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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Top 10 favorites of Walworth County

By Kelly Guzman/The Week

Walworth County is my home and has been for most of my life.

There are people, places and things I'd driven by every day and never gave them a second glance until I started working for The Week.

The more I found out about this county, the more exploring I did.

So in this, my final issue as editor of the Thursday edition of The Week, I've settled on the best of what Walworth County has to offer.

Of all the places, events and things to do that we've published over the years, I've discovered a few that make Walworth County unique.

Here is a farewell top 10 list of my favorite things about Walworth County:

1.The 159th Walworth County Fair (Aug. 27-Sept. 1) 411 E. Court St., Elkhorn (262) 723-3228 www.walworthcountyfair.com

The Walworth County Fair has been proclaimed by some as the best county fair in the state, and for good reason. There are the 4-Hers and their animals, the midway, displays, live music, concessions and so much more.

On the grandstand this year will be: Wednesday Aug. 27, the tractor and truck pulls 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursday Aug. 28, Little River Band at 7:30 p.m.; Friday Aug. 29, Little Big Town at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday Aug. 30, Billy Ray Cyrus at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday Aug. 31, Huey Lewis and the News at 7:30 p.m.; and on Monday Sept. 1, the demolition derby at 1:45, 4:30 and 7:00 p.m.

2. Alpine Valley Music Theater 2699 Highway D, East Troy

This concert venue, which opened in 1977, can hold nearly 36,000 concert fans. It is located in a natural valley and has a pavilion covered with a wooden roof.

Those who have graced the stage at Alpine Valley over the years include the Grateful Dead, Phish, Cold Play, Ozzie Osborne, Boston, Jimmy Buffett and Madonna.

Stevie Ray Vaughan played there on Aug. 26, 1990 and after the concert, his helicopter crashed into the ski hill and he was killed.

Still up for the summer is Dave Matthew Band Aug. 9-10 and Projekt Revolution Tour featuring Linkin Park, Chris Cornell, The Bravery and Ashes Divided on Aug. 16.

3. Yerkes Observatory 373 W. Geneva St., Williams Bay (262) 245-5555


Yerkes Observatory is open for free public tours every Saturday throughout the year. Regular Saturday tours are designed for families and other small groups. Programs begin at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon and last about 45 minutes.

During the tours, the tour guide provides a brief talk on the history of Yerkes, astronomical research and the universe. He will also take visitors into the 90-foot dome, one of the largest of its kind ever built. Here, visitors look at the famed 40-inch refractor, the world's biggest lens-type telescope, and its impressive 73-foot diameter elevator floor.

Yerkes Observatory is a facility of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the University of Chicago. It was established in 1897 on Geneva Lake in Williams Bay. Until the mid-1960s, Yerkes Observatory housed all of the department's activities. Today the 77-acre site provides laboratory space and access to telescopes for research and instruction. A substantial fraction of the university's library holdings in astronomy are housed at Yerkes.

On Aug. 9, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28 and 30, Yerkes will host evening sessions beginning at 10 p.m. The cost is $25 per person.

4. The Young Auditorium on the UW-Whitewater campus 930 W. Main St., Whitewater (262) 472-2222


This year marks the 16th season of the Young Auditorium. Residents can see big city productions, without the big city prices.

As always, this season has something for everyone. Music lovers can look forward to "Revolution: A Tribute to the Beatles" on Oct. 4, the Kingston Trio on Nov. 1 and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra on Nov. 11, just to name a few.

Theater-goers can watch for "The Comedy of Errors" on Oct. 15, "Hairspray" on March 14 and "To Kill A Mockingbird" on April 28.

Those looking for something for the family can see "Charlotte's Web" on Nov. 9 or "Annie" on Feb. 11.

These are just a sample of the wonder productions that the Young Auditorium is offering this season. Get your tickets now.

5. The lakeshore path

There is a 21-mile public walking path that goes around Geneva Lake. By law it's accessible to the public, even though it runs across the backyards of lakeside mansions. The path was created by the early settlers who declared that the 20 feet of land directly up from the shoreline be deemed public domain.

You can hop on the trail at a variety of places, including in front of the Lake Geneva Public Library, Big Foot State Park, the Fontana Beach and Williams Bay Beach.

Wear comfortable shoes, bring water and be warned, bathrooms are few and far between.

If you want a purpose to walk the lakeshore path, consider taking part in the first annual Lake Geneva Hope Walk on Saturday, Sept. 27. Proceeds will go to the Deanna Favre's Hope Foundation. Register before Sept. 10 for $30. Meet at Lake Geneva's Library Park for registration from 7-9 p.m. For more information, log on to www.lakegenevahopewalk.com

6. The lakes

Geneva Lake is the second-deepest lake in Wisconsin at 135 feet deep; it's 5,262 acres, 21 miles around, 2.1 miles wide and 7.6 miles long.

Geneva Lake offers boat, canoe and kayak rentals, fishing, parasailing. Also scattered around Geneva Lake are three great beaches: Fontana Beach, Williams Bay Beach and Lake Geneva Beach.

If you're out on the water on the weekends, there's a lot of company out there, so please be careful.

Lake Delavan has been called one of the state's best overall fisheries at 1,774 acres and a maximum depth of 52 feet.

This lake can produce bass up to six pounds, walleye caught nearing 10 pounds and northern pike over 45 inches. Boat rentals and fishing guide services are also offered around the lake. This is more of a fisherman's lake than it is a swimmer's lake, but you'll still see folks out there on jetskis and recreational boats, so again, be careful.

7. The festivals

You may have missed Model A Day, the Fourth of July festivals and Chocolate Fest, but still coming up around the county are Venetian Fest in Lake Geneva (Aug. 13-17), Darien's Corn Fest (Sept. 5-7), Delavan's Scarecrow Fest (Sept. 13) and Lake Geneva's Octoberfest on Oct. 11-12. Each has unique offerings and worth a day of exploring.

Each community around the county puts out the welcome mat for residents and visitors alike. There's nothing like hometown pride.

8. Black Point

Visitors can step back to the 19th century with a visit to the Black Point estate on Geneva Lake.

This is one of the oldest mansions on Geneva, built in 1888 as a summer home for its owner, Conrad Seipp, and his large family. He came to America from Germany in the mid 1800s, eventually establishing himself in the brewing business in the south side of Chicago. He became esuccessful, particularly after the Chicago fire of 1871, because so many of the other breweries burned down, and his was far enough south to escape the fire. In 1888, he arranged to build two homes, one a stone mansion on the south side of Chicago near his brewery, and one on the south shore of Geneva Lake

The summer cottage which became known as "Black Point" had 13 bedrooms, and 20 rooms overall. Its four-story tower can be seen from many points on the lake. In the home are furniture and furnishings which go back prior to 1888 and which have been carefully preserved by each generation of the Seipp family.

The original land, having been divided up among succeeding generations, now consists of some seven acres on 600 feet of lake frontage. This architecturally unique home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home has been donated by fourth generation owner Bill Peterson as a museum, available for tour via the Geneva Lake Cruise Line.

Black Point opened to the public in June 2007.

Tours depart daily (mid-May through Oct. 31), seven days a week at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and return and 2:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. respectively.

For more information or reservations, contact the Lake Geneva Cruise Line at (800) 558-5911 or visit www.cruiselakegeneva.com.

9. The Webster House Walworth County Historical Society, 9 E. Rockwell, Elkhorn (262) 723-4248

Hours of operation: Wednesday-Saturday (mid-May to mid-October) 1-5 p.m. or by appointment

The Webster House is the home of Joseph Philbrick Webster, who wrote the famous Civil War camp song "Lorena" and the popular hymn "The Sweet By and By."

The family lived in the house from 1857. Webster's youngest son and his wife returned in 1930 to renovate the house. He died in 1948 and his wife died in 1951. Relatives of the Websters were not interested in keeping the home and sold it to the county in 1955. It was then leased to the Walworth County Historical Society for $1 per year.

After further restoration, the home was opened as a museum in 1956. On Aug. 8, 1970, the Webster House Museum was named a Wisconsin State Landmark and an official marker was placed at the home.

10. The people

The folks who live in this county are truly a special bunch. There's so much talent and genuine kindness out there.

Over the years, the Thursday Week has covered a multitude of high school and local theater productions, bands, artists, authors and just everyday people. There's something special about this county. That's what keeps us here.


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