With below zero temperatures and snowflakes flying, some Waunakee folks have their minds on summer, in particular, the June 18 Imagination Celebration event.

It will be the third such event for Waunakee-area residents and businesses to reveal their creative sides and for others to discover talent and ingenuity right here in our community. And with musical, dance and other performances, it should be just plain fun.

But the event has reached beyond the actual day. It has helped to establish Waunakee as a community that cares about the arts. It is one attempt to nurture and grow Waunakee’s overall creative economy.

For communities, plays, musical events and art exhibits impact the local economy. A study done for the City of Madison for 2010 found that spending on such events by nonprofits there amounted to nearly $70 million that year; audiences spent another $76 million in the community, for an impact of $145.5 million. That was money spent on going out for meals and drinks, on souvenirs, parking and transportation.

Waunakee has a long way to go, but already new activities that can contribute to the local economy are in the works, and the Imagination Celebration events have helped establish them. At the Imagination Celebration days, creative people connect and build energy around the local arts.

From them, some artists have made sales. But connections made though the Imagination Celebrations have also led to a rotating exhibit at Village Hall featuring local artists, who attend for an informal coffee discussion every other month or so. On Feb. 26, painter Leo Nello Rotelli will greet people at 6:30 p.m. Those events bring people to Waunakee’s downtown.

This summer, one of the events leading up to the Imagination Celebration will be the June 16 premiere of the Live From the Park series, which will feature bands and food carts for six Tuesdays at the Village Park. Again, those concerts will bring people to Waunakee’s business district.

Waunakee doesn’t have an Overture Center or a Stoughton Opera House, but slowly momentum seems to be building in its creative economy.

The Imagination Celebration comes with costs and has a $25,000 budget. Currently, Economic Development Director Todd Schmidt is seeking corporate sponsorship for the event.

Businesses who help underwrite the Imagination Celebration will be widely recognized in an advertising campaign, on brochures and at the event.

Those who support growing Waunakee’s creative economy may want to contribute. To do so, contact Todd Schmidt at 850-5227 or tschmidt@vil.waunakee.wi.us. Todd will continue raising funds until the end of February.

Also, anyone with ideas for community events or other ways to foster Waunakee’s creative economy might want to give Todd a call. If nothing else, you’ll likely get a lot of encouragement.

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