The Green Mini Demo Derby thrills and delights while incorporating both environmental irresponsibility and responsibility.
The Green Mini Demo Derby thrills and delights while incorporating both environmental irresponsibility and responsibility.
Colin Matthes.
Colin Matthes.

Sunshine smash-ups

Shouting, cheering, and smashing. And it’s art!

This morning, "The Arts Page" crew and I visited Colin Matthes, creator of The Green Mini Demo Derby, a solar-powered visual art experience at Inova Gallery.

Individually designed and hand-painted wooden remote-control cars zip, zoom and tumble across a striped rectangular plywood track which even includes a trap door that is activated if a car trips a specially placed wire.

Every car has a sponsor from a community business. And each sponsor will tell you that to be designated the driver of the car and wear the accompanying hand-painted jumpsuit is a coveted position.

The Green part of the Mini Demo Derby comes from a custom-built mobile solar electric power generator. The kind of solar panel that you usually only see on rooftops is right there on wheels in the gallery, doing its duty silently charging up the cars.

On Thursday, October 10, you can watch as drivers representing Midwest Voltaics, Classic Slice Pizza, Ace Hardware, Sky High, Ape Girl, Helios/Beans and Barley, and Finks/BelAir Cantina face off in the second of three heats in this series. Drivers feel the power and can get pretty intense during competition. A Mad Dog Award is presented to the driver that puts on the best show, including hardest hits, rolling over other cars and any other dominating maneuvers. Colectivo Coffee is quite proud to have won this plaque in Heat 1.

The final championship round that will include the trophy presentation and a grudge match with all of the losers will be held November 14.

The heats bring out both the competitor and the kid in everyone involved, whether you’re revving the remote control engine or drawn into the damaging collisions as a spectator. That energy from the people is partially what inspires Matthes, one of seven Milwaukee-area artists who were awarded fellowships in 2012 through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund.

He has rigged electricity at county fairs, the sites of carnival…


MU alum Stankos performs at Potawatomi Saturday

Stan Stankos. C'mon -- it's a great name for a comedian. Especially a snarky smartass. Haven't you seen a comedian that made you laugh, but then you couldn't remember that person's name? Well, check out Stan live, you'll be entertained and you'll remember him.

The Marquette University alum (one of many from Chicagoland) is now based in New York City writing comedy, performing a lot there and around the country, including a stop in Milwaukee on Saturday.

We've been friends since those good ol' rowdy days, back when Wells Street included the Avalanche and you could play pool at Hegarty's. We have a regular standing bet on Brewers vs. Cubs each season, which is good fodder for hassling each other with wisecracks, but we can talk about more than baseball.

He's been crafting quick, topical jokes for years now, and recently has been writing politically-focused jokes for comedian Jimmy Dore.

As sarcastic as Stan can be, I think I got some honest answers from him on a couple of topics. When asked how Milwaukee's comedy scene compares to other cities, Stan said "The crowds are always good. It could be the beer they drink. But I think they're smart and polite. Just what you want in an audience."

Stan's on Team Coco (I'm on the independent ticket of Team Tosh.0) as an admirer of Conan O'Brien's good writing team and how O'Brien comes across as goofy while still being smart.

Louis CK and Dave Atell also make the cut on Stan's list of worthwhile comedians. Luckily, he's not a comedy snob and enjoys repeat viewings of "Caddyshack" or any Rodney Dangerfield as much as the rest of us. He claims that Tyler Perry's Medea movies are his guilty pleasure, but that may have been a joke.

America, one of a four wagon series.  Europe currently resides at the Smithsonian.
America, one of a four wagon series. Europe currently resides at the Smithsonian.
A beautifully preserved red wagon sits ready for display.
A beautifully preserved red wagon sits ready for display.
 This original and preserved Columbia Band Wagon was the first wagon that was acquired by the Circus World Museum in 1959.
This original and preserved Columbia Band Wagon was the first wagon that was acquired by the Circus World Museum in 1959.

Get in on the Great Circus Parade

An historic tradition returns to Milwaukee -- The Great Circus Parade! This colorful celebration of entertainment has been on a hiatus for six years due to lack of funding and may not be back for a while, at least not in 2010, so this would be the weekend to check it out.

I'm particularly giddy about this famous event because I've been invited to join actor / comedian John McGivern at the festival and along the parade route for Milwaukee Public Television's national broadcast of Sunday's parade. Watch the parade in high def on Channel 10.1 starting at 1:30 pm. on Sunday. If you can, take the opportunity to experience The Great Circus Parade and festival on-site to see the joy and care that goes into recreating this once-annual event.

Today through Saturday, the festival at Veterans Park allows you to get up close to all of the ornately decorated antique circus wagons, plus animals and performers. If you're one of those people who complain that clowns freak you out (which I hear there will be a clown wedding on Saturday -- doesn't that make you the least bit curious?!), you have plenty of other stimulating entertainment options including seeing practice runs with the wagons and horses. Each wagon will be pulled by teams of horses (Percherons, Belgians, Clydesdales, Shires and more) or mules, all stabled now on the park grounds. There will be plenty of entertainers, performers, musicians and more. The exotic animals you'll see are from the Timbavati Wildlife Park at Storybook Gardens in the Wisconsin Dells.

Last weekend, I took a stroll from the Summerfest grounds to Veterans Park to see the preparations. I took some photos of the dozen or so unique wagons that had already arrived and met the delightfully engaging John Lloyd, a hands-on volunteer who happens to also be the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Circus World Museum in Baraboo and Assistant Parade Director.

Lloyd is passionate about sharing and preserving the history of …

Sandy Maxx parties it up with Ryan Braun.
Sandy Maxx parties it up with Ryan Braun.

Brewers -- toast of the town

Let's go, Brewers! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!)

Count me as one of the thousands of overjoyed fans last Sunday when the Brewers nabbed their Wild Card spot to head to the playoffs! Even two games down to the Phillies, I remain optimistic and eager to see the Brewers back at Miller Park to play October baseball on home turf.

Like many fans, I went out to celebrate their victory with friends. Had to make an early stop at Maverick's at 21st and Howard and pay homage to a piece of Brewers memorabilia affixed to the ceiling there -- an outfield wall pad from the centerfield of County Stadium. It felt right to reflect on the retro of 1982 and then focus on the excitement of 2008.

Took champagne over to the backyard party of some dear friends, who are such big Brewers fans that they attend nearly every home game together and make an annual pilgrimage to Spring Training. Needless to say, they were excited! Our next stop? A Downtown party they'd been invited to where, they'd heard, some Brewers players might.

Um, they were.

I found myself in surreal yet wonderful situation -- a party like no other.

Refreshed and cleaned up from the champagne and beer bath in the locker room were Dale Sveum, Robin Yount, CC Sabathia, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Rickie Weeks, Mike Cameron, and Bill Hall. And birthday boy Mark Attanasio with his wife, Debbie, showed up and even took to the dance floor together.

Obviously the vibe was a happy one, but what struck me even more was the friendliness. Not sloppy, over the top "I love you, man" type of stuff, but genuine conversations and exhilaration. It was a night of dancing, cheering and socializing. Gleeful smiles, high fives, and hollering. To be able to talk to the guys and wish them well in the post-season was a real treat.

It was a thrill and frankly, an honor, to be there.

I attended the pep rally on Monday afternoon at the Summerfest grounds to send the team off,…