MADISON, Wis. - The city is getting a jump on summer with the return of two events that are not only crowd-pleasing, but crime-deterring.
Madison Meet and Eat and New Belgium Brewing's Clips Beer and Film Tour kicked off Thursday. For several years in a row, they've been part of a citywide plan to fix a problem park and neighborhood known for shootings and illicit sex.
Two years ago, police put-up barriers to block vehicles and thinned out trees at Olin Park to deter crime. The beer-tasting and movie-screening event helps, too.
For four years, its proceeds have benefited local nonprofits working to improve places like the park that historically, has been plagued with problems like cruising and stranger sex.
"The park is obviously a beautiful setting and it's nice that it's in a controlled manner that hopefully you'll avoid trouble and they're checking things to make sure people don't get out of hand, so it's a nice event," said Madison resident Chris Janus.
On the west side, it wasn't cold drinks, but hot eats that helped draw the community together.
The season's first Meet and Eat got off to a start outside the Meadowood Shopping Complex. The popular feeding frenzy focuses on local food and a fun night out, rather than the crime that can pop up in the neighborhood.
"We do have some struggles, but we're working on them and we hope to see some results," said the area's Alderman Matt Phair.
Since debuting last summer, Meet and Eat is expanding to the city's south and north sides. Residents say it's a welcomed change from shootings and assaults.
"And we hope as time goes on, we expand this to have music, a farmer's market and groups setting up tables and telling folks what they're doing in the neighborhood," explained Phair.
Meet and Eat is in Meadowood every Thursday from 5-7:30 p.m. through August. Starting in July, the event will also be at the Villager Mall and St. Paul Lutheran Church on Tuesdays.
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