PORT WASHINGTON - Having a history with blues music, the city is working to put up a marker for the Mississippi Blues Trail.
The goal is to have the marker up before the centennial celebration and Paramount Music Festival on Labor Day weekend.
That goal may be reached with unanimous approval of a general location and wording for the marker by the common council at their June 6 meeting moving the project forward.
Grafton, home of the Paramount record studio, already has a similar marker, according to Kris Raymond, president of the Grafton Blues Association. Port Washington is linked with offices and a factory where mail-order business was conducted.
Port Washington’s plan commission previously approved language for the marker created by various historians and writers in Mississippi. Since the trail originates in Mississippi, it comes to areas where Mississippi artists are relevant and focuses on them.
Mayor Tom Mlada said getting such a marker is a big deal, calling it the Route 66 for music fans and “a real wealth of information.”
“This is definitely a tourism-generating marker,” she said.
The double-sided marker will cost $9,000. One side will have information about the trail with the other having more local information and pictures, which will be compiled with the Port Washington Historical Society.
When installing theirs, Grafton contributed $1,000 to the cost along with two bigger village businesses contributing larger sums. Donations also came in from across the country — something Raymond said is expected for Port Washington’s marker as well.
The location of the marker was discussed at the meeting with a final spot not being decided, only a general area — the north slip.
Mlada said the location should be “historically consistent.” This would allow for wording such as “on this spot” or “at this location” to be included on the marker.
Alderman Mike Ehrlich was a fan of the project, saying it’s “about time the city embraces its rich history.” Going along with Mlada's point, he suggested the sign go at the entry to the harbor walk by the empty grocery store.
“It would draw a lot of attention for people along the harbor walk,” Ehrlich said.
Alderman Michael Gasper liked Ehrlich’s suggestion but was concerned the area had a number of developments in the works. The big issue he had was if the marker would need to be moved soon after it was placed due to construction.
“It’s an area that’s in flux at the moment,” he said.
Raymond suggested either the Port Explorium or Historical Society could display the marker while construction was going on if that was an issue.
About the trail
The goal of the Mississippi Blues Trail is to offer facts visitors didn’t know, places never seen, and to help people “gain a new appreciation for the area that gave birth to the blues,” according to its website.
Trail markers are posted along city streets, in cotton fields, at train depots, cemeteries, clubs and churches.
“The Mississippi Blues Trail markers tell stories through words and images of bluesmen and women and how the places where they lived and the times in which they existed — and continue to exist — influenced their music,” the site says.