June 13, 2010

Elmwood Park celebrates its 50th anniversary

Elmwood Park Village Trustee Linda Kawa-Pelish with the anniversary cake

The Village of Elmwood Park celebrated its improbable 50th Anniversary Sunday with a picnic and party on the grounds of the former Taylor Home.

Once a piece of the Town of Mt. Pleasant, the village's efforts to incorporate led to both a court battle and a legislative one. As the village's website points out, "A new state law adopted after the incorporation proceedings had started required villages near cities the size of Racine to be 25 times larger than Elmwood. Elmwood Park is the last small village in the sate to incorporate." The village's actual birth date is June 27, 1960; its name would have been simply Elmwood, but there already was a community with that name in northern Wisconsin.

The village is indeed small in size. Nestled between Durand Avenue to the north, and Spring Lake to the South, and just east of Lathrop, the village encompasses less than a quarter of a square mile. It has 204 homes and, according to the 2000 census, a population of 474.

Adding to the improbability, Sunday's picnic was held on the grounds of the old Taylor Home -- bought by the village in 2005 for use as its village hall. Never mind that the grounds are on land within the City of Racine. The former village hall, once the Beebee School at the corner of Lathrop and Taylor -- and, until recently, a private day-care center -- is still owned by the village as well; but the new location is handicapped-accessible, unlike the former.

In keeping with the village's austerity -- it has just one employee, who mows the grass and fixes the widows -- the party had no speakers or folderol. The picnic featured plenty of food, two large 50th Anniversary cakes, 1960s music by Titus, Rench and Wheary, games for the kids and a small car show -- six in all -- with a Model A Ford almost twice as old as the village.

And if a 50th birthday doesn't strike you as enough reason to celebrate, Elmwood Park is said to have the lowest taxes of any municipality in Racine County, contracting out needed services (like policing to the Racine County Sheriff and health services to the City of Racine.)