News Column

Madison in 100 objects: Concert blankets

August 12, 2014

By Jane Burns, The Wisconsin State Journal

Aug. 12--Forget Badger football or Ultimate Frisbee. The most competitive sport in Madison is blanket-tossing.

It's not just any old blanket being tossed at any old place. This would be a regularly scheduled event each Wednesday afternoon in July on the lawn of the State Capitol. The tossing is supposed to begin at 3 p.m., but by the looks of the lawn at that time many people take that to mean 3 p.m. Eastern.

By all means, there is victory to be won: a perfect seat for Concerts on the Square, the free Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performance each Wednesday evening in July. The concerts began in 1984, and each draws an estimated 20,000 people.

The music is crowd pleasing, with a range of selections from Gershwin to U2. All with an audience parked on blankets with picnic baskets and bottles of Prairie FumÉ.

According to signs posted throughout the lawn, blankets spread out before 3 p.m. will be removed. Some people toss one on the lawn and go back to work. Some place it and stay with it, with a laptop or book to help pass the time.

At their worst, the blankets symbolize that human urge to just go and get what you want, ignoring any rules and directives along the way. At their best, they stand for faith in humanity -- that you can put down your blanket, return three or four hours later and magically it is still there.

Most of all, they represent the chance to hear beautiful music on a splendid summer night.

And that's a blanket statement that's safe to make.


(c)2014 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

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Source: Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)

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