Gone are the mountains of coal that once sat next to the We Energies power plant in downtown Port, the huge freighters that pulled into the west slip to deliver the ore, bulldozers that pushed
the dusty black mineral around and the sea gulls that perched atop it.
Today, a lush green park offering stunning views of Lake Michigan has taken its place, and this weekend Port Washington will throw a party to celebrate its opening.
The day will kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday with a four-mile run and walk that traverses the lakeshore, followed by a dedication ceremony at 11:15 a.m.
Among those speaking at the dedication will be former Mayor Mark Gottlieb, who inked a deal with the utility in 2002 that paved the way for the park when the power plant changed its fuel from coal to natural gas.
The other speakers include Larry Stevens of We Energies, Port Washington Mayor Tom Mlada, City Administrator Mark Grams, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven and Paula Nelson of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, which has erected a World War II memorial in the park.
A wide variety of family activities will take place throughout the day, including bike demonstrations and repairs by ZuZu Pedals, children’s activities by Ozaukee Sports Center and music by Will Pfrang from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Kojo from 3 to 7 p.m.
The ReMax hot air balloon will be in the park and, weather permitting, rides may be given, Mlada said.
Food and beverages will be available for purchase.
Saturday’s events will culminate in the release of as many as 500 biodegradable sky lanterns from the park at 7:30 p.m.
In case of inclement weather, they will be launched on Sunday.
The lantern launch, which is being sponsored by Port Washington Main Street, is the brainchild of the organization’s office manager, Lauren Richmond.
“I’ve seen handfuls of them released at weddings and other events, and it’s pretty spectacular,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like to see so many released.
“At Main Street, we’re about providing experiences, and this is one I don’t think you can beat. People are loving it.”
The lanterns are being sold by Main Street for $10, and Richmond is confident all 500 will be sold.
“We have people dedicating them to family members who have passed away,” she said. “It’s unique. It can represent whatever you want.”
On Sunday, the celebration will be more of an open house. Activities include kite demonstrations by Tom Hudson from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and talks on birding by expert Noel Cutright.
Anyone interested in buying a sky lantern may contact the Main Street office at 268-1132.