You're Invited: Brown Co 200th Birthday Celebration

Andrew Kruse-Ross

andrew kruse-ross | the neville now | oct. 2018

The year 1818 gave us the birth of Frederick Douglass and the death of Paul Revere. It's the year Frankenstein's monster is unveiled on the London public anonymously and a U.S. flag featuring a mere 20 stars is flown over the U.S. Capitol. Americans in New York City get their first look at a new invention – the bicycle. A steamship crosses the Atlantic for the first time as the first whaling ships arrive in Hawaii. It's also the year that Brown County is recognized as a U.S. county – 30 years before Wisconsin achieved statehood.

On Friday, October 26, 2018, exactly 200 years to the day that Brown County was first created via an act of Congress, the Neville Public Museum will host a birthday celebration for Brown County like no other and the best part is, you're invited.

This daylong, family-friendly party presents a day's worth of activities that celebrate the history of Brown County in a way that's both fun and entertaining.

Activities include dance and musical performances by Navah Mirage, the Oneida Smoke Dancers, Kaleidoscope Dance Studio, Nia Africa and Tonantzin Dance Company; a birthday cake decorating competition; historic entertainment by Frank Hermans as Brown County namesake, Major General Jacob Brown; a petting zoo courtesy of the Denmark Future Farmers of America; wine samples by Captain's Walk, food trucks, a fireworks show and much more.

Preparations for this celebration began nearly three years ago and while the Neville will serve as the host location for the festivities, Neville Executive Director Beth Lemke says the preparations are a countywide effort, with much of the planning falling to a community committee.

“This really is Brown County throwing itself a party," says Lemke. “We asked this community committee, 'If we had a birthday party, what do you see a birthday party being?' And it was like, 'Can we have cupcakes?'"

Yes we can. The Preble High School Culinary Institute is handling those baking duties while area bakeries are teaming up to create the ultimate birthday cake. Both cupcakes and cake samples are free while supplies last.

Area breweries will be busy, too. A special bicentennial ale will be unveiled jointly by Copper State and Titletown breweries. A ceremonial pin tapping will take place at 5:30 p.m. for those old enough to partake, but the day is really one fit for the entire family.

“It's meant to be a fun, family-driven day," says Lemke.

Further attractions include the NEW Zoo's zoomobile, the Brown County activity trailer, the library bookmobile and a specialized fire truck from Austin Straubel. While the entire museum parking lot will host the birthday party proper, the Neville has a gift in store for all of Brown County: free museum admission from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Because we're part of Brown County, we figured it would be a great idea to give back the museum for the entire day to the community," says Lemke.

It's the perfect opportunity to take in the Neville's three temporary exhibits: Delay of Game: Experiences of African American Football Players in Titletown, BEES!and Our Brown County.

The latter, Our Brown County, is a companion piece to the 200th birthday celebration and presents 200 Brown County stories represented by 50 people, 50 places, 50 artifacts and 50 photographs. From Fort Howard's “Great Star" flag to Brown County's contribution to the original “Star Wars," this exhibit will have even the most ardent local historians taking notes while engaging even the youngest history buffs.

The unique opportunity to be at the front lines of a celebration of this magnitude, and the responsibilities therein, aren't lost on Lemke.

“It's been a huge responsibility to be able to look at how do we look at our past while we look at going forward.

“One of the pieces that I hold onto is the reason why we chose to work, live and play here in Brown County and the exhibit does a really good job of highlighting that. It's not a textbook; it wasn't meant to be a textbook, it was really just meant to say: That's why we're here."

All of Brown County is invited to play at the Neville Museum on Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This event and its activities are free to attend, as is admission to the museum. Fees apply for food trucks and BicentenniALE. More info at

Parking for this event is available along Museum Place, at Leicht Park or in the On Broadway District.

The 200th birthday celebration will continue on Nov. 1, 2018, with the Old Glory Honor Flight, Mission 49 Flight of Champions departing from and returning to Austin Straubel Airport. Visit for more details.

More from Category

Stay up-to-date

Sign up for a monthly digest of everything new in GB.