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Local musicians do summer song & dance

Two New Richmond musicians have been touring Wisconsin this summer as part of an elite troupe of young performers.

Alex Chilsen and Peter Elkin, both recent graduates of New Richmond High School, are part of the Kids From Wisconsin traveling performance group, based in West Allis.

For the past two weeks, Kids From Wisconsin has been performing twice-a-day shows at the Wisconsin State Fair.

The music, song and dance showcase hits the road the rest of the summer. They plan performances in Somerset (7 p.m. Aug. 23) at Float-Rite Amphitheater and Eau Claire (Aug. 24) at the State Theater.

Kids From Wisconsin was first developed in 1969, after Gov. Warren Knowles suggested the state do something to show off the positive face of youth.

Since that time, more than 700 young artists have been part of the Kids From Wisconsin summer troupes. The group performs 65 to 70 shows in June, July and August and they are exceedingly popular and well known in the southern half of the state.

New Richmond music teacher Matt Mealey is an alumni of Kids From Wisconsin. He performed with the group for four years in the early 1990s.

He recommended Chilsen and Elkin audition for the select troupe earlier in the year. They were among 33 high school and college-age performers chosen to participate in this year's show.

Elkin, one of two drummers selected to perform with the troupe, said it's been quite an experience to play professionally all summer.

"It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun," he said in a telephone interview from the State Fair Thursday. "Everybody in Kids From Wisconsin is very nice and we're all friends. It's a really tight group."

Life has been hectic since Elkin and the others showed up for the 17-day practice camp on June 8.

Performers practiced 10-hours a day as part of the camp, in preparation for the equally hectic summer performance schedule.

"It's been pretty interesting," he said. "You get to see what it's like to perform while on tour."

Chilsen, who plays the piano for Kids From Wisconsin, said he's learned a lot from his summer with the troupe.

"Some of the stuff we play has been a real challenge," he said. "I think I've improved over the summer.

"People ask me what it's like to give up my summer for this, but I get to do something I enjoy. There are not a lot of things that would motivate me to play so much piano."

Chilsen said he was impressed with the loyal crowds who attended Kids From Wisconsin performances at the State Fair. At each show, the emcee asked if anyone in the audience had seen a Kids From Wisconsin show in each of the 38 years of its existence. A few hands would be raised at each show.

"We have a really loyal audience base," he said.

Chilsen said he hopes the word spreads around New Richmond about the upcoming show in Somerset, because those who attend will be pleasantly surprised by the talent displayed.

"I can't wait," he said. "Home shows are always a lot more fun."

For information about tickets for the Aug. 23 Kids From Wisconsin performance in Somerset, contact the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce at 246-2900; Kent Elkin at 246-4042; or Jo Chilsen at 246-6263.