As the host of the afternoon show on Life 102.5, I love to ask listeners like you this question: “What do you love about Madison?” Often, I hear, “Where do I even start?” You might share memories from your childhood, or memories from day-to-day experiences around the city. The longer you look at, live in, and experience a place, the more beauty you find in it, like you do when you study a single painting at an art museum for an afternoon.

But what would stand out to someone just passing through? What might a casual visitor notice about our fair city? What impression might it make?

In the summer of 2021, Life 102.5 was thrilled to be back at the Dane County Fair with a listener appreciation concert. We were equally thrilled to welcome Christian song artist, Lydia Laird to the stage—and to our city. Lydia put on a great concert, but she wasn’t so quick to leave after the show was done. My family and I had the privilege of playing host to Lydia for a few days and showing her around Madison.

Here are a few things Lydia Laird loved about our community when she visited.

First of all, cheese curds. What is a visit to the city without cheese curds? When you tell people you’re from Wisconsin, what is one of the first responses you get? “Wisconsin? Nice. I love cheese curds!” Yes, such a burden. Such a cross to bear. We are pigeon-holed into a generalization all because we are home to the “squeaky cheese.” And I don’t mind one bit.

Cheese curds are pretty magnificent, and I wanted Lydia to experience that firsthand. We put our names down at The Old Fashioned restaurant on the square only to be told there was a 90-minute wait. That was fine because Lydia had never been to State Street, and I was determined to change that.

Here’s where our planning fell apart: If you have a 90-minute wait, make sure to walk no more than 45 minutes before turning around so that you don’t miss your window.

Well, we walked too far. We got the call that our table was ready, and we were on the 600 block of State Street faced with a choice: give up on the curds or run. We ran. Now, neither of us are about to make the cross-country team, but we made it—with much grace shown by the restaurant staff—and the cheese curds revealed that the effort was worth it. Cheese curds easily made Lydia’s list of “Top Three Favorite Things About Madison.” No surprise there.

The next day we were in for a special treat. The Lord has blessed me with some really cool friends, including a pilot who likes to buzz around in a 1940’s airplane. He offered to take us up and show us southern Wisconsin from the sky. Who in their right mind could say no to that?

As it turned out, my older daughters could go to their grandma’s house for the weekend, but the twins had to go with us. Determined to make this trip work, we hauled them along to the Jet Room at the Dane County Airport for a quick brunch before hitting the sky.

Having the babies with us made an already exciting adventure even more … exciting. For Lydia and me, anyway. Because it was such a small plane, the babies were lap-bound. Because they were babies, they promptly fell asleep. Cuddling sleeping babies, Lydia Laird and Summer Shepherd took flight.

Our region is beautiful from the ground, but it’s spectacular from the sky. We flew over the Wisconsin River, Devil’s Lake, the isthmus, and downtown Madison. When the pilot insisted Lydia try her hand at flying the plane (sleeping baby in her lap notwithstanding), she did it like a champ—even though she was slightly terrified and did it one-handed. Upon landing, she couldn’t stop raving about the beauty of Wisconsin. The scenery also made her list of “Top Three Favorite Things About Madison.”

To say Lydia Laird loves the cheese curds and the beauty of our home should surprise no one. When I asked her what else she loved, she smiled. She said beyond the beauty and cheese, she loved the people. They changed her.

Before our accidental sprint down State Street, a group of people who wanted to tell us about Jesus approached us. Of course, we were thrilled. We introduced ourselves and explained that we shared their faith and loved the Lord, and one of the women became animated when she explained to Lydia how much her song “Hallelujah Even Here” had meant to her during a recent struggle. I watched as Lydia fought back tears.

Later, at the concert, listener after listener approached her to share his or her unique story, and Lydia’s emotions deepened. She recalled how important the encouragement and hugs she received were for her. For Lydia, the people were the most cherished memory from her time in Madison.

Here’s the thing: We look at artists like Lydia and marvel at how God is using them. We wonder at their skills and gifts, and we appreciate them from a distance. But Lydia herself needed the reminder that God was using her in the lives of people she’d never met. She needed peace assuring her that she was on the right path, doing what she was meant to do.

We can’t assume that the people who impact us, the people we love, instinctively understand our feelings about them. If someone has blessed your life, tell them. If someone matters to you, hug them. Don’t let that moment pass. Your affirmation might be exactly what they need in that moment. God may be using you as you share how God has used that person in your life.

For Lydia, it was the kind words of Life 102.5 listeners that she holds most dear from her time in Madison.

Even more than the cheese curds.

4 Responses to "Lydia Laird’s top three favorite things about Madison, Wisconsin"

  • Laura says:

    Loved reading this! I started to read it just to see what she had to say, I’m wiping a tear as I type my comment, as she truly ‘felt’ Wisconsin in all it’s beauty.

  • Richard says:

    I love her so much, not just her music and the words that melt into my mind but her love for God.
    Funny, as i talked to her, a goofy poem can up i first learned in 3rd grade, ” 1 bright day during the night”.
    No one i knew had ever known of this poem before ever.
    But as i was saying the second line,, she started to finish the poem for me.
    I said to her, ” you just blew my mind, no one has ever new this poem before. In my whole life.”
    That’s some time as I’m 60 now.
    That little time we had together will be in my top 10 memories as i will never forget. We were so fortunate to have her come and sing for us here in Madison.
    God bless you LL, i will never forget you. Your love for God shines and your music is a gift to all of us. So glad Summer had time to share Wisconsin with you.

  • Steve says:

    Any chance that Lydia is ever coming back to Wisconsin? I didn’t even know about last summer’s event, and I would definitely love to see her live in concert.

  • Laurie Leland says:

    I was thrilled to find this post… “Hallelujah Even Now” has become my daily anthem to keep from being crushed by the past… I have found that the more I thank God for EVERYTHING,( including what seems to be yet another obstacle), I have turned ALL of it into praise for having a Father that will never let me go, forget about me, or shame me for my humanness.

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