Wisconsin introduces roadside culture stands

Consider the phrase “roadside culture stand.” It is more than a place to sell fresh veggies, less imposing than the average art fair booth and all about a new way to elevate the unique bounty that defines Wisconsin.

Picture a farm stand on wheels, but one that blends art and agriculture. It functions as a local food information kiosk, plus a place to peddle just about anything homegrown, maybe even folk art. Kind of like the food carts that show up at festivals, only the emphasis is on locally grown food.

“The rural stands will reinforce the message ‘Eat the View’,” writes Donna Neuwirth of the Wormfarm Institute (www.wormfarminstitute.org), a nonprofit that commissions culture stand construction, through Wisconsin Arts Board funding.

“If you want to preserve working rural landscapes, eat from the food chain that created them.”

Sculptor Peter Flanary of Mineral Point crafted the first roadside culture stand in 2009. This June three other artists (identities not yet announced) will unveil their renditions. The stands will show up at various Iowa County, Sauk County and other public events, through October.

Donna wants one of the four roadside culture stands brought to inner city Milwaukee “food deserts – areas with little or no access to fresh, healthy food, but often served by plenty of processed food or fast food restaurants.”

“The roadside stand is a much beloved icon of America, drawing on the power of the roadside attraction and the public’s yearning for authenticity,” Rick Rolfsmeyer of Hollandale writes at www.portalwisconsin.com. “Through a combination of affection and novelty, the culture stand might do what stores cannot – it can be entertainment and outdoor recreation, attracting those who may have no particular philosophical or environmental reason to ‘buy local’.

“This fun experience holds the promise of diversifying and growing the customer base for anything grown or made local.”

What else is emerging in Wisconsin tourism? Plenty, especially at this time of year. State tourism leaders gather March 14-16 in Milwaukee, for the annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

I won’t get there this year but found it easy to gather nibbles about new endeavors worthy of your attention. For example:

Madison Children’s Museum on Aug. 14 reopens at a new downtown location that triples its size and adds unprecedented design, exhibit and sustainability components. A rooftop terrace that overlooks the Capitol Square contains a waterfall, gardens, chicken coop, greenhouse and room to play. Add healthful, kid-friendly cuisine at Bean Sprouts Café, a Human Gerbil Wheel (to race around like a hamster) and an exterior elevator, topped with a cow statue and large enough to carry a classroom of kids.

For more about the new museum, 100 N. Hamilton St.: www.madisonchildrensmuseum.org, 608-256-6445.

Thrill seekers no longer need to head to Costa Rica or Maui for a zip-line ride from one lofty treetop to another. Now the aerial swooping – while attached to a steep, fast and sturdy pulley – is available as close to home as Door County and Wisconsin Dells.

Check out Gravity Trails, 1041 Hwy. ZZ, Ellison Bay: www.gravitytrails.com and 920-854-9292; and Wilderness Resort, 511 E. Adams St., Wisconsin Dells: www.wildernessresort.com and 800-867-9453.

The quest to outdo competition seems to have no end in the Dells, especially when it comes to watery adventures. Noah’s Ark opens the world’s tallest water slide, Scorpion’s Tail, during Memorial Day weekend. The twisty tube capsule extends 10 stories, and riders zoom 40 miles per hour inside of it.

Too claustrophobic? Noah’s Ark, 1410 Wisconsin Dells Parkway, provides four dozen other water rides: www.noahsarkwaterpark.com, 608-254-6351.

Look for the state’s first Betty Boop Festival in Wisconsin Rapids on Aug. 5-8. The community was the hometown of Max Natwick, chief animator of the flirty cartoon character. Expect look-alike contests, an animated film festival, a sales area for cartoon collectibles and a Max Natwick art show during the boop-oop-a-doop tribute.

Events occur at various locations: www.bettyboopfestivalwi.com, 800-554-4484.

In Stevens Point, a new and free-admission outdoor sculpture park opens June 12 on 20 acres that link to the 30.5-mile Green Circle Trail for bicycling and hiking. Manmade artwork complements the new park’s natural beauty, which includes wetlands and wooded terrain.

For more about the Stevens Point Sculpture Park, at 800 N. Second St.: www.stevenspointsculpturepark.org.

The 1914 Mineral Point Opera House reopens April 30, after being closed one year for a $1.5 million facelift. The schedule of movies, theatrical performances and concerts includes “Mark Twain and the Laughing River,” presented May 7 by Jim Post; folk/pop musician Adam Wyle on June 5; and wily Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society on June 18.

For more about the structure, 139 High St.: www.mpoh.org, 608-987-2516.

Southport Light Station Museum opens May 15 near Lake Michigan in downtown Kenosha, marking completion of restoration work at the lighthouse keeper’s quarters. Learn about the history and work of operating a lighthouse, especially at this particular location. Climb the 55-foot lighthouse tower for a view, on a clear day, of shoreline as far away as Chicago.

For more about this new attraction at Simmons Island Park: www.kenoshahistorycenter.org, 262-654-5770.