Sauk County ‘DTour’

October 11, 2011

Wayfinder, by Terrence Campagna.

Now through Oct. 16, as part of its 2nd Annual Fermentation Festival, Reedsburg is offering the Farm/Art DTour, a 50-mile circular excursion through rural Sauk County. The tour winds through the county’s less-traveled roads, past tidy farms and tiny towns, to flaunt the season’s explosive color. What makes this particular drive so exceptional, though, is more than two dozen farm-based art installations and other attractions–from Roadside Culture Stands selling local produce to music and theater performances in the fields along the way.

At its core, the Reedsburg Fermentation Festival is a showcase for fermented food and drink (beer, of course, plus cheeses, yogurts, sauerkrauts and more). But organizers have billed the fest as a “live culture convergence,” connecting culture of the microbial sort with cultivation of the earth and cultivation of the mind and soul. By embracing the roots of the word culture, or “the action of cultivating land” in 12th-century Anglo-Norman, the event helps clarify relationships among where we live, what we eat and what we grow–as well as what we create, and what we love.

Boots, by Christopher Lutter-Gardella of Puppet Farm Arts

To make the most of festival offerings, I recommend planning ahead; many events require registration. For example, if you’re a fan of  fermented cabbage, you can participate in Saturday’s ‘Powerkraut‘ workshop. Love kombucha? Find out how to make the fermented beverage at home from a Madison-based kombucha company, also scheduled for Saturday. Opportunities for less adventurous tasters include yeast breads, honey, yogurt, wine and beer presentations.

"Field Notes" installation interpreting a hayfield for tour takers.

If you take the Farm/Art DTour, try scheduling your trip around one of the pasture performances. On Saturday, Nath and Marnie Dresser present ‘Some Kind of Sign,’ a story told in poetry and song. And Sunday, the Madison-based band Graminy performs. Download a map and take a self-guided tour, as we did, or sign up for a guided bus tour on Sunday, Oct. 16, that includes a stop at Carr Valley Cheese Factory in LaValle.

As of today, the weekend forecast for the Reedsburg area calls for sunshine with highs in the 60s. Not quite the balmy weather we enjoyed for last Saturday’s drive (car windows wide open in October!)–but still, near perfect conditions for a fall day trip.

–Tammy Kempfert

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All in a Wisconsin Summer Day

July 10, 2011

My best summer days are unplanned, unhurried, and usually contain some sort of unexpected gift–like riding bikes along Lake Monona on a perfect evening, sharing a local brew in the backyard with neighbors, or maybe discovering a new favorite eating spot. But often Madison, where I live, offers up such a bounty of cultural delights that we need to strategize a little.

In Madison, Art Fair on the Square and Art Fair off the Square take place annually in July.

Yesterday was such a day, with three of our favorite summer events occurring in one weekend: the Saturday Dane County Farmers’ Market, the Art Fairs On and Off the Square, and La Fete de Marquette. (Actually, that’s four events, with the two art fairs running side by side.)

Whenever we can, we get up early Saturday mornings and bike the three miles to Capitol Square, where the Dane County Farmers’ Market  is held. Now approaching its 40th anniversary, the DCFM is the largest producer-only market in the nation, which means every vendor, behind every table piled with flowers or vegetables, breads or cheeses, grew or baked or prepared their wares themselves. This week, we came home with green beans, tomatoes, raspberries and zucchini for our dinner table.

For us, a visit to the market has to include a stop at the Graze pastry cart for a cup of coffee and a bite of delicious, just-baked flakiness. Graze always presents a variety, but as usual I enjoyed the mushroom and spinach bun, while my husband got his Pain au Chocolat fix.  (We tell ourselves the bike ride offsets the buttery indulgence.)

On Art Fair weekend, the farmers’ market gets displaced a block so that participating artists can set up their booths on the four blocks surrounding the Square. We had timed our farmers’ market visit perfectly, which allowed us to take in the booths before afternoon crowds swelled. At Art Fair On the Square, more than 450 artists from around the country display works in all media. This year, jewelry and handbags made of recycled inner tubing caught my eye, as did affordable art-themed t-shirts by Madison’s Wildwood Productions. The fair benefits the Madison Museum of Contemporary Arts (MMoCA), always free and open to the public.

The Madison Area High School Ceramists sell pots, pitchers, cups and bowls at Art Fair Off the Square.

At Art Fair Off the Square, I scored a lovely ceramic plate at the Madison Area High School Ceramists booth. An annual favorite, the booth displays and sells works by, you guessed it, Madison area high school ceramists.  I like knowing that 80 percent of my purchase went to Jenna, the young artist who made my plate, and the remaining 20 percent supports Madison public school art programs. In fact, at Art Fair off the Square, along Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and on the Monona Terrace Convention Center Esplanade, every booth features the works of Wisconsin artists.

We actually had time to finish a home painting project and run some weekend errands before heading to La Fete de Marquette, also a short bike ride away. A celebration of French music and culture, this annual festival never fails to do Madison’s Marquette neighborhood proud. Top-notch performers from throughout the French-speaking world, along with some of the city’s best eateries, provide four days of French-themed fun. Relatively new to the festival is La Tente de Dance, a dance floor dedicated to Quebecois and Cajun dance. The fest also showcases the vibrant personality of Madison’s East Side, for some of the best people-watching all year. We felt lucky to see Maraca, a Cuban jazz band that had the whole crowd moving. (Sometimes the connection to France isn’t immediately apparent, but who minded? Not me.)

Both art fairs and the Marquette festival continue through today, July 10.

*****

I may be based in Madison, but I also manage PortalWisconsin.org’s online events calendar, so I know communities in all 72 Wisconsin counties hold their own summer markets, fairs and festivals. This weekend alone, you’ll find a polka festival in Ellsworth, a pow-wow in Lac du Flambeau, or for those who like it large, Milwaukee’s grand Summerfest and Rhinelander’s star-studded Hodag Country Music Festival.  Art fests abound everywhere as well. To find them, consult the calendar–or for a print copy of this year’s Wisconsin Arts Board Art and Craft Fair Directory, call  1-800-432-8747 between 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

And please, let us know what makes your local fair or festival special. We love hearing from you.

–Tammy Kempfert