People of all ages enjoy the annual Summer Frolic Midway. Starting this year, hundreds of local families in need will get free tickets for the rides. The festival will take place June 8-11. Photo by Jason McMahon.
Everyone deserves to Frolic
Donation means NHN will give away hundreds of midway tickets
By some estimates, 30 percent of the greater Mount Horeb community is struggling financially. So, while many families look forward to the Summer Frolic’s delightful midway with anticipation, awaiting the sweet smells of fried food, the squeals of delight as rides take off into the early summer sky at Grundahl Park, the ringing and buzzing and laughing fun of one of the community’s most treasured traditions, other families worry it’s a luxury they simply cannot afford. With inflation at its highest point in nearly 40 years, with the prices of land and rent and food and nearly everything else skyrocketing, many parents will have to choose between buying tickets so their kids can ride the carousel, and buying gas to get to work or basic food for the table.
At least, that would have been the case if not for a group of people that came together to make sure the Frolic can be enjoyed by as many people in the community as possible, even those who have fallen on hard times.
The Werndli Charitable Fund, a trust established by a pair of local farmers, has donated $2,300 to cover the cost of Frolic midway tickets for lower-income families. Pamela Lunder, a local attorney who helps run the fund, worked hand-in-hand with Frolic president Amy Mertz and Janna Hansen, of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, the community’s food pantry and clothing closet, to bring the plan to fruition. It means an estimated 200 families will have the opportunity take part in one of the best events around.
“We plan to give tickets to families who utilize our services, along with reaching out to the Mount Horeb Area School District social workers, Joining Forces for Families and Building Bridges case workers also, to ensure the families they work with receive tickets also,” explained Hansen.
“Every family should have the chance to experience the Summer Frolic without worrying or stressing about the costs,” said Mertz. “We’re so grateful to the Werndli Charitable Fund for offering this grant that will help all children create memories with their friends and families at our community’s signature summer kickoff.”
The fund is rooted in the lives of two bachelor farmers, Roger and Ralph Werndli. Roger died in 2016 at the age of 73, leaving behind his brother and a legacy of giving that has since benefited everything from Habitat to Humanity and Second Harvest Food Bank to the Mount Horeb Community Foundation and the Dane County Humane Society. In fact, the Werndli Charitable Fund was recently honored as the 2023 Dane County Humane Society Philanthropist of the Year.
But none of the giving has felt quite as good as this.
“When I found out we were doing this, I literally did a happy dance,” Lunder says. “We have given away tens of thousands of dollars, all to good causes, but this one made me the happiest.”
It started simply enough, with Lunder thinking about the fact that everyone deserves to Frolic from time to time.
“We always loved the Frolic. When our son was young, I remember taking him down there. It’s this wonderful community thing, and I kind of had this idea for a few years, but I could never really figure out the distribution side of it; I don’t know the needs.” Lunder explained. “Then, I found out Neighbors Helping Neighbors had been getting a few tickets for people who needed them, and I realized they could do distribution and get them to the people who need them.”
The rest, as they say, is history. The check was cut and the tickets will be available through Neighbors Helping Neighbors.
“In the past we did get some Frolic tickets in the past; not many, like 10 or something,” Hansen said. That number is about to skyrocket.
“With what we do when we apply for funding, we don’t often get to think about doing things just to give people the opportunity to relax and have fun, because we’re just so focused on basic needs when we try to get grants,” Hansen said. “When Pam approached us, I was almost like, ‘We can do that?!’”
“It’s nice that we can just give them away and know that families will be able to go and relax and have fun,” she added.
The idea behind the donation is simple: People, all people, deserve more than the most basic help. Everyone deserves to Frolic.
“Food, rent, basic needs are always the focus,” Lunder said. “So, where does the fun come in? Just because a family is struggling with money, does that mean they can’t go down to the Frolic and have some fun?”
“You’ve got to have fun,” she added. “Otherwise, it’s just a drudge every day.”
This year’s donation will provide five complimentary tickets to an estimated 200 families. And it made the people behind it very happy, too.
“Every person who has been involved with this has been just kind of giddy with excitement,” said Lunder.
For families who get the tickets, Lunder has one piece of advice: “Go down there and make some memories.”
This year’s Summer Frolic will take place June 8-11 at Grundahl Park.