Posts Tagged: Boats and Bluegrass

Get some music in your life this Driftless summer!

Them Coulee Boys will play at Hop Harvest Fest at Sweet 16 Farm and at Boats and Bluegrass in Winona!

Summertime in the Midwest means a lot of things, but special outdoor music events hit the top of our list each year! There are lots of great shows happening all season, but we picked out a handful that we’d definitely suggest adding to your calendar.


The Driftless Music Festival, July 13, Viroqua, Wisconsin – FREE! Join in this fantastic community festival as Eckhart Park becomes home to The Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, Honky-Tonk Jump, Orquestra MAS, Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal, and the Brotherhood Singers. Music starts at 1pm and goes until evening, with snacks, food, and beverages on the grounds. This is a free, very family friendly event! www.driftlessmusicfestival.com


Seed Saver’s Benefit Concert, August 3, rural Decorah – Seed Savers Exchange is bringing back the ever-popular Benefit Concert this summer, featuring Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles, Lissie, Dave Huckfelt of The Pines, Pieta Brown, Michael Rosetto, and special guest Mr. Greg Brown. Gates open at 5 pm, show at 7 pm, and camping is available on-site. This is guaranteed to be one of the most amazing nights of the summer – see you there! www.seedsavers.org


Gray Area – August 9, rural Iowa City – Don’t miss your chance to hang out at the Flat Black Studio farm with William Elliott Whitmore, Appleseed Cast, American Cream, Catfish Keith, and more. Camping available and encouraged. www.flatblackstudios.com/grey-area


People Fest – August 8-10, Driftless Music Gardens near Yuba, Wisconsin – Join Todd Snider, Blackfoot Gypsies, People Brothers Band, Natty Nation, Pine Travelers, and many more at this special little corner of the world. Camping, community, and summer revelry at it’s finest. www.driftlessmusicgardens.com/people-fest


Hop Harvest Music Fest – August 24, Sweet 16 Farm near Houston, Minnesota – Head to this sweet (pun intended) farm for a family-friendly party! Check out Them Coulee Boys, The Lowest Pair, Driftless Sisters, My Grandma’s Cardigan, and Jaybone Bell. There will be vendors, craft beer, kids activities, and wood fired pizza too. Find more info and buy tickets at sweet16farm.com.


Boats &…… Bluegrass! Winona, September 26-29 – Ok, so technically Boats & Bluegrass isn’t until September, but we can’t help but plug this amazing local roots festival alongside the Mississippi river in Winona. 2019 is a Who’s Who of Midwest roots music, including Charlie Parr, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, Shook Twins, Pert Near Sandstone, Dead Horses, Them Coulee Boys, Lowest Pair, Barbaro, Stanton West – all MC’d by regional poet and new-time roustabout, Pete Engen. Camping, music, boats & canoes, food, and tasty beverages on site. What are you waiting for? Get your tickets and make plans to be there! www.boatsandbluegrass.com

Driftless Day Trips: Winona, Minnesota

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By Benji Nichols • Photos by Inspire(d) unless noted
Originally published in the Summer 2012 Inspire(d)

The sprawling Mississippi River tapers her current just before Blackbird Slough and Lock and Dam #5A above Winona, Minnesota. There, the giant river flows humbly through a high and wide valley that in 1805 Zebulon Pike called “a prospect so variegated and romantic that a man may scarcely expect to enjoy such a one but twice or thrice in the course of his life.”

Founded in the mid 1800s by Captain Orrin Smith, Winona was the site of a native village called Keoxah. It was Henry Huff who named the stake after a Native American tale involving a Dakota Chief’s daughter, “We-no-nah” (which translates to first-born daughter), who made the ultimate lover’s leap from Maiden Rock on Lake Pepin just up the river. By the late 1850s Winona was on the map as lumber, wheat, and milling operations grew leaps and bounds, with plenty of rail and steamboat traffic to support them. Through the years the community has seen a lot come and go, but an entrepreneurial theme seems to be strong – from grain and milling operations that still exist, to manufacturing and businesses such as J.R. Watkins and the Hal Leonard Corporation. Winona State University (which was the first normal school for teachers west of the Mississippi in 1858) and St. Mary’s University also add crucial lifeblood to this great river town’s fabric – in addition to culture, sports, and a fun college vibe.

In more recent years, Winona has also become home to a number of annual festivals. The Great River Shakespeare Festival has become well known across the Midwest as a top-notch summer staple, and in just a couple short years both the Mid West Music Fest and Boats and Bluegrass have claimed their place on the musical map, not to mention the popular winter Frozen River Film Festival, the Dixieland Jazz Festival, the Minnesota Beethoven Festival, Steamboat Days…you get the idea. There’s definitely festival fun to be had in Winona.

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In addition, Winona is home to cool museums like the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, the Polish Cultural Institute, the Winona County History Center, and the J.R. Watkins Museum and Store. The Marine Art Museum is a more recent addition and has an impressive collection of water-themed art from masters such as Monet, O’Keeffe, Picasso, Renoir, and Van Gogh, plus great rotating exhibits as well. And the Watkins Museum and Store is a fun stop whether you’re a lifelong Watkins fan or have only just heard the name. From the iron entrance gates outside the enormous factory, to the Winona diorama and complete historical collection of Watkins products, you’ll get a peek into the life behind the man who invented the “money back guarantee”!

DowntownWinona

Downtown Winona is charming and historical, with the largest collection of Victorian commercial architecture in Minnesota outside of Saint Paul. You can even take a virtual tour of over half a dozen of the most prominent buildings at winonamntours.org/tour, including the Joan Soranno-designed Laird-Norton addition of the Winona County History Center. It’s worth a look both inside and out as this museum is not only an architectural pleasure, but also features great artifacts and displays from the town’s history.

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While you are downtown, don’t miss out on a quick bite to eat or a pint at one of the several fine, local establishments. The Blue Heron Coffee House is a favorite for a homemade treat or lunch, and the Bluff Country Co-op is just down the street if you need quick supplies for a picnic or adventure (or a Mon Petit cupcake!). The Acoustic Café is also a great spot to hang out and grab a house-roasted coffee or sandwich. The bustling café atmosphere and free wi-fi brings in the college crowd, and weekend evenings often host acoustic music. For a throwback-dining affair, don’t miss the popular Lakeview Drive Inn. It holds all the retro appeal of a typical drive-in – you park, someone takes your order at your car window, and then brings your tasty food on a tray that attaches to the door – with some more modern twists added in – there’s a walnut burger on the menu, for example. It’s a busy spot, so make sure you’ve scheduled time, and while you wait, sit back and enjoy the views of – what else? The Lake! (And Sugar Loaf too!)

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If it’s the river view you’re looking for, check out local favorite The Boathouse. Their menu features fun, new American cuisine and tasty drinks to boot! (Check out our Chef on the Block feature on them from last year!)

While on the topic of food – we here at Inspire(d) HQ may have been known to go the distance for a really good donut. And it just so happens that Winona is home to the Bloedow Bakery on East Broadway, where, since 1924, they’ve been perfecting the Long John in addition to other delicious donuts. (They even sell a giant “Party Long John! Sold!”)

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Then if you’ve worked up a thirst, you’ll find no shortage of watering holes in Winona. Being a river town, Winona holds a long-standing tradition of small taverns and neighborhood spots – many that feel almost like a time warp upon entrance. Check out the Mankato Bar (Mankato St.) or the Handy Corner Bar (East 5th) for some serious local flavor. And if you love good beer, art, and music, Ed’s (No Name) Bar on 3rd Street is perfection. Owner and local artist Ed Hoffman opened his doors in 2007 and has found a loyal following ever since with fantastic beers on tap, local art on the walls, and the best of the Midwest music scene stopping through his funky establishment.

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Don’t spend all your time inside while you are in Winona though! Incredible views of the Mississippi River valley that surrounds the city can be had at Garvin Heights overlook just above town (pictured at top of the page). It’s a short drive up Huff Street just past Lake Winona to the top of the bluffs and an easy paved walk to check out the impressive view – bring your camera! For those with a little more sense of adventure, Winona holds some challenging off road mountain biking and hiking action on the Holzinger Lodge Trail, Great River Bluffs State Park, Cherry Hill Trails, and Perrot State Park. For all the latest trail info check in with the folks at Adventure Cycle and Ski on Center Street; they’ll point you in the right direction. And of course, Winona is right on the banks of the mighty ol’ Mississippi with easy access to the river in many locations for boating, canoeing, and fishing – or even just a drive along its banks. A short field trip up the river will land you in Wabasha, home of the National Eagle Center, and the US Corps of Engineers Lock and Dam system is also fascinating to check out along the way, especially when large barges are going through the locks. From the south, the Great River State Trail will get you out on the trail and take you all the way from La Crosse to Trempealeau and just south of Winona via some beautiful and more remote parts of the river valley.

So what are you waiting for? Get packing for a great adventure in Winona – here are a few details to get you going:

Museums & Things To Do:

Marine Art Museum • 800 Riverview Dr • (507) 474-6626 • www.minnesotamarineart.org
Features marine related works by international and local artists, including Monet, O’Keeffe, Picasso, Pissarro, Renoir, and Van Gogh.

The Winona County History Center • 160 Johnson St. • (507) 454-2723 • www.winonahistory.org
Located in the historic former National Guard Armory, this great Winona area museum features the recently opened (Joan Soranno designed) Laird Norton Addition. Great local history and fun for kids, families, and beyond.

Watkins Heritage Museum • 150 Liberty St • (507) 457-6095 • www.watkinsonline.com
Both the Watkins Administration building (a grand Prairie School specimen designed by George Maher), and the
Museum on 3rd St. are a fun trip through the history of one of the oldest companies in the nation. Step into the world that J.R. Watkins built – including the origination of “the money back guarantee” – and don’t miss the restrooms – stocked kindly with Watkins products!

National Eagle Center • 50 Pembroke Ave, Wabasha • (651) 565-4989 • www.nationaleaglecenter.org
Opened in 2007, this awesome interpretive center is home to 5 rescued eagles that you can meet up close and personal. The center is a not-for-profit entity that offers a wide variety of programs and outreach as well. Make the scenic drive up the river – you won’t be disappointed!

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Great River Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Kathy Greden Christenson. Shakespeare for Young Actors, 2014, The Tempest. 

Festivals in Winona:
As mentioned above, there are tons of fun festivals in Winona. This weekend, the Great River Shakespeare Festival opens with the WOW (Will’s ((Shakespeare, of course)) Opening Weekend) events! There are so many great things to do in conjunction with WOW, so check out GRSF site for details.

Great River Shakespeare Festival, June 24 – Aug 2, www.grsf.org

Minnesota Beethoven Festival, June 28 – July 19, www.mnbeethovenfestival.org

Dixieland Jazz Festival, June 27, winonadixieland.webs.com

Boats and Bluegrass, September 24-27, www.boatsandbluegrass.com

Great Dakota Gathering and Homecoming, September, www.dakotahomecoming.org

Frozen River Film Festival, February 24-28, 2016, www.frff.org

Mid West Music Fest, Spring 2016, www.midwestmusicfest.org

Steamboat Days, June 15-19 (2016), www.winonasteamboatdays.com

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Dining & Drinking:

Acoustic Café • 77 Lafayette St • (507) 453-0394• www.theacoustic.com

Bloedow Bakery • 451 E Broadway St • (507) 452-3682 • www.bloedows.com

Blooming Grounds Coffee House • 50 East 3rd St • (507) 474-6551 • www.bgcoffeehouse.com

The Boathouse • 2 Johnson St • (507) 474-6550 • www.boathousewinona.com

Blue Heron Coffee House • 162 West Second St • (507) 452-7020 • www.blueheroncoffeehouse.com

Bluff Country Co-op • 121 West 2nd St • (507) 452-1815 • www.bluff.coop

Bub’s Brewing Co. • 65 E. 4th St • (507) 457-3121 • Find them on Facebook

Ed’s No Name Bar • 252 E 3rd St • edsnonamebar.com

Garvin Heights Vineyards • 2255 Garvin Heights Rd • (507) 474-WINE • www.ghvwine.com

Jefferson Pub & Grill • 58 Center St. • (507) 452-3723  www.jeffersonpub.com

Lakeview Drive Inn • 610 East Sarnia St • (507) 454-3723 • www.lakeviewdriveinn.com
Cruise in nights every Wednesday!

Mon Petit Cupcakes • (Available at Bluff Country Co-op and Winona Sandwich Shop) • monpetitcupcake.com

Signature’s Restaurant • 22852 County Road 17 • (507) 454-3767 • www.signatureswinona.com

Winona Sandwich Company • 619 Huff St. • (507) 452-1170 • Find them on Facebook

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Benji Nichols is a seeker of River Town Fun and has found it on more than one occasion at Ed’s in Winona!

Making a Scene Pt. 3 – Tom Fassbender / Boats & Bluegrass!

The following is part III in a series entitled “Making A Scene” from the Fall 2014 issue of Inspire(d) Magazine.
Part I – featuring Tanya Gertz & the Luther College Center Stage Series can be found here.
Part II – featuring James Ronan / Dance and Stay Young can be found here.

Interview by Benji Nichols
Images courtesy of Boats & Bluegrass.

*Please note, the 2014, 10th Anniversary presentation of Boats & Bluegrass is sold out. We offer up a giant high five to Tom Fassbender and his crew for presenting such a fantastic event in our region. Buy your tickets early next year!

 

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BoatsBluegrass10yrsTen years ago Tom Fassbender threw together an idea to help promote a fledgling outfitter company – take some great regional bands, have them play on the backwater of the Mississippi near Winona, schedule some paddle time…see what happens. What was created is a source of local magic that has magnified into one of the best small festivals in the Midwest: Boats & Bluegrass. The 2014 edition features more than 40 bands, plus paddling trips, family outings, and all the regular festival fun. Located on Prairie Island, with camping just a skip and a jump from the festival site, this event has grown to be a regional favorite. Boats and Bluegrass runs September 25-28, 2014. www.boatsandbluegrass.com

How’d you get into presenting events?

I guess helping with events all started back in High School with “field parties” on summer nights.  So that puts me at about 25 years. I’ve always had a desire to make people happy. Music has always played a huge roll in that and in my life. I enjoy making places where people feel comfortable and can relax – so being able to present music really ties it all together.

Do you have a most “exciting” live moment? 

I have been blessed to see and be a part of many shows (good and bad).  I learned more from the bad ones than the goodTom_F_Stick ones, but I would have to say the one that has stuck with me the most was one of my first experiences at a show. I was maybe 12 and fighting my way to the front at an Iron Maiden show. I bumped into a big guy with long hair who stood over six feet tall – he turned and looked down at me and gave me what I thought was a big thumbs up. I returned the thumbs up, but before I knew it he had picked me up and swiftly plucked me on his shoulders – turns out I had accepted his invitation.  His desire to help a kid enjoy the show has stuck with me, and been a bit of a mantra for me.

If you could present one show with anyone in the world – past or present – who would it be, and why?

My first thought is Jerry Garcia, just on a selfish note. On a more practical note, I guess I would say Bill Graham (1960s promoting legend, owner of the Fillmore / Winterland /Fillmore East, etc). Over the course of his life he was able give the world the gift of music – not always in a way I necessarily agree with but I think he cared about the “show”. Today I think that can get lost, and it would be great to experience how he did things.

What are you excited about in the near future?

This year’s 10th anniversary lineup is exciting. We are also planning to release a live compilation album from this year’s Boats & Bluegrass festival to celebrate 10 years. I’m looking forward to working through this process and hope to release the album around the first of the year.

— The 2014 10th Anniversary presentation of Boats & Bluegrass is SOLD OUT. Congrats to Tom and his crew, and buy your tickets early next year. Cheers to supporting live music!

Benji Nichols is the co-owner of Inspire(d) Media with his wife Aryn, and daughter Roxie. He’s been making things noisy since the early 1990s and is even known to make a living at it occasionally. Currently he is a partner in the Courtyard & Cellar in Decorah, makes magazines, and rides bikes while not being a Dad. 

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