It’s the people!

You don’t have to be from Mineral Point to get asked about the place.  It is a small southwest Wisconsin city that is getting discovered by more and more people and for good reason.  Folks often go there for its natural beauty, history, arts, architecture, workshops, culture, theater and a dandy farmers’ market.  I go there for welding supplies and vehicle parts.  We all get the same thing: extraordinary people who are glad you’re there.

The restored Mineral Point railroad depot (Credit: Joy Gieseke)

The restored Mineral Point railroad depot (Credit: Joy Gieseke)

Mineral Point is one of the oldest cities in the state.  At one time it was relatively large, a hub of commerce related to mining.  Many Cornish folks came from England from about 1830- 1850 and the ties to Cornwall exist today.

The Cornish could also build, and Mineral Point has scores of beautiful buildings, large and small. These include St. Paul’s Mission Church, the gorgeously restored train depot, the Gundry House, and historic buildings on Shake Rag Street, some of the oldest in this part of the state.  Many are made of stone, the first of these being built in 1834.  Stone was cheaper and more plentiful than wood.  This was a land of prairies.

Many know Mineral Point for its artists.  There are some fine musicians in that bunch as well, so if you stay a few days you’ll probably have an opportunity to hear some great tunes at any number of venues.    But the artists themselves and diversity of their craft lures you from shop to shop.  Watch them work; talk to them about why they do what they do.  This is a small town.  Connecting is part of being here.

A special treat for theater lovers is the new Alley Stage, an outdoor, intimate 200-seat venue that features original plays professionally performed.  The setting alone is outstanding.

Historic houses on Shake Rag Street (Credit: Joy Gieseke)

Historic houses on Shake Rag Street (Credit: Joy Gieseke)

And if you like to bicycle and love stunning scenery, check out the new Cycle Southwest Wisconsin web site, a compendium of 28 diverse bicycling loops, many of which pass close by.

Mineral Point has also become known as a place to learn and have fun doing so.  The Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts offers a potpourri of classes: Drawing, mosaics, painting, metals, glasswork, gardening, and a whole lot more.  Join them for the Country Garden Tour on June 20 and take-in an original play at the Alley Stage that evening.

The natural connection between local food and local art presents itself every Saturday morning with the Mineral Point Farmers’ Market.  It’s busy but not crowded, and you can find a wide variety of products.  Like anyone else in this city the Farmers’ market people want you to be here – they love sharing.

This reminds me of sports.

Conversation is important in small towns and we like the athletic rivalries we have with our neighboring burgs. So if I wear something that identifies my school when visiting, there’s a good chance I’ll become engaged in a “discussion” about some big game or maybe a few of them.  And it may have been 25 or 50 years ago.  Sports in these parts are the family thing to do.

My oldest son won his regional event so earned the right to wrestle in the Mineral Point Sectional Tournament a few months ago.  Going to wrestle in Mineral Point is like a pee-wee football team playing the Packers.  Point is and has always been very, very good.

Three wrestlers advance to the state tournament and my kid took fourth.  We were a bit dejected but, what the heck, we thought we might as well get a burger while we’re here.  We did not know that we were stopping at the place where the Mineral Point wrestling families celebrate, and when the crowd came through the door we weren’t sure what to expect.

Veggie Babe (Ruth Rolfsmeyer) at the 2008 Farmers' Market

Veggie Babe (Ruth Rolfsmeyer) at the 2008 Farmers' Market

But it was like the artists and the musicians and the folks who do the workshops and the woman who sells me my auto parts.  We were immediately embraced and the conversations began.  They were glad we were there.  Two parents in Pecatonica green amid a sea of Pointer blue, and I think every single Mineral Point parent came over to us at some point to congratulate us: “The PEC kids did well” (all two of them).  “I’m sure you’re proud.”

I still think about that.  Local or visitor, motorhead like me or arts aficionado…..whatever.  It didn’t matter.   There are tons of things we can come up with to highlight differences but here folks just thought about what we had in common and we enjoyed each other’s company.

So you ought to visit Mineral Point.  It is loaded with things that will please almost anyone, all within walking distance.  But with all it has to offer, the attraction is the people.

Make sure you’re not in a hurry.  You’ll want to spend some time in conversation.  Folks will be glad you came, and they’ll want to get to know you.

Rick Rolfsmeyer

Wisconsin Rural Partners

Hollandale, WI (Pop. 283)

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