Town Square goes digital to provide community programming

Among the classes will be cooking ones taught by celebrity chef Ace Champion (above). He is the host of Cook Like A. Champion,” which airs Saturday at 12:30 p.m. on CW 14 (WCWF-TV). Joe Schulz photo

by Joe Schulz

When Amy Reese became the program and event manager for Town Square in late April, she was immediately thrown into the deep end as the community center had been forced to close and cancel many of its classes.

Reese scrambled to convert some of Town Square’s in-person courses into virtual courses that wouldn’t require patrons to attend physically.

While the community center reopened its doors at the end of May, it has launched digital classes that will be offered throughout the summer.

Town Square is hosting online cooking classes on the first Thursday of June, July and August, as well as digital photography classes on various Tuesdays and Thursdays through September.

“That’s all I have planned at the moment,” Reese said. “I’m still connecting with some of the instructors for our in-person programs.”

Because not everyone is comfortable going to the community center for a class, Reese believes virtual classes are necessary to fulfilling Town Square’s mission of enriching the community’s lives through cultural and social opportunities.

“We’re always trying to find ways to serve the community safely, both in-person and virtually,” she said. “So it’s just trying to find the right mix that works for everybody.”

The digital cooking classes will be taught by celebrity chef Ace Champion, host of “Cook Like A. Champion,” which airs Saturdays at 12:30 p.m. on CW 14 (WCWF-TV).

Champion noted the classes will be similar to his show, but much more interactive.

“If you’re watching my show and you see something that you really like, and you want to ask me a question, with TV there’s no way to do that,” he said. “With the virtual reality class, it’s like watching my TV show, except you can raise your hand and ask a question.”

Although Champion has taught cooking classes for a long time, this is the first time where the audience will be cooking along.

“Most of my cooking classes are just me doing the demo and the people kind of sit back, relax and drink a glass of wine,” he said. “This one they’re actually going to cook with me, so it’s 100% hands on.”

For his first class with Town Square, Champion taught participants how to put a southern spin on a Wisconsin fish fry. His next course will be Thursday, July 2.

The digital photography classes will be taught by photographers Michael Cooney and Ric Szczepkowski.

The photography course at Town Square isn’t the first time Cooney has taught a course remotely, as he teaches photography at Fox Valley Technical College.

Photographer Michael Cooney will teach various online photography classes for Town Square this summer. submitted photo

“It’s dramatically different, but I’m getting pretty high engagement from the people taking my class,” Cooney said.

Classes cover concepts such as at-home photography, smartphone photography, composition and more.

For each class, Cooney presents a PowerPoint and examples of how concepts would work in-person, while taking frequent stops to ask the audience if they’re comprehending what they’re learning.

“I’m really excited about working with Town Square, and the fact that the students don’t have to be in Green Lake to take the class,” Cooney said. “We can reach the vacationers and the people with a second home in Green Lake wherever they are.”

Reese noted hosting virtual classes could help expand Town Square’s reach well beyond the Green Lake community.

“The virtual classes allow us to expand our reach a little bit to let people know what Green Lake has to offer,” Reese said.

She hopes that continuing to offer classes to the community digitally will help the public better understand Town Square’s role in helping the community stay connected.

“With people being cooped up in their homes for so long, they probably feel a little disconnected, and people struggle with that,” Reese said. “Some people really need personal contact. We’re trying to find ways to provide that, but do it safely.”

For a full list of Town Square’s in-person and virtual programs, visit