letting us watch.

In a new video published on her YouTube channel, which boasts an impressive 1.5 million subscribers, Trixie steps behind the bar to learn two Wisconsin “supper club friendly” cocktails, plus she shows how to make top shelf Long Island Iced Tea and a “lifted” Blue Moon shot.

It doesn’t take long for the quips to begin.

“It smells like an old wallet,” she says, sniffing a bottle of sweet vermouth before adding it to a Bulleit Rye Manhattan.

“It tastes like something you might syphon out of someone’s vehicle if you ran out of gas,” she says as she sips her creation. “But you know what? It’s kind of growing on me.”

Trixie Mattel muddles an old fashioned.

Trixie then proceeds to mix brandy old fashioned, “We’re really just making a fruit salad at this point,” she comments, looking straight at the camera, muddler in hand. “How come there’s no drag queen named Brandy Old Fashioned?”

Good question.

Trixie Mattel behind the bar at This Is It.

Trixie Mattel, performed by Brian Firkus, became a part owner of This Is It earlier this year. The bar is the longest continually operating gay bar in Wisconsin, according to its website. In 2019, the bar expanded into an adjacent space and added an additional bar, performance area and dance floor.

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I paired sake with Netflix’s Yasuke anime and its Flying Lotus-produced soundtrack

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On April 29, Netflix will release “Yasuke,” a six-episode anime series based on the African who became the first foreign-born samurai. The series was created and directed by LeSean Thomas, who worked on the “Boondocks” animated series. The series also features LaKeith Stanfield as the voice of the mysterious and legendary Black samurai and Flying Lotus, who composed the music for the show and is also the executive producer. 

I have been personally interested in the story of Yasuke and Japanese culture in general, and I wanted to do something special for this anime. So I decided to pair the anime and the first two Flying Lotus singles from the soundtrack with sake.

Me with a bottle of Kenbishi “Mizuho” Yamahai Junmai Sake

Why sake? I have always had a love for sake since my first taste back in college in the late ‘90s. Last year, I wanted to learn more about the national beverage of Japan and set out a goal to learn to brew my own sake within three years or by the time I turn 50. This past January, I started my journey into sake by taking a Sake Professional Course from the Sake Education Council. At the end of January, I passed the exam to become a certified sake professional. I mapped out the first year of my journey to learn as much as I can about sake, including ordering and trying many types of the brewed rice beverage, reading industry news, and even listening to sake podcasts. And now, I will be hosting a few sake tastings this spring at Milwaukee’s No Studios.  

Screenshot from Yasuke anime

With the announcement of the “Yasuke” series, I found an opportunity to combine my love of anime, music and sake by pairing the anime and the soundtrack with sake. Folks have been pairing wine with music for years. I figured it was time to do the same with sake. But these pairings have a deeper meaning for me. The story of Yasuke shares parallels to the creator of the anime LeSean Thomas and even my own journey into the world of sake. LeSean is an African-American man who lives in Japan and works in the world of Japanese anime and creates a show telling a story of an African who becomes the first foreign-born samurai warrior.

And as a Black man, I’m now on a journey to learn about sake, a beverage steeped in Japanese culture, tradition and history just like being a samurai and even a creator of anime. And I hope to brew my own and become a toji aka brewmaster. Creating these sake pairings was a challenge, but it also provided me an education that I couldn’t receive from any book or class.

Let’s begin with the first pairing. The sake I chose is meant to be paired with the overall Yasuke anime series. I wanted to find a sake that symbolizes the tradition of the samurai warrior with the uniqueness of a Black man from Africa stepping into this traditionally Japanese role. The sake had to represent legacy and foreign at the same time. I decided on Kenbishi “Mizuho” Yamahai Junmai Sake to drink while watching the series.

Kenbishi “Mizuho” Yamahai Junmai | Photo via Kenbishi Brewery Facebook page

First, let’s talk about the Kenbishi sake brewery. Established in 1505 in Hyogo prefecture, Kenbishi is known as the first sake brewery to be branded in Japan. According to history, the Kenbishi sake was a favorite of samurai and on the eve of large battles, a barrel would be opened. Even the Kenbishi iconic diamond logo can be seen in drawings of samurai drinking from the barrels from the 16th century. And since Yasuke was reported to be a samurai during this time, he could have drunk from one of those Kenbishi barrels.

The “Mizuho” Yamahai Junmai is an aged sake. But before I begin describing the flavors and aroma of this sake, I need to explain what Yamahai and Junmai mean. Junmai is Japanese for pure rice. Basically, a sake that is classified as Junami means that it is made only with rice, water, koji and yeast. There are no additives like additional alcohol, sugar or flavors. Yamahai is a type of moto, aka yeast starter, used during the brewing process. Yamahai is created in a slow and tedious way that allows for more wild yeasts and bacteria to become part of the brew. This creates a bolder and richer sake with strong umami notes and higher acidity. The Yamahai method was created in 1909 and is related to the Kimoto method which has been used for centuries.

Photo via Kenbishi Brewery Facebook page

While this sake is brewed in traditional ways, the flavors and aromas are reminiscent of western and African cultures due to it being aged between five and eight years and the use of the Yamahai method. The flavors remind me of whiskey, cocoa, brown sugar and caramel with subtle fruity and sour notes. While most sake is clear, this one has a lovely light amber, yellow hue. Drinking for the first time is a pleasant surprise — just like learning about the story of Yasuke for the first time. You can drink this sake warm, but I recommend drinking it chilled with a nice grilled steak or portobello mushroom or even some raw oysters. You can order this sake from Oakland’s Umami Mart or Tippsy Sake.

The second sake I paired with Flying Lotus’s song “Between Memories,” featuring Niki Randa. The song appears on the soundtrack for the Yasuke anime. The song serves as the closing credits for the show. The track is mellow, textured and rich featuring the sultry and sweet vocals of Niki Randa. I paired this song with a sake called Tamagawa “Time Machine” 1712. You could call this the sake answer to an after-meal or dessert wine. A perfect sake to close out a lovely evening similar to the way this song closes out each episode of the show. This sake is made from a recipe recorded in 1712 and brewed by the first foreign-born toji aka brewmaster Phillip Harper. Harper and Yasuke share the notoriety of being the first foreign-born to master a Japanese tradition — one for brewing sake and the other becoming a samurai. The Tamagawa Brewery is also the only brewery in Japan to have a toji that is not Japanese. 

The sake is mellow and textured just like the song with flavors and aromas of aged honey, toffee and sherry. It pairs wells with the sweet and wispy vocals of Niki Randa. Other umami notes like soy sauce balance out the sweetness. The sake is also a Junmai like the Kenbishi mentioned earlier, but instead of using the Yamahai method, it is made with the Kimoto method. This sake pairs well with desserts like ice cream. You can order this sake from True Sake, located in San Francisco.

Tamagawa Junmai Kimoto “Time Machine” | Photo via Tamagawa Brewery’s Instagram

The final sake pairing is for the Flying Lotus’ “Black Gold” featuring Thundercat. This track serves as the opening theme for Yasuke. The track feels bright and inspiring but grounded.  Since both Flying Lotus and Thundercat are from California, I decided that the sake should be, too. I decided to pair it with a sake from Oakland’s Den Sake Brewery.

Den Sake was founded in 2017 by toji Yoshihiro Sako and is the first sake brewery in Oakland. Not only is the sake made in California, but the rice they use is also grown in California as well. I selected their Den Blanc because of its brightness and citrus notes to match with the song’s brightness. The sake is a good one to begin a meal with just like “Black Gold” is the opening song for the show. You can order this sake from Oakland’s Umami Mart.

Den Blanc from Den Sake | Photo via Facebook
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