The blacksmith is a woman who articulates her workshops with flair: “Excitement in Welding! Look forward to using a Plasma cutter to cut sheet steel and design your own garden sculpture. It’s like a garden hose that shoots fire instead of water!”
How could anyone pass on a workshop like that?
Another one of her announcements beckons, “Bigger hammers, bigger steel, bigger fun”. Goodness.
Nana the blacksmith is one of many folks who conduct workshops through the River Valley Trading Company in Blanchardville, which straddles Lafayette and Iowa Counties in southwest Wisconsin. One might suggest that Blanchardville is an out-of-the-way place, but who wants to be in the way, anyway? Places like RV Trading just wouldn’t fit at an Interstate exit. You’ve gotta go find the good stuff!
To suggest River Valley Trading is an eclectic place is an understatement. To many folks it is a store. It is one of my favorite places to buy things for wife and daughter: jewelry, or one of Roberta’s way nifty handmade handbags. Choices abound.
RV Trading is stocked with mostly local goods but you can also get Fair Trade items and some great natural and organic foods. How about antiques, visual art, chocolates, pottery, stained glass, fabric art and wool, and all kinds of other stuff? There was a gorgeous crocheted baby thing there last week. (I am a 58 year old male – “Baby Thing” is as accurate as I get.) The place is a mirror of the folks who hang-out there – all over the map, as they say.
You can even buy new Photovoltaic panels. View the models near the wall where Esteban’s iron light fixture hangs, a sentry of sorts, from the old-fashioned embossed tin ceiling.
And, of course, in addition to a potpourri of items for sale, River Valley Trading Company has lots of workshops. This month they have Quilters Potluck, a cooking class with a European-trained chef, Healthy Snacks for Kids by Kids, and Yarns Ewenited in addition to a number of blacksmithing courses. Every month is different.
Entertainment? How about Monthly Acoustic Music Coffee House Night? My fave is Wine Share Night, sponsored by the local Alternative Fuel Society, which also hosts Brew Share Night.
RV Trading was started about three years ago as a business incubator, but has grown to be more like a Cooperative. It is still part of Blanchardville Community Pride, Inc. (BCPI), the Village’s Chamber of Commerce. A small board helps run the place, which is staffed by volunteers and those who display their wares there.
Blanchardville is a neat place, but I am biased because it is part of the Pecatonica School District where my kids go to school. It has an expansive park bordered by the meandering Pecatonica River, a great place to put your canoe in, fish, camp or just let the kids run. Grab a top-flight meal at the Viking Café. If you like cheese, you’ve got to stop at the B-Ville Mini-Mall, where each of the wide variety of cheeses was picked by owner Roy, who drives the back roads of Wisconsin and northern Illinois to purchase from cheese factories he has known for years. Like any good shop, there’s a story behind the products.
And if you go to Husie’s tavern this Friday you can hear my rock and roll band, TKO. If a lot of folks show-up he might have us back.
RV Trading has evolved into something bigger than all the stuff it is and does. It has become a gathering place. It is a place of stories and handshakes and laughter. The whole Village is like that, actually. River Valley Trading’s recent event flyer says, “Come out and play”. I hope you do. If you’re in the area it is not far from Mount Horeb, New Glarus or Mineral Point. You can cover a lot of places with a day-trip.
Wisconsin Rural Partners
Hollandale, Wisconsin (Pop. 283)