It takes something big to attract peoples’ attention in a small town with six taverns on a short main street. In Lyndon Station, that event is the annual Parkfest, a celebration of slow-pitch softball, bratwursts and chicken, rock bands, chainsaw carving, fireworks and a parade that featured two Mauston school bands.
For this year’s show one of the largest crowds at the festival gathered to watch a special presentation by Wisconsin’s original owners.
The Ho-Chunk Nation, once forcibly removed from Wisconsin, brought their bright colors, dancing traditions and drumming to Travis Fitzgerald Memorial Park on a humid Saturday afternoon. A large crowd gathered on the main street next to a railroad crossing to learn the meaning of the colorful costumes and the dancing styles that are far older than the state of Wisconsin.
The audience enjoyed the dance demonstration and the lesson about the nation’s traditions. At the end of the presentation, Ho-Chunk representatives invited members of the audience to participate. Several people left their seats and joined in a mixed-culture improvised version of a circle dance. For people whose main exposure to the Ho-Chunk nation may be through one of the tribe’s casinos in this area, the attention paid to the dance presentation was an important show of respect. Respect for what the Ho-Chunk nation has meant to a state that takes its name from the area’s first nations.