Posts Tagged: Iowa

Probituary, A Notice of Life: Phyllis Green

phyllis-greenPhyllis Green, interviewed by daughter Pat Beck

People around Decorah know Phyllis Green as a bridge player, club member, cookie baker, reliable volunteer, teacher and loyal friend. These qualities, plus a cheerful outlook, and a pragmatic can-do attitude have had a positive effect on people who have known her over eight decades. Phyllis was born August 16, 1928, and grew up on the Erickson family farm near Burr Oak. Though it was during the Great Depression, her life was rich with farm activities, 4-H, church, a sister, cousins, chores, and her pets. She learned the rewards of hard work, of challenging herself, of true love, and of giving.

phyllis_siblingsPhyllis lived in Decorah during her high school years because there were no school buses. She made this big transition shortly after she turned 13; she shared a room with people she didn’t know, cooked for herself, and was introduced to running water and electricity. Decorah High School offered High School Normal Training to prepare teachers for country schools. Phyllis’s long teaching career led to recognition as Scott County Teacher Award, North Scott Community Arts Patron, Iowa Social Studies Teacher of the Year, University of Iowa Distinguished Teacher Award, and The 51st Point of Light given by President Bush.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I am rather averse to advice. I learn by example. My mother taught me to try new things because that’s how you learn if you can do them or not.

What is the worst advice anyone ever gave you?

Since this is not a part of my thinking, I usually count on my own ideas – sometimes good and sometimes questionable. Isn’t that how you learn?

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was in second grade, my teacher showed me the love and understanding that touched and impressed me. It was in second grade that I set my goal to become a teacher.

When I finished high school, I taught two years in a country school. Then I married K. Ted Green, my life partner. We have five beautiful children. When they were all in school, I started college and completed my degree at Upper Iowa University. Because of Ted’s job with Oscar Mayer, we moved to the Quad Cities. I taught at North Scott Schools for 25 years. Living just 50 miles from The University of Iowa was incentive to continue my education. I completed my MA in two areas and was accepted in the doctoral program. Ted knew I wanted to further my education and he made this dream a reality by his complete support, encouragement, and understanding. These were the building blocks that made my dreams come true. I’ve always been curious about people and places. Ted and I enjoyed foreign travel so this was a part of our yearly plan.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?

I’d want lots of pictures of our family – children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, a good book, paper and a pencil, and a Hershey Bar. I know that is more than three things, but I usually get what I want.

Try to describe yourself in one sentence.

I am a hard worker, an honored wife, a loved mom, grandma, and great-grandma.

If you could eat anything everyday for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A Hershey chocolate bar.

Name one thing you could not live without.

I need a pencil and paper to record my feelings, my wishes, my poetry, my dreams, my stories, my ideas, and to communicate with family and friends – but if I can really have only ONE thing, it would be my family.

phyllis_ted_weddingTell us about your favorite memory.

I will never forget meeting Ted. I was at the county fair when a friend introduced us. He was the county boys’ 4-H president and I was the county girls’ 4-H president but we had never met. I finished high school, taught two years and Ted went to Madison to start his career.

Our wedding day started 63 years of “favorite memories.” We were married at Upper Lutheran Church and had our wedding reception at the Winneshiek Hotel.  We were blessed with four sons and one daughter. Each birth, baptism, confirmation, graduation, wedding have added to our favorite memories.

Also our 60th wedding party, planned by our children, was also held at the Hotel Winneshiek. I have so much to be grateful for!

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Driftless Day Trips: Cassville / Potosi

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By Aryn Henning Nichols • Photos by Inspire(d) unless noted • Originally published in the Fall 2015 Inspire(d)

WhatsDriftlessDayTripDriving south down Highway 52 toward Guttenberg, Iowa, it’s hard not to let out a little sigh. The valleys and farmland and big blue sky make the miles tick by faster than you’d hope.

The town of Guttenberg doesn’t actually come into view until the very last minute. No matter which way you enter, you come up over a hill or to a spot where the trees open and you’re greeted by this sweet little town way down in the valley, and truly amazing views of the Mississippi. Gotta get a pic? Scenic lookouts on the both the north and south side of town offer great selfies opportunities (don’t hate – we’re big fans of the family selfie!).

SPOTlight: Guttenberg

Guttenberg is snuggled right up to the Mississippi – the historic main street, River Park Drive, runs along the bank of the river. We packed a picnic and made a stop at a park near Lock and Dam 10. It was super fun to watch the boats and barges pass through the dam as we munched on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There’s also a viewing platform available for an even closer look.

Picnic

History buffs can check out the National Register of Historic Places Lockmaster House Heritage Museum nearby. It now only houses memorabilia – it’s the last remaining lockmaster house on the Upper Mississippi River.

South of Lock and Dam 10, just down River Park Drive, is the Aquarium and Fish Hatchery (generally open 9 am – 3 pm May – October). It’s a quaint little one-room affair, operated by biologists with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Exhibits include a large selection of live Mississippi River creatures – catfish, turtles, mussels, trout, and other fun fish – plus some cool historical displays.

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Photo courtsey Sheila Tomkins

Guttenberg is a German town through-and-through, and celebrates GermanFest each fall September 23-24, 2016 marks the 26th anniversary of the event! The family-friendly Fest includes an arts and crafts market, biergarten, kraut cook-off, hog roast, homemade beer tasting, live music, a 5K walk/run, wiener dog races, and more! www.guttenbergiowa.net

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From there, we were off to catch the ferry. We had hoped Roxie would also catch a nap, but alas…it wasn’t meant to be (yet). Just a few miles south of Guttenberg, there’s a sign directing you left to the Cassville Ferry. You’ll take some gravel that’ll seem almost like dirt roads…but know you’re on the right path. Just enjoy the scenery (and stop stressing already)!

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SPOTlight: Cassville Ferry

After passing by small farms and large fields, you’ll finally arrive at a gravel parking area next to the river – this is the Iowa side of the Cassville Ferry!

The Pride of Cassville Car Ferry – the oldest operating ferry service in the state of Wisconsin – connects two National Scenic Byways; the (Wisconsin) Great River Road and the Iowa Great River Road. It began in 1833 and continues today, making the same trip back and forth across the Mississippi.

The very first governor of Wisconsin, a then 23-year-old Nelson Dewey, made his first trip across the Mississippi to reach the tiny village of Cassville. He settled there in 1836 and attempted to turn Cassville into a metropolis. It never quite made it – Cassville is just shy of 1,000 people – but it’s a cute little town and the Ferry is definitely a fun way to get from Iowa to Wisconsin (or vice versa).

FamilyFerryWe had Roxie press the button and soon saw the ferry chugging our way. You drive aboard, give the friendly employees your fare, and enjoy the ride!

Details:
Cassville Ferry
Fall hours: September 8 to October 25
Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
10AM to 8PM
(7 days a week Memorial Day to Labor Day – check website for current hours)

From Cassville, (Wisconsin now, remember) we headed southeast on the Great River Road to Potosi. It was time for a beer! (Also a nap, but alas…not yet.)

Potosi

According to Wikipedia, Potosi is known as the “the Catfish Capital of Wisconsin,” because of its annual Catfish Festival in August, but when you arrive in Potosi, most would say it’s the Potosi Brewery (and The National Brewery Museum and Library) that you notice first. Another one of those pretty little towns nestled in the beauty of the Driftless Region, Potosi is truly a village – fewer than 700 people call it home – but that doesn’t mean it’s not busy at the main attraction, Potosi Brewing.

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SPOTlight: Potosi Brewing

The Potosi Brewing Company began in 1852. At its peak, it was the fifth largest brewery in Wisconsin, shipping beers such as Good Old Potosi, Holiday, Garten Brau, and Augsburger throughout the United States. But business slowed, and it closed its doors in 1972. In 1995, after a terrible fire that took out almost a whole block of buildings, a man named Gary David bought the property and began restoration, rebuilding for three years before finally being able to assess the brewery itself.

In 1999, after a prompt by his wife, Madonna, David proposed a community meeting in hopes of bringing the public in on the restoration process. The meeting was incredibly well attended by the public and brought forth suggestions as well as support, and eventually led to the 2000 formation of the Potosi Brewery Foundation. In January of 2001, the Potosi Brewery building was donated to the Potosi Foundation, and the brewery property was officially transferred. Following a $7.5 million restoration, the Potosi Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and sole owner of the Potosi Brewing Company, reopened the brewery in 2008. The Potosi Foundation’s mission is to support historical and educational initiatives, and charitable causes.

To cap things off (pun!) in 2004 the Potosi Foundation was selected by the American Breweriana Association to be the home to its national museum.

Potosi Brewery now crafts and distributes a variety of beers throughout the region. We had some yummy tasters while Roxie checked out the koi pond, and the pub serves up tasty food ranging from brats and burgers to flatbreads and pasta. The building itself is beautiful and fun to wander around, and you can also tour the National Brewery Museum.

Beerkoipond

The National Brewery Museum is a joint venture between the Potosi Foundation and the American Breweriana Association. It showcases a collection of beer bottles and cans, glasses, trays, coasters, advertising materials and other items relating to breweriana collectibles.

FYI: Breweriana commonly refers to any article containing a brewery name or brand name, usually in connection to collecting them as a hobby.

P.S. There’s also live music through mid-September out on the Potosi patio!

Scenery_Potosi

Back in the car, we headed toward Dubuque. NOW it was time for Roxie’s nap (thank goodness).

Along the way:
Dickyville Grotto
One Catholic Priest, Father Matthias Wernerus, built this amazing place between the years 1925-1930. There’s no official record, but they say nearly 200 tons of rock were gathered from the Dakotas, Iowa, and nearby Wisconsin quarries to build it. Most of the site’s structures are covered in shells, stones, tiles, wood, glass, gems, and geodes donated by area parishioners.

IowaWelcome

Dubuque

While this could certainly be a one-day trip, with an almost-three-year-old in tow, we decided to spend the night in Dubuque. There are several great options. Our favorites are the historic Hotel Julien right downtown and the Grand Harbor – right on the riverwalk – this place has a riverboat-themed waterpark and is a fun option for a family overnight (especially in the cold months)!

If you do opt for the overnight, make sure to check out our Dubuque Driftless Day Trip for details on what to do while you’re in town (Highlights: Mississippi River Aquarium, Fenelon Elevator, L. May Eatery, and more.)

The next day, we got back on the road, this time headed northwest to check out another spot off the beaten path: Park Farm Winery.

Along the way:
Field of Dreams movie site – You know the story: If you build it, they will come. And apparently, so will the tourists and locals, for many years!

ParkFarmVines

SPOTlight: Park Farm Winery, Bankston, Iowa

Once again, we’ve taken you on a path that seems a little too far out of the way. And it’s kind of true. Because once you arrive at Park Farm Winery, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another country! There’s the trademark Driftless rolling hills and valleys, but with the bonus beauty of rows upon rows of grapes. It’s just lovely.

ParkFarmOutsideParkFarmInside

Established in 2005, Park Farm is a family owned and operated winery near Bankston, Iowa. The chateau-inspired vineyard is home to a tasting room, wood-fired pizza oven, and event venue. The 11-acre estate grows specific ‘cold climate’ grape cultivars that produce great wine and withstand the harsh winters of the Upper Midwest.

Folks can grab some wine tasters (or just a glass of whatever they love), head out on the balcony, and enjoy the view while munching on a wood-fired pizza. It’s a pretty great spot.

Pizza

Check website for current hours.

It was finally time to head north, back to Decorah. We had a blast on this Driftless Day Trip and hope you are inspire(d) to head out on your own. Hit us up at on social media @iloveinspired if you do, and stay tuned for more Driftless Day Trips! Enjoy! – Aryn (and Benji and Roxie too)

Nordic Fest Celebrates 50 Years!

NordicFest_Top

By Sara Friedl-Putnam • Originally published in the Summer 2016 Inspire(d)

It’s the last Saturday in July, and thousands of men, women, and children – some wearing bunads, the traditional Norwegian folk costume, others sporting silver Viking helmets – crowd Water Street in picturesque Decorah, Iowa. Norwegian and Scandinavian flags flap gently in the wind as a Hardanger fiddle resonates its spellbinding melody along the car-free street. The irresistible aroma of griddle-warmed lefse and piping-hot varme pølser wafts through the air; mischievous-looking wooden nisses peer out from glass storefronts; and residents and visitors alike exchange hugs and hellos (or hallos!).

Welcome to Nordic Fest, Decorah’s celebration of all things Norwegian.

NordicFest_Button

Nordic Fest 2016 button artwork by Lauren Bonney

Each July since 1967, this scenic small town has hosted a surprisingly big Norwegian celebration of treasured customs and traditions. Every year, the Fest and its numerous volunteers have improved upon the last, but there are certain – one might say “perfekt” – things that never change. Just as Decorah’s Nordic Dancers delighted crowds with Norwegian folk dances at the first Nordic Fest, so too will they at this year’s event. Just as ’60s-era Fest-goers strolled down Water Street to sample Norwegian fare such as lefse, kringla, and varme pølser (then just 50 cents a pop!), so too will this year’s visitors. Just as Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum hosted world-acclaimed rosemalers, weavers, and whittlers through its Folk Art School at the first Fest, so too will it at this year’s 50th. And just as talented musicians – many roaming freely along Water Street – entertained the estimated 35,000 people who flocked to the inaugural fest, so too will musicians highlight Nordic Fest 2016.

“The Nordic Fest of today is very similar to the Nordic Fest of 1967 – it’s actually remarkable how true it has stayed to its roots,” says Decorah native (and unrivaled Nordic Fest expert) Dawn Svenson Holland, daughter of fest founder Gary Svenson and author of the soon-to-be published “Nordic Fest: 50 Years Strong” coffee-table book (see below for book details).

It was late July 1966 when actress and screenwriter Helga Lund Algyer – then working with Vesterheim and enjoying life in her husband’s hometown of Decorah – read a “New York Times” article about a Scandinavian Festival in Junction City, Oregon. She approached her longtime friend, Decorah businessman Mike Dahly, with a copy. It was this simple nudge got Nordic Fest, year one, rolling.

NordicFest_PicCollage1

“Helga loved Decorah and thought that this was something the town could do to promote tourism,” recalls Dahly, a founding Nordic Fest board member. “I thought the idea had real promise, so I talked to Marion Nelson, then Vesterheim’s executive director, to get his read on it. He liked the idea a lot, with the stipulation that it be an educational, family-friendly event.”

Soon Dahly was pitching the festival to his fellow Jaycees. They were on board from the start.

NordicFest_CrowdShot“As young Jaycees, we didn’t know how to say ‘no,’ never mind all the hard work or the fact that we had never done anything like this before,” recalls Jerry Aulwes, longtime Decorah city councilman and an active Jaycee at the time. “The Luther College Woman’s Club, which ran Syttende Mai, was also pushing for a more community-wide Norwegian-themed event so the timing seemed right.”

In August 1966 a small group of Jaycees – Dahly, Aulwes, Svenson, Darrell Pierce, and Harry Olson (Nordic Fest’s first president) – began meeting weekly at the Tap Room of the old Hotel Winneshiek to plan the very first Fest. The five men – along with Nelson and Phyllis Leseth, a tireless community volunteer affectionately called “mom” by her fellow Fest planners – are recognized as the event’s founders, though countless volunteers and supporters played major roles in bringing the first Fest to life.

Among those individuals were the board members’ spouses, many of whom worked long hours themselves to prepare for the first and following fests; Betty Hacker, who directed the first group of Nordic Dancers; Jane Norris, who spent countless hours working with Dahly and Leseth to publicize the Fest throughout the Midwest and beyond; Betty Seegmiller, Nelson’s assistant, who typed (and retyped and typed again!) the first Fest program; and Dr. Gale Fletchall, founder of Junction City’s Scandinavian Festival. “Dr. Fletchall offered a lot of great advice,” recalls Dahly, who called and corresponded with the Fletchall on several occasions. “He strongly advised that Nordic Fest be a family-friendly, nonprofit, community-wide celebration. And he stressed the importance of authenticity.”

With that vision in mind, the Jaycees, Vesterheim, and a dedicated group of community-minded volunteers set to work turning a town of 8,000 tucked into the wooded ridges and limestone bluffs of Northeast Iowa into a little slice of Norway for four summer days. The founders worked for nearly a year to hammer out the details of launching a community fest on a budget of little more than $2,600. These funds were raised through the selling of $50 Fest founders’ memberships and $10 sustaining memberships.

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The decisions that year were seemingly endless. How many days should the Fest run? (Four, later shortened to three.) Should Water Street be closed to vehicular traffic? (Yes.) What should the first Fest theme be? (“This is Norway.”) Who should “profit”? (Only nonprofits, which, in turn, would use funds raised through food sales for community betterment.) Would there be a parade? (Yes, and, in fact, there were four that first year.) Who should provide the food? (Community groups like the sorority Beta Sigma Phi “manned” food booths, while local church congregations served up full Norwegian smorgasbord dinners.) How should directors “run” messages and other updates back and forth throughout the fest? (By riding bicycles.) Would there be fireworks? (No, not initially, but a Sutr “Norse fire giant” celebration replete with a torchlight parade and bonfire did take place.) Should alcohol be served? (No.)

The decision to hold the fest the last weekend of July was easy, says Aulwes.

“Marion Nelson did a study to find the summer weekend with the best weather in Decorah,” he says. “It turned out it was the last weekend in July.” That doesn’t mean Mother Nature has always cooperated. During one of the early Fests, strong winds toppled pressurized Pepsi Cola tanks and sent jets of Pepsi spouting 20 feet in the air. Another year early on, pouring rain soaked thousands of Grand Parade spectators. “We had had a very dry summer, and everybody was so thrilled to get that rain,” recalls Aulwes. “No one moved – they were going to enjoy that rain, and that parade, no matter what.”

NordicFest_RockThrow

There have, of course, been some major changes to the Fest in the 50 years since its founding. A beverage garden offering beer was established (much) later, in 2001. Other additions like the Elveløpet “river race” (launched in 1978, with little nisses as distance markers) and button sales (begun in 1995) as well as free activities like the Troll Walk, fireworks, rock throw, and lutefisk-eating contest have provided diversified entertainment and additional revenue streams that have allowed the Fest to survive and, in fact, prosper over the last 50 years, drawing well more than a million attendees since its founding.

But still, this year is an anniversary Fest founders never imagined they would see.

“We had no idea it would last this long,” says Aulwes candidly. “We had a lot of hopes, but, no, we had no idea. A lot of people said it would never work, and we really didn’t know what we were doing, but somehow it worked, and worked really well.”

For more information on Nordic Fest 2016 – to be held July 28-30 – visit www.nordicfest.com.

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Sara Friedl-Putnam experienced her first Nordic Fest in 1997 and, ever since, has enjoyed being a “little bit Norwegian” for the last weekend in July as an Elveløpet runner, lefse booth volunteer, and overall fest enthusiast.

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Order ‘Nordic Fest: 50 Years Strong’ ­– and help preserve fest history!

“I had no idea what I was getting myself into by committing to this book,” admits Dawn Svenson Holland, author of the book “Nordic Fest: 50 Years Strong.” “It’s been more time-consuming than I ever expected, but it has also been more rewarding – it’s felt like a labor of love.”

Svenson Holland, daughter of longtime Nordic Fest historian Gary Svenson, drew heavily upon her father’s work preserving the Fest’s history in researching the book. “I could not have completed this project without the clipping books my father put together,” she says. “And I do believe that had he been alive, he would have written this book.”

Proceeds from the 300-plus-page coffee-table book will support the permanent placement of the Nordic Fest archives at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah. The book includes 22 chapters of Fest history, as well as a section for recording personal Nordic Fest memories. It also includes a DVD with archival footage of the first Nordic Fest and a promotional video made for the 25th Nordic Fest.

Orders may be placed online at www.nordicfest.com. The pre-Nordic Fest cost for each book is $50, with a limit of five books per person. The cost increases to $65 per book at Nordic Fest.

What’s on tap for Nordic Fest 2016

The following entertainment schedule is subject to change.

NordicFest_NordicDancersHeadliners
Thursday, July 28
Absolute Hoot

Friday, July 29
Time Machine

Saturday, July 30
Chris Avey and Jeni Grouws
Anthony Gomes

Theatre production
“Ole and Lena’s 50th Wedding Anniversary”

Additional entertainment

Kyle and Dave, Jim Busta Band with Mollie B, Foot-Notes, OK Factor, Miles Adams Band, 2Tall4U, The Silos, John Goodin and Erik Sessions, Luren Singers, Nordic Dancers, Jason Huenke (comedy juggler), Kevin Lindh (balloon artist), ArtHaus (children’s activities), and the Trolleri Players (roaming trolls and drama troupe)