Boombox the Wasteland is coming back.
The upstart celebration of community is happening from 2-8 p.m. Saturday at Union Corners, a vacant plot of land at the corner of East Washington Avenue and Milwaukee Street.
The event, by and about volunteers, will have a do-it-yourself vibe. People will pitch in to assemble 50 benches to be donated to local nonprofit organizations, and offer any number of pop-up activities — like roller skating, parades, grilling and arts and crafts — says organizer Wendy Schneider.
One of the tiny homes being constructed by Occupy Madison to house homeless people is scheduled to be on hand, a fitting display for a site where the homeless have camped in their vehicles since a redevelopment plan forged a decade ago foundered.
People are encouraged to bring battery-operated boomboxes with them Saturday and synchronize their dials to 89.9 FM WORT, which will broadcast live from the site.
“It’s very DIY driven,” Schneider said. “It’s about harnessing our proactive power to do…anything.”
A Boombox the Wasteland event at the site in 2011 drew a couple hundred people for a mellow party with dance performances and mural painting. Schneider said that the sense of ownership such organic events instill is empowering. “If they don’t bring themselves to the event, it doesn’t happen.”
This year, as before, the event will be: “No Vendors. No Tabling. No Money. No Frills,” as Schneider describes it on the Boombox the Wasteland Facebook page.
That doesn’t mean that a number of donors weren’t needed to get the event off the ground. Schneider lists a couple dozen businesses and organizations that have pitched in, including H&H Solar, which is providing solar power to WORT to broadcast from the electricity-free site.
Not listed is a major anonymous business donor that supplied materials for many of the simple benches, which will be assembled from a popular design by famed Wisconsin environmentalist Aldo Leopold. Twenty other businesses are sponsoring benches.
It was a campaign to build benches for placement in the community, which won some early support from the Madison Community Foundation, that led to the this second Boombox event, said Schneider.
The city’s liability and regulatory concerns mean that the benches will be placed on private rather than public property. “But the project has got people talking about the importance of benches,” she said. Schneider would like to see a continuing conversation to identify places in neighborhoods — say, midway between a grocery store and a housing development — where people need a bench if they are going to live in a truly pedestrian-friendly city.
With plans moving along for redevelopment of Union Corners with a clinic, grocery, public library and housing, it likely soon will be a wasteland no more.
“Where will the next wasteland be? I don’t know,” Schneider mused. “The energy of the people comes together in an unused space to make a place that is very temporary.”