Inspire(d) Fall 2021

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Change is


NO. 66 FALL 2021






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We had an awesome remote intern this summer who created the design for our Change is Good cover. We love it! We so appreciate all her hard work and talent. Here’s Claire now to tell you a bit about herself: Hi, I’m Claire Sanderman. I’m going to be a junior at Iowa State this fall majoring in graphic design. I’ve loved art since I was little so getting to focus on that in college has been fun. I’m from Cedar Falls, but have lots of family in Decorah which makes creating this Inspire(d) cover all the more special. Thanks so much, Claire! Best of luck this year! – Inspire(d)


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From the Editor


nother year of Inspire(d) has somehow whooshed by (kind of like deadlines, haha). And that means we’ve been making Inspire(d) for 14 years now, you guys!!!! I kind of can’t believe it. We’ve changed some over the years (see the cover pics on pg 5!). I believe those changes have made us a better publication for our readers and region. Of course, not all changes feel good. (Hello, ongoing pandemic.) But even changes for the worse teach us about ourselves, and where we want to be. It’s the spirit of this – of growth, of embracing change – that leads us through this anniversary issue of Inspire(d). We’re not the only ones celebrating anniversaries. The idea for the Decorah Community Prairie was seeded 20 years ago – read about it in Renee Brincks’ story on page 16 – and this coming spring Agora Arts in Decorah will be celebrating 30 years in business! See what inspires and motivates owner Gail BolsonMagnuson in our fall Sum of Your Business (pg. 57), and make sure to check out the many awesome local artists she represents at her store. Also mark your calendars for upcoming Art Tours around the region. Some things that haven’t changed about Inspire(d). Community Builders are still a cornerstone of our mission. We believe building community is the most important thing we can do on this planet. You can build community in a neighborhood, city, region, state, nation... world, at any level. It doesn’t have to be big to have a big impact. Connecting with others helps us connect with our humanity, and realize we’re all in this together. The Community Builders in this issue are Craig and Sara Neuzil of PIVO Brewery & Blepta Studios in Calmar, Iowa; Melissa Wray of Mainspring in Caledonia, Minnesota; Josh Hertel of Coulee Con in La Crosse, Wisconsin; and Nancy Martinson of Lanesboro, Minnesota. We say a hearty thanks to these – and all – community builders across the region and world, working to bring us together. You are a vital part of positive change! Change can also be tough. Mental health writer Olivia Lynn Schnur shares ideas for dealing with and embracing change, with an infographic introduction by me (pg. 33). Oh, and have you been to Burr Oak, Iowa, recently? Artist Steven Maeck’s work is hard to miss, if you have (pg. 42). Sara Friedl-Putnam’s story highlights how his sculptures are all about changing one thing into another. And make sure to read our fabulous conservationist writer Craig Thompson’s piece about…dead trees! Yep, he shares his wealth of information about the invaluable resources of decaying trees (pg. 54 - we loved it)! Accompanying his words is the lovely work of Mary Thompson, who makes and teaches art in Wisconsin. Speaking of art, our awesome remote summer intern, Claire Sanderman, created the cool design for our Change is Good cover (learn more about her on pg. 5), and we used her leaf and acorn design to create the Gratitude Garland Paper Project on page 47). No matter what we’re going through, it’s always a good idea to make a tally of what we’re grateful for, and this project helps you decorate for the season, to boot! One of the biggest things we’re grateful for is YOU! Thank you for being with us these last 14 years, and allowing us to create this publication in your hands. We appreciate you more than you could ever know! As always, looking forward,

What’s it mean?

Inspire(d) Inspire(d) – pronounced in-spy-erd... you know: inspired – stands for inspire and be inspired. The idea is that person one inspires person two. That person is now inspired. Then that person inspires person three (or person one again), who is now inspired. Then the cycle continues! That’s what those arrows around the (d) are about! Our mission is, ultimately, to change the world… starting with our own community!

Who are we?


Aryn Henning Nichols / editor & designer Benji Nichols / writer & advertising sales

WE COULDN’T DO IT WITHOUT: Kristine Kopperud (Jepsen) / contributor Sara Friedl-Putnam / contributor Sara Walters / contributor Olivia Lynn Schnur / contributor Craig Thompson / contributor Renee Brincks / contributor Tallitha Reese / contributor Steve Harris / contributor Mary Thompson/ illustrator Claire Sanderman / design intern Inspire(d) Magazine is published quarterly by Inspire(d) Media, LLC, 412 Oak Street, Decorah, Iowa, 52101. This issue is dated Fall 2021, issue 66 volume 15, Copyright 2021 by Inspire(d) Magazine.

Support Inspire(d)

Although Inspire(d) is free on stands, you can have it sent to your door (or extended family!) for only $28/year. Email for a membership or visit for more info. Want to make a comment about something you read in the magazine? Email

Interested in advertising? Contact Benji at or call 563-379-6315. Visit our website:

Aryn Henning Nichols

What is the driftless?

It’s a region in the Midwest – Northeast Iowa, Southeast Minnesota, Southwest Wisconsin, and a wee bit of Northwest Illinois – that was skipped by the glaciers in the last ice age, leaving the area “lacking glacial drift” – i.e. Driftless. The gist of that is we get to enjoy bluffs, valleys, coulees, and other fun geographical features that don’t typically occur in other parts of our states (the Mississippi 07 River contributes nicely to this list as well). It’s a lovely place to live and visit, and we’re happy you’re here!

Perfect for a Day Trip or Weekend Getaway!

Explore Harmony, Minnesota Only 30 minutes away from Decorah, this full service community offers a variety of great dining options, unique antiques, furniture & gift shops, & exciting recreational opportunities. Explore Niagara Cave, tour the Amish countryside, & pedal your way through 60 miles of paved bike trail! Harmony also offers a wide array of service businesses ready to meet your every need.

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The Rochester Downtown Alliance’s newest event, Roller Disco, will temporarily turn Peace Plaza in downtown Rochester into an outdoor roller-skating rink on October 9. Family skating will be from 10 am to 2 pm, and Roller Disco from 2 to 10 pm. The “pop-up rink” will feature high-energy music, skate rentals, party lighting, and a disco ball. The temporary outdoor rink, which has been featured at large scale national events like Coachella music festival, will be installed for the one day only. “Roller skating has made a comeback recently and we hope Rochester really embraces this new program. We envision an exuberant, welcoming event that appeals to all ages,” says Kanika Couchene, RDA director of events & strategic partnerships. For more information, visit

The Lidtke Mill near Lime Springs, Iowa, has been standing for more than 160 years, first offering its grist services and later producing hydroelectric power. Despite being on the National Register of Historic Places, the Mill has continued to face a declining state of disrepair. In June of 2020, high winds caused a large, 100-year-old cottonwood tree to land on top of the mill structure, causing significant damage to the historical buildings. Work is in progress to bring the buildings back to their original shape, but additional funding is needed. In order to raise funds for the repairs and future projects, the Lidtke Mill will be having their annual Harvest Fest on Saturday, October 9 (2021) from 4-8 pm at the Community Center in Lime Springs. The soup supper will be available by free will donation, with wagon rides to the Lidtke Mill for a ghost tour and bonfire ($5/ adult, $3/child). Donations can also be sent to Lidtke Mill Restoration Project, CUSB, 132 W Main St., Lime Springs, IA 52155. The mill and adjoining park are a fantastic day trip in rural Northeast Iowa. The mill still uses the same rod and tube system for electricity that it did in 1915, and when tours are allowed, visitors can see the grain elevators, belt system, silk bolter, and fanning mill, left untouched from almost 60 years ago when Herman Lidtke closed the mill. More information can be found by calling 319-883-1983.


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We are so loving “Together in Decorah,” an amazing new outdoor mural by Lauren Bonney at Vesterheim in Decorah! It is bringing much light, love, and color to Mill Street and Vesterheim’s newly finished Heritage Park. Bonney created the design as part of a 2020 program at ArtHaus in Decorah, funded by the Iowa Arts Council, to implement new voices in public art. “One of my goals for 2020 was to paint a mural, and ArtHaus helped me begin this journey in a year that I thought I would have to set aside all of my plans for creating public art,” Bonney says. “The mural took on special meaning for me as the community found new ways to come together in the wake of such a devastating pandemic.”


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Bonney said that the mural touches on the themes of community, immigration, and a specific sense of place that defines Decorah. “The mural is dedicated to all immigrants, refugees, and populations who have searched for a new home due to war, genocide, greed, famine, plague, disaster, or injustice,” she says. “And my hope is that it immerses visitors in a world that is a marriage of modern and traditional folk art and brings color and joy to the community.” Bonney is an illustrator and graphic designer creating branding images and logos for small businesses nationally and locally. A Michigan native, she has lived in the Decorah area with her family for 10 years. You may have seen her work here in Inspire(d) Magazine (woot!). She’s had work in Arts Midwest and has illustrated multiple Decorah Nordic Fest commemorative buttons as well, and worked with ArtHaus to create a coloring book featuring interesting and historic sites in Winneshiek County. To see more of Bonney’s work, visit


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“My Wild and Precious Life,” an exhibition showcasing paintings of animals, landscapes, and water scenes by Kat Corrigan, runs through October 17, 2021 at the Lanesboro Arts Center. Inspired by the beauty of everyday objects and literary works, Corrigan found the exhibition title in Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day.” Through Corrigan’s paintings, viewers are invited to enter a universe that is alive with color, movement, and imagination. “Painting is an act of meditation and joy for me. It is the negative space around familiar forms that intrigues me – how to properly depict that curve of kinked tail, the twist in an ear, the slant of sunlight on fallen snow,” says Corrigan. This exhibit is sponsored by Inspire(d) Magazine and is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. For more information visit, or call 507-467-2446 Always free and open to the public, gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm.

250 artists. 7 days a week. 1 gallery.


After a long-time community effort, Minnesota Veterans will soon have a modern care facility located in the southeast corner of the state. Ground has broken on the new 54-bed residential Veterans Home in Preston, Minnesota, with a projected completion date set for the spring of 2023. In March of 2021, Governor Tim Walz announced that three new Minnesota Veteran’s Home projects would receive federal funding this year. In addition to Preston, Bemidji and Montevideo will host Veteran’s Homes. “As a veteran myself, I recognize the obligation we have as a state and a country to deliver on the benefits our veterans have earned,” says Governor Walz. “We are pleased to be able to expand our State Veterans Homes to serve our elderly veterans living in all corners on the state.” The Preston Home’s design is laid out to take advantage of the views of the surrounding countryside from the bluff-top setting. The public spaces include a Town Center featuring a small coffee shop, a theater and meeting room, family dining room, meditation and chapel room, and club room. The residential units are split into three, 18-resident “households,” avoiding long, institutional-feeling hallways. The facility will also create more than 100 jobs in the region, giving opportunity for increased local employment. Preston is also home to one of Minnesota’s newest Veteran’s Cemeteries – a location that is well worth the visit to remember all those who have served our country. Our most sincere “Thank You” to all Veterans!

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The Kashubian Capital Centennial Celebration’s (KCC2020) is finally kicking off this fall (2021) in Winonoa, Minnesota! But what the heck is a Kashubian?! The Polish Kashubian immigrants played an integral role in the birth and success of Winona, and 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of 2021 the Stake Wars, the struggle that birthed the regional boundaries of modern Poland and the Kashubian region (North Central) also part of Pomerania, home to Bytow, Winona’s Sister City. In an effort to celebrate this Polska Party, events are being planned throughout 2021-22. A “Banquet in the StreetKashubian Style” will be held on September 17 at 5 pm on Third Street in downtown Winona. Tables will be set up along the street and folks will be invited to participate in one of the largest potluck dinners celebrating Kashubian and Polish food, with music and dancing to follow with the Loud Mouth Brass Band. Then on October 9, an afternoon and evening full of Polish celebration will commence from 2-10 pm at Levee Park in Winona with the Jeny Kochany (Oh My Gosh) Fest. All things Kashubian will be represented with a Live @ the Levee concert featuring a Polka Battle of the Bands, a Polka dance off ($100 Prize!), dance lessons from the Dolina Dancers in Kashubian style, food trucks, art, a Bloedows Donut eating Contest, and more. Find out all the details:



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Fall 2021 /

A unique series of pop-up plays will be “alive” and well in downtown Lanesboro this September. History Alive: “Lanesboro WW 2 and Beyond” will be the sixth show by History Alive Lanesboro, a unique production of a different era of local history. In this production, the audience moves around historic Lanesboro with character guides to these locations where the actual historical events took place. With World War II stories from local families both abroad and on the regional home front, audiences will meet wartime characters with experiences in Norway, Japan, France, and Germany. Stories of Norwegian resistance, discovering concentration camps, Japanese occupation, and D Day will appear. Characters will include locals Orval Amdahl, Don Ward, Pastor Nestande, Cecil

Ward, and Jack Joker and the Aces. The popular culture of those times will surround viewers – swing music and dance, vintage cars, reenacted cartoons like Buck Rogers, the Andrews Sisters of Mound, Minnesota, and Disney movies by local artist Rudy Elstad at the vintage St. Mane Theater. Jane Peck is the playwright and artistic director for the cast of 40 area actors, musicians, and dancers. Performances will take place September 18-19 and 25-26, 2021, at 1 pm and 3 pm, with the beginning of the production at the Sons of Norway Lodge, 200 Parkway Ave. S, Lanesboro, Minnesota. More info:


While the Commonweal Theatre is no stranger to producing Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, the newest incarnation will feature a surprising twist – for the first time in the company’s history, the role of Ebenezer Scrooge will be played by a woman. Associate Artistic Director Adrienne Sweeney will put her mark on




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Commonweal history as she sits behind the miser’s desk this winter. Originally scheduled for 2020, the premiere of this new adaptation is the one holdover from the shuttered season. It’s an idea that has been floating around the company since 2018. Former Resident Ensemble member Philip Muehe brought the concept to Sweeney after hearing about Sally Nystuen Vahle’s performance at Dallas Theater Center, and that of Charity Jones performance at the Guthrie. Muehe knew right away there was something there: “I texted Adrienne as soon as I saw all of Charity’s performances had sold out. We knew there was a real demand for fresh takes on this classic story. We both agreed our audiences would find a female-centered adaptation as thrilling as we did.” Muehe took the lead on adapting Commonweal’s version and eventually landed on a script that tells the same familiar story, with all the characters you know and love, accompanied by femaleidentifying actors portraying Scrooge, Marley, and all three of the Christmas Ghosts.




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“It just makes sense when you think about it,” Muehe says. “This material works just as well for women as it does for men, and the lessons Dickens intended apply to all of us, regardless of gender identity.” While a seasoned veteran of the stage, this role feels special to Sweeney. “It’s a role I’ve always wanted to do,” says Sweeney, “but never thought was possible. It’s a dream come true and a challenging proposition all at once. I am excited for our patrons to experience this story in a whole new way. With fresh eyes, they may see or feel something they hadn’t before.” Tickets are on sale now, and with the Commonweal back to full capacity, hopes are high for a successful run when performances begin on November 19. For a complete performance schedule of all 2021 offerings visit the Commonweal’s website, or call the Box Office at (800) 657-7025 or visit




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HOLIDAY LIGHTS 2021 Celebrating its 17th season, Holiday Lights, Northeast Iowa’s largest drive-through lighted holiday display, is open for drivethrough at Pulpit Rock Campground in Decorah starting Thanksgiving night, November 25! Plus, mark your calendar for a fun pre-party the night before - the popular Walk-Through Night kick off is back Wednesday, November 24, from 5 to 7:30 pm! This is your chance to walk – not drive – through Holiday Lights to really see the lighted displays up close, plus enjoy treats from local businesses, listen to choirs, and much more (see if you can spot Inspire(d)’s name on a display!). The regular Holiday Lights drive-through event runs nightly (5 to 9 pm) from November 25 through December 26. Free will donations benefit Helping Services for Youth & Families. Find more information at


As you plan your holiday shopping, consider making it local! Visit these & other Decorah businesses in person, or online at


FLOWER POWER The Decorah Community Prairie Blooms Bright for 20 Years BY RENEE BRINCKS


n Decorah’s west side, below rugged Pulpit Rock and the bluffs of Phelps Park, a horseshoe-shaped meadow arcs along the Upper Iowa River. Two giant bur oaks stretch toward the sky, providing shade on sunny afternoons. Deer amble along grass paths. Birds, butterflies, and bees buzz around clusters of wildflowers. This is the Decorah Community Prairie and Butterfly Garden.

Read on 16

Fall 2021 /

Roxie Nichols sits under a giant oak tree at the Decorah Community Prairie fall of 2020

Photo by Aryn Henning Nichols

Volunteers work in the background at the Decorah Community Prairie Photo by Benji Nichols A bumble bee buzzes toward a False White Indigo flower Photo by Benji Nichols \ Fall 2021


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“Iowa used to be covered in prairie. If you had come here 200 years ago, you would find prairie plants growing along this same river,” Decorah Park-Rec Director Andy Nimrod says. And if you had come here 20 years ago, even, things would have looked different than today. The 35-acre public park will celebrate its 20th birthday – or seed-day – in the coming year. “What we have now is more of a cultivated prairie, but in a sense, we’ve circled back to the way things were,” Andy says. The Decorah City Council first discussed converting this floodplain to parkland in the fall of 2001. Guided by Terry Haindfield, a wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, organizers drafted plans for an 11acre grass filter strip bordered by 24 acres of native plants. The first seeds were scattered in spring 2002.

More than 100 community volunteers joined Andy and his Park-Rec colleagues to plant the prairie that spring. Newspaper coverage of those early efforts shows a mix of local businesspeople, Luther employees, Master Gardeners and area families – including Andy’s daughter, who was a toddler at the time. This fall, she’ll be a senior in college. “We all met down there on a couple of different Saturday mornings and got the plants going. At first, we just threw the seeds out there to see what would grow, and then we went in with little potted plants called ‘plugs.’ We spent a lot of time planting plugs and mulching them after we had seeded everything down,” he says. That initial seed mix included 73 species of diverse prairie flowers and grasses. For the designated butterfly garden area, planners

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The colors at the Prairie change over the seasons. This photo from fall of 2020 highlights the golden glow of autumn. Photo by Aryn Henning Nichols

chose plants that would nurture caterpillars and provide nectar sources for adult butterflies. Over the years, volunteers have added an educational element to the butterfly garden by installing signs that identify various plant species. Turning the city-owned land from farm field to prairie was a way to prevent soil erosion, provide pollinator habitat and promote biodiversity. The prairie also presented a new place for hikers, runners, bikers, dogwalkers, skiers, snowshoers, and nature lovers to play. Teams from Decorah Parks and Recreation groom the prairie’s cross-country ski tracks in the winter, and they help maintain plants, trees, and trails throughout the year. Approximately two miles of mowed-grass paths weave through the park, while paved and mulched loops in the butterfly garden accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. Those trails are a big draw, says Andy, and so is the park’s simplicity. Rather than play structures and sports fields, visitors enjoy seasonal flowers and scenic views of the surrounding river valley. Continued on page 21

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2 Community members like Jerri Osenga (left), Annette Lechensky (right), and many others are an important part of the butterfly garden’s success. Photo by Benji Nichols

“A lot of people love going down there year-round. It’s an important part of their daily activities, whether that’s from an exercise standpoint or as stress-relief or just getting out to walk the dog,” he says. Local plant enthusiasts build personal bonds in the park, too. Jerri Osenga started volunteering at the prairie’s butterfly garden, located near the park entrance, when she moved to Decorah in 2011. She and some friends she met at that spring’s volunteer kickoff meeting still tend to the butterfly garden on Tuesday mornings each summer, a decade later. “Working with these people is rewarding. Sharing my knowledge is rewarding. It’s a refuge. I tend to go over there no matter what, because the gardening is rather good for my soul,” Jerri says. Ellen Cutting served on the Decorah City Council as initial prairie plans came together. She remembers strong support for the project from the start. Today, Ellen meets friends for summer walks in the park and sometimes skis groomed trails there when the snow flies.




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“It’s by the river. It’s a quiet, isolated part of town. The prairie itself is beautiful, and there’s a nice sense of community there,” she says. A free, self-guided tour map, available at the garden and on the Decorah Community Prairie website, spotlights more than 60 plants that thrive in the park. That list includes everything from prairie rose and pale purple coneflower to showy goldenrod, wild bergamot and foxglove beardtongue. Some perennials, like the towering compass plant, have roots that can reach more than 15 feet into the soil. Blue-eyed grass, on the other hand, might top out at six inches tall. At the height of summer, white wild indigo tends to dominate the landscape. In the fall, at least a dozen different species typically bloom in vibrant shades of yellow. The Upper Iowa River sometimes washes logs and sand into the prairie, and heavy rains can rearrange the terrain. After floodwaters receded in 2008, for example, Jerri and her fellow volunteers spent several years supporting plants that reestablished themselves in the butterfly garden. Decorah Park-Rec crews regularly weed out cottonwoods, locusts and other invasive trees, as well. Through their combined efforts, garden caretakers aim to keep the Decorah Community Prairie a welcoming place for native plants, pollinators, and people for many years to come. “It’s difficult to decide whether you want it to be well-known or not, because it’s such a secluded, peaceful spot,” Jerri says. “An oasis in the city.” Renee Brincks ( writes about travel, parks, and small producers. Her favorite plant in Decorah’s prairie is the smooth blue aster.




IF YOU GO To reach the Decorah Community Prairie and Butterfly Garden, take 5th Avenue to Ohio Street and head south toward the Upper Iowa River. Near the Aase Haugen property, follow the narrow drive that crosses over the dike. Parking is available in the lot near the butterfly garden. For more information, and for a printable prairie and butterfly map, please visit



GET INVOLVED! Volunteers gather at the Decorah Community Prairie and Butterfly Garden from 9 to 11 am, each Tuesday between May and October. Whether you’re new to wildflowers or have years of gardening experience, you can help weed, water, mulch, and maintain the native plants that pollinators depend on. Volunteers can also take part in the prairie’s Adopt-APlant program, caring for a particular species throughout the growing season. To learn more, contact the Decorah Parks and Recreation office at 563-382-4158 or


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Craig & Sara Neuzil Calmar, IA

h became friends in hig il met in third grade, we ut “B ty. rsi Craig and Sara Neuz ive Un te Sta official while at Iowa all school, and made it ints out. “We skipped po ra Sa ls,” oo sch le dd d mi nt eru pp ere Ko diff ne to sti went / Photo by Kri the awkward years.”


CRAIG & SARA NEUZIL OF PIVO BREWERY & BLEPTA STUDIOS: BUILD IT, & COMMUNITY WILL COME Within moments of meeting Craig and Sara Neuzil, owners of PIVO Brewery in Calmar, Iowa, it’s clear they’re professional movers – as in, shakers. “We’re planners,” says Sara with a grin, whisking behind the Brewery’s bar to micro-straighten a few sundries. The instinct comes of their first career as a military family. (Craig’s service in the U.S. Air Force precipitated 11 moves in 21 years.) When it came time to put down longer roots, they looked again to the Calmar area, where both had grown up, and where Sara had homesteaded with their two daughters while Craig was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. “It always felt like we ‘never left,’ anytime we ran into anyone we knew,” Sara says. “We could pick up right where we left off.” “After a life on the move, our goal was to get connected to the community,” Craid adds, “and we thought, ‘What better way than by building a business that brings people together?’” The Neuzils hit the ground running, putting PIVO Brewery and Blepta Studios on the map in 2017. Fomented from Craig’s love of home brewing, the plan had (no surprise) been a decade in development. Blepta Studios and art education center allowed Sara to

expand the azulejos ceramic tile painting she apprenticed at when the family lived in Portugal, as well as her mind-bogglingly intricate (and self-taught) egg dying and batikking, an ancient practice known as kraslice in the Czech Republic or pysanky in Ukraine. Every step in building their brewery-studio-event center on the north edge of town involved repurposing local materials, local craftsmanship, or both. Indeed, every surface of PIVO/Blepta bears a story, from the 10-foot salvaged rectory doors leading to the tap room to the drop-ceiling tiles, arranged like a quilt, that are wrapped in printed flour sacks and fabric from dresses handed down from their grandparents. Even the event center’s dance floor and the very stair steps up to Blepta were locally milled of Iowa ash to intertwine the native resource with what they hope becomes a heritage local business. “When we lived in the South, many homes had American chestnut woodwork,” Sara says, “The trees were threatened and dying, and people preserved their beauty in their homes.” What if, she wondered, the same might one day be true of local ash trees, long menaced by emerald ash borer? \ Fall 2021


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PIVO’s many brews and ciders (from their 100 pear and apple trees!) are uber place-based: each is named for a Northeast Iowa town and reflects its cultural heritage. Decorah Nordic Gruit, for example, is flavored with a Scandinavian-inspired blend of juniper berries, rosemary, bay leaf, black walnuts, bog myrtle, and toasted caraway seed – and has won gold in 2020 at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). A full menu lives at: / Photos by Kristine Kopperud

“Wouldn’t it be cool if the things we choose to preserve today could be that treasure for others, in the future?” “Pivo” means beer in Czech, the sum total of Craig’s seven generations of Iowa heritage and the language his parents and grandparents spoke at home. “‘Blepta’ means chatterbox, as in, pest,’” Sara adds (her grandfather’s begrudging term of endearment for her). Craig is quick and efficient about buzzing through the brewing set-up, which they launched under the tutelage of brewmaster Richard Mar and his wife LaRasche, who designed and shepherded the 40-tap tasting room. “We made only two mistakes,” Craig assesses as only a military man can: “We needed more cold storage, and more parking.” (Both are now resolved, and Craig has apprenticed to the point of becoming head brewmaster!) Craig also keeps close tabs on start-up metrics and is keen to handily outpace the statistic that most new businesses fail within their first five years. “Our third year was COVID,” he explains, “and we had to decide: Do we go forward with our plan to expand and build an event center? Or do we hunker down and see what happens?” Knowing Calmar would celebrate a gathering place, PIVO/Blepta took the risk on their 400-seat center, trimming it out with barnwood from Sara’s family’s farm and pine slabs (on the bar) from “the only two trees we had to take down,” Sara says. “We didn’t want to waste a thing – that’s part of our heritage, too.” The Neuzils’ intuition was right: as soon as the patio was poured and outdoor gathering re-opened across Iowa, PIVO and Blepta began hosting the stuff that community is made of: weddings, live music, fund-raisers for area non-profits and causes, proms, and more. “The community is why we built it,” Sara concludes. “Calmar

The Neuzils built their their 400-seat event/community center in 2019. Below, examples of Sara’s work at Blepta Studios / Photos by Kristine Kopperud

needed a community center, and it tied our businesses together as a destination.” While visiting Northeast Iowa in late 2020, Governor Kim Reynolds credited PIVO/Blepta with achieving their intent. “When she said, ‘Thank you,’ I thought she was talking about our hosting her on a tour of the state,” Craig says. “But what she repeated was, ‘No, thank you for building what small towns need.’ “That’s exactly it,” he concludes. “That’s why we’re here.” Kristine Kopperud (Jepsen) is a (grant)writer, counselor for Iowa’s Small Business Development Centers, and end-of-life doula specializing in legacy storytelling. Read more about her weird and wide-ranging work at

The Neuzils pay community forward by serving on the Winneshiek Conservation Foundation and South Winneshiek school board (Craig), as well as ISU Extension & Outreach (Sara). They’re also advocates for American Cancer Society and Winneshiek County Celebration of Life. “Supporting some nonprofits and charities is just part of being a good neighbor,” Sara says. “Giving our time and money to help fight cancer and support those affected by cancer has a deeper significance and conviction for us, since we’ve both lost family members to cancer [and have others] who are cancer survivors.”


• Scholarship fund-raisers for Northeast Iowa Community College • Winneshiek County sheriff open forum discussions • South Winneshiek High School prom & senior banquet • A collaborative recreational trail fund-raiser with Toppling Goliath and Pulpit Rock Brewing • Fund-raisers and outreach for Winneshiek County Celebration of Life, American Cancer Society, and NEICAC Domestic Abuse Awareness, including a class to produce art for sale \ Fall 2021




Melissa Wray Caledonia, MN



n the woods of her family’s sheep farm, above Caledonia, Minnesota’s Winnebago Valley, Melissa Wray found plenty of space throughout childhood to let her imagination run wild. But as can sometimes happen in rural communities, there wasn’t always an outlet for a creative, quiet, artsy kid. “While the outdoors has always been a key part of creative inspiration for me, I often struggled to find my place here in my teen years,” Melissa explains. Now, after leaving home and spending 13 years in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Melissa returned to create that place. “My work has always centered around storytelling and community, and my Master’s degree is in Arts & Cultural Leadership,” she says. “I started dreaming about an organization that fit all of those interests and skills.” With this dream – and lots of planning and help – Melissa created Mainspring, a non-profit organization that offers space, performances, and events in a historic former church in downtown Caledonia. “People often talk about the brain drain of rural places with young people leaving for larger cities. I think there is a countermovement to that of people staying or coming back to invest in their hometowns to build for a more vibrant future, and that excites me,” she says. “I want young folks to know they can create community and participate in the arts right here in Houston County and Fillmore County.” A network of “rural arts folks” who were already making things happen in surrounding communities served as resources and inspiration, and with the help of a core group of founding board members, Mainspring became a 501c3 in 2019. Melissa serves as the Founder and Director, and she is passionate about this place and 26

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Melissa Wray poses in front of the Lanesboro Arts mural / Photo by Kara Maloney. Below, The Nunnery performs at Mainspring / courtesy photo

the community around it. The board, which is made up entirely of volunteers, has been incredibly dedicated to the work, bringing a variety of skills and experience to the table: economic development, arts nonprofit leadership, grant and development writing, small business and financial management acumen, organizational skills, and more. They meet monthly to discuss and plan ideas and details, big and small. This past summer Mainspring hosted an outdoor concert series, Small Town Saturday Night, featuring singer-songwriters from the Driftless. They hosted virtual art classes for all ages as well, and collaborated on creating and printing a Mainspring Community Cookbook, filled with more than 160 local recipe favorites, that launched in time for the 2020 holidays. In addition to arts programming, Mainspring offers its space for rental so community groups can gather, connect, and spark new ideas. For Melissa, the space itself helped contribute to the idea of Mainspring in the first place. “I knew of this vacant church building on Main Street and was fascinated by the idea of transforming this specific type of community gathering space into a different type of community space, centered around art and culture. The pulpit became a stage, and the congregation became an audience,” she says. Melissa continues to learn from Caledonia and other communities in the Driftless. In fact, just as she was planning her move back to the area, a Program Director position opened up at nearby Lanesboro Arts, and she applied and got the job. People she longadmired as rural arts leaders were now her colleagues, and the knowledge she’s gained in her role has been invaluable. While Mainspring is in its infancy, Lanesboro Arts has been part of its community for 40 years.

“It’s an impressive example of decades of community relationship building and collaboration to meld the arts into the fabric of town life. I’m honored to be able to be a part of that legacy now,” Melissa says. “I love working in Lanesboro because there is that existing strong foundation to build upon. In Caledonia, there is a lot of great work that’s been done over the years, but there is a lot of room to play and try new things as a new arts organization in town. So it’s fun in a completely different way; we get to be a part of building that foundation.” At the center of the fun is Mainspring’s headquarters. They’ve kept the gorgeous wooden curved pews of the former Presbyterian church, but added cozy quilts and pillows. They use movable walls to separate spaces based on group sizes. The basement –outfitted with a kitchen as well as offices and gathering space – is currently used for storage, but Melissa has many ideas for its future uses. “We hope to raise funds to renovate eventually,” she says, listing possible farm-to-table dinners, cooking classes, co-working spaces, and podcast studios among her ideas for the future. “This place of southeast Minnesota is one that resonates as home deep within my bones, and to be one community voice of many giving back fills me with a lot of purpose and gratitude,” she says. The examples she saw in Caledonia in her youth, from church, to school, to 4-H, helped her understand what gathering around a shared place or purpose can produce. She’s so excited to be applying that to the storytelling, creativity, and cultural expression that have always inspired her. “Being a part of my hometown community means a great deal to me. I’ve been touched by how people show up for each other and for Mainspring. I’m constantly learning from and inspired by local business owners and organizations doing great work.” Local agencies have shown great commitment to Mainspring and its cause. The Caledonia Public Library, Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts, Crystal Creek Canyon Lodge, Caledonia United Methodist Church, and Driftless Grown are among some of the organizations that have teamed up with Melissa and crew to offer events and programs to Houston County residents. Mainspring also has amazing funding support from groups like Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council and the Arlin Falck Foundation as well as businesses like Caledonia Haulers and State Farm Insurance – Caledonia. These kinds of partnerships are key to keeping Mainspring at the forefront of local arts. “We look forward to continuing to build partnerships and relationships, as that really is the key to thriving as a rural arts community organization,” Melissa explains. Together, with these partners, Melissa and Mainspring are hard at work on a lineup of

Mainspring was formerly a Presbyterian church in Caledonia, Minnesota / courtesy photo

fall and winter events including familyfriendly crafting and programming featuring local musicians and artisans. Being able to contribute to the growth of art in the area feels great. “It took me leaving for over a decade to really find my confidence and gain some experience,” she says, “to realize that if something was missing from my

hometown community, I could be a part of building that back up.”

Sara Walters, like Melissa, loves building community around storytelling. She is a writer based in La Crescent, MN. \ Fall 2021




Josh Hertel (far left) with fellow Coulee Con organizers and gamers Mike Haupert and Barb Jones / Photo courtesy Andrea Garvens

Josh Hertel La Crosse, WI BY TALLITHA REESE



Fall 2021 /

he soft thud of rolling dice, the shuffle of cards, the narration of a game master, bringing a group together – these are the sounds of camaraderie in motion, of developing relationships, and the memory-making of tabletop gaming. It was this connection with friends and family that got Josh Hertel, a mathematics and statistics professor at UW-La Crosse, interested in tabletop gaming early on. He grew up playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, Battletech, Magic: The Gathering, a variety of board games, and more. “I played fewer games when I went to undergrad, but my interest in board games really grew when I was in graduate school in Normal, Illinois,” he says. “I joined a local board game meetup group and started playing games regularly. I also had the opportunity to attend a local convention called Flatcon, which I really enjoyed.” That experience would prove useful later on, when Josh became one of the organizers and coordinators of Coulee Con, a La Crosse gaming convention focused on building a supportive and inclusive community that brings gamers together. The idea for Coulee Con was first explored in a discussion between Josh and Mike Haupert, one of the coordinators of La Crosse’s local board game meetup group and fellow UW-La Crosse faculty member, while the two were at a tabletop gaming event at the public library. “Our region has a fantastic tabletop gaming community,” says Josh, listing the very active local board game meetup group, several Facebook groups dedicated to different games, several different RPG (role playing game) groups, as well as several local shops where games are played, such as River City Hobbies in La Crosse, PopCon Shop in Onalaska, Gamer’s Sanctum in

Sparta, and Jimmy Jams in Winona, Minnesota. “One challenge I’ve found is that a lot of people love these different tabletop games, but they often only play with a few other folks and sort of form a bubble,” says Josh. “The primary reason we started Coulee Con was to help bring gamers together and celebrate the hobby.” The first Coulee Con was held in 2015 in La Crosse at The Cartwright Center – 250 gamers from across the region came to play. At that time, Josh was the sole coordinator for the show. “It was exciting, exhausting, and a pretty big learning experience,” he says of that first year. “The behind-the-scenes and planning leading up to the show really takes a lot of time. One thing I learned quickly was that I wouldn’t be able to play a lot of games at the convention itself.” Since then, he has learned to delegate responsibility, organize volunteers, and think through the best use of the convention’s space. Coulee Con moved to the La Crosse Center in 2016, has grown to an attendance of more than 700 in recent years, and in 2020, Steven Switalla, an IT business analyst, also became a cocoordinator, working with Josh to share some of the responsibilities. Steven first got involved with the event in 2018 – he was looking for some project management experience during his senior year of college at UW-La Crosse. The plan was just to help with that year’s event, but after graduation, Steven got a job in Winona, Minnesota, and was able to become a regular Coulee Con organizer. The Coulee Con weekend schedule has now settled into a routine: Friday gears toward new gamer events, Saturday features tournaments, and Sunday focuses on family-friendly events. “On Friday, we have several events for new gamers. The community is very welcoming and happy to teach and play games. We are also

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Coulee Con is held annually in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in August. Find more information at / Photos courtesy Andrea Garvens

starting a program called Gamer Guides. These are folks who are specifically at the convention to welcome new attendees, show them around, teach them games, answer questions, etc.” says Josh. “Sunday is often a day that we get a lot of new people coming in because of the family badge ($10 admission for an entire family). There are lots of things to do including a scavenger hunt for the kids, the cosplay contest, and more kid-friendly games.” A lot of growth and development has been possible through partnerships with different gaming groups and people in the region, such as 2021’s displays and attendance from a group from Western Technical College (La Crosse) that’s starting an e-sports program, and representation from a non-profit called Tanager Place, which is piloting a program called Role 4 Inspiration that focuses on mental health for teens via role playing games. Several events at Coulee Con also raise money for the local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital through the Extra Life program, which unites people around the world to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through gaming. In 2019, Josh was also involved with the development of Coulee Gamers, Inc., a 501c3 non-profit focused on improving the lives of individuals and the welfare of the community through gaming. Coulee Con now runs as a fundraiser for the non-profit organization. Josh serves as the president of the board of directors, while Steven is the secretary, and Barb Jones serves as treasurer. Barb and her husband, Kevin, are active members of the local board game meetup group and have helped with planning and running events for Coulee Con since the event’s early years. “Although the convention started first, my vision is about fostering a supportive gaming community year-round,” says Josh. Currently, the non-profit is focusing on promoting the creation of inclusive gaming spaces within schools, and Josh hopes things will continue to grow and develop. “We want to encourage folks to welcome everyone to the tabletop and create spaces that are free from hate related speech, and allow individuals to be their authentic selves.” Tallitha Reese is a freelance writer and content manager based in Cashton, WI. She owns Words By Reese and you can find out more about her and her work at

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Nancy Martinson Lanesboro, MN

Nancy Martinson in her garden. / Photo by Renee Bergstrom



or almost three decades, Nancy Martinson has used unlikely “ingredients” to build community in Lanesboro, Minnesota – rhubarb, ukuleles, and a dash of yoga, to name a few. Lanesboro, a unique little tucked-away river town, is the official B&B capital of Minnesota. Nancy had a hand in that distinction, renovating an 1880s Victorian home into a bed-and-breakfast in the 1990s. Later she helped organize a food-and-art store to connect local farmers and artisans with potential customers. In 2019 she assembled a 50-player ukulele orchestra (in a town of 754 people) to help celebrate Lanesboro’s 150th birthday. All the while, she was promoting and teaching weekly yoga classes for men and women of all ages. “I never thought about being a community builder,” she says. “It just happened. It was more about seeing needs and trying to help

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fill them. Tourists needing lodging led to the B & B. Working with like-minded friends to make local food and art accessible became Lanesboro Local. Our Farmer’s Market needed more visibility, so we thought, ‘Hey, rhubarb grows well here and would make a fun festival theme.’ We thought we’d try it for a year.” They did. It worked. Nancy became “Top Stalk” of Lanesboro’s “Divine Rhubarb Committee” that launched Lanesboro’s popular Rhubarb Festival in 2004, and it’s now held every year on the first Saturday in June. The Minnesota State Legislature even recognized Lanesboro as the Rhubarb Capital of Minnesota by proclamation in 2008 (it’s a town of many capitals!). The committee published a rhubarb cookbook that sold thousands of copies, and in 2007, Nancy even persuaded Garrison Keillor to broadcast “Prairie Home Companion” live from the Festival.

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Back row: Marcia Madrigal, Mike Kelly, Gina Smith, Jayme Folkedahl Front row: Jeanne Gullekson, Keegan Steinlage, Ron Juve, Janice Numedahl

Nancy did all of that while facing and surviving cancer. Five times. She was in her mid-20s, living in Iowa, a busy but happy stay-athome mom with two small kids, when a doctor’s phone call changed her life. “He told me I had thyroid cancer,” Nancy says. Surgery and radioactive iodine helped her survive. But it was a road she’d walk again. Breast cancer in her 40s. Colon cancer in her early 50s. At age 59, breast cancer returned. Then in 2020, Stage 4 lymphoma. “It’s scary when you get a diagnosis,” she says. “But each time I was determined to keep doing the things I loved. I wanted to think positive rather than dwell on the cancer.” The things Nancy loves are many. Family and friends. Keeping active. Building her career. When her children got older, she wrote advertising copy for radio and television stations. That opened doors into media ad sales, and she eventually rose to become general manager of television stations throughout the upper Midwest. “Those were fun jobs,” she remembers. “Working with creative people, traveling to conventions, rubbing shoulders with celebrities. Cancer happened, but I didn’t want it to stop my active life.” For Nancy that also meant trying new things. “Many work friends played golf so I signed up for lessons. When a new cancer diagnosis ruled that out, I tried yoga.” She loved it and became a certified instructor. An avid biker, she set – and achieved – a goal to bike through Europe to celebrate her 50th birthday. Her Lanesboro B&B project – Nancy (center) cutting the ribbon at the “The Habberstad opening of Lanesboro Local. / Courtesy photo House” – came into her life in the spring of 1996. So did colon cancer, but her plans didn’t change. She managed to oversee the home’s remodeling and served as full-time innkeeper for nearly five years. “That helped me through a difficult stretch,” she says. “It wasn’t easy. But having creative goals kept me looking forward.” A few years later, breast cancer re-appeared. “I had to drive to the Mayo Clinic 38 days in a row for radiation treatments,” she says. “By the end I was exhausted, but I kept going. It helps to keep busy. I get ideas, share them with friends, we spark new ideas. We have fun and that’s just me.” Where exactly do ukuleles fit in? “My family was in Texas one winter and I took ukulele classes,” she says with a laugh. “Not sure why. I found myself in a room filled with dozens of musicians, some good, most beginners like me. The sound produced was wonderful and I loved it! I wanted to try to capture that back home. Since Lanesboro’s anniversary was coming up (2019), the timing seemed perfect. I put out the word and soon people all over town were ordering ukuleles. We had a great time and we’ll be on YouTube forever!” Then came 2020, the year of COVID. Her fifth cancer diagnosis in the midst of pandemic isolation confronted Nancy with probably her toughest challenge yet. “My doctors found what they thought was a recurrence of an earlier cancer,” she said. “The diagnosis wasn’t good. They said it Continued on next page

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was Stage 4 and I had only months, maybe weeks and numbers and lab results. People, even some to live.” One final test remained and it delivered doctors, pull back and look at you like you’re just surprising news. “The test confirmed nonanother patient, a collection of numbers. Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” she says. “That changed “But you’re more than that! This is about your everything because it was treatable.” life and your health, no one else’s. Keep thinking What lay ahead – six rounds of chemo at the for yourself! Ask yourself, ‘what’s best for me?’ Mayo Clinic – wasn’t easy. Nancy doesn’t gloss Getting cancer when I was younger made me over the painful realities. “One late afternoon I realize I wasn’t going to live forever. But I don’t got a call after a scan revealed a cervical fracture live with a fear of dying. With each diagnosis, in my neck. They sent an ambulance and I had to I never thought I was going to die. Keep your wear a very rigid neck brace that made it hard to identity and choose to think positive.” move or even breathe. COVID restrictions meant Nancy’s spirit and story by itself builds my family couldn’t come with me so I went in community. When she returned to Lanesboro alone while they stayed outside in the car talking after her latest chemo treatments, dozens of to me on my cell phone. Then my phone battery friends and neighbors organized a free-flowing started to die. It was a very hard night.” parade past her house with ‘welcome home’ But then, more surprising – even shocking – banners, balloons – and ukuleles. She sat in a good news. “After chemo, new scans showed the Nancy Martinson and John Carlin at a lawn chair in her front yard, and even a big mask cancer was gone,” Nancy says. “They don’t use ‘Stone Soup’ event at Lanesboro’s Sylvan couldn’t hide Nancy’s even bigger smile. the word ‘cured.’ But it was remarkably better. My Park. / Courtesy photo Her recovery continues. “I’m getting stronger doctors were amazed.” but I have a ways to go yet,” she says. “I’m not Looking back on five cancer battles, you’d expect to hear words of thinking about that. I’m thinking about my next project.” And what anger, even bitterness, from Nancy. You just don’t. “I never really got will that be? “Gardening!” she says, enthusiastically. “I’m expanding angry or mad; I’m not sure why. I didn’t ask ‘why me?’ When I got a my garden. I’ve always grown vegetables. Now it’s diagnosis, I’d think, why not me? I have more experience in dealing time for my favorite flowers. I can’t wait!” with these situations than most people. I’ve been through this before. I know what to expect.” Steve Harris is a freelance writer and the author What has she learned that might help others? of “Lanesboro, Minnesota.” He and his wife, Susie, “When a diagnosis comes, it’s easy to lose yourself. You can get were also innkeepers at Anna V’s Bed & Breakfast in sucked into a world of being ‘unwell.’ It feels like it’s all about tests Lanesboro for the last dozen years.


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Change is

nyone will say there’s been a lot of change over the last year… but honestly, when I look back, there’s a lot of change every year. For starters, our daughter grows by inexplicably large leaps and bounds each turn ‘round the sun. Literally, more than three inches this year! And she keeps growing in other arenas – mentally, emotionally, and socially as well. It’s an amazing thing to witness. There have been some good changes in my life recently too. I’ve been doing Noom (an app that promotes mental and physical health) for the past six months or so, and have learned so much. One of the week’s lessons was about neuroplasticity – the notion that the brain has the ability to recover from trauma, repair itself, and create new connections after learning or having new experiences (i.e. undergoing change). I found it fascinating, so I was excited when our mental health writer, Olivia Lynn Schnur, proposed we include information about it in her piece in this issue (check it out on page 37).

This idea that we can improve ourselves with hard work; that we can change our lives by training our perspectives – I feel like it’s the key to everything! I’ve always been a pretty positive person, but having mental tools to help me through tough times has been truly life changing. As was the first time I ever went to therapy (nine years ago after my c-section with Roxie), and the revelation I had after – that working on our mental health is SO important (I don’t know what took me so long!), and we should be normalizing it in our every day conversations. I’m so glad we’ve added it to our regular features here in Inspire(d) – it’s one of those changes we’ve implemented over the years – and I am embracing it with both arms. Here’s to finding a path forward in the coming year that takes all the changes in stride.


XO - Aryn

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See how a pedal assist bike can help you become nearly car free! W, Th, F: 10-6 . Sat: 9-5 . Sun: 12-4 . Closed Mon & Tues.

101 College Dr. Decorah, Iowa . 563-382-8209 \ Fall 2021



s n o g r o w t h

Witho u t c h a n th g e e r e i



Try starting with a daily intention

If something isn’t currently serving you, actively seek to do things differently.

• more resilient

• stronger change MAKES • more flexible

I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better. - Georg C. Lichtenberg

Change is

Small changes can lead to big changes



Gratitude Garland

a N

e r tu Show gratitude for the good in your life.

e v Lo

Embrace Change.

“Neuroplasticity” describes the brain’s ability to bounce back and create new connections after learning or having new experiences –i.e. changes!

Notice change, and pat yourself on the back for accepting it and moving forward. Celebrate growth!


Remember the why, not the what – why are you going through this change? What will the outcome be? Focus on that, instead of any pain of change.

n o y as e go



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Celebrating 10 years of beautifying the Driftless Thanks to all of our customers!


Jeff Scott . 563-379-1101 \ Fall 2021


Create Folk Art! Online and In Person Registration is open for new classes through December at Vesterheim Folk Art School!

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Northeast Iowa-based mental health counselor, Olivia Lynn Schnur, shares ideas for ways we can embrace change for a better life.


hange is an essential component of life. Change allows for personal growth, perspective, and even the potential for mindfulness. Without it, our lives would be monotonous; in other words, we may find ourselves “stuck in a rut.” And it can be oh-so-easy to embrace that rut. It might be a relationship, or a job, or a lifestyle that’s no longer meant for us. It’s familiar, comforting, and companionable. But that rut is also costly in the most important currency of life: time. At some point, we must ask ourselves, “Can I afford this?” Read on for some ideas on how change can help you create a life full of riches. Continued on next page \ Fall 2021



EMBRACE CHANGE There is no one-size-fits-all approach to change, and regardless of our relationship with it, change is inevitable. It can come as a big move, like a new city or career, or in the day-to-day moments, the small choices that create our lifestyle. The biggest key to successfully navigating change is trying to embrace it. When we resist change, we make the process more difficult. Often times, it is our inner voice that needs the most adjustment. The mind is powerful, but it is not set in stone. The first goal is to catch ourselves entering into a pattern of thinking that doesn’t serve us, like, “I can’t do anything right,” “I’m a failure,” or “This will never work.” We believe the thoughts are true, when they are simply a matter of opinion or perspective. One approach is to counter these thoughts with positive self-talk or affirmations. Instead of thinking, “I’m a failure,” make a list of all the times you achieved success. Instead of thinking, “I can’t do anything right,” think of all the times you did something kind or made a difference. (Then repeat. And repeat again.) This technique can also be applied to a regular change we dislike, but still must endure. Perhaps we dread winter. Our resistance does not stop winter from coming; it only forces us to suffer in the cold. Instead, imagine the comfort of a soft blanket, a warm mug of coffee, and the crackling of a fireplace. Life becomes more enjoyable when we embrace change.

The brain craves and requires change. Change re-wires our thinking and shifts our perspective. “Neuroplasticity” describes the brain’s ability to recover from trauma, repair itself, and create new connections after learning or having new experiences. It’s basically the brain’s ability to bounce back and grow. We all have patterns of thinking and behavior called “neural pathways.” Imagine a neural pathway like a literal path. At first, the path may be filled with obstacles; thorns, weeds, and branches stand in our way. But if we dare to walk the path once more, some of our obstacles have been trampled down or moved out of the way. The path becomes worn beneath our feet, and over time it may even become familiar. This is how new neural pathways are formed. Every time we repeat a thought or behavior, we strengthen a neural pathway – for better or for worse. That is why it is paramount that we repeatedly work toward thoughts that serve us, and engage in activities that support our personal growth and happiness. Many of us can tend to go through life on autopilot. The workday becomes routine. The weekend is filled with chores that did not get done during the week. The vacation days pile up, but we never take them, because we are just too busy to leave. It’s generally not that we don’t want change; we are just too stuck in a rut to see any way out. When it comes to changing our minds, we must dare to take another path. We may get stuck the weeds from time to time, but we are surely in for a beautiful adventure!

TIPS FOR INCREASING NEUROPLASTICITY: • Move your body – the hardest part is getting started; but once we engage in movement, our body begins to crave the endorphins, adrenaline, and dopamine boost! Start small with 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or 20 minutes of movement. (Trick your brain into just getting started) • Try that new thing – learn a new language, try a new recipe, or take that new route (or mode of transportation) to work • Get out of the comfort zone – Get to know new people, attend a workout class, or book a vacation. This is where the magic happens.



Fall 2021 /

Change can be unsettling. For some, that lack of control can trigger insecurity and fear of the unknown. We feel secure in our routine, even when we are unhappy with it. We would rather embrace the predicable dread, than the unpredictable potential for more. Change is hard, and often takes time. We rarely wake up to a completely different life one day. It generally starts with a decision, becomes a plan, and finally comes to fruition with action. When these actions are repeated daily, we eventually create lasting change. Where to start? Preparation is key. For example, if you want to start waking up two hours earlier, slowly adjust your schedule over time, waking up 15 minutes earlier every day until you reach your desired wake time. You are most likely not going to notice the

difference between waking up at 5:30 am and 5:45 am, but it would be a shock to wake at 5:30 a.m. after years of a 7:30 a.m. alarm. Positive change takes time and dedication. Even big changes can be incremental. Anyone who has been searching for a new job or new home knows the process can be daunting. We update our resumes or search the Internet and classifieds. We investigate the housing market and start making phone calls to realtors. In either scenario, we begin to envision how our new life will look. Then, when the time is right, we take action. In order to set a plan for change in motion, try starting with a daily intention. An intention sets the tone for the day, week, month, or even year. Essentially, when we set New Year’s Resolutions, we are creating an intention for the year. The problem is, we often do not revisit that intention, and eventually it becomes lost. Try creating a simple intention to repeat each day. For the biggest impact, make sure the intention aligns with your values, goals, and reality. It could be something like, “I will stay positive today,” “I will appreciate each moment,” or “I am grateful to be alive.” When you open your eyes each morning, put your hands on your heart, breathe in your intention, and breathe out with a smile on your face.

CHANGE REINFORCES MINDFULNESS Enjoy this moment. This moment is your life. A reminder like this can be both terrifying and inspiring. How many of our moments are we consciously aware of? Change is a good thing. It forces us to stop going through the motions and start existing consciously and mindfully. We may not realize how unhappy we are with our routine until we make a change. It is hard to see our circumstances clearly without the perspective provided by that change. We are allowed to change as many times as we need to. Not only are we allowed, we are expected to change. Even when things appear to be changing for the worse, they are teaching us, setting the bar for where we are and where we want to be. Remaining open to opportunities and embracing each change will lead us closer to the life that is meant for us. Olivia Lynn Schnur is a Northeast Iowa based Mental Health Counselor. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She is also a Registered Yoga Teacher. She is passionate about healing, health, and happiness. Her writing is designed to inspire others to create lasting and meaningful change in their lives. To learn more, visit her website

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900 Montgomery St, Decorah, IA 563-382-2933 . Embracing Change 101 Worksheet on next page \ Fall 2021



Positive affirmations When you’re feeling down or negative, try saying some positive affirmations. With repetition of these affirmations, your perspective can start to change to thoughts that better serve you. Here is some inspiration: I am strong / smart / talented / brave I believe good things are coming I trust my decisions I am exactly where I need to be I am excellent at my work Good things happen to and around me I am open to change I am capable of greatness Create your own: ______________________________________________________________________________ Create your own: ______________________________________________________________________________ Create your own: ______________________________________________________________________________

Intention-setting Each morning, set an intention for the day, considering your mind, body, and spirit. What needs attention today? Do you need to set aside time for a break today? Do you want to make exercise a priority? Will setting a date with a friend make your spirits soar? Set the intention for that thing – write it down, say it aloud to yourself or your pet. Want to take it a step further? Set intentions for your week, your month, or your year. Here’s some inspiration: Today, I will practice gratitude Each moment, I will choose to see the good Every day I am living my truth, in alignment with my purpose and values In this moment, I am safe In this moment, I am well In this moment, I am happy Create your own: ______________________________________________________________________________ Create your own: ______________________________________________________________________________ Create your own: ______________________________________________________________________________

Counter-thought practice When you have a negative thought, try to change it into a positive thought. Here’s some inspiration: Replace “I am afraid of the unknown,” with “I have faith that good things are unfolding.” Replace, “Nothing is going right,” with “I see so much potential for growth.” Replace, “Life is unfair,” with “I am strong. I turn my disappointments into resilience.” Replace, “Bad things always happen to me,” with, “I overcome every obstacle in my path.” Create your own: Replace _________________________________, with ___________________________________ Create your own: Replace _________________________________, with ___________________________________ Create your own: Replace _________________________________, with ___________________________________ 40

Fall 2021 /

Feeling Inspire(d)? Decorah Public Library and Inspire(d) have teamed up to bring you great recommendations for further reading on this issue's theme, "Change is Good!" Visit DPL in person or online to check out these books!

Tiny Beautiful Things - Cheryl Strayed

The Girl and the Wolf

Katherina Vermette and Julie Flett Author Katherina Vermette changes a familiar folk tale, re-imagining it through an indigenous lens.


Michael Hall Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. No one sees it until a friend recognizes Red for what he is and changes Red's perspective on what he can do.

Pokko and the Drum

Matthew Forsythe Can Pokko's musical talents change her parents' perspective on how a frog should behave? Read this rollicking picture book and find out.

Miss Maple's Seeds

Eliza Wheeler Celebrate the changing seasons with this whimsical story about Miss Maple--a caretaker for young seeds.


Oge Mora What good can come from ruined plans? This thoughtful picture book explores coping strategies, re-imaging fun, and celebrating time together.

Recommended by Zach There are no shortcuts to becoming a better person. The only way to do it is to put in hard, honest work.

Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change - Pema Chodron

Recommended by Heidi Always articulate, witty and wise, Pema teaches about the wisdom and benefit of "stepping into the river" instead of clinging to the shore. She's a gifted conveyor of Buddhist precepts for living in everyday language.

The House in the Cerulean Sea - TJ Klune Recommended by Riley A delightful book about a caseworker for magical children who learns to be more open-minded, accept change, and finds a new family. No One Tells You This - Glynnis MacNicol Recommended by Rachael What if we changed the narrative about turning 40 to a beginning rather than an ending? A book about friendship, caregiving, adventure, and pondering what it means to embrace life and all its complications as a single woman. You Are the Placebo - Dr. Joe Dispenza

Recommended by Nick The simplest way to change your life for the better is to change the way you perceive life as a whole


If you go to Burr Oak, Iowa, to see Steven Maeck’s work (population 209, so it won’t be too hard to locate the artwork), please be sure to be respectful of the sculptures and property.


Fall 2021 /


He was raised in Vermont, conducted business in New York, and honed his craft in Florida – but sculptor Steven Maeck now calls the tiny Driftless town of Burr Oak, Iowa, home.



For events & ticket information visit 207 N. Main, Elkader, IA STORY & PHOTOS BY SARA FRIEDL-PUTNAM




here’s yard art – and then there’s the art that magnificently graces the Burr Oak, Iowa, yard of artist Steven Maeck and his wife, Karleen. We’re not talking metal wind spinners, steel fire pits, or cast-iron flamingos (as fabulous as all those may be!). Instead, the couple’s expansive yard – located just a couple blocks from another magnificent structure, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum – “houses” an array of Steven’s unique, thought-provoking sculptures. “Modernist and primarily non representational,” they’re crafted largely from iron and welded and assembled steel pieces found in salvage yards.

continued on next page



Due to the ever changing nature of COVID-19, check the website closer to the tour for each studio’s safety guidelines.

The Preview • Sept 2-Oct 2 Work of the Artists on Display

ArtHaus • 107 W Broadway St, Decorah \ Fall 2021


“The aesthetic intent of my work is not to create ‘junkyard art’ but to repurpose industrial artifacts,” he writes in his self-published hardcover book, The Mauro Series and The Big Spring Panel Project – Steven Maeck: 15 Years of Sculpture. His goal is to alter and/or recombine these artifacts in a way that makes it look as though the parts were never used in the first place. As his myriad public exhibitions attest, Steven has found an audience, both near and far. His sculptures have been displayed, among other places, at the Hearst Center for the Arts in Cedar Falls, Iowa; the Helen Day Art Center in Stowe, Vermont; the Loveland (Colorado) Fine Art Invitational; the SculptureWalk in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Zoo Knoxville (Tennessee); and the Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University, Ames. Just this summer, he delivered the sculpture Muso’s Thought to Moline, Iowa, where it will be displayed through June 2022 as part of the Quad Cities Arts’ public sculpture program. (The work’s title reflects “whatever occurs in the consciousness of the person who encounters it,” Steven explains.) While today Steven calls Burr Oak – Karleen grew up in nearby Decorah – home, his story begins in Northeast Vermont, where he was raised by parents (John, a physician, and Doris, a homemaker) who greatly appreciated art. “Their love of art had a real significant effect on me,” he says. “In particular, I never got over one piece of artwork, a forged-iron sculpture that they commissioned in the late 1950s from sculptor Paul Aschenbach of a nude woman tying a ribbon in her hair.” Steven would, initially, forge a different path into the art world, spending many years as a gallerist in Manhattan specializing in Oriental rugs and modern art. “I could not have known it at the time, but [my education as an artist] all began with the rugs … handling these objects day in and out in New York, I internalized this process of weaving color into form and began to recognize when it succeeded and when it didn’t. When I began to make my own work, that ability was just there.”

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continued on next page

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By the early 1990s, says Steven, “the pace and expense and demands of being a small businessman in Manhattan” had drained him, so the couple relocated to Key West, Florida, where they sought (and found) a slower pace of life. Karleen worked as a nurse while Steven ran an itinerant gallery, driving to shows up and down the East Coast. In the mid2000s, after moving upstate to tiny Floral City, Florida, he had an epiphany: “I did this gallery show in New York that cost $4,000 – but I only took in $3,000. … I loaded up, pulled out of Manhattan at midnight, stopped at a rest stop on I-95 about 100 miles into New Jersey, and woke up the next day with the realization that I could stay home and lose money just as easily.” The rest, as they say, is history. As Steven succinctly explains: “I could not sit around and do nothing, so I started to make things.” And as serendipity would have it, a “wonderfully therapeutic” family-run salvage yard (Mauro’s) sat just a few miles from his Florida home. “I would spend hours going through the yard, which had hundreds of thousands of objects, and come out with a handful of things that appealed to me that I then added to my personal ‘junkyard,’” he says. Over time, those objects evolved into carefully crafted sculptures. “The forms actually determined the artwork,” says Steven, explaining that he chose objects because he liked them, not “with an idea of the completed artwork” already in mind. “What lends a sculpture authenticity is the right placement of forms, and that, in turn, creates an object that is more than its separate parts.”

2 amazing spaces. Small or large events. Delicious in-house catering.



Left: Steven’s grain bin sheds are pieces of art themselves. Top: This sculpture is entitled Bongo Moon. Below: Objects Steven has collected, full of potential for future sculptures. / Photos by Sara Friedl-Putnam

sel l great 102 W WATER ST DECORAH, IOWA

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Steven displays one of his sculptures. / Photo by Sara Friedl-Putnam • 602 W Water St • 563-380-5772



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Fall 2021 /

Steven and Karleen spent “19 wonderful years” in Floral City, but during that time, the pull of family, as is so often the case, began to grow stronger. Several years ago, the couple purchased property in Burr Oak, and as time passed, they began spending more time there, splitting each year between Florida and Iowa before relocating entirely to Burr Oak four years ago. The move was no small feat given the sheer scope of the materials they were transporting – not only household furnishings, of course, but also Steven’s sculptures and many objects he had acquired from Mauro’s salvage yard over time. Today several of those sculptures adorn the couple’s yard. Others are stored in two grain bin sheds on the property, and still others stand across the street, where Steven also has his studio and his carefully curated “junkyard.” What passersby might see changes regularly, depending on what Steven has leased or sold. “Every year there is a raft of calls from communities for sculptures,” he explains. “I respond, and if my work is chosen for lease, it is usually also up for sale to the general public.” And while the general public may well marvel at the works Steven has created, he is quick to dismiss the notion that his work as an artist is any more or less notable than that of anyone else earning an honest living. “Art has taken on a romantic [feel], but making art is no more worthy than any other profession,” he says. “It is all just human endeavor.” Sara Friedl-Putnam greatly enjoyed spending a recent breezy Sunday morning chatting with Steven Maeck and his wife, Karleen, about art, family, the vagaries of life, and their cat, Peter O’Toole.


Gratitude Garland

Leaves designed by Claire Sanderman

Any time is a good time to remember what you’re grateful for, but fall leaves + Thanksgiving makes this a truly perfect time for a Gratitude Garland. Download & print these leaves, then decorate for the season with this super easy paper project!

Paper Project!

step-by-step instructions at






ard Cider has an ancient history – seriously, it goes back thousands of years. According to the National Apple Museum, evidence of apple trees growing along the banks to the Nile River can be found dating back to about 1300 B.C., and the first instance of people drinking a cider-like beverage was in the British Isles in 55 B.C.. Its popularity spread throughout the Roman Empire and across Europe, and, interestingly, it played an important role in early America as well. The first Europeans to settle in the colonies had a hard time growing the grains and barley needed to brew beer, but apples were no trouble. Colonials learned to make and ferment cider, and quickly fell in love with the boozy drink. The alcohol made it safer to drink than much of the water on hand at that time, and, bonus: it was full of nutrition as well (yes! cider has food value!). Cider popularity has once again seen a resurgence, and lucky for us, the Driftless is alive and well with folks who are producing some fantastic, locally sourced hard ciders for folks to try. Take a look through this list, and start planning a fun daytrip or two to take in the sights and sip a cider or two – within moderation of course! Keep in mind that several of these are located on actual, working farms, so please call or check ahead to confirm that you are able to experience all that these local producers have to offer. Happy exploring! 48

Fall 2021 /


Decorah, IA In the heart of downtown Decorah, housed in a former lumberyard building sits the region’s newest cider producer. Convergence CiderWorks opened summer 2021, and delivers “Small Batch Ciders

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with Wide Impact” – and in a beautiful taproom space that also offers small plates (and crepes!). From Flyway Gold to Disappearing Spring and Drift Less Hard Cider, these squeezes feature local ingredients and fun twists. Check it out – and tell them we sent you!

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Waukon, IA If you’re a regular reader of Inspire(d), you know our friends Pam and Dave Kruger never stand still, unless they’re behind a Farmers Market table! Besides their regular offerings of fun and fruity wines, Empty Nest has been making their own ciders – and pushing the flavor boundaries – for years. Your traditional English Mum might be surprised if she stops here for a pint – unless she’s planning on Dragonfruit, Mango, Strawberry, or other exotic bubblies!



Calmar, IA Since 2017, PIVO Brewery has been quenching thirsty visitors from their location in Calmar (just south of Decorah). Not only does PIVO brew numerous beers, but cider has always been a part of their plan as well – including a fledgling onsite orchard. Variations include blackberries and bourbon barrel aged flavors – many available to-go in crowlers. Hit the Prairie Farmer bike trail and make it an afternoon!

Iowa City, IA With over 100 varieties of apples on this Iowa Cityarea landmark, Wilson’s have been catering to fall family fun outings since the 1980s. Things got seriously fun in more recent years with the addition of farm pressed ciders, and the completion of Rapid Creek Cidery – an incredible renovated, on-farm barn / restaurant, as well as a smokehouse. Ciders range from fun and light, to fruity and beyond with brands such as Goldfinch, Peach Fizz, Hoppleseed, and more. Worth the drive this fall!

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Make your magical memory!

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Sept 18: David K as Roy Orbison, 2 pm & 7 pm Oct 9: Kitty Wells Tribute & The Swinging Country Band – Stars of the Grand Ole Opry 2 pm & 7 pm Oct 30: Rocky Horror Picture Show Dec 4: Joseph Hall Rock N’ Remember Christmas Dec 18: Die Hard movie Rent the Opera House for live theatre, music & entertainment, weddings, corporate events, movies & more. Or Champlin Hall in the lower level - perfect for family reunions, wedding & baby showers, meetings & more!

Visit or call 563-547-1066 for details


Lisbon, IA Iowa’s first craft cidery in the small Eastern Iowa town of Lisbon has led the way for 20 years, right from Sutliff Road. The historic farmstead is open ThursdaySunday, April to December, with a market in the upstairs of their historic barn. They also feature BBQ treats along with crisp, clean ciders like original, rosé, mimosa, and sangria. It’s an Eastern Iowa community weekend favorite!



Spring Valley, MN Just outside of Spring Valley, Minnesota, sits the stunning Four Daughters Winery – a spectacular estate winery – and cidery! Yep, it’s home to “Loon Juice” hard ciders, which can be found across Minnesota and beyond. Honeycrisp is a favorite, but the flavors have expanded greatly in recent years. Onsite “1000-Degree Pizza” and small plates pair well with their offerings. Check out the close by Historic Forestville and Mystery Cave State Park if timing allows. continued on next page

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La Crescent, MN Just outside La Crescent, on the “East Coast” of Minnesota, the Hoch Family has been producing spectacular organic estate fruit since 2011. From berries to cherries, apples, apricots, and plums – this farm is truly a local fruit producer. The family has also been producing their own farmhouse ciders and wines for several years now, and you can occasionally visit the farm on weekends throughout the fall to purchase these. Also find their amazing fruit and products at the Cameron Park Farmers Market in La Crosse, Bluff Country Co-op (Winona), Peoples Food Coop in La Crosse and Rochester, the Viroqua Food Co-op, and the Oneota Food Co-op in Decorah.

and maximize conservation. Beyond apples, Ecker’s famous pies are available by the slice or whole during the season, and the caramel apples work for any meal (trust us!). More to the point, their onsite Hog’s Back Brew Farm creates a destination in the midst of their orchards for quality crafted beverages – including Ecker’s own Fat Blossom Girls and Hum Stinger semi-dry ciders, as well as local music and beautiful views. Hog’s Back operates Friday evenings, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons during the season. Long-range plans include a fully functioning, on-site cidery by 2025. Plus, mark your calendars for the annual “Hootenanny,” scheduled for October 16, 2021 – see you there!


Trempealeau, WI Home to 20 apple cultivars, Ecker’s has been pushing the boundaries of what it means to be apple growers for many years now. In 2020, their crop was Tru-Earth Certified, which sets guidelines to minimize pesticide use


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Congratulations Inspired Magazine! 52

Fall 2021 /

Stockholm, WI Just outside the extremely quaint village of Stockholm, Wisconsin, almost atop the bluffs, sits a fairy tale of an orchard and vineyard. Proprietors Herdie Baisden and Carol Wiersma have been creating beautiful boutique hard ciders and unique wines from estate-grown fruit since 2008. Honeycrisp Hard was the one that put Maiden Rock on the map for many cider drinkers in the Driftless, but Crabby, Scrumpy, and Red Hawk have also found fans along the way. A fantastic line of traditional still ciders is also produced at Maiden Rock, along with unique estate wines. You can even purchase your own apple tree stock from their nursery, which specializes in varieties geared towards cider. The drive up the river is beautiful in the fall, and if you’re headed there on a Saturday, make sure you stop by the Smiling Pelican Bake Shop on your way.



Dundas, MN North of Rochester (but south of Northfield…) in the Cannon Valley sits a beautiful orchard with some serious cider talent on it, and 5,500 apple trees. This perfect daytrip (Cannon Valley Trail anyone?) can lead you to one of Southern Minnesota’s true outof-the-way treasures. Proprietors Nate and Tracy have created an incredible lineup of naturally fermented ciders, a distinction worth making in the fermentation world. In addition to their stellar ciders, a small menu of toasties and bites are available for kids of all ages. It’s also worth trying to catch one of their ciders at Forager in Rochester or Jack’s Bottle Shop (near Forager). Keepsake is open Fridays 4-9 pm, and Saturday-Sundays from 12-8 pm.

Fairfield, IA While technically a skosh outside of our region, we can’t write about cider and not include our friends at Jefferson County Ciderworks, near the transcendental metropolis of Fairfield. Known for their “New American” Ciders, JeffCo has been a long-time local favorite of many Eastern Iowans – from the original, to the oaked sour cherry and the semi-dry hibiscus rose. Their lighter side session ciders have been summer hits for a couple years now, and seasonal favorites like Lemon Lavender, Tropical Pineapple, and Gin Spiced all make the rounds. You’ll find these lovely beverages in 16oz cans and on tap at some of our favorite regional haunts like Pulpit Rock Brewing and Luna Valley Farm (Decorah), as well as some Co-ops and liquor stores in Eastern Iowa. Cheers, Jesse! Benji Nichols has been schlepping magazines around the Driftless for 14 years. Who’d’a thunk it? He also says that this compilation is the foundation for a fantastic fall “Cider Road Trip” - even better if he could find the time to do it by bicycle. See you on the trails!

MONONA, IO e r o l p WA x E rt of the Driftless Iowa a e H Area e In th








• All-season Outdoor Recreational Fun! • Aquatic Center • All-inclusive Playgrounds • Butterfly Gardens & Trail • Dining, Shopping & Services • Fitness Center • Full-service Campgrounds • Guesthouses & Cabins • Historical Museums • Nearby Yellow River, Mississippi River, State Parks & National Monument



Monona, Iowa is your dream getaway in the Driftless Area region. Like no other region in the world, northeast Iowa’s Paleozoic Plateau is a pristine paradise that escaped the flattening effect of glaciation during the last ice age. Its steep forested ridges, deeply-carved river valleys, natural wildlife habitats and flyways, underground caves, spring-fed waterfalls, and cold-water trout streams will supply you with endless relaxing and exhilarating experiences.


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mmediate occupancy, five stories, wood siding, great view, lovely neighborhood, although a couple neighbors are squirrely. That’s how an ad would read for the large, dead oak down the road. Years have passed since spring dappled its branches with olive green buds. Now leafless, it stands with ashen limbs outstretched as if paying homage to the sun that formerly gave it life. It’s a good bet this silent giant witnessed skies heavy with passenger pigeons, the Earth’s most abundant bird prior to their sudden, tragic extinction. We can only imagine what transpired under acornladen boughs as decades passed. Oh, that trees could whisper their secrets. Even now, more than two centuries after filamentous roots first tethered it to soil, several winters since the last curled leaf was whisked away by arctic winds, the tree gives life. Dead trees, it turns out, are one of nature’s most valuable commodities. Any conservationist worth his or her weight in cicadas knows the importance of dead trees. A wellspring of life, a large “snag” in the parlance of biologists, supports myriad creature large and small. They are nature’s condominiums. It’s no surprise dead trees, much like their living counterparts, go through stages that over time support a variety of wild creatures. Shortly after a tree’s demise, fine twigs at the ends of branches are broken off by Chimney Swifts (a.k.a. “the flying cigar” birds) during dare devil fly-bys. Twigs are then cemented together and attached to the inside of chimneys with swift saliva, a durable avian glue that will support the weight of little swifts until fledging. Twigless branches quickly become prime real estate, providing ideal perches for a procession of birds. Hungry hawks, high-speed hummingbirds and flitting flycatchers take advantage of unobstructed views. Within a year, bark begins to loosen, providing hiding places for insects and roosting bats. It’s also a favored location for hardy butterflies that overwinter as adults – the beautifully patterned Tortoiseshells, Commas, Question Marks, and even the regal Mourning Cloak find refuge under bark blankets. As insects gather, woodpeckers follow. No group of birds has a greater fondness for dead wood. Seven species inhabit the Driftless, ranging in size from the diminutive Downy, smartly attired in crisp black and white, to the crow-sized Pileated, a breathtaking behemoth of a bird, with a fire red crest. Its resonant laughter echoes across valleys, conjuring images of forests primeval. Bark flies hither and yon as they search for beetle and ant larvae, re-sculpting the tree’s exterior. Small bark flakes that escape the woodpecker’s chisel may be collected by resourceful White-breasted Nuthatches for nest lining. \ Fall 2021


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Mourning Cloak Butterfly watercolor / by Mary Thompson


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Exposure to the elements hastens decay, bleaching trees into multi-limbed skeletons. Woodpeckers that previously visited the deadwood diner take up residence to raise families as softening wood offers the perfect medium for excavating nest holes. In short order, smooth, alabaster trunks become polka-dotted with cavities. The tree cavity is the gift that keeps on giving. First a nursery for little woodpeckers, throughout the life of a snag it may host dozens more critters unable to excavate their own cavities. The list of “secondary cavity nesters” – species that move in after woodpeckers move out – is long and peppered with backyard favorites. Blackcapped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, House Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Tree Swallow, and Screech Owl depend on cavities for survival. Squirrels of every stripe, including the rarely seen flying squirrel, readily occupy vacant cavities. Across the continent, more than one thousand species of wildlife are dependent on snags. Ultimately, time and gravity prevail as dead trees fall to earth. In a last slow-motion hurrah, they become one with the forest floor, providing shelter for salamanders and centipedes, food for fungus, and nutrients to nurture future generations of oaks and elms, beginning the cycle anew. These days the old saying “Look Ma! No cavities!” rings true, but with a different meaning. Snags are in short supply in our woodlands, primarily due to dead tree removal for firewood. As a result, competition for cavities is keen. Nest boxes offer an alternative for some species, but nothing beats woodpecker-hewn housing. Next time you venture afield, keep an eye peeled for leafless woodland elders. Quiet observation may surprise you with sightings of “wild” neighbors. And when you have the opportunity, share the news with family and friends – “Dead wood is good wood!” Mary Thompson has degrees in Fine Arts and Education. She has delighted in the creative arts since her first box of crayons. A dyed in the wool people person, she teaches art lessons to adventurous adults using a variety of media.

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Craig Thompson is a professional biologist with a penchant for birds dating back to a time when gas was $0.86 cents a gallon. He has reverence for trees, both living and dead.






ail Bolson-Magnuson has always loved art. “One of my first memories is of asking my mom to draw a horse over and over again so I could see how she did it, then trying to copy it,” she says. These days, Gail is the founder and owner of Agora Arts in Downtown Decorah, a contemporary fine craft gallery and retail store carrying art, jewelry, pottery, prints, sculpture, and more. And they’ve stood the test of time: Gail and Agora Arts will be celebrating 30 years of business in spring of 2022.

Agora Arts in downtown Decorah / Photo by Benji Nichols

continued on next page \ Fall 2021


Agora Arts represents a wide variety of artists/ Photo by Benji Nichols

When Agora first opened its doors in 1992, 33 local and regional artists were represented inside. Today, the gallery offers work by more than 200 artists – some of the same artists from day one, and many more from around the nation (and a handful of international artists too). Born and raised in Decorah, Gail says her fifth grade art teacher, Elizabeth Lorentzen, was her most influential teacher. “I am eternally grateful to her,” Gail says. “She offered so much encouragement to all of her students. She offered classes in the summers too. She gave 1000 percent of herself to her students.” Gail, the artist, has tried many different mediums – everything from weaving to painting to forging to pottery to drawing…even plasma cutting.

“In a weird way, it has perfectly equipped me for at least part of my current job, which is knowing a little bit about every media I carry at the store,” she says. “I still want to keep trying and learning things. There’s just so, so, so much out there...” After high school, Gail went to Luther College, and while there, she met her now-husband, Karl (who also attended Luther, but before her). At that time, Karl had moved from his home state of California back to Decorah to start a bike shop with his business partner. (Karl changed courses and runs an accounting business now.) One thing led to another, and they eventually decided to make Decorah home for good.


Photography by Brittany Todd

563-382-3657 . 108 Fifth Avenue, Decorah, Iowa . 58

Fall 2021 /

“It sounds really cheesy, but Decorah really is a very special place. I have always felt truly supported by so many in the Decorah and Luther community, but now in the midst of this seemingly neverending pandemic, I feel it even more,” she says, “I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a bit rough. So many people have made a point of supporting Agora, purchasing, telling me how much they like my store and how thankful they are that I am still open. I couldn’t do it without them and I am thankful to them for supporting me, which allows me to continue doing what I love!” Gail took some (valuable, self-employed) time to share with us about what she’s learned and loved over the past 30 years of running a business in Decorah. Read on for more!

jobs that I truly hated, but none that I really loved either. Even when I started selling my work at art shows, first selling my handwovens, then polymer clay jewelry and painted clothing, I didn’t really feel like it was quite the right fit. But I traveled to art shows all around the Midwest, and would set up my booth, and there would always be all these other artists from the Decorah area at the show selling their work. I loved their work and thought it was such a shame that most of their art wasn’t available in downtown Decorah. That was really how I started. My husband and his business partner had already opened one business in Decorah (Decorah Bicycles) so I knew that I had someone to help me with some of the Gail Bolson-Magnuson with her husband, book keeping, taxes, advertising, and other Karl. / Photo by Charlie Langton Name: Gail Bolson-Magnuson accounting issues that I knew nothing about. Business: Agora Arts I opened my first retail space in May of Years in Business: 29 (our 30 year anniversary is May 2, 2022) 1992, representing 33 local and regional artists. My space had a Business address: 104 E Water St, Decorah, Iowa studio so I could also do my own work, but it soon became obvious Website: that I wasn’t going to have time to do that and run the sales part of the gallery at the same time. It’s been almost 30 years since I 1. Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide opened and some of those same artists are still represented at to jump in and become your own boss? Agora, along with, currently, about 200 more from around the I started working when I was 14 and have had so many jobs! I country! We have brought in a few items from other countries now think I counted almost 20 jobs before I was 30. I was a waitress, as well. a bookstore clerk, a disk jockey, an interior painter, sold lingerie, It’s important in business to be able to pivot (buzzword of the year worked in a grocery store, a travel agency... I learned something I think!) and that’s what I’ve been doing a lot lately. I’ve also started from every job whether I liked the job or not. I didn’t have many continued on next page \ Fall 2021





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Allamakee Wood Fired Pottery is one of Agora’s long-time artisans. / Photos by Benji Nichols

to add more gift items and accessories. And also some humorous things like cards and socks that aren’t necessarily handmade but they make people smile. And we could all use some smiles right now.” 2. What’s the best thing about being your own boss? Almost everything honestly. I love this job. I love shopping and traveling to shows all over the country. Most of the time that is how I find all of the beautiful things to sell in my store. Sometimes the artist finds me, sometimes a customer or friend recommends something that I should have in the store. I love meeting the artists who make all of these beautiful things. I love interacting with customers and sharing the artwork with them. I love knowing that I am helping craftspeople get their work out into the world, helping get it seen and appreciated, and helping them make a living doing what they love too! And I still get to be creative, even though I’m not actually producing “artwork.” There are so many creative things that need to happen in the gallery. I really enjoy making the display items, especially the jewelry displays, and also doing the merchandising, the vignettes around the store and display windows. Growing up, I wanted to be Rhoda Morgenstern (if you’re under 55, you may need to Google that one). 3. How about the worst? I guess probably one negative thing is how much time I spend sitting in front of screens. There’s just SO MUCH that has to be done that way now – social media, websites, blogs, online sales, buying, banking, advertising, meetings... I don’t like spending my days in front of a computer. 4. Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it? There have definitely been times where it just “didn’t seem worth it.” All the hours, especially in the beginning, working during holidays

and almost every weekend and, sometimes, not really seeing any financial benefit. This past year has, of course, been difficult for everyone. But, we’re still here! 5. Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to? I come from a long line of creative people whom I admire and who were self-employed. My paternal grandfather started his own painting business, SB Bolson and Sons, which is where my father and his brothers worked for their entire lives. Eventually my dad bought the business. It is currently owned by my brother and still in operation today, almost 100 years later. My maternal grandparents and great grandparents were farmers, so self-employed also. I have also been so incredibly fortunate to meet some fellow gallery owners who inspire me and support me in all kinds of ways. Stores who specialize in American craft are a very different kind of store and also are fairly rare, so when you meet someone in this industry, you all tend to help each other out.


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6. What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started? I don’t really know. I guess if I had known I would be doing this for 30 years, I probably would have gotten some background in book keeping or accounting. But then maybe I would have gotten distracted. It happened when it needed to happen I think. 7. How do you manage your life/work balance? I’ve learned over the years that you just have to make time for the things you want to do. I have been so lucky that I have had such great employees over the years and we all work together to make sure we can balance our lives. Agora is open seven days a week, so sometimes I end up working when I may feel like doing something else, but ultimately it’s something that I really like so it’s not so bad. I mean, I’m also the boss, so if I REALLY want to do something, I guess I can just close! I also am someone who always needs a project, I always need to be starting something new, designing something, remodeling something. Right now I’m between projects, so.... look out. Something is coming... 8. What keeps you inspired? Being surrounded by all of this beautiful stuff every day is always inspiring to me, truly. Being creative, and being around creatives gives me energy. I can’t imagine living my life without that.

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Feeling inspired to check out some amazing regional art? Fall in the Driftless is a busy time for self-guided artist studio tours, where artists welcome you to their workspaces for behind-the-scenes tours. It’s also a beautiful time for road trips (hello, lovely autumn scenery)! Make sure to mark your calendar for these art tours this fall! NOTE: Due to the ever-changing nature of COVID-19, please check websites or call ahead of time for updates or special policies.


Where: Lake Pepin and the Chippewa Valley of Wisconsin When: October 1-3, 2021, 10-5 daily For more information: Explore scenic back roads and submerse yourself in nature’s autumn artistry on this self-guided tour of studios and galleries. There are more than 20 sites throughout the picturesque villages and countryside of Pepin and Pierce counties – come hear their stories and take home a bit of their inspiration. Watch for Fresh Art Tour signs along the way.


Where: Decorah, Iowa, and 40-mile surrounding region When: October 8-10, 2021, 10-5 daily For more information: This annual event (in its 24th year!) will feature 42 wonderful artists at 31 locations, displaying and selling pottery, paintings, woodcuts, baskets, jewelry, woodworking, kaleidoscopes, sculpture,

photography, collage, fiber arts, and more. Tour participants can set their own pace while driving from studio to studio. Before you head out, pick up a brochure (or go online) to find a map with GPS and Artist Darla Ellickson in her Northeast Iowa studio. / Courtesy photo lodging and dining along the route. The Northeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour (NIAST Inc.) is Iowa’s first and longest running tour of artists’ studios in the state. Check out a special “Preview – Artists of 24th Northeast Iowa Tour” from September 2 to October 2 at ArtHaus. Opening reception is Thursday September 2, from 7 to 9.


Where: Baraboo, Spring Green, Dodgeville, & Mineral Point, Wisconsin When: October 15-17, 2021, 10-6 daily For more information: During this three-day tour, some of Wisconsin’s best-known artisans open their studios, tucked away in the scenic hills in and around Wisconsin’s art communities, to the public. The weekend is fill with painters, sculptors, potters, weavers, jewelers, woodworkers, mixed-media artists, and more, demonstrating and selling their remarkable work.






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Driftless IN THE

s we look into the future of our region, one thing is for sure – great things continue happening across our rural-but-wonderful towns and cities. There’s nothing we love more than hearing about a neat new spot to grab a beverage or meal, or a reason to get out and explore the Driftless. It also makes us forever happy to see that people continue to believe in this corner of the world – putting down roots, investing in businesses new and old (and buildings!), and generally working to make our communities better. Here’s a little list of recent additions that we think are totally worthy of checking out!


Located inside Red’s IGA in Spring Grove, Minnesota – wait, you say!? You guys have already mentioned Fat Pat’s like five times in past issues… (have we?). Well, then we don’t need to tell you about the awesome BBQ they are offering on Friday and Saturday evenings (or about Jo’s amazing coffee and treats!). But what we do need to tell you is that Fat Pat’s is going to be brewing their own beer (and offering other beers!) very, very soon! Yep – a match made in heaven, or Spring Grove as it would be. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements for when the taps will be flowing – and make the beautiful drive for a little weekend BBQ & brew!


As we all know, fall is quickly arriving – and with those shorter, cooler days comes the need…. to stay caffeinated!

Since we’re already talking about Spring Grove, Minnesota, we thought we’d better tell you about one of the region’s newest coffee roasters – Heart Rock Coffee. This veteran owned business focuses on single origin beans from across the world, roasting them to bring out the best from each unique batch. Find them at fun spots like Free Range Exchange in Hokah, Wired Rooster in Caledonia, Jo’s Coffee in Spring Grove, the La Crescent Farmer’s Market, and online at


The dream is finally being realized as Decorah has picked up not one but two food trucks in recent months. The Albatross is a dream wagon of smash burgers, hot chicken sandwiches, and sides that slay. Most commonly found at one of the breweries or craft beer bars in Decorah – check out all the fun and upcoming schedules on Facebook or Meanwhile, Northeast Iowa’s craving for street tacos and the associated fare have finally found a worthy wagon – taco wagon that is! Lesly’s Taco Trunk (yep, Trunk!)! Favorites include the tacos (duh), tortas, and enormous burritos – in such traditional favorites as asada, alpastor, pollo, birria, and lengua (try it!). Keep up with them if you can, including fun afternoons at Convergence CiderWorks, regular days at the Mr. Carpet’s parking lot, and more:



Dance & Theatre



heathers – THE MUSICAL NOV 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, & 20

BY LAURENCE O'KEEFE AND KEVIN MURPHY DIRECTED BY DR. ROBERT VRTIS MUSICAL DIRECTION BY LYNNE ROTHROCK detaILS Check out the entire 2021-22 Luther Dance & Theatre season online... and mark your calendars! \ Fall 2021


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Driftless IN THE

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If having two incredible breweries in Decorah wasn’t enough, the corner of Washington and Broadway (formerly Decorah Building Supply) is now home to the incredible (and incredibly beautiful!) Convergence CiderWorks (read more about the Driftless cider scene on page 48). “Small Batch Ciders with Wide Impact” says it all – and what better time of year for them to be in full swing!? Check out the amazing historic mural in the main seating area, fun small plates menu, and great patio area (and indoor shuffle board table!). Guest food trucks are in the mix (as mentioned on the previous page), as well as occasional entertainment and crowlers of local cider to go. Hooooray!


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Fall 2021 /

Vernon County never ceases to keep things fresh, and fall is a spectacular time to go over the river and through the woods to apple country and beyond. The Hotel Fortney in downtown Viroqua has finally found a new lease on life – and it is beautiful! In early 2020, the Wrobel family bought the historic, but tired, Fortney building in downtown Viroqua. Not so much an overnight hotel (just yet), the ground floor is coming alive with retail space and the gorgeously remodeled Historic Fortney Lounge is open weekend nights and beyond with a smashing beverage list and light fare available from the Driftless Café. Wednesday night trivia kicks up this fall – keep an eye on thehistoricfortney to watch the continued renovation process, updates on hours in the lounge, and more.

Just down Main Street in Viroqua, Rhythm Bakery didn’t miss a beat picking up the pieces where Bard Bread left off this summer. Rhythm is a sourdough bakery featuring local grains in a variety of breads, crackers, cakes, and pastries – a labor of love and passion to roll out delicious baked goods for the masses. Follow along at or to keep up with baking schedules, availability, and locations to pick up their amazing offerings. If you’re smart, you won’t speed down Highway 14 in Westby, or you’ll miss KOS Gastropub – serving up a whole new experience from the former “Bleachers” space for one of our favorite Scanditowns. From seafood to steaks and beyond – and housemade desserts, just across from the Westby Inn, this is a great addition to downtown! And just in time for the cozy season (!), the Daily Brew Co. has opened on Washington Street in Westby. A familyowned coffee shop in the heart of Westby, they offer breakfast and lunch with coffee beans locally roasted from Bean Juice Coffee Roasters (La Crosse), and baked goods from Hansen’s Country Bakery. Open 7 mornings a week, check them out next time you’re headed through town.

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Across the river on the scenic Root River, the Driftless Trading Post has planted their flag in Peterson, Minnesota, as the place that can set you up for river fun and more. They offer kayak, canoe, and tube outfitting along the Root River, with shuttle service and all that you need for a day of fun. After your adventure, you can stop in for a bite to eat at the new café, serving flatbreads, paninis, “Uffda” (lefse) chips, cold beverages, and more. driftlesstradingpost

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Jannan Malanaphy Interviewed by granddaughter Deirdre Christopher

Jannan Malanaphy turned 91 in May. She still lives on her own and drives herself to church, Fareway, Walmart, and around town. She has always been an avid walker. We put a pedometer on her one week and she averaged around 13,000 steps a day! She usually walks about 3-4 miles a day. Those of you that have walked with Jannan, you know it is hard to keep up with her! Even at 91. She walks fast, and she times herself every day. She likes to say, “move it or lose it!” If she can’t walk outside, she walks around her apartment. She’s a firm believer that her walking, for most of her adult life, and her vitamins, is what has kept her going for all these years! She was also attending weekly exercise classes up until COVID. Jannan thanks God every day for her good health. Her oldest son, John, recalls mom always saying, “I know that we all have to die sometime, but I’m going kicking and screaming the whole way!” She’s been a loyal parishioner at St. Benedict Catholic Church, and was the sacristan there until COVID. Her strong faith has gotten her through many a hard time. She lost her oldest daughter, Deirdre, in 1981. Deirdre was only 24 at the time. Her youngest daughter, Bridget, recalls hearing her mom tell numerous people that, “We had Deirdre for a whole 24 years!” Now, that’s faith! Then she lost her husband, John, in 1985. John was only 59 at the time. Jannan is a mother of seven, grandmother to 18, and great grandmother to 22. What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you? To go and attend high school in Dubuque, with the nuns. I met my best friend, Donna, there. The nuns were my saving grace. What did you want to be when you grew up? I didn’t even think about those things. I was just trying to get through life. We lived through the Great Depression. My dad was in the Navy and WW2. My mother was not the best role model growing up. I took care of my younger brother, Robert, most of the time. I only weighed 2+ lbs. at birth, and they could fit me in a shoebox! And I was full term. What do/did you do? After graduation, I worked at the Farm Bureau Office, then the Winneshiek County courthouse in the auditor’s office, then I got married to John, and became a stay-at-homemom on the farm. We raised seven children together. We did not have any running water with the first five children. John would come home in the evening after work, and before he took his shoes off he would holler in the door “J, do you need me to dump the pot?” We started Malanaphy Riding Stables in the late 60s, as a way for our kids to make some money. I remember Rick Fromm and his buddies from Luther coming out to ride horses often. Rick became a good family friend to us. Still to this day.

Top: Jannan at the top of Pulpit rock, on a walk with one of her granddaughters, Tiffany, earlier this summer. Above: Jannan, center, with most of her kids, grand & great grandchildren, 2019.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you? Water, Milky Way candy bars, and company Try to describe yourself in one sentence. Very Independent! (I’ve been a widow since I was 54.)

Do you know someone you’d love to interview for this page? Let us know!

If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be? Plain vanilla yogurt. Name one thing you could not live without. Good health... and word puzzles. I would think I am an expert at word puzzles by now! Tell us about your wedding day. Tom and Delores Lynch were best man and maid-of-honor. We got married first and they were married the very next day. We were each other’s maid-of-honor and best man. We took one car to Iowa City, and stayed overnight in a hotel. I remember walking down the aisle when I was married at St. Bens. Can still picture it!

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Fall 2021 /

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