Celebrating the 10th Annual Lodi Reads Leopold
by Patti Herman–Lodi, Wisconsin
Aldo Leopold, in his Foreword to A Sand County Almanac, writes: “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.” On Saturday, March 7, 2009 people across the age spectrum who cannot live without wild things gathered to celebrate and discuss Aldo Leopold’s ideas at the 10th Annual Lodi Reads Leopold. The event was dedicated to Peg Hilliker, former Lodi Woman’s Club Library director who was a long-time committee member and supporter of the event.
Lodi Reads Leopold, organized by a team of the Friends of Scenic Lodi Valley, began in 2000 as a way to bring people together to read the words of Aldo Leopold. Leopold was a well-known conservationist who taught at UW-Madison and who did much to promote the idea of a land ethic. Leopold and his family bought and restored a piece of land in Sauk County, next to what is now the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center. Many of the essays in A Sand County Almanac are Leopold’s reflections on the natural world that he observed while spending time at “the shack.”
This year’s Lodi Reads Leopold was attended by more than 100 people from the Lodi Valley and beyond. The day included oral readings from A Sand County Almanac by adults as well as area youth. Brenda Autz, a teacher at the Lodi Elementary School, worked with her students to do readings as well as a “readers’ theater” presentation, complete with howling wolves. Some students who had read with Brenda in years past returned to read, including one high school senior who read with her younger brother. In addition, students from the Gibraltar School contributed to the day of reading.
A Community Forum provided an opportunity to apply the words of Leopold to the way we live our lives in the Lodi Valley. This year’s Forum topic was “Lodi Valley’s Environmental Assets: How can they impact our local economy?” A panel of local citizens presented their perspectives and thoughts related to the topic, after which the floor was open to questions and discussion with the audience. Many great ideas were generated, ideas which have the potential to influence future initiatives in this area.
A lunch gathering provided a chance for people at the Community Forum to continue conversations over hot soup and Leopold bread. Volunteers at the lunch included members of the Friends of Scenic Lodi Valley as well as Lodi High School students. Senator Mark Miller, replete in the red suspenders that he wears every year at this event in honor of his father, entertained us with a reading during lunch. A free will donation collected $201 for the Lodi Food Pantry.
Two special presentations were made at this year’s Lodi Reads Leopold. The planning committee commissioned a Leopold Bench in honor of Peg Hilliker, which was made by Lodi High School student Randy Humphrey working with teacher Laurent Soucie. The bench was presented to Peg’s husband, Jerry Hilliker, at the event; it will be installed outside the Lodi Woman’s Club Library in the spring.
The other presentation was a commemorative quilt titled “Seasons of Leopold.” Members of the Lodi Quilter’s Guild took the lead on this project and worked with Brenda Autz’s elementary students to design and create the beautiful, full-sized work of art. The quilt will be on display at venues around the community and the quilters will be entering it in this year’s Lodi Agricultural Fair.
The 10th Annual Lodi Reads Leopold was a resounding success due to the work of many people. The planning committee — Connie Ellis Ament, Ross Ament, Brenda Autz, Jody Crowley Beers, Treva Breuch, Bill Haupt, Patti Herman, Kristine Millard, Trish Priewe, Mike Smith, and Meagan Yost – spent many months preparing for the event. A number of community businesses provided monetary or in-kind support, as did the Aldo Leopold Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Columbia County Pheasants Forever, Masonic Lodge, and the Aldo Leopold Foundation. The Lodi Woman’s Club Library staff deserve special thanks for their work with the event.
Lodi is recognized as a leader for creating an event that has led to similar observances being held in over 25 communities in Wisconsin and three other states. We look forward to continuing to honor the legacy of Aldo Leopold and applying his ideas to life in the Lodi Valley.
Some photos of the annual “Lodi Reads Leopold” weekend: