What's the Giant Moon in the Third Ward?

Whether it’s academic discourse or a photo next to the enormous replica, this pop-up festival has you covered.

Under One Moon in Catalano Square has something for everyone at a festival that’s designed to celebrate a shared, universal experience.

As emcee Bob Bonadurer pointed out, the moon can evoke a wide array of emotions and memories. Bonadurer is the director of Milwaukee Public Museum’s planetarium and says that to him, the moon is scientific and historical.

“That’s how I see it. You guys all may see it for a different song, a different book,” he says. “We all connect differently to our night light. But it’s one moon, and that unites us.”

Upwards of 100 people, with more coming as the evening progressed, gathered in the Third Ward’s little square Friday night to look up at the replica of the moon, which will be on display all weekend. People ate and drank (there was a beer tent with some moon-themed options), chased kids around and talked; it felt like a block party.

Photo by Hannah Hoffmeister

The 23-foot inflatable artwork inspired a lot of pictures, most of them with the subject pretending to hold up the moon. Others asked questions; it was curious, genuine dialogue among parents and kids.

“What do you think is the side we normally see?” one man asked. Two women discussed whether it would be more impressive after dusk, when the inflatable will glow. Two preschool-age girls, clearly on day 1 of their friendship, lay next to each other and looked up at the moon, in their own lunar world.

Bonadurer’s welcoming speech was both lighthearted and passionate — one minute he was showing Earth’s approximate size compared to the moon’s using a basketball and baseball, and the next he was reciting the dates of the next several eclipses. He touched on how “Under One Moon” coincides with the 50-year anniversary of the moon landing. He also looked forward, saying he hopes that the first trip to Mars will be a “world trip” of countries collaborating together.

After Bonadurer came Jean Creighton, the director of University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s planetarium. Except for a song sung in Greek at the beginning, her speech was more academic; for example, she taught the crowd how the first scientists figured out the size of the moon.

Photo by Hannah Hoffmeister

It was clear that some came to admire the replica and take pictures of their young ones “holding” the moon. Others seemed fascinated by Creighton’s detailed descriptions and Bonadurer’s passion. Others were more interested in the moon-themed popsicles and beer.

In the end, though, everyone was celebrating the same moon. Bonadurer summed it up best in the opening line of his speech: “Isn’t that a beautiful moon? Give the moon a hand!”