By spending a couple hours this past Sunday at Milton’s annual Arts & Crafts on the Lawn event, I met several creative and talented individuals. I’m always amazed by people who can see through to making uniquely beautiful and often practical items from wood, glass, textiles, paper and paint. And to find so many artists of such caliber in one place is always a joy.

Making the occasion even more worthwhile was the presence of my wife and mom, who I brought with me from the Madison area. Mom is herself an artist—and a former small town art fair organizer—and experiencing art through her eyes is always illuminating. She recognizes and appreciates the effort and mastery in any given piece like no one I know.

Attending an art fair with her takes me back to the Mount Horeb Art Fair, which she founded 50 years ago and then co-organized for 12 years before the community agreed to take over the two-day summer event.

Mom talked property owners into allowing artists to set up booths on front yards, bought artwork from what was on display for area schools and even designed the art fair T-shirts. Mom still paints and enters her work in regional shows, sometimes earning awards and accolades.

But on Sunday, we were interlopers; in town for the day like any number of other visitors—including, I noticed, many of the artists at the 45th annual Milton show. Like me, the vendors were from elsewhere in Wisconsin on a circuit of sorts hoping to leave their mark along the way.

As I mentioned, I’m from Mount Horeb, where I was introduced not only to art but also journalism by my parents. In the mid 1970s, my late father served as editor of the Mount Horeb Mail, which indirectly set me on a round-about path for more than 30 years as a reporter and editor at newspapers and magazines in the midwest and elsewhere.

After spending a few years at mid-sized daily papers, I took the reins of The Mille Lacs Messenger, a scrappy community weekly on the south end of the largest walleye fishery in northern Minnesota. There I learned how crucial a newspaper is, especially in a small town, for disseminating information about civic organization, spotlighting neighbors and supporting schools among other things.

I say all this as a way to introduce myself as the new managing editor of The Milton Courier, following in the immediate footsteps of Becky Kanable, who took her leave a couple weeks ago. I have served as the managing editor of The Gazette in Janesville for nearly three months, but until this past weekend I hadn’t set foot in Milton. I apologize for taking so long to visit this charming community.

I have over the past few months sent reporters to Milton School Board and city council meetings and, of course, to cover the ongoing debate over how to ensure the city receive adequate emergency services. Several feature stories in this issue and last week’s have also focused on local folks doing good work.

Although I am new to the area, I have a sense for what’s important to residents here as I, too, grew up in a small town and covered the news in towns both smaller and larger than Milton. But I hope you, dear readers, will not hesitate to let me know what you want the Courier to include.

The Courier has a 141-year-long history of ably documenting and celebrating the goings-on in Milton, and being handed that legacy is humbling. I take the responsibility of leading this newspaper as seriously as any publication I have previously overseen.

But as a newcomer—as well as the son of an artist and a journalist from a small Wisconsin town not far from here—I hope you’ll welcome me as I look forward to getting to know your community.

Joel Patenaude is the new editor for the Milton Courier. He can be reached at 608-755-8250.

Recommended for you