It was the first time Meadowood Park had seen something like this before. People were dressed up in cow costumes, brats were on the grill, and a makeshift stage showcased local live music.
For some, the first "Our Meadowood" Festival was about more than free food and fun. For Meadowood Neighborhood Association board member Lisa Veldran, the community gathering was another step toward improving the area.
"It's when people aren't talking to each other, when people are pointing fingers, not willing to discuss the issues, that I think we run into this issue of crime and drugs and whatever negative things that come into the neighborhood," Veldran explained. "So keeping it positive is what we strive to do here in Meadowood. And it's sometimes a long haul, but I think there are definitely a good number of people here in Meadowood who are willing to stay positive and talk to their neighbors."
Veldran said the recent "Meet and Eats" in Meadowood were just the start. There are plans and money in place to host movie nights at the park, as well as provide a library.
Veldran said the city is also going to spend almost $1 million to expand the neighborhood center and add a community kitchen to the Meadowood Shopping Center. That will use up the vacant space at the former Ace Hardware. The owners of that store left the center, citing crime as the reason for a drop in business.
"We're looking at this possibly creating an economic generator over there where smaller businesses want to locate because of the foot traffic," Veldran said.
Veldran said any of the issues her neighborhood is dealing with are not specific to her streets.
"When you start targeting one specific neighborhood and saying that's a bad neighborhood, we actually start saying to everybody that everybody who lives there is bad," Veldran said, "and that couldn't be further from the truth. There are way way more good people in all of these neighborhoods on the south side."
Sheray Wallace has lived in Meadowood for ten years. She said community collaboration is key to the neighborhood’s success.
"This neighborhood has issues like all other neighborhoods, but we have positive people in our neighborhood and it's to outweigh all of those issues," Wallace said. "This is our neighborhood, and with the help of the city, we're going to grab our neighborhood back."
Madison Police said while issues are consistent in and around the Meadowood neighborhood, officers are getting fewer calls for large-scale fights and disturbances. There is increased patrol on those streets during the summer.