More about my trip this weekend...
- Dane County Regional Airport is a very nice airport. It's got this whole Prairie School look to it that is both attractive and appropriate for the region served by the airport. (Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio, Taliesin, is less than fifty miles from Madison). As I walked from the gate to baggage claim admiring the the decor, it occurred to me that I didn't remember the airport looking anything like this the last time I flew into MSN, back in 2003. I'm a big FLW fan, so I'm sure I would have noticed. They've been doing some remodeling, though I don't really remember it being under construction back then either. (Nevertheless, it was.)
- The Wisconsin Dells is a neat place. Weird, but neat. It's a place where the tourist infrastructure has outgrown and in some ways supplanted the destination the infrastructure was developed to support. The Dells of the Wisconsin River are a legitimate natural wonder, and their proximity to the Chicago area (and the cooler temperatures found there during the hot Midwestern summers) made them a reasonably popular tourist destination. Then one day in the early fifties, a guy named Tommy Bartlett opened his water-skiing show. Vacationers came to see the show, and afterwards returned to their cars to find a Tommy Bartlett bumper sticker affixed to their car. People back in Chicago and Milwaukee saw the stickers and talked to their friends about it, and traveled to the Dells to see the show for themselves. Motels and restaurants opened up by the score to accommodate the influx of new tourists; other entrepreneurs opened other attractions to keep the masses entertained after seeing the Bartlett show; souvenir stands grew like weeds; and before long the Dells had become the biggest tourist destination in the Midwest. Today, the Dells is home to more than a dozen water parks, hundreds of holes of miniature golf, a full-blown amusement park, several themed resorts, a wax museum or two, a Mystery Spot, and God knows what else.
Of course, the Dells of the Wisconsin River are still there, and there are several popular boat tours that take people down the river to see them. But I'll bet way more people visit the Dells without visiting the Dells than do. The Wisconsin Dells is not unique in this regard — Branson, Missouri (which grew up around the scenic lakes and hills of the Ozarks), is much the same, as is Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which sits at the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park — but it is, I think, a uniquely American phenomenon.
- Speaking of those themed resorts, the wedding reception was held at one of the largest, the Kalahari, which is home to both Wisconsin's largest conference facility and America's largest indoor water park. The reception was in the conference center, which is a good thing... no one wants to see me in swim wear. Three quick things about the reception:
- We were, if the event coordinator was to be believed, the first wedding party ever to arrive early for the reception. Blame it on cautious scheduling (Erik's influence, I suspect) and a brutally efficient wedding photographer.
- In keeping with the theme of the resort, tables were marked not with numbers or colors but with stuffed African animals. All the Cornell alums, for example, were seated at the cottontop tamarin table, and the groom's family parents were at the okapi table.
- For their first dance, Erik and Deb performed a tango to "Hernando's Hideaway." They prepared for it with six weeks of dancing lessons. It was without question the coolest first dance I've ever seen.
More as it occurs to me.