Under a sunny summer sky people gathered in a park in the middle of Platteville to remember a storm that did its best to tear the town apart.
Thirty-eight days after an EF2 cut a four-mile path through town, the Party in the Park was an opportunity to celebrate the efforts of volunteers who worked to clean up the damage.
“People that didn’t know each other worked together, got to know each other, and I think there were a lot of bonds that were forged,” said Kathy Kopp, executive director of the Platteville Regional Chamber & Travel Wisconsin Welcome Center.
The Party in the Park is an annual event sponsored by the Platteville Regional Chamber and honors volunteers in the community. This year it allowed the community to focus on the volunteer efforts after the tornado hit.
“The events of June 16th really proved to everybody that without a doubt the people in this community have each other’s backs,” Kopp said.
The tornado did more than $10 million in damage to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus and destroyed homes and businesses in the community. Almost immediately neighbors started volunteering to help neighbors.
“When you add them together, we’re upwards of 1,000 people that showed up and people tackled big things. We had people that weren’t able to physically do a lot and they said, 'Tell me what I can do,'” Kopp said.
The Party in Park included complimentary hot dogs, ice cream and popcorn. There was also music and face painting for children.
While the event gave the community a chance to come together and celebrate the volunteer efforts, more will be needed. It will take several more months to rebuild and repair all the damage done by the tornado.
“The community comes together, and it is continuing to come together as long as it takes to get everybody back in their homes where they belong,” said Ryan Simmons, fire chief of the Platteville Fire Department.