State Fair brings big money to homeowner "parking lots"

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by Lane Kimble

WEST ALLIS -- Sunday morning started early for William Colton.

"If you don't wake up at 5:30 (a.m.), you ain't got a spot," Colton said.

But the alarm clock doesn't bother the West Allis native this time of year.

"Oh, to make money," Colton added.

For 17 years, State Fairgoers have found parking on Colton's property just one block west of the grounds.

"I don't want anybody's car to get dinged or dented," Colton said.  "I'm in the back yard, I do the same thing.  I just look out  for the cars."

Colton's home fits about 20 cars at a time.  At $10 a pop, he makes enough to cover most of his property  taxes and repair his lawn.

"Going up my hill, it kind of takes patches out of my grass, but it grows back," Colton said.

Just up 85th Street, Peter Ritzman caught on to the State Fair parking game quickly.

"We moved in [three years ago] and it was pretty much the thing to do," Ritzman said.

Although the money's nice, Ritzman says it's not  neighbor vs. neighbor, but rather neighbor helping neighbor.

"If somebody else is empty and they're busy we'll try and park cars and help them out," Ritzman said.

Over on a busy 84th Street, bigger lots fill up fast.  That's exactly what lot owner Dave Radomski wants to see.

"Much closer for them to get in and out," Radomski said of his spot.  "When it's 10:30, they're happy."

Some homeowners say the 11-day stream of traffic can be a grind, but Colton thinks of  it more like a reunion.

"We see [the neighbors] once in a while and say hi to each other, but out here we're all together," Colton said.  "We're all like a family."

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