Local history will come to the forefront Saturday at the annual Friendship Village event celebrating Portage native and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Zona Gale.
“As a special treat this year, one of the families that has had Zona Gale’s bicycle in storage for almost 100 years is going to put it out on display if people were interested in seeing that,” said Jeff Grothman, event coordinator and former Portage mayor.
Named after the fictional Midwestern village featured in Gale’s work — and based on Portage — the event is held the third Saturday in August, the month of Gale’s birthday. The event is “all about peace and fellowship and friendship for the city,” Grothman said.
“I always felt that if Friendship Village was such a wonderful place to write a series of books about, then we should certainly open it up and take a look and see what was so great about the community,” he said.
This year, Grothman said his program “Remembering Friendship Village” will feature a “collage of photos and remembrances” of Portage from the time when Gale lived here during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The program will start at 10 a.m. at the Museum at the Portage — formerly Gale’s home — where attendees can explore Gale’s reading room. It also will include a musical performance of the 1950s piece “The Old Wauona Trail” that recently was donated to the Portage Historical Society, according to society President Vicki Vogts.
“It kind of … awakens some of the history this year that maybe people that grew up here or people that have moved here don’t know much about,” Grothman said of the program.
In the early afternoon, the celebration will continue with pie, ice cream and live music at the Portage Women’s Civic League Clubhouse on Edgewater Street, which Gale originally built for her parents. The club’s backyard, overlooking the Wisconsin River and the Baraboo Bluffs, provides a pleasant setting for socializing and listening to music, Grothman said.
Vogts said the event is held every year to keep Gale’s memory and work “alive.” A newly donated collection of her books will be available for viewing at the museum Saturday (see related story).
Grothman, who has coordinated the celebration for almost 10 years, noted the importance of remembering Portage’s historical significance, including the legacy of two authors who won Pulitzer Prizes, Gale and Frederick Jackson, and its role as the third-oldest settlement in Wisconsin.
“There was a lot of very positive growth and progressivism that happened here, and I don’t believe it hurts a bit to take at least one day — this day in particular — and stop and remember the fantastic history that this community has enjoyed,” he said.