The 14,000-year-old Hebior mammoth stands sentinel past the entrance to the Milwaukee Public Museum, serving as a massive reminder to all who enter that they are traveling back in time. Originally founded in 1882, the museum has spent more than a century collecting artifacts and fossils from around the world to portray the vast reaches of natural and human history throughout 150,000 square feet of exhibit space spread over three and a half floors.
Representing the recent past, The Streets of Old Milwaukee's turn-of-the-century gas-lit lanes and the European Village place visitors up close to replicas of more than 58 structures, including an old-fashioned barbershop and a fully furnished Scottish dwelling. Traveling further back to the Cretaceous period in the Third Planet exhibit, a life-size replica of a tyrannosaurus greets visitors with its tiny arms and impeccable manners. Visitors can also explore treasures from Africa, Asia, and the Arctic, or stroll through the butterfly wing to witness free-flying exotic and native species.
Adjacent to the museum, the Daniel M. Soref Planetarium and IMAX theater display astronomical wonders with a Digistar 3 computer-projection system. The Skies Over Milwaukee show lights up the ceiling with the current night sky for a tour of the planets and constellations. In the same theater, IMAX films transport audience members to the top of Everest or to the bottom of the ocean with a six-story screen, wraparound digital sound, and the distilled imaginations of 5-year-olds.
Inspired by the popular television show and designed by the creators of The Great Milwaukee Race, The Amazing Milwaukee Race on Bikes sends teams of two pedaling across the city to complete activities, solve puzzles, and pass checkpoints. Along 20- and 40-mile courses crisscrossed through streets, bike lanes, and trails, competitors blur past businesses and landmarks on a sequential scavenger hunt that tests physical endurance, mental foresight, and each team's ability to communicate via bicycle horn. Clues scattered throughout the route offer guidance, but can only be earned after participants unscramble words or unravel answers to challenges. When certain clues prove to be particularly troubling, race organizers encourage teams to use surrounding resources—local passersby, telephones, or the internet—to their advantage. Although the race prohibits certain forms of transit, including private cars and quantum jumping, teams can consistently keep moving on bike, foot, or public transportation.
Though its staffed by a crew of student volunteers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Sailing Club at UWM has spent decades helping both the student body and community enjoy all aspects of sailing. Every year, from the end of April through late October, the group navigates Lake Michigan's waters aboard a fleet of sailboats that all either meet or surpass Coast Guard safety regulations. There are cruise boats designed for mild meandering, as well as sturdy Ynglings and Solings equipped with heavy fixed keels reinforced to maintain stability in turbulent weather or emotional break-ups. In addition to simple trips on the lake, members of the club can learn hands-on techniques from experienced sailors and participate in activities such as races, bonfires, and weekend cookouts.
Visiting Airsoft Jungle Club is like being swallowed whole by an arcade game. Scenario-driven bouts start in the staging area, where teams or lone players gear up and plan strategies. At the referee's command, players move into the indoor field, which hosts CQBs, or close-quarters battles. Airsoft BBs zoom across different rooms, down hallways, through windows, and over open spaces.
The competition stays fast and intense, but thanks to a strict set of rules, it also remains safe. The refs check that every airsoft gun—whether rented or brought from home—fires at a safe speed. They also enforce a "Bang Rule," which calls for players within a certain distance to simply say "Bang!" instead of firing the BBs. This concern for Airsoft Jungle Club's players also extends to the community at large. Once a year, the club donates its surplus funds to charity.
Not all runners are morning people, eagerly warming up before the latest crack-of-dawn race event. Luckily, the night owls have their own outlet: The Glo Run. The fluorescent 5K unleashes its participants into the dwindling light of the evening armed with glow sticks, glow-in-the dark bracelets, and light-up sunglasses. This illuminating paraphernalia helps them navigate the shadowy corners of the course, which features thumping music, lighting effects, and squirrels equipped with laser-beam eyes. At the finish line, runners and walkers can relish another staple of nighttime parties, dancing the evening away to rollicking tunes spun by a live DJ.
The perception of pole dancing is changing. When Maureen Metzger and her business partner DJ Hamilton started Blush Pole Fitness & Dance six years ago, Maureen says, "people thought [the instructors] were strippers." Since then, she's seen attitudes adjust as pole dancing went from taboo to a possible Olympic sport. Maureen equates pole dancing with aerial arts, on par with performances seen in shows such as Cirque du Soleil. She leads a series of classes and workshops that focus on upper-body and core strength or hone in sensual spins and dances. "You can be sexy and sensual," Maureen says, "and it doesn’t have to be tasteless . . . I watch Dancing with the Stars, and I think that is way more sexual than anything we do."
Occasionally, she still has to spend some time fighting inaccurate stereotypes, including an episode in early 2012 that involved inviting Jim Stingl of the Journal Sentinel to studio for a fact-finding mission. But mostly, Maureen and DJ concern themselves with empowering women to be "strong physically and emotionally." There comes a time, she says, when "you stop feeling sexy, you age, you gain weight, you get so busy with other parts of your life. . . I think we lose [that] and [pole dancing] reminds us to be women." She credits pole dancing as a vital ally in boosting her self-esteem during a double mastectomy in her battle against breast cancer.
And though Maureen is the first to tout the power of pole dancing, she is also one of the first to undercut some of its weightier connotations, much like a doctor who uses a stethoscope that squeaks. "[We're] totally willing to laugh at ourselves," she says. "Nobody is taking this too seriously." The lighter mood, in particular, helps welcome shy students, who Maureen and DJ witness transform into "strong, confident, sexy, and feminine [women]."
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