Rendezvous canceled, flea market follows suit

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Editor’s note: This is the first story in a series about Prairie du Chien’s St. Feriole Island experiencing sustained flooding for more than two months, and how that has affected the community.

By Correne Martin

The annual flea market held in conjunction with the Rendezvous every Father’s Day weekend was formally canceled Tuesday, in the wake of Monday’s historic announcement to forego the Rendezvous for the first time in its 44 years due to sustained Mississippi River flooding. 

“We usually have over 100 vendors,” said Jaaren Riebe, a representative for the Prairie du Chien Fire Association, which took over the flea market organization last year. “We’ll be writing refund checks or we can save fees for next year, whatever they want.”

Together, both the Prairie Villa Rendezvous and the flea market offer one of Prairie du Chien’s largest events each summer. Leaders from both organizations and the city explored alternative options for weeks leading up to this decision. An event of this magnitude was simply too difficult to relocate off St. Feriole Island.

“With the cancelation comes loss of revenue to our business community. Such a long-standing event as the Rendezvous brings thousands of people to the area,” Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Moses said. “The best way we can rally around our business community is to remember to shop locally.”

In the coming weeks, as consumers make summer and outdoor purchases, they are encouraged to shop local before going out of town or online for items such as cooler clothes, replacements for old lawn tractors and garden supplies. Moses hopes shoppers looking for bargain prices on everything from bug spray to zip ties will start in their own community first.

“When you have a large event canceled, the rippling effect will continue on more than just one weekend,” he stated. “So even though we may not have the typical traffic on Father’s Day weekend, remember that our local businesses will need your support throughout the summer.”

City officials hosted another flood meeting Tuesday, as the Mississippi was on its way down from the Monday crest at 19.09 feet. 

Barricades on Blackhawk Avenue to St. Feriole Island were removed overnight Monday into Tuesday, according to City Administrator Chad Abram. If the river continues to recede significantly, as he said is happening up north near St. Paul, Minn., other street barricades will be removed.

“Unfortunately, it’s going to be awhile before the water goes below flood stage, which is 16 feet locally,” he said. “We’re all waiting. Docks need to be repaired. Fishermen want to be on the water. The Villa (Louis) wants to be open.”

The historic site opened for the tourist season May 11 after this spring’s first Mississippi crest faded. However, the Villa closed to the public again May 28 and remains closed at this time. According to a report at Tuesday’s flood meeting, staff hopes the site will reopen Friday, June 7. 

The first Concerts in the Park planned for Thursday, June 13—featuring 16 Strings & a Stick—is relocating from Lawler Park on the riverfront to Lochner Park off Wacouta Avenue. From there, concerts will return to the island unless the river is uncooperative again. 

The Music Fights Back rock festival fundraiser is slated for June 21-22 on St. Feriole Island. Abram was hopeful, as of Tuesday, that things would dry up and it would still happen on the island. He said organizer Jeremy Cuff has met regularly with the city as the site is monitored.

Once the island is in the clear, Abram said there will be a coordinated effort among street, utility, fire and parks and rec departments to clean things up. 

“The statue park fencing is damaged. Lawler Park fencing is damaged from the log jam (in early spring),” he noted, while Street Superintendent Dan Titlbach added that some fence on the northern part of the island is also in need of repairs now. 

A meeting is planned this week regarding the Fourth Street and Villa Louis Boat Landing project, which was intended to happen yet this summer. 

Though activities are moving and changing at Mother Nature’s mercilessness, there are still places to go, events to attend and fun to be had in Prairie du Chien. 

According to Abram, “We’re still open for business. There’s plenty to do.”

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