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Friday News Drop: MLK Day, trains and Random updates

Three side-by-side photos show a white rundown building with a white awning, a miniature train driving in front of colorful plants and a large metal statue of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bobby Tanzilo / Mitchell Park Domes / City of Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s a big city with a lot going on. Catch up before spending your weekend either purposely or accidentally ignoring the news.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day events

The federal holiday marking the civil-rights leader’s birthday (which is actually Jan. 15) dates back to 1986, marking 37 years since it was first officially observed. But this coming Monday will mark the 39th installment of Milwaukee's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration.

The arts-fueled event at the Marcus Performing Arts Center features musical performances; speech- and writing-contest winners from area schools; and remarks from city, county and federal officials. It’s free to attend and runs from 4 to 6 p.m. Here’s what else is happening around the area that day:

  • The Milwaukee Public Library will host an all-day event at its Martin Luther King Branch with kid-friendly touches like dance and music performances, and even birthday cake. The branch is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. 
  • Kids Impact Community has organized a virtual National Day of Service that supports Milwaukee Diaper Mission and Fostering Hope, with Mayor Cavalier Johnson leading a story time for kids.
  • The celebration at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center starts at noon and includes spoken word, music, dance, and speeches from Michelle Pitts and County Executive David Crowley.

At Random’s intentional makeover continues

Milwaukee tavern proprietor extraordinaire John Dye wasted little time giving At Random some TLC after acquiring the iconic watering hole back in 2019. He tackled the interior first, installing new carpet and Naugahyde, painting, cleaning and repairing. Now, after a pandemic-related delay, he’s moving on to the exterior.

According to an Instagram post featuring several vintage photos, the outdoor facelift will get underway sometime this winter with the same respectful approach as the interior. While the aluminum and asphalt siding will get binned, Dye made sure to point out that “the vintage awnings, faux brick and classic signage will remain, but will be spruced up so we can assure that this gem will be around another 120 years (or longer).”

While we wait to see the end result, relive our exploration of At Random in this 2019 episode of Urban Spelunking.

Urban Spelunking: At Random

Choo-choo, baby

Anyone else remember that Nike ad with Dennis Hopper and Sterling Sharpe? No?

Anyway, the trains are back at the Mitchell Park Domes this Saturday with the theme of “Plant-itary Orbits,” which is much easier to read than to say. G-scale trains will run on four tracks with a total length of 800 feet — or roughly 10 times longer than the domes are tall.

The co-stars of the event are the plants that complete the orbiting experience: miniature white azalea trees, Vietnamese cypresses, “Headliner Starry Night Burgundy” petunias and deep blue pansies. Of course, you’ll also have access to the other flora at the Domes, which will keep the trains running on time through March 26.

You can find all the information about the event, including ticket prices and operating hours, on the Mitchell Park Domes website.

Museum Days are here again

If you can resist the call of the locomotive for a little while, you can visit the Mitchell Park Domes as part of Museum Days, which start next Thursday and run through Jan. 29. The annual event features discounts at museums and other venues throughout the area, with 28 participating locations.

While your mind might go right to the usual suspects like Discovery World and the Milwaukee Public Museum, the list of options covers a variety of interests and cultural institutions. From Black and Jewish history to bobbleheads and selfie studios, these 10 days are designed for exploration.

For a full list of participants, discounts and events, go to Visit Milwaukee’s Museum Days webpage.