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Wednesday, January 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 22.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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Eat Play Bike offers summer fun and builds community in south Madison
The Sweatshop Movement conducts a hip-hop dance-off.
Credit:Kait Vosswinkel

Early Thursday evening, the parking lot at Villager Mall floods with clusters of families and friends celebrating the final of four Eat Play Bike gatherings in June.

Jon Sandbrook, an initial organizer of the event who works with the Urban League of Greater Madison and Sustain Dane, is happy with the way the neighborhood festival developed over the month.

"Look around, there are people everywhere," Sandbrook says. "A few of us just dreamed together some ideas, and away we went. We've taken over the parking lot."

While decorating a series of parking spaces with sidewalk chalk, Sandbrook shares how pleased he is with the community involvement and support that Eat Play Bike is fostering.

"It's been a real collaborative effort all around," he says. "Everyone seems to want to be a part of it -- to jump in and do something of their own."

A diverse set of booths and tents are scattered across the lot, with jewelry vendors, food truck chefs and musicians creating a happy din.

Rockameem, a local musician, gives impromptu drumming lessons to kids, using upturned 5-gallon buckets and spare drumsticks.

Madison Traffic Garden uses a large map and chalkboard to collect ideas on improving the city, and a group of girls perform traditional Hmong dances.

Nearby, the Sweatshop Movement conducts a hip-hop dance-off. Alex Hanesakda, a teacher with the dance school, is excited to be able to use the Eat Play Bike to share its vision and talent with the public.

"We were just ultimately showcasing what we do every day... practicing our butts off," he says.

Hanesakda believes hip-hop plays an important transformative role in the community.

"People in our culture come from so many different backgrounds and this dance has brought more people together than religion," he explains. "What we really want to do is bring back hip-hop to the hood. That's where it started and that's where it's needed the most right now."

In another corner of the parking lot, an impressive fire truck sits quietly. A small group of children stare wide-eyed as firefighter Sue Juedes shows them some of its inner workings.

"We like to get out in the community and be involved with the people when they're not calling us for emergencies as well," Juedes says. "It helps a lot with the kids, especially. So that they get to see that we're people, because our rig is pretty big and can be kind of scary for little kids."

Juedes has worked with the Madison Fire Department for 10 years, and still loves coming to events like Eat Play Bike.

"I really like just interacting with the public. It's fun. It's the biggest draw for our job, too," she says. "Knowing that I make a difference in my community is awesome."

As the sun sets, and the fun and games wind down, the crowds slowly filter away. Sandbrook begins to pack up, happy with the turnout.

"It's great to see kids out here having fun, riding bikes, getting into mischief and playing games. It's just good clean straightforward fun. You don't see enough of that around here," Brooks says. "I think south Madison is really at a turning point. I think the future of Madison's here."

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