Why, as Mr. Rogers said, "They're the people that you meet, as you're walking down the street; they're the people that you meet each day!"
If you've been in downtown Cedarburg at all over the past five years, you've likely met Jimmy "the Popcorn Man" Fortunato. It's pretty hard to miss his antique popcorn wagon, parked just south of the Java House on Washington Avenue. Lately, though, you may have noticed that Jimmy hasn't been in his wagon as much as he usually is. We caught up with him to find out why.
Jimmy's a very well-loved local, as the community demonstrated during a cash mob sponsored by Ozaukee Magazine a year and a half ago, where just over $15,000 was raised in four weeks to help keep Jimmy, who had had some serious health issues over the summer of 2013, in business. The fundraiser was a huge success, allowing Jimmy to catch up financially, and get back to business as usual.
This past summer, Jimmy was able to purchase a small, portable, antique popcorn wagon. Unlike his large wagon, this new purchase has enabled Jimmy to travel to events and parties, both indoor and out. Ironically, the success of the small wagon has been so great that it has kept Jimmy away from the big wagon.
"I can't be here enough and, unfortunately, it doesn't make sense, financially, to hire someone to run [the big wagon]," said Jimmy, who put his large wagon up for sale on Craigslist this past September. "I don't want to sell to just anybody, though. I want the wagon to stay here in Cedarburg; in fact, I'm hoping that one of the local non-profits will take it over and use it as a fundraiser, like they did with the Rivoli. It's a fun place to volunteer in."
In the meantime, Jimmy is manning his big wagon on Washington Avenue as often as he can manage, in between parties and events with his portable wagon, but he has no plans to leave the Cedarburg area anytime soon.
"I love all of the people here - they've been so good to me," Jimmy said. "I really hope someone can help me keep the tradition of the popcorn wagon going - it belongs in Cedarburg."