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Monday, March 2, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 26.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
The Daily
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Mayor Soglin calls inaugural Rhythm & Booms in downtown Madison a 'huge success'
Atendees were able to spread out along John Nolen Drive.
Credit:Judith Davidoff

Concerns from nearby neighborhoods that the relocated Rhythm & Booms fireworks display could result in parking headaches, traffic snarls and abandoned trash appear to have been overblown, at least from initial reports.

After two decades at Warner Park, the Independence Day fireworks show was set off from a barge in Lake Monona. Residents gathered around the lake in city parks and at various high points around the city, including Bascom Hall, to watch the display.

Mayor Paul Soglin issued a statement Monday calling the event a "huge success."

"It was clear that many thousands of spectators were able to enjoy this first year of fireworks over Lake Monona," Soglin said. "Officials and board members of Madison Festivals, Inc. have worked tirelessly to assure a safe and fun event and from all reports they succeeded."

Ald. Lucas Dailey, whose district includes Brittingham Park, one of the key viewing spots, and its surrounding Monona Bay neighborhoods, says he has not yet heard any complaints from his constituents about crowds or traffic.

"It was certainly something the residents had to deal with and many of them didn't ask for it," Dailey says. "But I think everyone has realized, at least from what I've heard so far, it was a very reasonable burden to bear."

Rita Kelliher, president of Madison Festivals, Inc., which produced the event, says she's so far received mostly positive feedback about this year's event.

"From everything we've heard from our staff and Board of Directors and all their friends, neighbors, relatives, the great majority of comments have been positive," Kelliher says. "It went exactly as we thought it would from planning meetings."

She says she did hear that some viewers in Yahara Place Park were unable to view the show because of a misperception that the barge would be in the middle of Lake Monona. She says Madison Festivals tried to make it clear on maps and other informational papers that the barge would be close to John Nolen Drive.

Kelliher says her group hopes to meet with area neighborhood associations soon to hear further feedback.

Kelliher also reports that there were no emergency or police incidents during the event, perhaps due to the fact that the crowds built up slowly throughout the afternoon before the 9:30 p.m. show.

Sgt. Paul Jacobsen, Madison Police Department's officer-in-charge on Sunday, says it also helped that attendees were able to spread out along John Nolen Drive, which was closed to traffic from North Shore Drive to Blair Street for much of the afternoon and through the night. Vendors provided food and bands played in the afternoon before the main event.

"For us it was really a non-event," says Jacobsen. "There were obviously a lot people, and a lot of visitors, but it did not generate any police calls."

Jacobsen also says there were no complaints to Madison police about traffic flow.

Kelliher credits the planning and preparation done in collaboration with the city for allowing a quick exit for most in attendance.

"Everyone was amazed there wasn't really any traffic," Kelliher says. "It was faster than normal rush hour."

She also says the clean up in the event area was finished by 3 a.m. Sunday. That included initial sweeps of Lake Monona to remove fireworks debris.

"You wouldn't know anything went on there," she says.

Kelliher says more debris has already drifted to shore and that clean up efforts will continue.

In response to concerns that the public parks around Lake Monona would be filled with trash after the show, the Madison Parks Department arranged for staff and volunteer groups to clean Sunday morning, says Josh Schmitt, weekend supervisor.

He says clean up went smoothly and was finished by 11 a.m.

"We were prepared for Warner Park in every single park in the area," Schmitt says. "But we found all of them very clean and it looked like most people had picked up after themselves."

Dailey, who was part of a volunteer clean up crew on Sunday, echoed Schmitt, saying he was "astounded by how little trash was left."

Dailey credits the collaboration between event organizers, city officials and neighborhood associations and residents for the success of the event.

"It's too early to necessarily say what the final report card will be," Dailey says, "There will be impacts that will come to light after the event, but so far it looks like a qualified success."

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