Meet Me in Manitowoc

This article was written by Manitowoc Public Library Public Services Manager, Karen Hansen.

In addition to some of the usual classics, one of my favorite holiday movies is Meet Me in St. Louis. I love tracing the lives of the Smith family through the seasons, culminating in Judy Garland’s rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” At the end of the film, the family finally journeys to the long-anticipated St. Louis World’s Fair. Surveying the beauty and wonder of the Fair, Rose proclaims “We don't have to come here on a train or stay in a hotel. It's right in our own home town.” 

There have been several times in 2022 that I’ve identified with the pride and excitement of something great happening right here where I live—especially the great things that happen at our fabulous hometown library, where I’m honored to serve as Public Services Manager. Our creative and resilient staff have devised some amazing programs and events this year “right in our own home town.” 

Starting the year with a bang in February, we hosted “Flair in the Air: An Aerial Extravaganza with Cycropia!” Although the air outside was frigid and our Wisconsin landscape barren, thanks to showstopper performances by Madison’s Cycropia Aerial Dance and Manitowoc’s own Kaleidoscope Dance Studio, things couldn’t have been more lively at 707 Quay Street that evening! The beautiful costumes, gravity-defying dance, and lively music were a visual treat for all.

Just as we started to thaw after what felt like nine months of winter, we transformed the first floor of the Library into a celebration of Hmong history and culture for our “Hmongment in History” exhibit and reception. On May 14, library visitors were treated to displays and demonstrations of traditional Hmong clothing, dance, music, food, and more! A true community collaboration, the event and exhibit served as a means of meeting both the educational and recreational needs of our diverse community.

As usual, summertime at Manitowoc Public Library is quite busy, especially with our annual Summer Reading Program. This summer was no exception! Our gifted and dedicated staff provided library users of all ages a chance to keep their reading skills sharp, all while having fun with entertaining programs and great prizes. One of our biggest events this summer—“Touch the Trucks”—drew more than 1,100 kids and “kids at heart.” 

This summer was also remarkable in the life of MPL as we hosted the nationally-recognized and renowned National Endowment for the Humanities touring exhibit, “Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories.” In the weeks we displayed this exhibition, thousands of local and regional visitors came through our doors to learn about this aspect of our nation’s history. In conjunction with “Away from Home,” the Library sponsored an event featuring national bestselling author, Sarah Vowell, at Capitol Civic Centre. Other related programming included an in-library a performance by internationally-acclaimed musician, Wade Fernandez/Walks With the Black Wolf, a First Nations/First Person oral history series with UWGB’s Education Center for First Nations Studies Oral Scholar in Residence, Napos/David Turney, and more. 

As leaves changed and temps grew chillier, our library staff shifted into autumn gear with seasonal events and exhibits. Despite persistent rain and gloomy weather, staff refused to cancel our annual “Trunk or Treat” event, instead bringing the Halloween fun inside the Library. Incredibly, we hosted our largest single event ever that night with an astounding 3,100 “trunk or treaters.” Once the Halloween hubbub subsided, our library soon shifted into the winter holidays—i.e. Evergleam season!  Local collectors with “Evergleams on Eighth” filled our Quay Street windows with the uniquely beautiful Evergleam aluminum trees. Admirers of the exhibit have traveled from across the country to take in the sparkle!

By any measure, these highlighted events certainly put Manitowoc Public Library on the map. Despite being located between two much larger cities, our library and our city are not an afterthought—most-definitely not a place to drive past on the way to somewhere else. At the end of Meet Me in St. Louis, Ester Smith says “I can't believe it. Right here where we live—right here in St. Louis.” Like Esther, I can’t believe what we do “right here” in Manitowoc!