When my alarm went off at 4 a.m. on Saturday, people were already waiting in line.
Rolling into the Village Hall parking lot at 5:30 a.m., I would have thought Village Hall was selling tickets to the hottest concert in town - if I hadn't already had a heads up about what's even hotter around here.
People bundled in layers and blankets sat on lawn chairs. One guy even had a rocking chair to chill out in while another was engrossed in his laptop propped on a table in front of his chair.
"I'm wearing two pairs of pants and several hoods, and I'm still cold," said Bridget Domaszek.
So what got these people out of bed and sitting outside Village Hall on a day that was windy and cold? Summer Program registration for Recreation Department programs.
"It's the Black Friday of Elm Grove," Patty Kujawa said.
Setting summer schedules
Registration began at 7 a.m., but people started lining up at 3:45 a.m.
Chad Demmon, second in line, brought a sleeping bag with him so he would be more comfortable while he waited.
"I like the outdoors so I don't mind being outside waiting," he said. "I thought there would be a lot more people, even with the weather."
It was 40 degrees with a wind chill of 31 that morning. But the general consensus was that the cold was far better than the rain many had sat in, in previous years.
Behind Demmon was a quartet of fathers: Dan Waszak, Dave Schwarz, Sach Jogal and Greg Ratas. The men, who arrived around 4 a.m., passed the time by cracking jokes. They were going to play cards, but it was too windy. Magnetic cards could be the solution to the problem, they said, but how would you shuffle them?
Their children want to take certain programs together this summer. In order to make that happen, they woke up early to wait in line.
Schwarz, who has waited in line for the past five years, said this was the coldest registration day yet.
"I have three kids, so it's important to get them in as many sessions together at the same time as possible," Lisa Soboleski said about why she was in line by 5 a.m. Otherwise, parents end up going back and forth to the park all day, all summer.
I asked her if it was worth it.
"Absolutely," she said.
"It's kind of a fun thing - and then you see each other at the pool in the summer and the different activities and then it's, 'Oh, you're my liner friend,' " she added.
Waiting, made fun
It was a social atmosphere that morning; parents chatted with their neighbors in line or walked along the line talking to other friends. I almost expected to see a grill or two with the tailgate-like atmosphere that had whipped up by 6 a.m.
Most moms and dads I talked to said one morning of freezing was worth it to have a smooth schedule for the entire summer.
Another plus is having registration done early so that they can enjoy the rest of the day.
Demmon's kids had a tennis tournament in Racine later that morning and other moms had soccer games to attend.
Recreation Director Amy Jeske unlocked the doors at 6:45 a.m., and almost incited a small riot as people starting moving to pack up camp. But she was just getting everything ready to go for the 7 a.m. start.
Everyone in line received a number with a time slot on it when registration began. With only three people per time slot and time slots every 10 minutes, those near the end of the line where already in the 11 o'clock hour.
If their timeslot wasn't right at 7 a.m., parents headed home to thaw out, grab some coffee or take a nap.
Jeske estimated 150 families registered for programs by the time she and her crew left about 3:30 p.m.
Get in the action
Don't blink: Some summer programs, including many swim classes, already are full, but others still have openings. Move fast, as classes fill up quick.
Make your move: Registration continues in-person at Village Hall, 13600 Juneau Blvd., or online at elmgrovewi.org. The online registration link is toward the bottom of the home page.
Julie Ann Marra is uncovering the heart of Elm Grove, its people and places. Call her at (262) 446-6634 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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