Volunteers launch grassroots effort to keep Fish Day alive

Dozens of people step up to plan three-day event after organization that has hosted festival for decades bows out

Although changes are planned for this summer's Fish Day, community organizations and their members, like those who fried fish at the Port Washington Yacht Club last year, will continue to be key contributors to the festival. Press file photo
Ozaukee Press staff

After almost six decades, Port Fish Day is returning to its roots this summer.

Like the original Fish Day in 1965, this event is being organized by a group of residents who have little experience in staging a festival of its size but have plenty of desire to give back to their community.

“It will be happening,” Andy Hill, one of the organizers of the event, said Tuesday.

And like that first Fish Day, this event is being planned for several days and in a short amount of time and with big ambitions.

Fish Day, which started as a two-day event in downtown Port, has traditionally been a one-day festival  but this year will be expanded to three days.

The organizing committee has a list of between 40 and 70 people willing to help with the fest, Hill said, and there are 15 “ambassadors,” people who are in charge of various aspects of Fish Day. That includes everything from the parade and the Portal Fish Day run, walk and roll to the fireworks and music.

Ambassadors are also in charge of the Thursday teen night and Friday Fishmas Eve that spotlights reunions of family and friends.

“It’s awesome the effort people are putting forth to make this happen,” Hill said. “Our teams are in place.”

The stage, lighting and sound are figured out, he said, and some bands are signed.

The only component of the festival that is still in question is a street fest on Franklin Street, Hill said.

“There might be too many logistical hurdles to make that happen this year,” he said.

Dave Mueller, who is also on the organizing committee, added, “We may have bitten off a bit more than we can do this year. We’re going to adjust. It’s a learning curve for us.”

The committee, he said, is dedicated to retaining all the traditions of Fish Day.

“We know what has worked. We’re going to stick with the key traditions,” Mueller said.

One thing the organizers want to see is that the nonprofit groups that participate in the event set out signs and information telling people what their profits are used for, Mueller said.

The committee is working to try and get the Fish Day website updated, organizers said, noting it has been announcing the fact that the event was canceled for this year.

“We’ve got to get a name and a website up,” Mueller said.

The Fish Day Committee announced earlier this year they were placing the event on “hiatus,” saying they did not have the needed volunteers or funding to stage the event.

That prompted Mayor Ted Neitzke to call on citizens to rally and stage the festival on their own, saying the event is part of the identity of Port Washington.

The festival will continue to be a fundraiser for the city’s nonprofit organizations, Mueller said. Although the organizers don’t have tax-exempt status, the event will be run through the Friends of Port Washington Parks and Recreation, which is a nonprofit organization, he said.

Although the organizers have a core group of volunteers to help stage the event, Hill and Mueller said they welcome any help they can get.

“It’s our inaugural year,” Mueller said. “If you want to step up, this is your opportunity.”


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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