Watertown Daily Times Cover Story: Chivaree on Park
Chivaree on Park: Firemen's Hall is now a venue for weddings
Watertown Daily Times
By Steve Sharp
IXONIA — Historic buildings need special care. In the best scenarios, the stewards are people with personal connections to the structures and that is the case with the former Ixonia Firemen’s Hall, now Chivaree On Park, an all-purpose hall in Ixonia specializing in weddings.
“Chivaree on Park, at N8345 Park St. in Ixonia, is a building rich with vibrant history,” the facility’s website states. “Built in 1949, the venue (formerly the Ixonia Firemen’s Hall), has played host to generations of weddings, New Year’s Eve celebrations, dances, plays and community gatherings.”
As the Daily Times witnessed on a visit Wednesday, Chivaree on Park has been reinvented as a stunningly beautiful, modern event space with industrial glam design. All this was accomplished while preserving nostalgic touches of the building’s past, such as re-purposing the original plush velvet curtains, windows and 68-year old maple dance floor.
The name “Chivaree on Park” was chosen by its founder, Kristy Kimball, to pay homage to venue’s roots of celebration. Frequently held in the late 1940s and early 1950s, chivarees were noisy, mock serenades -- made by banging pans and kettles -- to newly wedded couples. The spirit of that era carries on, as chivarees will remain a tradition at Chivaree on Park weddings.
A Lake Country native, Kimball is the founder, as well as creative director of Chivaree on Park. Over the years, Kimball said, she has used her passion and eye for floral and bridal design to help create one-of-a kind weddings throughout Southeastern Wisconsin.
In 2008, Kimball opened Betrothed Boutique and Modern Bloom in downtown Oconomowoc, providing wedding floral, accessories, bridal gowns, along with tuxedo and linen rentals.
Throughout the past decade, Kimball’s floral and bridal designs have been featured in publications including Milwaukee’s Life Style Magazine, Premier Bride of Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin, and at events such as the Milwaukee Art Museum’s annual Art in Bloom, Wonderful World of Weddings and more. In 2017, her floral shop, Modern Bloom, was also honored as nominee for Milwaukee A-List’s best wedding flowers.
In the fall of 2017, Kimball took lease of the former Ixonia Fireman Department Hall. After a complete renovation, the newly named “Chivaree on Park” has debuted with a 2018 summer of events. Kimball proudly displayed the facility this week and discussed her aspirations for this old hall that holds such a special place in her heart. “I took lease of the building last September and we began renovating in January -- first the upper level and now the lower level,” she said. “The building is in the process of being restored and modernized at the same time. For example, the original maple dance floor was refinished to ensure that, for years more, happy dancers can waltz across it.”
The windows are being replaced and returned to their original seven by seven-inch sizes. “It has been an expensive and laborious process bringing the place up to modern standards of elegance and entertainment,” Kimball said. “I believe in order to present Chivaree as a desirable, quality product to the community, money and time need to be spent on her.”
Chivaree is open for tours by appointment. It has already hosted several events including weddings, anniversary parties and Quinceaneras. “When the building became available, I was immediately interested,” Kimball said. “I have a soft spot for buildings with history and character. I actually learned how to polka on that dance floor with my grandma. So not only was it a building with a good community history, it also held many fond memories of Sunday afternoons with my grandma.”
Kimball has been involved in making weddings successful events for more than 25 years. “As early as I can remember, I was helping my grandma, Mildred Buske, deliver wedding cakes -- sometimes to the hall in Ixonia,” Kimball said. “In my younger years, I began as a floral designer doing, you guessed it, lots of weddings. For almost the last 10 years, I also owned and ran Betrothed a ‘special day boutique,’ and Modern Bloom in Oconomowoc. Betrothed was a full-service bridal salon. Modern bloom, which continues to operate, provides floral for different events, especially weddings.
“So weddings are in my blood,” Kimball said. Kimball called Chivaree “more than a place to hold a wedding.”
“We are available to rent for all types of events,” she said, noting the facility is always available for fundraisers, corporate events, birthdays, anniversaries and events of that nature. “Currently we are looking into restoring those Sunday afternoon polka dances and we also have interest in other events down the road,” she said. Perhaps a swing dance night could be in the offing, or a Breakfast with Santa for the children in the area. She said she is entertaining the idea of hosting a blues music festival and has many more ideas. “The building was designed to entertain and that’s what it will be used for,” Kimball said. An open house is scheduled Oct. 13 from noon until midnight. There will be free music all daylong, starting with the Good Time Dutchman, with music to dance to in the middle, wrapping up with the band Crossfire. Caterer Shane Valenti will have free appetizer samples, as well as lunch and dinner options for purchase. Door prizes will be offered, including the grand prize of a party package at the hall. Chivaree’s bartenders will be serving an assortment of beverages at the cash bar with specials all daylong. “In addition to all of that fun, we are hoping people who have held special parties at the former hall will bring in photos of themselves from past days of the building for us to borrow so we can enlarge and hang them on the walls of the hall,” Kimball said. “The hall might be under new management and direction, but it is important to recognize its history. I’m really hoping to get some great older photos to grace the walls of Chivaree.”
Kimball called her taking charge of the hall the start of not only a new chapter in her life, but also a new chapter in the life of the Ixonia community. “I’m very excited and proud to be able to bring this to fruition,” she said.