These Parts Edition

By Cara Jepsen


A slew of polka bands will oompah almost nonstop during the 26th annual Central Wisconsin Polka FestivaL. The festival runs tonight through Sunday at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds, on Highway 64 just outside Merrill. Admission is $6 to $8 per day. Call 715-845-9192. This Sunday’s 10:30 polka church service features “hymns sung in a polka tempo.”

Gaviotas, the 30-year-old solar-powered village in Colombia, has been called a utopia, but in 1965 all it boasted was toxic soil and mosquito-infested forests. Villagers used teeter-totters as generators, built windmills and solar water heaters, and grew food in containers filled with rice hulls washed with manure “tea.” No wonder the drug dealers leave them alone. Alan Weisman, author of the 1998 book Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World, will give the keynote address at the Renewable Energy Fair Saturday at 1:30. It starts tonight and runs through Sunday and includes workshops, tours, demonstrations, and exhibits in seven tents. It’s at the Portage County Fairgrounds, just west of County B and Highway 10 in Amherst, Wisconsin. Admission is $8 per day or $20 for the weekend ($4 per day or $8 for the weekend for seniors and “juniors” 13 to 17). Call 715-842-5166.

The key to building a decent sand sculpture, say organizers of the annual sand sculpture contest in Grand Haven, Michigan, is keeping the sand moist with spray bottles. Sculpting for the town’s 18th contest starts at 10 AM on Saturday, June 26, and judging takes place at noon at the Grand Haven city beach, Harbor Drive near Prospect in Grand Haven. It’s free. Call 616-842-4910 for information.

Back in the 1940s, the Kable family of Mount Morris, Illinois, who owned the Kable Printing Company, built their 18-room dream house smack in the middle of the family golf course. The mansion is now an inn, and that’s where Beth Horner, Jim May, Michael Cotter, and Tom Dundee will crash between tale-telling at the KABLE HOUSE STORY-TELLING FESTIVAL Friday, June 25, and Saturday, June 26. Cotter will also lead a workshop called “Storytelling for Real People” Saturday at 9 AM at the Mount Morris Church of the Brethren. The rest of the events take place at the Kable House, near Route 64 and Fletcher in Mount Morris. Admission on Friday is $7, $6 for seniors, $4 for children 8 to 12; on Saturday it’s $10, $9 for seniors, and $5 for the kids. It’s $20 for the workshop. Call 815-734-7297 for more.

Whad’Ya Know? host Michael Feldman was dubbed “The King of Small Talk Radio” by the Wall Street Journal, but Feldman thinks his critics are all wet. You can draw your own conclusion as a member of the show’s studio audience on Saturday, June 26, in Madison, Wisconsin (there will also be shows in July, August, and September). Doors open at 9 AM at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, 1 John Nolen Drive. Tickets are $5, $2.50 for kids. Call 800-942-5669 for availability.

Imagine being an African-American woman in Paris during the heyday of Picasso, Matisse, and Gertrude Stein. That’s what artist Faith Ringgold did to create the quilt paintings in her “French Collection,” which tell the story of the fictional Willia Marie Simone. The borders of Ringgold’s elaborate story quilts are stitched with Willia Marie’s letters home describing dining with Stein, celebrating Josephine Baker’s birthday, and hanging at the Cafe des Artistes. Dancing at the Louvre: Faith Ringgold’s French Collection and Other Story Quilts will be on display through June 27 at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, 311 E. Main in Fort Wayne, Indiana (219-422-6467). Admission is $3, $2 for students, and $8 for families. (The exhibit comes to the Chicago Cultural Center August 7.)


In 1962 the Studebaker Corporation launched the futuristic-looking Avanti in an attempt to improve the company’s fortunes. The shovel-nosed coupe failed to revive the company, but two South Bend Studebaker dealers bought a factory and resurrected the car as the Avanti II three years later. Their version boasted a Corvette engine, dual exhaust, and leather seats and attracted a cult following. The dealers’ Avanti Motor Corporation changed owners several times over the years and finally folded after a fire ripped through the factory in 1992. Ten examples of the Avanti II are on display through September 17 at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, 1600 S. Wayne in Auburn, Indiana (219-925-1444). Admission is $7, $4.50 for students.

Each year the annual Twin-o-Rama in Cassville, Wisconsin, draws as many as 250 sets of twins, who enter contests to see who’s most alike, least alike, oldest, and youngest. The two-day event also features a parade of twins and something called “Twins on Review,” in which as many sets of duplicates as possible crowd onto the bandstand. The free “salute to twins and other multiple births” includes a soapbox derby, fireworks, food, and live music, and takes place Saturday and Sunday, July 17 and 18, on the banks of the Mississippi River at the junction of Highways 81 and 133 in Cassville, Wisconsin. Call 608-725-5121 for details.

Organizers of the annual Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture estimate that this year 800,000 spectators will gaze slack-jawed at thousands of flying machines, including ultralight planes, vintage aircraft, and the Eagles Aerobatic Team. Daily admission is $14 to $23 (depending on whether you want to join the EAA); that includes ground displays, autograph sessions, and forums with NASA astronauts and scientists. It’s July 28 through August 3 (the air show starts at 3:30 except for the final day, when it begins at 2) at the Wittman Regional Airport, 3000 Poberezny Road in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Children under seven get in free. Call 920-426-4800.


Not many music festivals offer child care, three vegetarian meals per day, safe and pleasant camping, shuttle service from the airport, and “an active peer-support system for recovery and general emotional needs,” but those are just a few of the amenities the 24th Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival extends to everyone except males over ten years of age. The festival runs Tuesday through Sunday, August 10 through 15, at the festival’s grounds outside of Hart, Michigan. Workshops on topics such as fighting fat oppression, Israeli folk dancing, and creative writing are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday; the music starts Wednesday night. This year’s performers include the Murmurs, Jill Sobule, and the Sister Spit Ramblin’ Road Show. Admission is on a sliding scale from $40 to $310. Call 231-757-4766 for registration information and directions.

On August 19, 20, and 21 eight women from Margi Cole’s Dance COLEctive will go downstate and dance “everywhere that’s not a stage” at the Illinois State Fair. Cole, who hails from Springfield, says the dancers will ask onlookers to hold a rope and create a space for them to work in: “It’s so hard to get people to come to a performance, we thought it would be easier to come to them.” If that fails to impress, there’s always the freak show and the livestock barns. The fair runs from 9 AM to midnight August 13 through 22 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, 1101 Sangamon in Springfield; admission is $3. Call 217-782-6661.

The five-mile Mackinac Bridge has been a source of pride and curiosity to midwesterners since it first linked lower Michigan to the Upper Peninsula back in 1957. The folks who participate in the Mighty Mac Scenic Bike Tour will have a rare opportunity to pedal over the bridge and get an up close and personal view of the turbulent waters below. The rules say riders can choose to go 25, 40, or 50 miles, must wear helmets, and there’s no stopping for pictures, sight-seeing, or other “horseplay.” The group will gather from 5:30 to 6 AM Sunday, August 22, at the Father Marquette National Memorial off US 2 near I-75 in Saint Ignace, Michigan (on the north side of the bridge). Registration is $17 before August 13, $20 after. Call 906-643-6950.

Countless hot, fresh ears of corn will be given away free of charge for one hour at this year’s De Kalb Corn Fest. The event also includes running races, a carnival, an art festival, an antique sale, garage sales, and performances by old-timer rockers Survivor and .38 Special. It’s Saturday and Sunday, August 28 and 29; the free corn will be parceled out between 11 and 12 on the first day. It’s in downtown De Kalb on Route 38 between First and Fourth. Admission is free. Call 814-748-2676.


“Two Continents: One People” is the theme of this year’s Indian Summer Festival in Milwaukee, where participants will re-create authentic Lakota, Menominee, Ho-Chunk, Ojibwa, and Oneida tribal villages. The festival features Zuni, Mayan, and Aztec dancing as well as music, Native American arts and crafts vendors, fireworks, and lacrosse demonstrations. It’s September 10 to 12 at the Maier Festival Park, Chicago Street at Milwaukee’s lakefront. Admission is $6 in advance, $8 at the gate ($4 and $5 for children and seniors). Call 414-774-7119.

The 25 drivers of the horses, mules, and antique tractors in this year’s Big Rock Plowing Match will each be given three hours to transform an eighth of an acre of wheat stubble and grass into a uniformly plowed field. They’ll be judged on neatness and how well they turn over the soil. The free event, which includes a pedal tractor pull, parade, food, king and queen contest, and miniature train rides, is September 18 from 8 to 5 and September 19 from 10 (when there will be a church service) to 5 at the BRPM grounds on Hinckley Road off US 30, 12 miles west of Aurora. Call 630-556-3310.