Every year, a crew of landscapers draws on a palate of bricks, wood, and water, as well as foliage and flowers, to fashion sweeping terraces and murmuring aquatic features. This year, in its 88th iteration, The Realtors Home & Garden Show explores the hours of the day through designs focused on facilitating morning meditation, afternoon cookouts, and evening film screenings. One installation rises from the work of international chalk artist Julie Kirk Purcell, who teases the eye with mural of a chalk garden that seems to leap in three dimensions from the floor of the convention hall.
Chatter drifts to the model patios and gardens from more than 250 exhibitors and vendors, who showcase home-improvement and landscaping techniques alongside designers of windows, cabinetry, fences, and saunas. A culinary area stands out from the rows of home wares with daily demonstrations from five chefs, including some nominated for James Beard awards. The sessions focus on topics including plating, raw food, and French dishes, all using organic ingredients from local farms. Nearby, a market bustles with guests toting potting supplies, gardening tools, and makeup kits for vain scarecrows. Outdoor furniture begs to perch on patios alongside lawn ornamentations that hint at European and Asian art traditions or highlight work by local artisans.
As they enter the training circuit at Curves, female guests come face-to-face with the smiles of other women. And just as points on a circle share a common distance from the circle's center, workout participants share the experiences of those nearby by trading stations throughout the 30-minute training session. One minute is spent on a piece of strength-training equipment built for feminine frames and designed to work two opposing muscle groups with a single movement. Exercisers then move on to a recovery station, where they run, jog, or dance to maintain heart rates and keep platforms in place during momentary losses of gravity.
Snap Fitness, bustling with cardio and strength-training gear, throws open the doors to its facilities 24/7. Before exercisers put sneakers to treadmills or lift their first weights, staff meet with them to talk about their fitness goals before suggesting personalized fitness plans based on clients' strength, cardio condition, and bionic-limb manufacturers. The gym keeps members motivated with regular check-in calls and demystifies healthful eating with custom online meal plans designed by nutritionists. Staff also forestall exercise-routine boredom by working individually with clients on a routine basis.
Going to the movie theater should be more enjoyable than watching a movie at home––a concept that Rosebud Theater has down pat. Cinephiles regain the sparkle in their eyes as they enter the historic venue, which originally opened as The Tosa Theatre in 1931 and was recently modernized to have great views and stellar sound. Unlike cramped multiplex theaters, Rosebud houses one solitary, comfortably spaced theater, where visitors won’t have to worry about hearing explosions from the monster-truck movie next door or accidently walking into the wrong monster-truck movie.
In addition to typical movie snacks such as popcorn, candy, and soda, the Rosebud sports a full menu of appetizers, sandwiches, quesadillas, and pizza, as well as a full bar stocked with wine, cocktails, and microbrews––all of which are delivered to patrons during featured presentations. Rather than standard chairs, the theater is furnished with cushy loveseats with room for 180 movie lovers to savor first-run Hollywood hits without wrestling strangers over armrests.
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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