Leopold Weekend has been bringing people together to celebrate Leopold’s ideas and inspire a new commitment to his vision of a land ethic for the last fifteen years. Read on for some ideas on how you can celebrate Leopold in your community!
The Origin Story
It all began in the late winter of 2000 when a group of inspired citizens from Lodi, Wisconsin decided to put together a community event where they would read Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac aloud from cover to cover. The goal was to help create a community land ethic for the place where they lived. The event organizers dubbed the gathering Lodi Reads Leopold. Reading started at noon and ended at 10 that night. The gathering spanned two locations, involved 35 readers and was so inspiring that the organizers decided it should be an annual experience. The date of their inaugural event was March 4th, 2000— 52 years after Aldo penned the foreword to his book in 1948.
During the 4th annual Lodi Reads Leopold, George Meyer, former Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and a “celebrity reader” wondered aloud why every community in the state wasn’t reading Leopold that weekend. State Legislator Mark Miller shouted from the audience, “I’ll introduce that legislation.” That spark caught on, burning bright with bi-partisan support throughout the Legislature to recognize Wisconsin’s most noted conservationist. One year after the first Lodi Reads Leopold Event, in March of 2004, Governor James Doyle signed legislation designating the first full weekend in March Aldo Leopold Weekend across Wisconsin. Since the inauguration of Leopold Weekend, Leopold inspired events have sprung up across the country beyond the designated weekend in March, a true testament to Leopold’s ability to inspire a thinking community.
Leopold Weekend in 2015
In March we celebrated the 15 year anniversary of Leopold Weekend, recording over 30 events held in 5 states serving over 2,000 people. Along with that effort, we here at the Aldo Leopold Foundation embarked on an inaugural #LeopoldWeek social media campaign through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram promoting various activities that families, individuals, and groups of friends could do to celebrate alongside the community events happening across Wisconsin and beyond.
This year we were proud to see how the Burlington-based Leopold Heritage Group spearheaded an effort in Iowa to introduce similar legislation that passed in Wisconsin in 2004. However, instead of designating the first weekend in March, the Iowa legislation declared the first full week in March annually as Aldo Leopold Week.
Since its early beginnings, Leopold Weekend has inspired communities across Wisconsin and the nation to come together to celebrate the ideas Leopold wrote about in A Sand County Almanac. These gatherings have evolved to include community readings of Aldo’s book, showings of the documentary Green Fire, Leopold bench building workshops, Leopold Education Project workshops, discussions, conferences, banquets, roundtables, hikes, work projects, an archery contest, and the installation of a free little library which was created to be a mini replica of the Shack. The magic of these celebrations is that each one reflects the needs of the community it is serving.
Beyond Leopold Weekend
Just because March has passed it doesn’t mean you still can’t get involved. In fact, it’s never too early or late to plan a Leopold-inspired gathering. We have lots of great resources on our website to help spark ideas for how you can bring this program model to your community. Or, if you are looking for an event near you, check our calendar for listings of Leopold-related events across the country throughout the year. Whether celebrating Leopold for one day, a weekend, or a whole week, this program has provided an inspiring story that grew from one community’s passion for the place where they lived that has grown beyond anyone’s imagination. If the first 15 years is any indicator of what the next 15 will bring, we have quite a ride ahead of us! We hope you’ll join us for Leopold Week in 2016 (March 5-7)!