Posts Tagged: cresco

January 2019 Calendar!

January 2019! Happy New Year! Let’s start this year off right! Get planning with this handy-dandy January 2019 calendar (you can download the pdf here). Here’s to a great year! XO, Inspire(d)

Check out these great January 2019 activities! In chronological order, each event’s number coincides with its number on the calendar!

6. January 1: Trempealeau Hotel Organic Music Cooperative Open Jam 2pm – late, join artists young and old, experienced and just getting it together. Bring an instrument and hang out before the January break!

7. January 12: Chosen Bean Concerts welcome Dennis Warner to Chatfield. Live acoustic music up-close and personal. Limited seating, $20 advance or at the door. 7:30pm performance.

8. January 17: New Minowa Players presents A Year With Frog and Toad, a delightful family-friendly musical. January 17-20 and 25-26. More details at

9. January 24-27: 48th Annual Driftrunner’s Snowfest! Cresco, IA Fairgrounds. Trail Rides, Raffle, Lonesome Road Band Saturday Night. Facebook “Driftrunners Snowmobile Club” for details.

10. January 26: Rick Brammer’s Absolute Science – Decorah Public Library: 11:00 am- a fun and educational program that encourages children of all ages to be engaged in the world of science

11. January 27: Winneshiek Wedding Market 12 pm-4 pm Hotel Winneshiek and Opera House Free Admission, Sample and experience the area’s best wedding products. Details at

RAGBRAI Fun in Northeast Iowa!

By Sara Friedl-Putnam
Illustrations by Aryn Henning Nichols
Originally published in the summer 2017 Inspire(d)

RAGBRAI is known for its seven fun-filled days, with upwards of 9,000 riders pedaling west to east across the entire state of Iowa. The three days scheduled in Northeast Iowa this year (2017) are no exception. There’s so much fun stuff here, in fact, we thought we’d put together just a few ideas to get folks started (do adventure on your own too!). Have fun, and welcome to the Driftless!



Today’s relatively short 54.6-mile ride should give you plenty of time to explore Cresco and its surrounds before calling it a night.

CRESCO (overnight)

Lovely day out? Discover unique prairie wildflowers and grasses at Prairie’s Edge Nature Center – and relax beside the small waterfalls and sloping pools at Vernon Springs Ladder Dam, Iowa’s first rock-arch rapids project.
Read a fun feature on Cresco here!

Cresco Theatre and Opera House
115 Second Avenue West

Are you looking for someplace fun to rest those weary bones? Look no further than the cushioned seats of this architectural gem of a theatre, opened in 1915 (to a packed house) and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

Once a popular stop for vaudeville performers, today the 425-seat theatre hosts concerts, stage productions, and, of course, recently released films. The price at the door may be more than the five cents it was a century ago, but the experience is worth every (additional) penny.

Dough and Joe Bakery
114 North Elm Street

A full day in the saddle awaits, so why not start your ride off right with a full dose of carbs and caffeine? This family-owned bakery offers plenty of both, from the latte of the week to cookies and cake pops. But it’s the heavenly cream-filled long johns that helped earn Dough and Joe Bakery the seventh spot on Travel Iowa’s list of best donut establishments in 2016.


What’s on tap for day six? You’ll climb 2,483 feet as you traverse just about 60 miles of scenic Northeast Iowa terrain. First stop is Decorah, where the town’s annual Nordic Fest promises to be in full swing. Then Ossian, Castalia, and Postville await before you call it a day in Allamakee’s county seat: Waukon.


Outdoor highlights:
One town, three waterfalls! At 200 feet, the truly spectacular Dunnings Spring waterfall is just minutes by bike from downtown Decorah. Out of town but right off the Trout Run Trail (map here!) you’ll find Siewers Spring, located just steps from a popular trout-rearing station. Further off the RAGBRAI path is Malanaphy Springs, near Bluffton but well worth the ride if you have the time and inclination to make it.

Nordic Fest
Water Street and environs

Dish up the kringla, krumkakke, lefse, and lutefisk. Cue up theNordic Dancers and Luren Singers. Each July since 1967, small-town Decorah has put on one big Norwegian celebration, featuring an array of entertainment and, yes, lots and lots of energy-boosting Scandinavian food, most served up by friendly locals from food booths up and down Water Street. Even if you don’t know varme polse from rømmegrøt, hop off your bike, partake in the fun, and take advantage of the opportunity to be a little bit Norwegian for the day.

Oneota Community Food Co-Op
312 West Water Street

Swing by and stock up on some healthy fuel for the road. Locally grown organic produce, piping-hot panini sandwiches, and fresh-baked breads and pastries – this thriving community co-op has them all, as well as shelves stocked with everything from natural peanut butter and sweet potato chips to bulk bins with nuts, dried fruits, and other nutritious treats.

College Drive Breweries:

Toppling Goliath

Small-town Decorah has some big-time beer. Poured inside the modest Toppling Goliath taproom is craft beer so remarkable it’s widely considered among the best in the world. And as locals will tell you, the outdoor patio is tailor-made for kicking back and enjoying popular tap varieties like Pseudo Sue pale ale and Dorothy’s New World Lager.

Pulpit Rock
Just down College Drive you’ll find Pulpit Rock, which opened its doors in a retrofitted laundry / garage in 2015 and has quickly made a name for itself as a destination taproom. Thirst-quenching pale ales, delicious Saftig IPA, and variations of (local) Impact coffee-infused pour-over porter – there truly is something to satisfy even the most discriminating of beer enthusiasts at this adventurous craft brewery. While you’re at it, swing down around the corner on Water Street and hit the Courtyard & Cellar for beer garden or cellar-shade nirvana

What cyclist doesn’t crave ice cream on a hot summer day? Take your pick of soft-serve at the Whippy Dip on College Drive, or hand-dipped Sugar Bowl on Water Street.
Read our “thoroughly researched” Driftless ice cream guide here!

Its nitro cold brew on tap may be perfect for a hot July day, but Impact Coffee Bar also offers a full menu of custom-roasted coffee, pour overs, espresso-based drinks, and loose-leaf teas. Read more about Impact Coffee  in our ‘Summer 2017’ magazine!


Need to make a quick pit stop before you hit Postville? Then be on the lookout for Shooters Bar and Grill (Main Street, Ossian) and Susie’s First Chance Saloon (Greene Street, Castalia).

Home to one of the smallest YMCAs in the nation, the small but diverse town of Postville also boasts some memorable restaurants, including the Brick Oven Pizza and Eatery on Greene Street and the authentic (and tiny) Mexican restaurant and carniceria, El Pariente, next door. Not hungry yet? Swing by the city park and relax to the strains of live Mexican music, or check out the music and beer garden downtown.


Empty Nest Winery
1352 Apple Road

Want to take in the countryside without pedaling? Then check out this off-the-beaten-path winery, established in 2011 by husband and wife team Dave and Pam Kruger. Folks can sit back and relax with a glass of wine while enjoying the picturesque woods, hills, and fields of Northeast Iowa. In addition to its handcrafted pure-berry wines, the Empty Nest will be serving up beer, sangria, and slushies – plus a tasty food buffet – for RAGBRAI riders (or any visitors, really!).

The “Old” Rossville Store
851 Volney Road

There’s nothing more quintessentially Midwest than the supper club. And the homespun “Old” Rossville Store has a reputation as one of Iowa’s best. Be sure to come hungry, though, as large portions of entrees like its popular prime rib come with choice of potato, steamed veggies, AND a trip to a far-from-ordinary salad bar. Be on the lookout for marinated carrot salad, cottage cheese, pea salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, tomato salad, and even chocolate pudding and strawberry ambrosia.

WAUKON (overnight)

W.W. Homestead Dairy
850 Rossville Road

When nearby Luther College needed a dessert (literally) fit for a king, it was this small dairy that got the call. That’s right – in October 2011, King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway capped off a luncheon at the college with a helping of W.W. Homestead Dairy’s cinnamon ice cream created just for the occasion. No doubt RAGBRAI riders will be equally pleased by the rich, flavorful ice cream – made with farm-fresh, cream-line milk – served up in dishes, cones, and carryout containers. Or if ice cream’s not your jam, swing by and sample the dairy’s fresh cheese curds, just as sought after by the hometown crowd.

Main Feature Theater and Pizza Pub
38 West Main Street

Pizza. Popcorn. Beer. And, yes, a movie. What more could you ask for after a long, hot day biking Iowa’s back roads? First opened as the Town Theatre in the 1930s, this Main Street fixture was re-invented as a dine-in theatre in 1989. Since then, it’s been welcoming hungry adults and kids for an affordable, one-of-a-kind entertainment experience. Word on the street is that the pizza & movie combination may be going away soon, so catch it if you can!

Steel Cow Gallery
15 Allamakee Street

Her works decorate the sides of barns and the walls of homes, businesses, and galleries throughout the Midwest. Hop off your bike and check out the bovine artistry of Valerie Miller, creator of the popular Steel Cow line of original paintings and canvas prints. 


Further explore the splendor of the Driftless Region as RAGBRAI ascends 3,200 feet over 44.8 miles. Wind through Waterville, then the Yellow River State Forest, with its 8,500 acres and 25 miles of trails known for rocky outcrops, stunning bluffs, and steep slopes. Gotta stop for a quick drink or bite to eat? Check out Missfitz Bar and Grill or Spillway Supper Club, both in Harpers Ferry, before finally conquering the last 13-mile leg to Lansing, the last stop on RAGBRAI XLV.


Driftless Area Education and Visitors Center
Great River Road

Learn more about the Driftless flora, fauna, and other natural features you’ve seen from the seat of your bike. Be among the first to experience the interpretive displays of this just-opened center, which overlooks the mighty Mississippi River and explores the mysteries of the region, including its limestone bluffs, Native American mounds, and algific talus slopes.

Horsfall’s Lansing Variety Store
300 Main Street

Itching to hitch up your bike and head for home? Better press that pause button because no trip to this scenic Mississippi River town is complete without at least a brush through the bargain-stacked aisles of the store known simply as Horsfall’s. Variety is the name of the game at this storied establishment, which celebrates the glory days of five-and-dimes and carries pretty much anything you can imagine. From greeting cards and sunglasses to cookbooks and cat toys, Horsfall’s has it all.

Safe House Saloon
359 Main Street

Kick back, relax, and write the final chapter of your RAGBRAI adventure at this fun local eatery. As its name suggests, the Safe House Saloon offers plenty of beer, both bottled and on tap, craft and otherwise. But you’ll also find beer-battered cheese curds, wings slathered in homemade sauces, and an array of gourmet pizzas with entertaining names like the Naked Cowboy and the Bootlegger to satisfy those hunger pangs before you hit the road back home.

Congrats to all who are making the 2017 trek across the state – we hope you find your way back to the Driftless soon – and please tell all of our friends above that we sent you! Cheers & happy riding!

Cresco, Iowa


Cresco Community: A history of innovators

By Aryn Henning Nichols • Originally published in the Summer 2016 Inspire(d)

“You make your family,” says long-time Cresco, Iowa resident Bootie Kapler. “Cresco is my family.”

In that family, Bootie Kapler would definitely be the mom. If there’s a committee, volunteer position, or, really, any person in need, Bootie is there. Seriously – she sits on at least a dozen area boards. If they ask, she says yes.

“I don’t mind as long as we get something done. And so often they feed you,” she says with a chuckle. “I do lots of volunteering too.”

From taking shifts at Howard Community Hospice or The County Store non-profit to tour-directing for CUSB Bank’s VIP 55+ club –“We went ALL OVER creation! Before that, I’d never even been on a bus!” – Bootie finds a way to help out.

BootieKapler“You do a lot of reading and calling, and eventually you learn how to do things,” she says. “Oh, and every year I make 12 Easter baskets for local shut-ins. I even made myself a bunny costume to deliver them! Can you imagine?! Ha! It’s the best thing in the world to make people laugh.”

The now 78-year-old moved to Cresco when she was 14. A few years later, when she graduated high school, it looked like Bootie was heading on out.

“My parents gave me two weeks to move out of the house. That’s just the way things were then,” she says. “I wanted to be a nurse. The tuition for an LPN was $75 for a year back then – I knew I could afford that – so I went to St. Mary’s in Rochester.”



“When I ran out of money, I came back to Cresco. Some classmates and I had the intention that we were going to get to Denver, Colorado, once we had enough money. But I met a cute fellow with black curly hair instead,” she says.

Bootie and Ike Kapler got married in 1959. “I went west!” she says with a big laugh. “Half-a-mile west… to this farm!”

Bootie opens the door to her farmhouse with a hug. Inside, oldies music is playing. There are fresh-out-of-the-oven butter brickle cookies and, of course, hot coffee.

She may crack a lot of jokes, but there’s no doubt that all Bootie wants is to be there for her community.

“The support from your friends in Cresco – they may want to know every possible thing about you, but they sure are there for you in a crisis,” she says.

When Bootie and Ike’s youngest daughter suffered through anorexia in college, their friends supported them without judgment, and when Ike passed away in 2004, 500 people came through to pay their respects at the funeral.

So when Bootie ran into a local businessman at the grocery store, lamenting that he couldn’t find land in town and was looking elsewhere to start his new business, of course Bootie had to help.

“I said, ‘What if I sold you part of my farm?’”

Photo by Jessica Rilling

Photo by Jessica Rilling

Right on the edge of town, the 60 acres of property was perfect for Cresco growth, and Bootie was eager to see jobs and dollars stay in the county. She and her family made the sale in late 2008, and Campsite RV and Shopko have since been developed there, joining an already industry-rich community that includes, to name a few, Featherlite, Alum-Line, Donaldson, Masonry Technology Incorporated, Bear Creek Archeology

“The hospital too,” Bootie continues with the list. “Oh, and Plantpeddler. They employ a lot of people.” She pauses. “I work there part time.” (Of course she does.)

“But I just drive around delivering flowers and making people happy. It’s pretty good work. Better than bill collecting!”

Bootie is just one of the thoughtful and innovative people who make things GO in Cresco. But really, throughout history, Cresco has been home to a great many innovators – people who aren’t afraid to take chances – on their career, on themselves, and on their community.

150 years ago, Cresco founder Augustus Beadle recruited folks to the freshly platted land with the promise of a railroad and a good life. There’s a beard-growing contest in the name of Augustus for Cresco’s upcoming 150th Birthday Celebration.


Many years after Augustus, Cresco High School’s most famous graduate, Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dr. Norman Borlaug (1914-2009), developed a high-yield, drought-resistance strain of wheat that helped billions of people grow food that could survive – and help them survive – on their land. Cresco hosts the Norman Borlaug Harvest Fest most falls to celebrate his accomplishments as well as those of the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation (the next Harvest Fest is 2017).

And Cresco native Ellen Church (1904-1965) innovated an entirely new profession – that of airline attendants! The local airport is named in her honor.

The town itself sits about 10 miles shy of the Iowa/Minnesota border. It is the Howard County seat, and roughly 4000 people live there. The main drag – a tree-speckled Elm Street – takes you along historical buildings (the recently renovated theatre and the library buildings are over 100 years old and still operating under their original purpose), a variety of bronze public art sculptures, and a great big county courthouse. It’s charming. And it’s clear people in the community care – about each other and their town.


“I know it sounds cheesy, but the best part about Cresco is its people,” says Katie Ferrie, a local “do-er” and the marketing co-chair for Cresco’s 150th Celebration. Katie volunteers in addition to working her day job at CUSB Bank and keeping up with two busy, young daughters.

Yep, folks in small towns have to wear many hats if they’re going to make progress.

“Some of the best volunteers are some of the busiest people,” says Mark Johnson, technology manager at Cresco’s Masonry Technology Incorporated. “I’m a big believer in altruism. We need to give back.”

BrendaMarkJohnsonMark and his wife, Brenda, love living in Cresco because of the great proximity to nature of all kinds – from Prairie’s Edge Nature Center, to Vernon Springs, to the 22-mile Prairie Springs paved bike trail that connects to the Prairie Farmer Trail and links Cresco, Ridgeway, and Calmar, Iowa. But they are especially passionate about the cross-country ski trails – trails they helped create.

It was the mid 70s when Mark and Brenda came to Cresco – separately; they met and eventually fell in love after they were recruited as teachers in the Cresco school district.

“They specifically were looking for a physical education teacher who could also teach art,” Brenda says with a laugh.

Mark had degrees in English and reading, and ended up teaching those skills through computers. He went on to become an Adobe Master Teacher, and also taught classes at the Northeast Iowa Community College center in Cresco.

“I learned much more from the kids than they ever learned from me,” he says.

It was shortly after their arrival in Cresco that the new couple got their first cross-country skis.

“We bought them in La Crosse because nowhere around here sold them,” Brenda says.

Back then, people just beat down their own tracks for skiing. But the Kiwanis club made a trail near Prairie’s Edge Nature Center and Mark and Brenda started to really get into the sport.

“We got so excited about it we bought a little house just east of the courthouse and turned part of it into a ski shop,” Mark says with a laugh.

It was all very DIY – they bought a snowmobile and had a local blacksmith make a track-setter. They helped start the Upper Iowa Ski Club in the early 1980s. Although the club doesn’t exist anymore, its mission continues on. A group of volunteers, with help from the Howard County Conservation Board, that currently keep the trails going, and they’ve made significant (re: state-of-the-art) equipment upgrades. The group now grooms some of the best cross-country ski trails in the region.

Mark and Brenda volunteer elsewhere too. In the warmer months, Brenda helps to clear trails at the Nature Center and works at the local Meals on Wheels, and Mark is on the Normal Borlaug Heritage Foundation Board and both serve on the Prairie Springs Trail Committee.


“I get more out of it than I probably put into it,” Mark says. “I’ve met so many great people, and you walk away feeling good that you’ve helped out…that you’ve accomplished something.”

A lot of the challenges that face the community of Cresco are universal to small towns…heck, maybe all towns.

“The doers can get tapped out,” says Jason Passmore, Executive Director of Howard County Business and Tourism. “We’re also seeing a population loss. It’s hard to get younger people to come live here. Like a lot of rural Midwest towns, we’re seeing a decline in enrollment in schools. We have a lot of great manufacturing here in Cresco, but the workforce is aging. So we need to bring in families to replace that depleting workforce. We’re going to have to become more diverse, and that can be a challenge.”

But they’re up for the challenge, says business and tourism Development Coordinator Spiff Slifka.

“We’re asking ourselves, ‘What will draw people? What will set us apart?’” Spiff says. “We’re trying to take on that next level infrastructure.”

The City Council is on board as well (no pun intended). They’ve worked over the past couple of years to increase energy efficiency in town – all the streetlights are LED, as well as the new Cresco Theatre marquee (but designed to be historically accurate). Plus, they’re early participants in a solar power purchase agreement.

“By spring we will have 300+ kW of solar panels on city property. We are really working hard on reducing the city’s energy usage to save the taxpayers’ money,” says six-year city council member Amy Bouska. “We’re pretty proud of what we’ve got over here.”

As Bootie says, Cresco is family. The people of this small Midwestern town are working hard for each other and their community. They’re making great efforts to bring folks in to visit and work and live, and they are carrying on a rich history of innovation.

“For 40 years, I’ve been part of project after project to help make this community better,” Mark says. “And that’s the thing. The people of Cresco keep re-making or re-working ourselves to be even better.”


Aryn Henning Nichols loves heading out to meet people for these stories, and figure out what it is that makes them feel proud to call their towns home. Cresco is a really cool place, and Aryn looks forward to heading over there more this summer for some outdoor fun!


Cresco 150th color logo

Cresco 150th Birthday Celebration July 20-24, 2016

There are SO MANY things happening for Cresco’s big 150th Celebration – here are just a few of the highlights.

  • Augustus Beadle Beard Contest!
  • Live music and entertainment all weekend
  • Lots of kids’ activities (bouncy houses, slides, and more)
  • Cooking contests
  • Food vendors
  • Cruise to Cresco Car Show & Tractor Show
  • Pine Wood Derby
  • Fly-In Breakfast
  • Art in the Park
  • Grand Parade
  • Tons of tours – Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame, Borlaug Heritage Farm, Ag Education Center, Howard County Museum, Cabin in Beadle Park, County Hospital, Cresco Theatre, Kellow House, etc.

Head on over to or for additional details and up-to-date information.

PrairiesEdgeCenterOther Cool Cresco Stuff to Check Out:

Prairie’s Edge Nature Center

The Prairie’s Edge Nature Center was opened in 2000 – it gets its name from the native prairie planted right outside its doors. The Nature Center also houses multiple displays, including live animals, such as a tiger salamander, native fish swimming through a 180-gallon tank, and a live honeybee display. Outside, enjoy trails for all seasons!

Iowa’s first rock ladder dam at Vernon Springs

Right across from Prairie’s Edge Nature Center, Vernon Springs Rock Ladder Dam was introduced and then completed in 2010. Instead of an outdated dam, the river now contains 280 ft. of pools and rapids that spread this drop out with an average grade of three percent versus the previous dam’s vertical drop of eight feet. The rapids open the Turkey River to fish migration while making the area safer for people of all ages. This first-in-the-State of Iowa rock arch rapids is safer for people and now wildlife and offers a unique perspective to the Turkey River and Vernon Mill Pond.

Prairie Farmer Trail

A 20 mile crushed limestone trail that connects Cresco and Calmar, Iowa. It’s a great bike ride through native prairies and Iowa farmland.

Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation & Farm

The Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation owns Dr. Borlaug’s boyhood 103-Acre farm in Northeast Iowa. There’s the farmhouse/museum, various outbuildings, and an old schoolhouse on site. Visit in September for the Norman Borlaug Harvest Fest (next one is scheduled for 2017).

Cresco Theatre / Opera House

This amazing theatre and opera house hosts live music, theatre, and popular movies as well! It was recently renovated and painted with amazing intricacy by Riehle Decorating.

Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame

Check out cool Iowa wrestling history. Housed in the Cresco Welcome Center, it’s a great launching point for your Cresco visit. And don’t miss the super-awesome IWHOF mural on your way in!

Cresco Fitness Center and Indoor Pool

This place is a lifesaver in the winter for those with kids! Swim time!

Driftrunners Snowmobile Club

In addition to cross country skiing, there’s great snowmobiling in Howard County. Driftrunners Inc. is a non-profit organization established in 1968, has a long history of snowmobiling in Northeast Iowa. They host an annual Snowfest weekend event in January (2017 will be the 45th!).