Racine, Wisconsin 4th Fest Parade 2006It seems strange now, but growing up in the city immediately south of here, I never got very familiar with Racine. In fact, I spent four years attending middle school in Racine, but never saw much of the city beyond The Prairie School campus out on Wind Point and the bus route back and forth from Kenosha. As newbie Racinians, we’re trying to absorb as much as we can.

We were fascinated to find out, for example, that Racine is extraordinarily engrossed in its high school prom. We rented The World’s Best Prom, a documentary about the tradition, from Netflix.

 Banda Tyanera Oaxaca in Racine, Wisconsin's 4th Fest Parade 2006Another huge Racine event is the Fourth Fest Parade, which marches south down Main Street from the zoo, through downtown, and then west to S. C. Johnson & Son. We attended for the first time on Tuesday, and it was really something to see. Billed as possibly the biggest Independence Day parade in the Midwest, it is much more impressive than the Civic Veterans Parade in Kenosha. We walked the length of the two and a half mile route in both directions, and there were crowds lining both sides the entire way. We noticed a number of people keeping track of the lineup as it passed. Sure, there were some gaps, and some of the entries were better than others, but it was truly moving to see so many citizens turned out to watch a celebration of their nationhood marching with flags and drums down Main Street past the General Store.

One thing the parade does need is more bands. The Racine Lighthouse Brigade passed about midway through, and then we followed the Kilties down the parade route back. They seemed to be the highlight for most of the crowd. Here’s a short video I took of the Kilties on Main Street:

Racine also has one of only two beaches in the Midwest designated as Blue Wave Beaches by the Clean Beaches Council. The story of North Beach is a heartening one. I lived for 16 years near Simmons Island beach in Kenosha, where I saw the beachhouse closed, the lifeguards discontinued, the crowds diminished, and the sand overtaking the roadway.

I’ve already written about Houmann’s Fish & Seafood, a type of store lacking in Kenosha. Another thing Kenosha does not have is an honest-to-goodness butcher shop. Racine’s is called Brossman’s Meat Market. It’s on the far North Side at 6900 WI-31, and we’ve been enjoying it since February. It’s a clean, busy, take-a-number kind of shop with outstanding meat and a staff of very helpful people behind the counter.

Barbecue pork shoulder on Weber grillWe bought a small Weber kettle grill in the spring, and have been trying to learn how to barbeque. Real barbeque requires real pork, but most of the pork in supermarkets these days is “enhanced.” We found pork that wasn’t enhanced at Brossman’s — plus beautiful ribeye steaks, andouille sausage, and much more.

As someone who makes a living following the news and surfing the Internet, I have been pleasantly surprised by Racine’s newspaper, the Journal Times. The local coverage is considerably better than that of the Kenosha News, and the Journal Times also makes extensive use of its Web site. Instead of restricting its content to paid subscribers, many of its stories are not only available for online reading, but posted Weblog-style, which allows readers to comment. The vigorous interaction, while it does include some of the sniping typical of the ‘Net, mainly brings a much greater sense of community to the daily news. I imagine it must also give the Journal Times staff a lot of feedback, tips, and story ideas.

We have long known that Racine is the headquarters of InSinkErator, and we’ll be replacing our aging Sears Kenmore disposer with one as soon as possible (nothing against Sears, whose washer and dryer and range and Craftsman lawn mower we love). Recently, though, my apple-addicted wife learned that our city is also the cradle of the Ludwig Apple & Pear Slicer-Corer. What clever and worthwhile folk must live here to give birth to a gadget like that!

With each little thing, Racine feels more like home.