Posts Categorized: What We’re Loving

What We’re Loving: Fall 2015


La Crosse SOUP

We are so impressed by the awesomeness happening in La Crosse, Wisconsin, right now. In the Summer 2015 Inspire(d), we “Loved” Beer By Bike Brigade – they’re raising money for great causes while having fun at the same time AND they sent one of the sweetest thank you notes in the actual mail. <3. It was through BBBB that we heard about La Crosse SOUP – and let us tell ‘ya – it’s seriously soup-er (c’mon, you gotta do it, people)!

La Crosse SOUP is a monthly micro-granting and community building event. Community members come together to eat soup (and bread and dessert), celebrate the best of La Crosse, and provide funding to folks planning creative projects that will make La Crosse an even more awesome and fun place to be.

Here’s how it works: Attendees pay $5 for a bowl of soup, homemade bread, dessert, and a vote. An additional $4 will get folks a glass of beer (donated by The Pearl Street Brewery). Food is donated by the Root Note, Great Harvest Bread Co., and Meringue Cakes and Fine Desserts. (You can you give more than $5 but you still only get one vote.)


Prior to SOUP night, people submit their idea to pitch. From the submissions, SOUP organizers choose four groups to pitch (they’ll notify you a week prior to SOUP Night if you have been selected). At the event, each presenter shares their idea and answers four questions from the audience. Presentations lasts four minutes with a little extra time for questions.

After the presentations, SOUP attendees share a meal and discuss the projects, and then vote for the one they think will benefit the La Crosse the most. The winner gets the money raised through the event that very night, and should plan to come back to a future SOUP dinner to report their project’s progress.

The first SOUP launched in May of 2015 and raised $500. Attendance has more than tripled since that first night – their July fundraising efforts brought in over $1600!

The first project funded – a bicycle fix-it station where people can share tools to repair their bicycles – has already been built at Riverside Park with the help of the SOUP funds. Cool!

It’s a BYOB affair – bring your own…bowl. Also chair, if you’d like one for sitting. The event is currently outdoors at the Root Note. Doors open at 6 pm – food is served, pitches pitched, discussion and voting done, and the prize awarded all by 7:30! So no need to stress about SOUP taking up your whole evening. That said, guests are encouraged to stay and hangout afterward.

Are you a La Crosse community member who wants to pitch?? Fill out an application here.

The SOUP concept comes from “Sunday Soup” created by InCUBATE in Chicago in 2007. They encourage other communities to take the methods and adapt them for their own communities. There have been SOUPs all over the world! Who’s next? Go, SOUP, go!

For a great guide on how to start your own SOUP, visit

Fall La Crosse SOUP dates are: September 30 (the La Crosse Mayor is attending!), October 28, and November 25. Fair weather location is outside the Root Note (frigid winter location, TBD). For additional details, check out



Slow Hustle – Peter Awad & Family

Some of you may recognize Decorah entrepreneur Peter Awad from our Spring 2015 profile – or from around Decorah where he (usually) lives and works with his wife Melissa and four (!) beautiful kids. Here at Inspire(d) HQ, we’ve known Peter for a handful of years, and are always eager to hear what he has up his short-sleeve t-shirt next – and man it’s exciting!

PodcastScreenshotRight now, we’re loving Peter’s amazing podcast, Slow Hustle, which chronicles stories of local and national entrepreneurs – how they achieved success while also maintaining a “slowness” to life that makes room for family and fun. The phrase “life/work balance” is something that will make pretty much any business owner laugh out loud, but the concept of living a meaningful life with all the parts you want included is a pretty epic – and ultimate – goal. To cap this point, Peter and his amazing family are setting off this fall on a 10-month adventure around the US, and sharing their story through the podcast as they go. That’s right – they rented out the house in Decorah, are selling one of the cars, packing up the Honda Odyssey, and hitting the road. All while homeschooling and working remotely. Whew. Sounds like an adventure! Do yourself a favor and click in to some great interviews and stories at


Driftless: A film About Decorah by Decorah

jonathan-msOneota Film Festival has some cool projects on deck for fall 2015 – one of them is an artist in residency program with Nashville filmmaker Jonathan Rattner October 6–11.

We’re loving what he’s working on while in town: A Community Crowd-Sourced Project called “Driftless: A Film About Decorah by Decorah.”

Here are the details from the filmmaker himself:

Interested in making a film? Join us in celebrating the Decorah community by participating in a crowd-sourced documentary about the people of Decorah. Submit a short video about someone you care about, and see it screened at the 2016 Oneota Film Festival. Videos must take place in Decorah, but they can be shot by people visiting Decorah (i.e. not necessarily Decorah residents).

I will also be walking around town gathering footage all week. I’m looking to collaborate with local artists, filmmakers, teachers, and classes – so anyone interested in working on this project or who would like for me to visit their classes, can feel free to contact me at jonathan.rattner [at]


filming dogs at night

Rattner is an intermedia artist who primarily produces experimental documentary films and videos. He has exhibited work at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the University of Iowa Museum of Art, the World Social Forum in Brazil, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, the European Media Arts Festival, L’Alternativa Film Festival, as well as at other colleges, festivals, and galleries in the United States, Europe, and Australia. Rattner is currently an assistant professor of cinema & media arts and art at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife (and Decorah native), Kate Casper Rattner.

Want to participate? Contact Jonathan Rattner at jonathan.rattner [at] or the Oneota Film Festival at director [at]

Oneota Film Festival is scheduled for March 4-6, 2016.



Decorah Fast Fiber

How many times have you raised your fist at the screen, shouting obscenities (or at least thinking them), cursing your internet provider? It’s true – much of the rural Midwest is still at the mercy of, let’s face it – less than stellar telecom providers. However, there are many towns and cities that have taken back a truly historic model and are building municipal (city owned) telecom infrastructure. From Spring Grove to Cedar Falls to Chattanooga, successful municipal broadband programs have proven that fiber-optic broadband can not only greatly improve local internet speeds, but even more greatly improve local economies. And it’s not just about downloading movies and games – the potential for local business expansion, improved public schools, cities and safety, and smart grid technologies are huge. Before you start arguing about how much it’s going to cost, consider success stories like the above mentioned (Spring Grove, Cedar Falls, etc). They actually MAKE money annually from their broadband utilities – think about every business and household payment that goes directly out of the community each month, and consider it staying here in our local economy. It’s huge.

The Decorah Fast Fiber citizens group has successfully gathered enough signatures to get a referendum on the November 3 City Council ballot, which would give the City of Decorah the ability to form a public communications utility – not to fund such a utility, but to consider how the process could move forward. It’s important to note that a telecommunications utility would not use property taxes for its operating funds – it would rely on payments by customers, just like commercial providers do now. Find out more about this exciting potential project at – and consider voting YES on November 3!


Ne Iowa RC&D does Cool Stuff!

RCD_ActivitiesBookThis past July (2015) the Northeast Iowa RC&D organization was awarded one of 70 National ‘Our Town’ grants (and was the only Iowa project chosen!) to develop and construct public art in communities along Iowa Scenic Byways. The grant program goal is to help create lively, beautiful, and resilient places with arts at their core. Through a public input and education process, many people come together – city officials, residents, scenic byway boards, local arts organizations, local artists, and schools – to identify public art concepts that will reflect each community, and in turn encourage cultural tourism. The project will have an immediate reach in Allamakee, Fayette, Clayton, Jones, Jackson, and Delaware Counties, with ongoing outreach across Iowa to assist other RC&Ds in RCD_CulinaryPassportrepeating the process. Final projects will be completed by local artists and placed on regional scenic byways – some of our region’s most beautiful and off-the-beaten-path roadways. You can follow the process at or by following #NEAOurTown15

This grant project is just one of many projects the RC&D is taking to fruition this year – other recently completed projects include some very cool scenic by-way tear sheet maps (think awesome off-the-beaten-path back roads)  “Cullinary Passports” – a guide to experiencing unique dishes and beverages that the locals consider “must haves” along the byway, and even a new kids activity book! Check it out here!

Here’s to local art and fun in a great region!

Music we’re loving…

Looking for some fresh listening? Some of our favorite roots artists have incredible albums out and we’d love to share them with you!


First, Duluth Bluesman Charlie Parr (who will be performing in Decorah at the Courtyard & Cellar September 11) has a new album entitled “Stumpjumper” on the epic Red House Records label. Charlie has been tearing up the roots / slide guitar for years and has hit a real home run with this latest recording.


Meanwhile NE Iowa’s own Joe & Vicki Price have a great album out – recorded by Joe McMahan at Wow & Flutter Studios in Nashville – entitled “Night Owls”. If you don’t already know, Joe & Vicki are royalty at Inspire(d) HQ, and we can’t sing the praises loud enough for this incredible blues duo. Even the cover of this record is an epic piece by Vicki Price depicting the now vaporized Main Entrance in Prairie du Chien, WI. The old school vibe of this record leaves you wishing you were sitting in a tavern listening to the masters work… Why aren’t you???


On the other side of the country, but in a similar-to-Driftless-region of Woodstock NY, Ruth Ungar and Michael Merenda, along with a super sweet crew of horns and beats and sounds, have released a truly roots inspired record. “Mike + Ruthy” as they are known, recorded “Bright As You Can” for the 30 Tigers label and we can’t get enough of it. We’re also scheming as hard as we can to get them to Decorah… the band also visits CSPS/Legion Arts in Cedar Rapids on Friday, October 2.  Shine on, indeed.

What We’re Loving: Summer 2015

A little list of what we think is awesome in the Driftless Region right now…


Decorah Downtown Betterment Association
Each spring, amazing hanging baskets of flowers appear on the lampposts of downtown Decorah, and it’s no simple task to get them there! The Decorah Downtown Betterment Association has been working for years to “Provide programs, economic development, a favorable business climate, and to help maintain the vitality of the downtown and west side business areas.” The summer flower baskets are only one of their many projects. Did you know they’re responsible for downtown bench placement, the Water Street Park project near the Oneota Co-op, and the informational kiosks found downtown? They also recognize business owners on building improvements, giving annual awards to local businesses. Much of the DDBA work is quiet and behind-the-scenes, but there is no doubt that it has a major impact on Decorah’s thriving downtown areas. Find out more about the DDBA and even become a member online.



Beer By Bike Brigade – La Crosse
Here at Inspire(d), we really like our bikes. In fact, it’s safe to say we love bikes. We also enjoy the occasional craft beer – sometimes while enjoying our bikes! If you know much about the city of La Crosse, you may also well know that they really like beer… and bikes! For a couple of years now, a skeleton crew of folks have been organizing monthly “Beer By Bike Brigade” rides. They’re fired up for the summer season and rides have been scheduled for July 18, August 22, September 26, October 24. Check the “Beer By Bikes Brigade La Crosse” Facebook page for meet-up details. There’s no registration, no fee, and lots of fun included. The only rule is that you have to be 21 to participate as the Brigade hops from establishment to establishment with stops between. Plan ahead and make a safe night of it on Wisconsin’s West Coast! (Photo source)


Basic CMYKNorman Borlaug Fest & Meals from the Heartland Packaging Event
Many people know the story of Norman Borlaug and the “Green Revolution”. Lots of area folks also know he grew up near Cresco, Iowa – and is remembered fondly each fall with a town festival bearing his name. In the theme of tackling world hunger, a group of Cresco volunteers have organized an emergency aid meal-packaging event with Meals From the Heartland that will take place during this year’s Norman Borlaug Harvest Fest, which runs September 17-20. The packaging event, scheduled for September 20, has a goal to package over 130,000 meals in just one day. Those meals will travel all over the world. Hundreds of volunteers will help package – and you could be one of them! Find out more by calling the Cresco Chamber of commerce at 563-547-3434 or visiting



NMP Turns 40!
This summer, the New Minowa Players celebrate 40 years of community theatre! Started in August of 1975, this Decorah institution has entertained audiences with diverse productions of classics, original works, and everything in between! For the past 10 years, NMP has found a permanent home at their building on South Mill Street, including their sweet, postage-stamp theatre space. You can join in and help support all that the New Minowa Players do – if auditioning for a community production sounds too daunting, you can just make a donation! (Photo source)



Seed Savers
We write about Seed Savers a fair amount, it’s true. But rightly so! Not only do they hold the very important job of saving our heirloom seeds, but they also operate a pretty amazing farm – open to the public, including their hiking trails, gardens, and animal line-up – and host a variety of great events! (Photo courtesy Seed Savers)

This summer, you should mark your calendars for:

July 17-19 – Seed Savers Conference and Campout
August 1 – Benefit concert featuring Greg Brown!
September 5 –  The annual Tomato Tasting event really is the best way to experience heirloom diversity and get a taste (pun intended) for what they do at Seed Savers.


Playlist: Summer Music
Charlie-Parr-StumpjumperLooking for a little fresh summer listening? Some of our favorite roots artists have new albums out this summer and we’d love to share them with you! First, Duluth Bluesman Charlie Parr (who will be performing in Decorah at the Courtyard & Cellar September 11) has a new album entitled “Stumpjumper” on the epic RedHouse Records label.

Charlie has been tearing up the slide guitar for years and has hit a real home run with this latest recording. Meanwhile NE Iowa’s own Joe & Vicki Price have just released a new album – recorded in a downhome Nashville studio – entitled “Night Owls”. If you don’t already know, Joe & Vicki are royalty at Inspire(d) HQ, and we can’t sing the praises loud enough for this incredible blues duo. On the other side of the country, but in a similar-to-Driftless-region of upstate NY, Ruth Ungar and Mike Merenda – along with a super-sweet crew of horns and beats and sounds – have released a truly roots-inspired record. “Mike & Ruthy” as they are known, recorded “Bright As You Can” for the 30 Tigers label and we can’t get enough of it. Shine on, indeed.

Joe-and-Vicki-Price-2015-Night-OwlsIn a music mood now? Check out these live shows…

Dolce Vita Nights at McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita, Decorah (7-10 pm, rain or shine)

July 18 – Absolute Hoot
July 31 – Switchback
August 1 – The Homestead Act (Michelle Lynn & Adam Ptacek)
August 8 – Maritza
August 15 – Bread & Butter String Band
August 22 – Dog House Jon & The Misbehavers
August 29 – Rutabaga Brothers
September 5 – Beet Root Stew

Tirrill Park, Manchester:
One show left in this great series!
August 29 – Bob Dorr & the Blue Band, 5 pm



E.A.T. Experience. Ambiance. Taste. at the Oneota Food Co-op (plus other fun classes)
What’s better than celebrity cooking shows? LOCAL celebrity cooking shows! There’s still a live audience (you), and there are cameras (your iPhones), but the “celebrities” are awesome members of the community, cooking up their specialties in the new Oneota Co-op Kitchen Classroom. Aryn went to the E.A.T. featuring Brian Andreas and Vietnamese food, and she loved it. Audience members get to be part of the cooking – learning, tasting, and having fun – and the eating – each course is served up to the class-goers. Want to E.A.T. your way through a local cooking show? Each class is $20 for Member/Owners and $25 Community Members. The summer E.A.T. classes have passed, but watch for upcoming fall events online.

While you’re there, make sure to check out some of the other great classes the co-op is offering this summer:
July 16: Healthy Road Trip
July 21: Lamb: It’s Greek to Me
August 19: Fast and Healthy Family Meals
August 20: Fascination with Fermentation