Reader mail: shrines, art, lodging, dining

eataly-pizzaTime to sort through the reader mailbag. ’Nuf said.

Some of you share my enthusiasm for Clear Lake, Iowa, and its rock music heritage.

“We were impressed with the way the Surf Ballroom has been preserved, and the community spirit behind the preservation,” write Dick and Sharon Rayborn of Wausau.

The couple also especially enjoyed Mason City, Iowa. “We stayed at the restored Frank Lloyd Wright hotel (the Historic Park Inn), visited other homes he designed, visited the home of (composer) Meredith Wilson” and Music Man Square, where a street scene from “The Music Man” is replicated from the 1962 musical.

“The city also features several bronze statues around town, very nicely done.”, 641-422-1663

Jim Hubbell of Fond du Lac describes the Surf Ballroom as “an amazing place, almost stuck in time, and almost gives you an eerie feeling.” He sent photos to share.

My observations about Wisconsin’s Holyland, where at least 10 Catholic churches still stand in rural parts of Fond du Lac and Calumet counties, caught your attention. I think it is amazing and good that these houses of worship remain well-maintained.

“Even though we live in the Holyland, I learned about more places to explore,” write Darold and Dorothy Treffert, Fond du Lac. “People out here are so honest and diligent. … We love it here and your article tells in part why we do.”

The free booklet “Breaking Bread in the Holyland” provides more details about the area. Download it at (click “resources”) or order a copy at 920-849-1493, ext. 263.

“I enjoyed your article about the churches, but I think you missed one of historical and artistic significance – the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul on Division Street in Fond du Lac,” writes the Rev. Wilson Roane of Waupaca.

Inside the 1887 structure at 51 W. Division St. are century-old basswood carvings from Munich and red oak carvings by American craftsmen. Color-infused marble, stained glass and brass further enhance the cathedral motto: “A living church in a historic setting.”, 920-921-3363

Ronald Schaub of Marathon is a fan of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, New Franken. “Since its beginning, the shrine has been a destination for those seeking healing,” he writes. “There are many crutches left by those who have been healed, near the apparition site.”

The property is the only Vatican-acknowledged U.S. location of Virgin Mary sightings., 920-866-2571

Sharon Puddy of Fond du Lac was intrigued with Milwaukee’s new Potawatomi Hotel, where $149 was quoted as the starting rate for standard rooms. “I thought the price wasn’t bad, but I was told that they have no rooms at this price,” she writes.

What gives? “Our rates are going to change depending on demand – much like any other hotel,” replies casino hotel spokesman Ryan Amundson. “Guests will see different rates depending on the time of year, day of the week and other factors that would contribute to higher or lower room demand.”

This week, I saw online rates starting at $161 (for AARP or AAA members)., 844-217-4100

Sue Garrity of Green Bay enjoyed reading about Tom “Dr. Evermor” Every’s sculpture park near Baraboo. “Our family loves unusual expressions of art like this,” she writes. “Please check out one of our favorites in Phillips, Wisconsin Concrete Park,” where retired lumberjack/farmer Fred Smith constructed at least 230 figures of humans and animals out of concrete and cast-off materials., 715-339-7282

Karen Prindle of Appleton reminded me about Jurustic Park, near Marshfield, included in a recent roundup of rural sculpture parks.

Ron Tank of Appleton expresses concern about the future of the Dr. Evermor site, which includes the 300-ton Forevertron, billed as the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture. “My wife and I had a chance to visit his work,” Ron writes. “It was fantastic,” but “apparently someone purchased some surrounding real estate” that will landlock the site.

“We’ve heard things like this in the past,” says Terri Yoho of the Kohler Foundation, which helps preserve this type of art site. Although the artist does not own the land where his sculptures sit, this is not new.

The latest Kohler Foundation preservation project is Pasaquan, near Buena Visita, Ga., 920-458-1972

Dennis Bentti of Marathon puts in a good word for the Wesley Jung Carriage Museum in Greenbush. “The facility is new construction and state of the art,” he writes. “Along with the Wade House (a former stagecoach inn), sawmill and blacksmith shop, this was an excellent stop.”

The attraction is one of 12 official Wisconsin historical sites., 920-526-3271

James Alvey, a Wausau native who lives in Minnesota, was in contact after my article about the charms and walkability of Saint Paul. “If you missed the Lowertown area of Saint Paul, then you missed quite a bit,” he writes.

“Mears Park is a quiet refuge from the bustle of the streets – except when it is hosting the annual Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Lowertown Guitar Festival or another musical performance; then it can be a packed and happening place.

“On the blocks around the park you can find interesting bars and restaurants, a thriving artists’ community, an experimental music/jazz performance center, a vibrant farmers’ market, and – in the future – the home field of the Saint Paul Saints baseball team.”

I indeed ventured into Lowertown during my visit and chatted with local artists, who say the 16-block historic district is in the midst of development. Stay tuned., 651-265-4900

“I’m thinking about a trip to the St. Croix Falls area and Interstate Park, then Duluth and up Highway 61 to Two Harbors, Grand Marais and Grand Portage, Minn.,” writes Lloyd Arndt of Madison. “I would appreciate any ideas along the way, or am I barking up the wrong tree? It’s a long way, so I want to make it worthwhile.”

Right tree, Lloyd, and here are ways to enrich this excellent Minnesota getaway. The 140-mile drive between Duluth and Grand Portage is really, really beautiful – hugging the Lake Superior shoreline.

Add a quick detour to Ely, population 3,500 and home to the International Wolf Center and North American Bear Center., 218-365-6123

Betty’s Pies, Two Harbors, is a must-stop place for anybody who loves flaky pastries., 218-834-3367

Franconia Sculpture Park, between Stillwater and Duluth, is a free and rural collection of work by local to international artists., 651-257-6668

Stillwater is a “book city,” which means lots of bookstores, especially for a community of 18,000 residents., 651-430-0732

Boat rides there are scenic and popular., 651-430-1234

Kathy Brown of Wausau asked me to pay attention to art tours in Wisconsin, particularly the autumn Hidden Studios tour along the Ice Age Trail. She is a basket maker, and Hidden Studios was part of my recent arts tour roundup.

“It is beautiful countryside with paved back roads winding along streams and small lakes and up and down the hills left during the Ice Age,” she writes, describing it as beautiful countryside for all seasons. Check out what these rural landscapes inspire at, 715-258-0195.

Wayne and Di Gelly, who operate Gelly’s Pub in Stockholm, noticed my column on lesser-known gems near the Mississippi River. “Hope you got time to stop in Stockholm,” they write, offering a shout-out on behalf of the nostalgic Lake Pepin 3-Speed Tour, an 85-mile cycling event that is May 16-17 next year. Participants bike around Lake Pepin.

Last: Ronald Dickman, Wausau, is a Chicago native who says “Chicago pizza is not deep dish.” That was in response to my article about Eataly being near Michigan Avenue and next to Uno Pizzeria, which introduced deep-dish pizza to the city in 1943.

Ronald and wife Karen married 50-plus years ago and ate a lot of pizza while dating in the Elmhurst/Villa Park area. “It was all NON deep dish,” he says, as were the pizzas he delivered after high school graduation.

For the record: I didn’t see deep-dish pizza at Eataly., 312-521-8700