When hopes for a new year include outings, the destinations need not be exotic to be fulfilling. Here are ways to put a fun and enriching spin on the first six months of 2014.
January: I’m plunging into winter with three Wisconsin authors whose newest books are tributes to rural living and published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press (wisconsinhistory.org).
“One Small Farm: Photographs of a Wisconsin Way of Life,” by longtime Madison photojournalist Craig Schreiner, explains the routines and challenges of a Dane County family farm. Material in this beautiful hardcover book is artfully presented and freezes in time a dwindling way of life.
Craig discusses the book from 12:15-1 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Wisconsin Historical Society Museum, 30 N. Carroll St., Madison.
What could be a better match for blizzards and bleak weather than “The Quiet Season: Remembering Country Winters” by Jerry Apps, the prolific writer and Waushara County native? His tales of simple living during demanding times help explain who we are today, culturally and psychologically.
Jerry talks at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Jan. 15-16 at the Midwest Farm Show, La Crosse Center, 300 Harborview Plaza. His 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22 talk at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, W.R. Davies Student Center, is accompanied by the Wisconsin Public Television “Winter on the Farm” documentary, which is based on the book.
Michael Perry’s newest is “From the Top: Brief Transmissions from Tent Show Radio,” sweet and savvy essays about life as he knows it in New Auburn. Expect a mix of blue-collar sensibilities and intellectual insight from Bayfield’s Big Top Chautauqua host.
Michael hits the road with “Stories from the Middle of Nowhere” Feb. 15 in Chippewa Falls, Feb. 20 in Stoughton, Feb. 27-28 in Oconomowoc. Start time is 7:30 p.m.; details are at sneezingcow.com.
February: Venture indoors for a gander at new, major and temporary museum exhibits.
Stained glass Tiffany windows from the Historic Waco Foundation make their way from Texas to the Oshkosh Public Museum, 1331 Algoma Blvd. “In Company with Angels,” Feb. 8 to May 11, depicts angels from the Biblical book of Revelations. oshkoshmuseum.org, 920-236-5799
Two traveling exhibits about magic history and imagery head to Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, 700 N. 12th St., Wausau, Jan. 25 to April 6. They are “Mystery, Magic and Mayhem: Wonders from the American Museum of Magic” and “From Houdini to Hugo: The Art of Brian Selznick,” the children’s book author. lywam.org, 715-845-7010
Kids learn about sound waves and build their own musical instruments through “Blue Man Group: Making Waves,” Jan. 25 to mid June at the Children’s Museum of La Crosse, 207 Fifth Ave. South. Video and music by the funky Blue Man performance group guide this music immersion. funmuseum.org, 608-784-2652
March: Whistle your way into a theater that loves musicals.
It’s a big year for Fireside Theatre, 1131 Janesville Ave., Fort Atkinson, which began business in 1964 as a pyramid-shaped restaurant with a fireplace in the middle. By 1972, the Klopcic family had expanded their unusual dining spot four times.
Now the Fireside graciously and efficiently seats hundreds at a time for matinee and evening dinner theater outings that feature Broadway performers in popular musicals. Boutique shopping in the complex is worth attention, too. “Mary Poppins” runs Feb. 27 to April 20. firesidetheatre.com, 920-563-9505
For jazz fans, “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” – a two-hour Fats Waller revue – comes to Milwaukee Repertory Theatre’s Stackner Cabaret, 108 E. Wells St., which offers optional, fixed-price dinners. The show goes on March 14 to May 18. milwaukeerep.com, 414-224-9490
“Ghost: The Musical,” a Broadway interpretation of the 1991 Oscar-winning movie, fills the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, 400 W. College Ave., Appleton. Performances are March 18-23. foxcitiespac.org, 920-730-3760
April: While we wait for a decision about whether the Menominee tribe can open an $800 million casino complex in Kenosha, the Oneida Nation is pursuing $28 million casino expansions that should be completed in spring. That will add four restaurants to the Green Bay area’s Main and Mason Street casinos (2020 Airport Dr., 2522 W. Mason St.), including Vince Lombardi’s Legendary Sports Bar and Grill. oneidabingoandcasino.net, 800-238-4263
May: The Republican Party turns 160 years old on March 20, but commemorations in Ripon won’t begin until the building where it all began reopens for tours during weekends in May. The GOP’s birthplace is a National Historic Landmark, and several special events will recognize the big birthday. Stay tuned to ripon-wi.com for details. littlewhiteschoolhouse.com, 920-748-6764
June: Think “baseball” and “bicycling” this month. Kenosha gains a baseball team, the Kenosha Kingfish, whose home base is the newly renovated Simmons Field, 7817 Sheridan Rd. The team is part of the Northwoods League, which features top collegiate players. kingfishbaseball.com, 262-653-0900
A renovation of nearly $3 million upgrades the home of another Northwoods team, Wausau’s Wisconsin Woodchucks, who play at city-owned Athletic Park, 324 E. Wausau Ave. woodchucks.com, 715-845-5055
At Old World Wisconsin, W372 S9727 Hwy. 67, Eagle, visitors for the first time can experience how people pedaled for transportation in the late 19th century. Historians in mid June introduce old-time high-wheelers for guests to ride and open an 1890s rural bicycle workshop. One month later, a national group for antique bicycling enthusiasts meets at this state historic site. wisconsinhistory.org, 262-594-6301
What else should we watch for in 2014? Drop me a line if you know of something new and significant that will be of interest to the average traveler in or near Wisconsin.