On April 7, 2014, Milwaukee Record officially launched. In some ways, it’s amazing a year has already elapsed since that day that found Matt Wild and I repeatedly messaging one another variations of “Holy shit! This is actually going to work!” as positive sentiments flowed in, our first small batch of stories began to be shared, and our new Twitter and Facebook accounts gained followers. In many other ways, though, it seems like we’ve been doing Milwaukee Record for much longer than 365 days. Without delving into the site’s—frankly, pretty boring—origin story, I wanted to add to Matt’s welcome post we published exactly a year ago today in recognition of Milwaukee Record‘s first birthday. As our modest little parcel of Web space celebrates its first anniversary, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my experience since we went live exactly a year ago.

Milwaukee Record is nothing short of my dream job. As sad as it may be for some of you to read that co-running an entertainment, arts, and culture website in a mid-sized metro is my cowboy, my astronaut or my systems analyst, it’s the absolute truth. I have the luxury of spending each day immersed in the city I love. It’s literally my job to seek out, meet, and subsequently shed light upon all the tremendous artists, musicians, comedians, filmmakers, athletes, and general weirdos-about-town that coalesce into something beautiful, irreplicable, and ever-growing: Milwaukee. Since moving here in 2009, I’ve slowly integrated myself into the city. Once we cast our publication into the world, my lesson on a place that is still fairly new to me became much more intensive.

In the last 365 days, I’ve come into contact with countless new people who care about this city and who are adding to its ongoing story and perpetual growth in a myriad of wonderful ways. I’ve been inspired. I’ve been disgusted. I’ve listened on as tears welled in my eyes. I’ve been threatened. I’ve heard the words “curate” and “tastemaker” used far too often for my liking. I’ve found kinship from unexpected sources. Through all these people and experiences, I’ve come to learn about this city as a whole, what makes it tick, its flaws (both frustrating and endearing), its assets, and have gleaned new perspective on why Milwaukee is such a special place. Along the way, I’ve also gotten to know myself, my limits, and my abilities a lot better than I did in my 29.25 years of pre-Milwaukee Record existence.

In the process, I’ve also come to learn more about my partner in crime, Matt Wild. Before we hatched the plan to start Milwaukee Record, I had probably spoken to Matt in real life about eight times. Our interactions were kept to emails regarding article pitches and almost-monthly questions regarding when The Onion planned to send my check that should’ve arrived the week prior. Frankly, it was a gamble for two relative strangers to risk their occupational, financial, and emotional well-being on an unproven publication. A year into the risky experiment, I couldn’t ask for a better partner. Beyond putting together this motherfucking site himself, Matt has shown me time and time again that he has a unparalleled editorial knack for finding and presenting things that just beg to be read. As the resident “hater” (at least that’s what we’ve been told), he’s routinely taken on tough and uncomfortable topics and managed to address them in refreshing, inventive, and oftentimes hilarious ways. And to be able to continue to do so while being a new father is astounding to me. Beyond a business partner, I consider him my friend. We’re very different people with different interests who are in different places in our lives. I have no problem admitting I don’t agree with everything he writes (I’m sure the feeling is mutual), but I’m absolutely honored to be co-pilots with him on this crazy, utterly rewarding ride with an unknown destination. I look forward to our first argument (estimated date: autumn 2019).

Though Matt and I have accounted for the vast majority of the close-to-900 posts that have graced our site so far (I’m at around 500 myself!), a small-but-incredible cast of freelance contributors has expanded what we can cover and added new perspective into the mix. On behalf of Matt, we’re beyond appreciative of the work Cal Roach, Dan Oberbruner, D.J. Hostettler, Erik Edmunds, Jack Moore, Jared Blohm, Kate Briquelet, Kristina Byas, Lauren Keene, Leah Wynalek, Maureen Post, Rachel Seis, Rob Wieland, Steven Franz, Tea Krulos, Thomas Michalski, Todd Lazarski, and Vince Morales did for us in year one. We’re also indebted to Kurt Raether (and his then-Honeycomb Productions crew) for all the great video work they provided during our first six months.

Of course, there would be no Milwaukee Record without the generous support of our advertisers. Having a group of advertisers committed to be involved with us on day one undoubtedly helped us navigate the uncharted course ahead with the knowledge that people had faith in what we were planning to do. As an unproven entity started by a pair middling local writers, it means so much that businesses put their money and reputations on the line to support our noble endeavor in its infancy. Thank you: Pabst Theater, Milwaukee Bucks, Alverno Presents, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, Mystery Room Mastering, Anodyne, Blackbird, Cactus Club, Linneman’s, Classic Slice, Club Garibaldi, Colectivo, Latino Arts, Milwaukee Comedy, Milwaukee Film, Urban Garage Sale, Cream City Creatives, Fink’s, Ale Asylum, Goodnight Milwaukee Show, MagneTag, WMSE, and The Album Factory. We’ll never forget you. It’s also worth mentioning the tremendous events that have allowed us, a publication with less than a year beneath its belt, to come on in a sponsorship capacity. Thank you: Burnhearts (Mitten Fest), Arte Para Todos, and Dummerfest 2015. I can’t underscore how much it means to have any affiliation with such great local happenings. Speaking of local happenings, I have to personally thank The Olives, Maritime, Whips, Ugly Brothers, Temple, Bright Kind, The Fatty Acids, and WC Tank for participating in our inaugural Local Coverage benefit for Girls Rock Milwaukee, as well as Club Garibaldi for letting us host it there.

Most of all, though, I’d like to thank you, the reader. You don’t have to read Milwaukee Record, but you do. That’s not lost on us. Despite being just a two-man operation run out of our individual apartments—and, occasionally, a 12′ x 33′ room in a creepy-ass Bay View warehouse—I’d like to think we cover a very specific set of things with a perspective and level of quality that can’t be found elsewhere in the city. Though we’ve more than doubled our projected first-year traffic estimates, I realize that in the big picture, we only reach a small group of readers who are interested in what we perceive to be the wealth of things Milwaukee has to offer, what could be done better, and where the city is headed in the future. I hope Milwaukee Record is a part of that future, and that you continue reading for years to come. Thank you.

Happy birthday, Milwaukee Record. Come celebrate with us.