And our photo contest winner is: Only in Wisconsin

Beautiful natural settings, culturally unique attractions and comical snapshots all were in the mix of “Only in Wisconsin” photo entries that you shared with me recently. Yes, we have winners, but these were not easy decisions. Good photography is a mix of skill, awareness, planning and luck. The instructions for this exercise: Submit an image(…)

Take Ten: beautiful, challenging places to canoe in Wisconsin

Guest columnist Lynne Diebel of Stoughton is the author of numerous books about the outdoors, and the most recent is Crossing the Driftless (University of Wisconsin Press, $20). The book is both a traveler’s tale and an exploration of the land the glaciers missed, an ancient landscape of bluffs, ridgetops and steep valleys that long(…)

Cassville car ferry: an unusual way to cross the Mississippi River

What makes the “bucket list” for Don and Janice Robins of Oak Creek? A 17-minute ride across the Mississippi River: That is what brought the couple almost 200 miles to Cassville, population 947, this summer. Seventeen minutes is all it takes for the Pride of Cassville ferry to cross the river between Wisconsin and Iowa.(…)

UW Terrace closes soon for major makeover

I’m not a University of Wisconsin alum but love to linger at Memorial Union Terrace on a sunny day or evening, facing pretty Lake Mendota. The Terrace is one of the most-loved outdoor destinations in Madison, but on Sept. 1 most of the area closes until next summer. A $52 million renovation aims to enhance(…)

Molly O: ‘Justified,’ and beyond the Heymakers

“Justified” is a prevailing theme in Molly Otis Stoddard’s life lately, especially since that’s the title of her first music release in nearly two decades, and first solo album. The Northwoods ode to free speech and expression comes 24 years after the single “Chasing Something Called Love” hit the Top 50 for Molly and the(…)

Take Ten: good, affordable Wisconsin golf courses

Editor’s note: The PGA Championship is Aug. 10-16 at Whistling Straits, a course near Kohler that is a pricey ticket for the average golfer. Guest columnist and longtime journalist Joe Hart of Madison shares challenging and affordable alternatives. By JOE HART Midwest Features Trust me, golf can be an addictive and maddening endeavor. And an(…)

Wisconsin artists organize Mile of Music, Eaux Claires fests

Summerfest in Milwaukee gets a ton of credit for knowing how to put on a really big show for music lovers, but other Wisconsin cities are learning to work these audiences with the help of hometown boys who have done good. Newest is Eaux Claires 2015, an outdoor music and camping festival at Foster Farms,(…)

Pagel’s Ponderosa: Mega farm adds restaurant, cheese curds

Agri-tourism in Wisconsin takes a giant step this month because of a large-scale, family-owned farm in Kewaunee County with ambitious projects that are unmatched by others in the state. Pagel’s Ponderosa – home to 5,000 cows and 8,300 acres – is opening a farm-to-table restaurant and market in downtown Green Bay that also will make(…)

Hayward food diversity: Jimmie’s BBQ, farm-to-table cafe, excellent pie

When Dave Anderson opened a little barbecue shack in 1994 on Sawyer County’s Round Lake, the waterfront business gained a quick and strong following. In two decades, those efforts grew into a web of almost 200 down-home restaurants in 34 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. Now Famous Dave’s and the founding father are going through(…)

Take Ten: Wisconsin river, lake cruises

With the arrival of summer comes our urge to take to the water, if not on the beach or with a fishing pole, then on a boat that traverses urban or remote shorelines. Instead of maneuvering your own watercraft, let someone else do the navigating and narrating. Public tours are plentiful and include these excellent(…)

County fairs: tracking trends, popularity, what’s new, unique

If you think county fairs are stuck in time and all pretty much the same, think again. Many go way beyond corn dogs, cotton candy, thrill rides and midway games of chance. All but one of Wisconsin’s 72 counties hosts at least one fair (Menominee County is the exception), and about 85 percent of these(…)

New visitor center hikes visibility of The Ridges

A longtime but quiet force on the quiet side of Door County gains wider visibility this month. The opening of a unique visitor center at The Ridges Sanctuary moves the work of researchers and naturalists from obscure quarters to busy Highway 57 in Baileys Harbor. The Ridges is the oldest nature preserve in Wisconsin and(…)

Algoma: oldest winery, formal wear, fishing, fine dive-bar fare

In the shadow of beautiful Door County, the 70-mile-long peninsula that attracts two million visitors per year, is Algoma on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The beguiling little city of 3,200 is less than 20 miles south of Sturgeon Bay, and Highway 42 cuts through the core of downtown. Often-overlooked Algoma is worth a quick detour(…)

Rural chefs redefine country cooking, farm-to-table dining

Farmers used to pitch in as a neighborhood to rebuild a barn or harvest grain, one humid acre after another. Their end-of-day reward was a hearty spread of homemade pickles to pies, enough to feed a threshing crew, as my father used to say. That obsolete reference to the communal meals of threshing crews, whose(…)

Family-run carnivals: decades of fun for community festivals

During the Great Depression, Scott Lake made a living one penny at a time, and his business has grown to modestly sustain a fourth generation of the family today. Penny arcade games – pinball, hands-on table hockey and other challenges of quickness or deftness – were affordable entertainment for beleaguered families in the 1930s. Soon(…)

Take Ten: Fun farmers markets in Wisconsin

When trees bud and bulbs blossom, the arrival of fresh asparagus and morels can’t be far behind. Hoop houses and greenhouses hike the likelihood that locally grown spinach, tomatoes and more will ripen all year, but now is the time for farmers markets to move outdoors, rain or shine. Count these among my favorites. Dane(…)

Fiber arts trail shows off quilts, history, art, supplies, more

Lots of people say a picture is worth 1,000 words; fewer acknowledge the value of 1,000 stitches. Wisconsin’s first poet laureate was among the exceptions. Ellen Kort of Appleton, who died recently, noted this in her preface to the 2008 book “Wisconsin Quilts: History in the Stitches” (Krause Publications, $34.95): “There is something powerful about(…)

SC Johnson’s Fortaleza Hall displays Wright lithographs

Near Lake Michigan, at the Indiana-Illinois border, is 800-acre Wolf Lake and an unincorporated town best known for its August Onion Days Festival. If Frank Lloyd Wright had his way, Wolf Lake would have gained a grand amusement park with “lagoons for boating, promenades for strolling and concessions for consuming” – but real estate developer(…)

Kentucky bourbon trails big on distillery diversity

During a much younger life, I was introduced to horse race wagering, earthy bluegrass music and long-simmering stews called burgoo while living in western Kentucky. So when Wisconsin met Kentucky in the NCAA Final Four this spring, I could not resist the urge to place a bet on the outcome with former work colleagues Chuck(…)

National pie champs have rural roots

Twenty years ago, Caroline Imig’s world started crashing. Her husband was killed in a farm equipment accident, leaving her as a single mother with five children. She tried to sell 350 acres and a herd of 120 cows, only to have a land contract buyer abandon the property without her knowledge. “They left me in(…)