La Crosse parks turn 100 in style

La Crosse parks turn 100 in style

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Charles Gelatt doesn't remember much about the La Crosse parks board's 50th anniversary, but he does remember ice skating on the lagoon at Pettibone Park.

Gelatt, 90, was at that historic event and was a special guest Thursday as the La Crosse Board of Park Commissioners celebrated the 100th anniversary of its establishment.

Pettibone has come a long way since he was young, said the former president of Northern Engraving Corp.

"It used to be all wild grasses," he said.

And Riverside Park, which hosted Thursday's celebration, still is the most beautiful, Gelatt said, calling it "both natural and civilized."

The La Crosse native was on the Parks Board during its 50th year.

"We didn't meet that often because we didn't have much money to work with then," he said.

The sitting board held its regular meeting in the park on the 100 block of State Street, with remarkable turnout.

"There was something for everybody," said Steve Carlyon, city Parks and Recreation director. "The whole idea was to get people into the park and enjoying the park. This is what I believe, 100 years ago, the Board of Park Commissioners envisioned."

Before performances by the La Crosse Concert Band and a showing of the animated film "Over the Hedge" on the city's new roaming, inflatable movie screen, volunteers from the La Crosse County Historical Society reenacted that first board meeting May 15, 1908.

As a member of the La Crosse County Historical Society, Jon and Faith Rimmert portray a pastor and his wife when greeting riverboat cruises at Riverside Park.

But Thursday, Rimmert channeled famed brewer Henry Gund.

Former Parks Board president John Satory stood in as former Mayor Wendel Anderson.

"For the size of La Crosse being what it is, we have a great park system," Satory said. "For us to have a lot of the things larger cities have is very lucky."

Board Chairwoman Dorothy Lenard shared a Certificate of Commendation from Gov. Jim Doyle and state Rep. Jennifer Shilling.

And a member of U.S. Rep. Ron Kind's staff submitted a proclamation of the board's "relentless work" in the Congressional Record.

Dairyland Power Cooperative on Thursday donated $10,000 to the Myrick Hixon EcoPark for a kiosk featuring the peregrine falcon.

And Pat Caffrey, president of the Myrick Hixon EcoPark board of directors, awarded the first-ever lifetime EcoPark membership to Fran Shumway of La Crosse.

Shumway, Caffrey said, single-handedly found new homes for the park's nonindigenous animals, saving the EcoPark both time and money.

Samantha Marcus can be reached at (608) 791-8220 or


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