On Fridays in August, people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds gather in Madison to enjoy one universal pleasure: music.
The Dane Dances series has brought people to the Monona Terrace Rooftop for 18 seasons now, according to its president, Al Cooper.
Al spoke to the Waunakee Rotary Club about what has become a tradition for Dane County since it was founded by Peter Anderson, a former New Yorker.
“Peter had the concept and fortitude to create an organization not owned by Peter himself,” Al said.
It is 100 percent volunteer, he added.
“What we do is put dances on the rooftop of Monona Terrace. It’s free and family friendly,” Al added.
The mission is as follows:
“To provide a joyous social experience through music, dance and other activities that helps to facilitate improved race relations in Dane County and the surrounding areas. As a result of this social interaction, an appreciation and respect is developed for our diverse communities.”
Race is a difficult issue to discuss, Al said. But he noted that after traveling around the world, he’s found out people have more in common than not.  
Dane Dances is not a political organization, he said, just a venue for building community.
“We try to provide an environment for people to come and socialize with one another. Through that interaction, they get a better appreciation for each other,” Al said.
Race relations, he added, is really about community relations. Through Dane Dances, the music serves as a bridge over any racial divide.
“In society, we talk about differences, but we really have more in common,” Al said.
Dane Dances provides a variety of music with bands like the Latin sounds of MadiSalsa, the big band music of Ladies Must Swing and disco beat of VO-5.
The organization reaches out to different members of the community, and recently invited police officers and veterans. For the Ladies Must Swing night, several assisted living facilities bussed their residents to Monona Terrace, which is wheelchair accessible.
During each of the August Friday evenings, two bands play, the first starting at 5:30 p.m., followed by a second act. Although the very first event drew a crowd of 400, in more recent years the event has often brought around 5,000 people to the Terrace for a night of music.
With its food vendors, activities for children and the variety of bands, Al called Dane Dances “one of the best events in Madison.”
“If you come one time, I won’t have to ask you back. You’ll find your way,” he said.
Other News:
•Ruth Bulyabi Nambow and Daniel Kasozi were visiting from a missionary in Kenya.
•Danny Paul gave a 4-minute talk. The Waunakee painting contractor was born in DePere and graduated from DePere High School. It was hard to verify other 3 1/2 minutes of his talk.
•Pat Durden is heading up the WNC Adopt a Family. Two dads are left who need items.
•The Rotary Exchange Student, Bianca has gone to stay with the Olsons. Bianca is taking orders for cakes to be picked up at the Dec. 22 meeting.
•Phil Willems said on Dec. 21, three Rotarians can help deliver Meals on Wheels purchased by Rotary from 10:30 a.m.-noon.
•The club thanked Ed for heading up the Thanksgiving meals.
•About 350 kids visited with Santa at the Depot and Peggy Acker Farber said she had the perfect number of cookies.
•Spots are open next week to greet at the Rotary Lights. On Saturday, Bill Erickson could use volunteers to bring firewood to the warming station there.
•President Travis Heiser said the board approved donations to the American Red Cross, Moving Out, St. John’s Auction and Books for the World.
Guests: Angie Levendoski, guest of Allison Feldbruegge; Hart Semrau, guest of George Ohlendorf; Ruth Bulyabi Nambowa and Daniel Kasozi, guests of Jim Kattner; Tim Dyer, guest of Ken Pesik; Kim Langenfeld and Forest Payne, guests of Phil Willems.
Visiting Rotarians: None.
Birthdays: None.
Anniversaries: None.
Greeters: Dec. 15, Neil Kruschek and Nancy Kuehn-Thomas; Dec. 22, Martin Lackey and Alan Langeteig; Drew Lawrence and Bob Lenz; Dec. 29, David May and Mark McFarland.