Stars of “Feed the Fish” Marshal Olde Ellison Bay Days Parade

Mike Matzdorff is both happy and proud to be sharing Olde Ellison Bay Day parade marshaling duties with his uncle Tony Shalhoub.

“I’m from Green Bay. I was born there. So is Tony,” Matzdorff said in a recent telephone call from his home in Los Angeles. “Tony’s immediate family had been going up to Gills Rock since the late ’50s. I’ve been up there since in utero. It’s a very familiar area and I’m very, very fond of it.”

It’s already been five years since Matzdorff and Shalhoub were in Door County with other actors and a film crew to shoot Matzdorff’s first feature film, Feed the Fish, which he describes as “a postcard to Door County.”

“We brought some fun there in the middle of the winter. After broomball finishes, what else is there?” he said.

“That movie is so specific to Ellison Bay and is such a great movie in its own way, we thought it would be great if we could get the creators here for the theme this year. ‘Feed the Fish’ just seems to be a natural,” said Bob Murray, one of the festival organizers. “We were lucky that it worked out for both of them.”

Murray said organizers have been fielding questions from other states from folks who want to rub shoulders with Tony Shalhoub.

“We want everyone to know how much we appreciate the local support in Wisconsin and especially Door County,” Matzdorff said. “People are really happy to have this thing that represents the area. People are able to watch it and try to figure out where we did everything. There was some cheating involved. You’re driving from Gills Rock and in moments you’re at the drive-in [in Fish Creek]. We work that kind of magic. We really appreciate how well the film has been received and how people treated us at the time.”

Matzdorff wrote and directed the film, and Shalhoub played the role of sheriff and father of the lead character’s romantic interest as well as serving as executive producer.

Matzdorff said he had a great time working with his uncle.

A young parade participant smiles for the camera during last year’s Olde Ellison Bay Days Parade. Photo by Len Villano.

“He’s so, so talented and so gracious and so smart. He’s really great at breaking down material and sort of defining what’s right with it, what’s wrong with it. It’s great to have someone with so much experience on my side.”

While the finished film was well received in the Midwest, it was a tougher sell in areas that don’t get polar bear plunges and small town living.

“We got the movie out there and distributed, but it hasn’t really been a financial success so far,” Matzdorff said. “There was no giant boom of activity or people breaking down the door. We had some good reception to the movie. It was a great experience as far as crafting the storytelling. This was my first effort at writing and directing, so there were a lot of life and career lessons and a lot of credibility I hope we can tap when the next one comes.”

The next one may come next spring. Matzdorff said he is planning to shoot in Ireland. “We did Door County in winter, so why not Ireland during a rainy spring,” he said. “We had a reading with actors. Tony was in on that.”

But right now, he’s just looking forward to bringing his wife and two children for a little R&R in Door County.

“I hope to eat some smoked fish and go swimming. That’s my favorite part of being up in Door County,” he said.

Olde Ellison Bay Days takes play June 28 – 29, parking and admission are free. The parade begins at 11 am on June 29. For more information call 920.421.1753.