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A preview of events you shouldn't miss this summer in Green Co.
Wisconsin summers are undeniably short, so it's important to optimize the season with plenty of dining and live music under the sun or under the stars. Here in Green County, we cover those categories in one fell swoop - just attend a local festival! Each city or village in the county has at least one festival or event to draw in both residents and visitors - with proceeds circling back around to fund community projects or support local causes. Although the menu and stage lineup vary, the one consistent element driving the success of these events is the volunteers - who do everything from planning and promoting to picking up trash.

Today I'm sharing just a few of the music-focused, volunteer-driven events coming up this year. I'm mentioning a couple of names here and there. This is by no means a complete list - think of it as a sampler of possibilities for your calendar.

Music Fest - May 25-27 (New Glarus): All of New Glarus becomes a stage with nearly 25 different bands and musical groups on the lineup at this year's Music Fest. Local youth are the direct benefactors of New Glarus Youth Committee's volunteer efforts. The nonprofit organization has funded field trips, summer programs, Lunch with Santa and Post Prom. Among those leading the way are Sally Jeglum, Brian Jeglum, Corbin Judd, John Bigler and Cari Muggenburg.

Main Street Concerts on the Square - Kick Off June 7 (Monroe): I pause at the beginning of every concert season to remember former Main Street Director Barb Nelson, who was integral in getting this started. She thought it would be a good way to mitigate the chaos and mess of the downtown streetscape project, and even handed out plastic construction helmets to attendees. I'm sure she'd be pleased to see how the series has grown while highlighting a variety of musical genres. Profits from beer sales at Concerts have also created a healthy fundraising opportunity for Main Street Monroe and others, in the past including Green County Humane Society. What many people don't realize is that the beer trailer used at Concerts (and other local events) is owned by Mike Jerge, who purchased it when he saw the potential for fundraising. He allows it to be used for fundraising at various events (like Concerts) and manages the volunteers who sell and tap beer. In the last five years, gross sales using the trailer have topped a quarter of a million dollars - with profits at each and every event being poured right back into different community groups and causes.

Homecoming - July 5-8 (Monticello): The word "homecoming" often implies a high school football tradition or members of the armed services back home on leave. But when we say Monticello Homecoming, we're talking serious entertainment value plus fireworks over Lake Montesian, all topped off with homemade pie. Festival-goers can balance action (softball, volleyball, bags and canoe races) with live music. Who makes it all happen? The volunteers with Monticello Community Club and the Monticello Chamber of Commerce.

Cheese Days - Sept. 14-16 (Monroe): With so many groups relying on the crowds at Cheese Days to fund their causes, it is difficult to estimate how many volunteers are involved over the three-day weekend. The festival itself fills 150 shifts in the beer tent alone. Monroe Optimist member Bob Reffue could tell you more about the small army necessary for production of the hand-breaded, deep-fried cheese curds. But beyond food and drink, Cheese Days offers plenty of live music to draw the crowds. Gary Neuenschwander, Judy Meier, Jana Crandall, Bekah Stauffacher and Pat Yeagle are all involved with stage entertainment. The Monroe Lions also host a stage and food stand on the grounds at Minhas Craft Brewery - with proceeds going to their own projects as well as a generous sponsorship to Cheese Days.

Next month, I'll be back with some ideas on how to be a tourist in your own backyard. Later this summer - a peek behind the scenes with the Green County Cheese Days festival.

- Noreen Rueckert is the director for Green County Tourism, director for Green County Cheese Days and committee co-chair for Concerts on the Square with Main Street Monroe. She refuses to name her favorite cheese, but it is rumored to be feta. She has the best office in the county - overlooking Monroe's downtown Square from the tower of the historic Green County Courthouse. She dabbles in photography and graphic design, adores cats and coffee and secretly loves the Cheese Days Song.