ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Homecoming Day


Repasts, Receptions and Reminiscences


Begun in 1902


Homecoming idea originated in the middle west in Watertown   Watertown Gazette, 06 24 1910




In 1902 Watertown initiated a series of annual Homecoming Days.  These days of reunion and celebration, held in early August or September, were anticipated each summer.


The author of this online eBook likes to think that the success of the Homecoming event was a prelude to that of Watertown’s current Riverfest event, also highly anticipated, extremely successful, and held in early August.



THE FIRST ANNUAL HOME-COMING CELEBRATION in Watertown on last Sunday was a grand success.  It was under the auspices of the Milwaukee-Watertown club, assisted by a local committee.  All day Saturday and on the Sunday morning trains large crowds of people arrived in the city from all direction.  Marshal H. Wertheimer, the local arrangement committee, a delegation of the reception committee and the Sinnissippi band met the 8:50 train from the south on the C. & N. W. Ry., which brought in about 100 visitors from Janesville and intermediate places and escorted them uptown.  Arriving in Main Street the procession was joined by the balance of the reception committee and the German old soldiers and marched to the St. Paul Depot and met the 800 excursionists from that city, which included a number from Chicago, Fond du Lac and other places, the Milwaukee-Watertown club bringing them with Bach’s band . . . From sunrise to midnight the city, which had been clothed in gala attire, was given over to celebrating the return for one day of those who claim Watertown as birthplace, but whose lots have been cast in other places.  Among the reunion were: Conductor O. L. Forkenbridge, of this city, who had charge of the excursion train from Milwaukee, and Erny Cheney, of Milwaukee, an old Watertown boy, officiated at the throttle in the engine cab.  He made the run to and from this city in a manner to please the man who says modem fast time on railways is not fast enough to suit him.  Erny spun along as though he was making a trip to the moon.


1904       Chapter on 1904 Homecoming



   Watertown Daily Times 07 27 1905


The third annual home coming and excursion of the Watertown club of Milwaukee to Watertown will be held on Sunday, Aug. 6. The train will leave over the Milwaukee road at eight o'clock and arrive at Watertown at 9:20, where the excursionists will be met by a large reception committee of the citizens of Watertown.


Ward's military band will play concert music at Tivoli Island at Watertown in the afternoon . . .  It was decided to invite Mayor Dunne of Chicago, Mayor Rose of Milwaukee, and Governor La Follette to deliver addresses to the people at the picnic grounds in the afternoon. There will be a parade of all civic societies of Watertown in the afternoon.


Watertown Gazette article of 08 11 1905



08 12       Sunday, August 6, was certainly a gala day in this city it being the observance of the Third Home Coming Day which has become quite a social feature in the experience of the inhabitants of Watertown, and great credit is due the mayor and members of the home club, in making it the grand success it was under the circumstances - and there would have been a much larger attendance had the railroads made special rates for the occasion, which they were precluded from doing on account of the existing laws in the state.  As it was, there were at least 700 former residents of Watertown who came to meet relatives and friends and visit the scenes of other days.  The delegation from Milwaukee numbered about 500 . . .



07 27       Mayor Mulberger and Ex-Mayor Wertheimer were in Milwaukee yesterday in the interests of the homecoming celebration August 5.  While there they had a conference with Ernst E. Kehr the president of the association who informed them that the members will be notified so that there might be a large delegation here on that occasion.  There will be a joint meeting of all the committee appointed at a previous meeting to make arrangements for home-coming at the office of Ex-Mayor Wertheimer Thursday evening at 8 o'clock to perfect the arrangements for the event.  WL



07 19       (At last Monday's Council meeting) Alderman Ryan presented an ordinance amending an ordinance governing hack and bus men.  It was adopted and now provides that any person can operate buses to picnics, fairs, etc. without obtaining a license and not interfering with the provisions for buses running to trains.  The ordinance was amended so hastily in order that visitors here for the homecoming might have necessary accommodations to the picnic grounds and a certain few not have a monopoly in the conveyance of the visitors to the picnic grounds.


1907       Chapter on 1907 Homecoming


1908       Chapter on 1908 Homecoming


1909       The grandest of the Homecoming fetes was that of July 31 and August 1, 1909.  Bands went to the stations to meet the trains and welcome former residents. Another floral parade in which carriages and surreys still predominated, and a program, in which Mayor Arthur Mulberger and Judge George Grimm were featured speakers, was followed by amusements of many kinds - band concerts, repasts, receptions and reminiscences. [ Watertown Remembered ]

Click to enlarge


     1909                     assumed      


Chapter on 1909 Homecoming


09 03       Herman Wertheimer recognition   WG



Chapter on 1910 Homecoming, eighth annual







Chapter on 1911 Homecoming, ninth annual







       Homecomers, 1913




           1912 image altered




An expanded River Days, tailored after last year’s highly successful sesquicentennial celebration, is being planned this summer.  The celebration, to be known as “Watertown’s RiverFest,” will be held Aug. 4-7 at Riverside Park.  Planning the event has been under way for about one month and a number of contracts for national musical entertainment, carnival and other related activities have been discussed with entertainment agents.  Officials are hopeful that some of the top acts will be under contract in the coming weeks.  Names of the groups and their concert dates and times will be announced when details are finalized.  This year’s festival was made possible through the Watertown Common Council’s strong support.  The council earlier this year agreed to contribute $10,000 in financial support and also authorized the use of the $33,000 remaining from last year’s celebration.  The committee is planning a large raffle which should generate additional revenues which will be needed to make the festival financially sound on a more long-term basis.   WDT




So you want THE recipe for a good party?  It starts with the people.  Then you give those fine people some fine food, some fine drink and some fine entertainment in a beautiful setting, and let the whole works simmer for four days.  In only four years, Watertown RiverFest has become an institution — something the entire community can hang its collective hat upon.  Crowds over the total festival were roughly estimated at 40,000.  This year’s celebration was even attended briefly by Gov. Tommy Thompson, who made a whistle stop at Riverside Park on his way to the Wisconsin State Fair.




Military Band, invitation, Homecoming Day (year uncertain)    No 2     No 3  (2 and 3 are enlargements)

Tivoli Island, site of Homecoming celebrations





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History of Watertown, Wisconsin