Our Town – Sevastopol’s Sesquicentennial Celebration

I grew up in the Town of Sevastopol, and when I learned that the town was planning a Sesquicentennial Celebration on Saturday, July 18, I found myself wanting to learn more.

The first Sevastopol settlers were fishermen from Canada who settled in the area around the late 1830s. The town itself was established in November of 1859, and was called Laurieville before it became a township. The name did not suit the farmers of the town, and the name “Sebastopol” was suggested by resident J.P. Simon as a fitting moniker of the town’s future greatness. Sebastopol is also a port city in the Ukraine that is located on the coast of the Black Sea along the Crimea peninsula. Through a slip of the pen, a “v” was substituted for the “b,” and thus this spelling was adopted as the town’s formal name.

Occupations in those early years of the town include farming, fishing, sailing, lumbering, fruit growing, and stone quarrying. The earliest businesses on record include Joseph Zettel’s apple orchard, which was in operation from 1862 to 1890. The Laurie Brothers’ Stone Quarry was established in 1899, and millions of tons of rock have been taken from this spot to build harbors and towns formed on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Today, the Town of Sevastopol is home to approximately 2,860 residents – so when the Sevastopol Town Board began thinking of a party to commemorate their 150th birthday, they knew they would have residents eager to celebrate with them.

Sesquicentennial Chairperson Arlene Woerfel says that the planning for the event began nearly two years ago in the summer of 2007.

“It was brought to our attention that our Town would be 150 years old in 2009,” she said. Knowing that a celebration such as this only comes around once in a lifetime, an ad-hoc committee to explore a potential celebration was formed in August of that year.

When asked how one plans a once-in-a-lifetime event, Woerfel laughs and says, “With a whole lot of people.”

Through initial planning, it was decided that the celebration should include – at a minimum – a picnic and parade, historical book, baseball game, church service, dedication of the new Town Hall, a fish boil or fish fry, and possibly a cemetery walk (the town at one time boasted four churches). Plans initially were made for a two or three day event, but in the end, one entire day was settled on.

However, all of the events that had been talked about initially didn’t decrease, and the result is a packed day of events that includes the above activities as well as an art fair, live music, and a car and antique tractor show.

Woerfel says that one of the most exciting things about planning this event is how much more she learned about her own community.

“At one of our latest volunteer meetings for the event, we had over 50 people attend,” she said. “I realized that there are many members of our community that are able to bring something to the table for the event, and that’s a really great feeling.” Woerfel says that she expects to have over 100 volunteers for Saturday’s event – a number of helpers and hands that most people planning large events would be happy to have.

Included in those community volunteers (among many others) are the students, teachers, and parents of Sevastopol School. Woerfel says, “Early on, we realized that there was so much legwork that we just couldn’t do with a committee of our size,” so the committee enlisted the help of several of the school’s diverse groups – such as the winning Destination Imagination teams, the girl’s basketball team, the football team, and the cross-country team – to help with things like food and kids activities. Many of these groups are doing these activities as fundraising events, which Woerfel says helped offset the main cost of the event – and took a weight off the shoulders of the committee.

The Sesquicentennial has grown beyond the committee’s expectations, with 40 – 50 entries for the parade and 30 – 40 artists (Sevastopol area only) signed up for the art fair. The famous UW Marching Band is even performing their popular 5th quarter routine at the parade. She also mentions that the Civil Air Patrol was recently asked to do a flyover at the Town Hall dedication.

“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me, even before we have the event, and say, ‘Are you going to do this again next year?’ The excitement is kind of infectious,” Woerfel says. When asked if she would indeed do it next year, Woerfel laughs and says, “I think this kind of party only happens once every 150 years – but then again, you never know!”

Sevastopol Sesquicentennial

Saturday, July 18 at the Sevastopol Town Park

• 10 am:  Sesquicentennial Parade featuring the UW-Madison Marching Band

• Noon:  Sevastopol Town Hall dedication, art show, Newtonburg Brass Band concert

• 1:30 pm:  Institute Cubs Baseball Game

• 2 pm:  Music by Ben Larsen & Dan Mayhew

• 4 pm:  Music by The Leist Boys

• 5:30 pm:  Northern Door Legion Baseball Game

Other activities going on throughout the day include a car show, antique tractors on display, children’s games, and an assortment of food and desserts. A new book, Sevastopol Stories, will also be available for purchase the day of the event.