The University of Wisconsin-Madison community got a sneak peak into the wonders of the Memorial Union Terrace season last week, when the sunburst chairs returned the same week Madison was bathed in high-temperatures and sunshine.
“We saw the Terrace be very full during our first week of terrace season. We were lucky enough to have beautiful weather that first week,” Shauna Breneman, Wisconsin Union communications director, said. “We were so grateful to all the patrons who returned it to our space.”
With over 800,000 visitors per summer, the Terrace houses over 2,000 of the iconic sunburst chairs this year. The chairs have been through multiple renditions throughout the years, but the current design appeared around the 1960s.
“According to our staff's memories and the history of which we're aware, that's the most chairs the Terrace has ever had,” Breneman said.
With the warm weather comes summer concerts on the Terrace, hosting a variety of live music every Wednesday through Sunday during the summer season.
Some bands have been playing the Terrace for decades, while others are just stopping in town for the night.
“A lot of [the bands] are what we call ‘legacy bands,’ bands that have always played the terrace or have been playing it for 10 plus years,” Wisconsin Union Music Director Jesse Frolik said. “We have them on a big long list somewhere in a dusty cabinet that we just pull out every season and book them for shows because they're awesome and bring a lot of people out to the Terrace.”
A Madison favorite is returning to the Terrace this summer for the first time since 2019: Natty Nation, Madison's premier reggae band. Pat McCurdy, UW alum who had a one-man band as a student and never stopped, has been playing the Terrace for over 30 years.
“Other people or bands just reach out to us throughout the year and they express interest in playing on the Terrace or playing in that kind of venue,” Frolik said.
Sean Micheal Dargan, Wisconsin Union program advisor, noted he was grateful the program was able to book indie rock band Deer Hoof on their tour between Chicago and Minneapolis. Scary Vore, a band hailing from Scotland, will be returning for their second year in Madison.
After finding incredible success last year, there will be three “Lakefront Live” nights on Lake Mendota this summer, Dargan said. On the first Thursday of each month of summer, bands will play facing the lake rather than the Terrace.
Hoofers will be hosting free water equipment to rent so patrons can enjoy the show in the water. Kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and even floaties will be available.
There are also movies at the Terrace every Sunday night. However, the schedule is yet to be set.
“That's always a really fun blend of different genres, whether you're interested in something animated or an action movie,” Madeleine Carr, Wisconsin Union communications coordinator, said.
New food is also coming to Memorial Union. A shareable pretzel with various sides will now be available at Lakeview Lounge. The outdoor barbeque stand will unveil barbeque nachos for the first time, too.
“Over at the Daily Scoop, returning for the first time since 2019, is ‘The Freshman 15,’” Breneman said. “It’s 15 scoops of ice cream with five toppings of folks’ choice with whipped cream and a cherry.”
Students can get involved with event planning by applying to various Wisconsin Union Directorate positions. There are 11 committees and six outdoor clubs involved with planning the Terrace season that students can get involved with.
“Students plan the majority of our more than 1,000 events throughout the year, including Terrace season events,” Breneman said.
Whether community members come for the music, beer, weather, arts or food, days and nights spent at the Terrace have been enjoyed since 1929. The Terrace has almost a century of history contributing to Madison history, including its vibrant art and music scene.
“We're grateful to have had so many years to celebrate how wonderful Madison is and to celebrate with our patrons and with visitors from all over the world,” Breneman said.