State Street – A Second Look

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the kind feedback on last weeks post about my musings driving down a two lane highway. It was fun to write and share with you all.

This week, I’m taking you back to Madison’s iconic street, the street that connects the Wisconsin State Capital and the flagship University of Wisconsin-Madison, State Street. I’ve written about and shared photos of State Street in the past but thought it was time to take a second look. While it’s a busy place all year, it becomes even busier in the summer when a number of outdoor events are held on or near the State Street area. A fair number of tourists visit the city to take in the world famous Farmers Market, the Union Terrace, and other places of interest. In addition, thousands of prospective students make visits to the UW and incoming freshman arrive for their orientation and registration for the fall semester.

State Street is a six block long limited access roadway with wide pedestrian walkways. It’s home to many eating establishments, taverns, lots of locally owned boutique shops, a few national chain stores, art galleries, music venues a concert hall, and even a park. It is also home to lots of students, young working professionals, retired folks, state government workers, and enough homeless people to generate concern by citizens and government officials to develop programs to help them off the streets.IMG_2254State Street 2017-3362State Street 2017-3392

During the summer, hardly a week goes by that we don’t get down to the State Street area to the Farmers Market, the Terrace, or other events. In this post I’m featuring a couple of State Street events, one recurring and one new one. First the recurring event, Maxwell Street Days. This three day mid summer event has been held for over 40 years running. Now to be clear, I’m not aware of a Maxwell Street in Madison. This event is based on one of the same name that originated in downtown Chicago on Maxwell Street in 1912 until 1994 when was moved to accommodate the expansion of the University of Illinois at Chicago. The Chicago Maxwell Street Market was known for it’s diversity in vendors as well as the musicians busking on the street. It is said to be where the “Chicago style” blues was created. Kind of a nice note in history to emulate.

Madison’s Maxwell Street Days feature sidewalk sales by businesses and vendors of clothing, jewelry, art work, home decor, kitchen gadgets, sporting goods, books plus many food vendors. It’s a great place to stock up on inexpensive t-shirts, bargain gaudy Hawaiian shirts, last season’s winter coats and socks (do they ever go out of style!), one of a kind dish towels, or movies on DVDs. State Street 2017-3619State Street 2017-3625State Street 2017-3637State Street 2017-3629

One of my favorite stops during Maxwell Street Days is the Scared Feather, the local merchant of all things head gear. I’m always on the look out for a new hat to wear to JazzFest in New Orleans. They sell hats of all types shapes, sizes, and colors. If you can’t find it there, well, you can’t find it there!State Street 2017-3631

Maxwell Street Days usually happens the third weekend in July so mark your calendars for next year!

The new event that was initiated this year is Madison Night Market. As the sign below indicates, it’s an evening open air market with vendors selling an eclectic mix of items, music in Lisa Link Peace Park, lots of food vendors and of course the inevitable beer garden. The night I attended it was very crowded so it’s likely that this will become another Madison tradition. Here are a few photos from this event.State Street 2017-3363State Street 2017-3359State Street 2017-3329State Street 2017-3327State Street 2017-3326

Some of the music was provided by musicians busking for dollars. This young woman played the guitar and added percussion with the heels of her feet. Must really have to be coordinated!State Street 2017-3347State Street 2017-3350

The next two photos show folks play what I think is called a steel pan drum. Regardless, it has a nice, mellow sound, at least when they play it. It would sound like a cast iron frying pan if I played it!State Street 2017-3323State Street 2017-3342

This patriotic person appeared to be hitting on the young girls. Not sure they took him up on his offers of friendship!State Street 2017-3401

I had to include a photo of this vendor, it’s oh so Madison!State Street 2017-3320

Outside one of the shops along State Street was a display of hula hoops, a little strange I thought but what the heck, to each their own. Later when I walked by I noticed this couple making a brave attempt to give the hoops a try with little regard to what anyone thought of their expertise or lack thereof.State Street 2017-3318State Street 2017-3423

This is one way to drink while pedaling up and down State Street!IMG_2256

And a few scenes from up and down State Street.State Street 2017-3395State Street 2017-3389State Street 2017-3386State Street 2017-3375State Street 2017-3368State Street 2017-3369

And a visit to State Street wouldn’t be complete without at least a glimpse of the Wisconsin State Capitol. State Street 2017-3639State Street 2017-3377

No visit to Madison is complete without at least one stop to see and explore the State Street area. It’s unique, quirky, and fun. If you get to town, let me know and I’ll give you a guided tour.

Hope you enjoyed your brief visit to Madison’s State Street.

Until next week,



5 thoughts on “State Street – A Second Look

  1. Tom, great trip down memory lane for me! Some 45 years ago we’d drive the 40 or so miles from Beloit College once or twice a semester for a bit of State Street debauchery. Also was a great record store (you may need to explain that to anyone under 40) on State St. And we’d visit one or two totally inappropriate places that I suspect (and hope!) are long gone. But what a street. Americana at its finest and good to see it is still thriving. Paul

    1. Hi Paul, Good to hear from you. Thanks for you comments, State Street continues to have a vibe that’s hard to explain but fun to experience from time to time. I always feel energized walking up/down the street especially on a pleasant summer evening.
      We are heading back to Madeline Island in a couple of weeks to serve as campground hosts at Big Bay State Park for about 15 days. Looking forward to more island time!
      Hope all is well with you.

      1. Have an awesome time back up on Madeline Island, Tom. I so love that park, too. Just be careful on the rocks this time! By the way, David Stevens from our group was just up there for another photography workshop. We should get a report this week.

      2. I’m off the mailing list for the group due to my schedule. Did he attend the Eddie Soloway workshop? I know someone from Madison that also attended, said it was awesome. Tony Sweet is at MISA while we are on MI but didn’t think it was right to spend 5 days doing a class and shirk my duties at the campground. Tom

      3. Yep, it indeed was the Soloway workshop. I’ll ask David to make sure you get the email that recaps it for us. I’ve taken several more workshops since ours and I seem to learn something really unique from each instructor. I’ve even gotten “halfway decent” now! 🙂 About four or five of us from MI are looking at an April workshop in Taos, NM. Linda (from the MI workshop) spent a day with the instructor and he’s terrific. Do a road trip out here to coincide and join in, Tom!

Comments are closed.