Reader mail: Packer pride, hot air balloon rides

Thanks to "Roads Traveled," a Manhattan bar got a Super Bowl gift from Green Bay Packer employees.

Time to sift through the reader mailbag. Keep it coming!

Can you take a hot air balloon ride in Wisconsin? Marilyn Gering of Oconto wants to know, and she has several choices. These businesses have been around since the 1970s:

Token Creek Balloons, near Madison, and Sunbird Balloons, Lake Geneva, both operated by the same company; wedofly.com, 877-933-6359.

Wisconsin’s Majestic Balloons, Ripon; wisconsinballoon.com, 920-748-3464.

Balloons Unlimited of Wisconsin, Sullivan; aballoonflight.com, 262-593-8444

Want to watch before paying to ride? Monroe hosts two hot air balloon events this month. The U.S. Open National Championships, June 9-12, will involve national and world champions. Exactly when competition happens will depend upon weather and wind conditions, but balloon pilots set up and glow their balloons on opening night.

The 27th annual Father’s Day Weekend Monroe Balloon Rally, June 15-16, is a family-friendly festival that includes tethered balloon rides for $20 at the Green County Fairgrounds. The other option is “fly away” rides, $200 per passenger, and available June 7-17, as weather permits. Reservations are recommended.

For details: open-championships.com, 913-744-7170; and monroeballoonrally.com, 608-313-4869.

Jeff Richgels of Madison wanted ideas, other than Lambeau Field, for a relative’s trip to the Green Bay area. I recommended six stops:

– The new Children’s Museum of Green Bay, whose grand opening is June 12. Consult gbchildrensmuseum.org, 920-432-4397.

– The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Champion, site of Virgin Mary apparitions that have been acknowledged by the Pope. More at shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.com, 920-866-2571.

Chives, a casual-classy Suamico restaurant run by the Green Bay Packers’ former executive chef, J.R. Schoenfeld. For details: chivesdining.net, 920-434-6441.

Amy’s at Woodhaven, Mountain, where chef Amy Donaldson conducts fun gourmet cooking classes about one hour northwest of Green Bay. Students show up to drink, eat and watch the chef work. See amysatwoodhaven.com, 715-276-2665.

– Nostalgic Bay Beach Amusement Park (baybeach.org, 920-448-3365) and the National Railroad Museum (nationalrrmuseum.org, 920-437-7623).

Marilyn Foss of Madison asked for affordable group retreat locations. On my short list: The Christine Center, near Willard, christinecenter.org, 715-267-7507; Pilgrim Center, Green Lake, ucci.org/pilgrim-center, 920-745-4746; Woodwind Health Spa and Wellness Center, Rhinelander, woodwindspa.com, 715-362-8902; Green Lake Conference Center, Green Lake, glcc.org, 920-294-3323; DeKoven Center, Racine, dekovencenter.org, 262-633-6401; and Holy Wisdom Monastery, Middleton, benedictinewomen.org, 608-836-1631.

Also consider Vacation Rentals by Owner, vrbo.com (choose Door County, for example, and you’ll see beach houses that sleep up to 18).

Pamela McGee of Madison noticed an upcoming culinary tour to Turkey by Joan Peterson of Madison. “Looks like a wonderful trip,” she offers. “Is it offered every year? Have you ever taken it?”

I have not been to Turkey but certainly know the leader, who has published a series of food primers about foreign travel. I am in the process of writing “Eat Smart in Germany” for her!

Joan has written an “Eat Smart in Turkey” book and visited the country several times, but this particular trip already is at capacity. Stay tuned to eatsmartguides.com for details about other culinary tours.

Richie Plass of Green Bay, a Menominee with the Stockbridge/Munsee community, says he liked my column about Nashville. “I’ve always said that Nashville is still a small town in a big town’s shirt,” he writes.

He began playing music in 1965 and has played in bands ever since then: “The highlight of my music career came when we played at the Ryman Auditorium back in 2007. We were part of an all Native American music show.

“We were assigned to Johnny Cash’s dressing room. That was way too cool. Then we were asked by a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Nokie Edwards (of The Ventures), to be his back-up band for his performance that evening.”

Richie’s work includes hosting Kalihwiyo’se, a Native American music program on Wisconsin Public Radio, and touring the nation with an exhibit about Native American imagery. For more about the latter: changingwinds.org, 203-256-9720.

One of my all-time favorite Green Bay Packer bars is Kettle of Fish in Manhattan, and the owners got a nice surprise after I wrote about it.

“Because of the article you wrote, not only have we had many visitors/customers, but we got this great, unexpected gift,” reports Adriane and Patrick Daley. “Pepper Burruss, head trainer of the Packers, read your article and knew that someday he would find something to send to us.

“There were six Gatorade coolers on the Packers sideline for the Super Bowl. We got one, signed by the four trainers, and after the article was shown to Aaron Rogers, he signed it, too.”

See it yourself, the next time you’re in New York City. For more: kettleoffishnyc.com, 212-414-2278.

Fans include Michael Osacky of Chicago, who visited Kettle of Fish for Wisconsin’s Sweet 16 men’s basketball game. “I travel the Midwest purchasing vintage baseball cards/sports memorabilia collections,” he writes. “I am most interested in the stories behind the collections, and I have been fortunate to meet some Hall of Fame players.”

He’s especially interested in pre-1970 items. For more about his business: baseballintheattic.com, 847-436-8444.

Nancy Rueger of Antigo noticed my column about the products of monastic communities and recommends the fruitcake made by Trappist Monks of Assumption Abbey in Ava, Mo.

“Heavenly, spiritual and best tasting,” she writes. “None of those artificial candied fruits. This is a small, quaint monastery way up in the hills. Old heavy wood beams, humble monks.” For more: assumptionabbey.org, 888-738-0117.

Marilyn Morgan of Altoona wants us to know about daughter Rachel’s “Caucasian Invasion” travel blog at rawsquid.blogspot.com. Rachel is a teacher and has been traveling abroad – South Korea, India, Thailand – for quite a while.

A blogger for “The Case for Beer” – frugaldad.com/beer – says roadstraveled.com was helpful with research. “I thought I would return the favor … we compiled a great list of food and beer pairings that you might find interesting.”

Steve and Jean Hinkley of Fond du Lac say Charlie’s Drive-in in Hortonville is not a good match for them. “We went to eat, not be entertained,” they write.

Candace Haley wants us to know about the World War II Museum in Portage. “It is a wonderful, well-kept secret,” she writes. A two-hour tour costs $7.50. For more: wwiimuseumwi.com, 608-697-3690.

Lloyd Arndt of Madison liked the column about Sessler’s, a tavern in Meeme. “Never heard of Sessler’s, and that is very close to my old stamping grounds,” he says. “It is now on my list to visit. Not far from my favorite cheese factory, Henning’s in Kiel.” More at henningscheese.com, 920-894-3032.

He also recommends manitowoctavernhistory.org; “Some of those taverns are where I spent a hour or two back in the ’40s.”