ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Ditch Family Farm–What It’s Like Living on a Pig Farm

Melissa Ditch shares her experience living on an Iowa pig farm – and her surprises! Learn more about Iowa pig farming
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Sam’s Crispy Chicken dishes all sorts of sandwiches starring the tasty bird. It’s one of the six new offerings at Iowa City’s Graduate Hotel.


Dining in downtown Iowa City just got a little easier and tastier for travelers and locals alike, thanks to the Graduate’s new food hall concept.

Open from 3 to 11 p.m., the hotel is offering six diverse restaurant brands for delivery, carry-out and dine-in to enjoy in the hip lounge with a cocktail, brew or coffee. All the food is prepped in the hotel kitchen, and there’s no delivery fee.

Options include:
• Umami Burger: Topping some of the nation’s best burgers lists, the brand is known for its tasty burgers and shareable sides.
• Sam’s Crispy Chicken: Signature sandwiches at varying spice levels, from classic to Diablo.
• Krispy Rice: Fast and fresh sushi flavors with a California twist.
Kumi: Sharable, hand-held bites inspired by Japanese street food.
Soom Soom: Classic Mediterranean dishes with fresh ingredients like falafel, shawarma and hummus.
EllaMia: Couture coffee blend created in partnership with legacy Italian coffee maker Lavazza.

For more information and a full menu, visit the Graduate Hotel's website.

Dubuque's Five Flags Center hosts four screening venues for the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival, April 20-24. During the festival, downtown businesses will host panels, workshops, film screenings, parties and more.


By Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

When a filmmaker wants to show off a new film on the festival circuit, he or she can submit it through a website called FilmFreeway. It lists more than 10,000 film festivals and contests worldwide, including biggies like Sundance and Tribeca.

So it’s worth noting that the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival consistently ranks among the website’s top 100 festivals—or top 1%—in the world. Every year, folks in "the industry" clamor to get in.

"It’s so exceptional. It makes you feel like you’re a filmmaker who has arrived," the Los Angeles director and producer Heather Edwards says in one of several testimonials on the festival’s website. "You just don’t get that anywhere else. I’m getting teared up because I’m telling you—I’m telling you—it’s worth it for any filmmaker to submit, get in if you can, and then go."

More than 500 filmmakers and international guests participated in the festival over the last two years, when it was virtual, and many more are expected in person this year, April 20-24, when the 11th annual event returns to downtown Dubuque. Film fans can choose from 100-plus screenings, along with more than a dozen panels, coffee talks, a red-carpet awards ceremony and an after-party.

The program also includes a special networking reception for women filmmakers from Iowa and farther afield, hosted on Friday by Produce Iowa, the state office of media production.

The five-day event is one of the 25 coolest film festivals in the world, according to MovieMaker magazine. It’s also the largest in Iowa and one of more than a dozen festivals statewide, coming to a screen near you.
Reserve your spot now for the Wallace Center's Pizza on the Prairie, held Friday nights through summer in Orient (it's about an hour southwest of Des Moines).


Sample some of the state’s freshest flavors this spring and summer through the Wallace Center. Farm-to-table dinners are at the Wallace House in Des Moines, while homemade pizza is the experience on the family farm near Orient. Book now, as the events are filling up fast!

Running now through late August, the Thursday farm-to-table meals at the Wallace House in Des Moines feature produce grown on-site as well as proteins sourced from local farms. Menus include an appetizer, main dish and dessert. Bring you own wine or beer—there’s no corkage fee. Reserve at

Pizza on the Prairie kicks off Friday, June 3. Bring lawn chairs or a blanket for a picnic of scratch-made pizza loaded with farm-fresh veggies and local meats. You can also purchase beer, wine, soft drinks and desserts (no coolers allowed) There’s live music every week, so plan on making it a long evening. Reserve your space at
Outside of Maquoketa in northeast Iowa, Codfish Hollow’s old red barn hosts musicians from across the country. Popular bands this year include Son Volt (June 28) and the Zombies (July 2). While you’re in the area, check out Maquoketa Caves State Park; the caves officially open Friday.


Codfish Hollow offers a quintessential Iowa experience. Located in an old red barn amid the rolling hills of Jackson County, the venue serves as the cool backdrop for live indie music by local and national bands. Over 400 artists such as Norah Jones and Counting Crows have taken the barn stage since the venue’s opening in 2009.

Bring camp chairs or a blanket to relax outside the barn or get up close to the music inside. Beverages for adults and kids alike are available for purchase. Doors open an hour prior to shows, and camping is also available.

Find band information and purchase tickets at
The Inn Hotel in Arnolds Park provides a central spot for a summer stay. It’s especially convenient—a five-minute walk or less—to free concerts such as the Rolling Stoners on July 2 and Melissa Ethridge on Aug. 13. Photograph: The Inn Hotel.


It might feel like summer is still ages away, but it’s time to start planning a great lake escape. With free concerts throughout summer, kitschy amusement park rides and games, two free museums and more, there are plenty of dry-land activities at Arnolds Park in addition to water fun. Here are five reasons to visit this summer.

1. Sweet stay. Right in Arnolds Park, the Inn Hotel embraces a 1920s lake vibe, with chic decor throughout, including the pool. The Beach Club Lounge specializes in summer drinks such as spicy cucumber margaritas. Weekends are filling up.

Boat patrol. No need to bring your own watercraft. Find rentals for paddleboards, Jet Skis, parasails and more. Or, book a cruise on the Queen II for a relaxed way to see the scenery.

Classic shows. Catch comedy or live tunes at the Roof Garden Ballroom; country band Parmalee plays June 23 and '80s rockers Night Ranger perform July 8. Or, watch a free concert—Melissa Etheridge is a highlight this year.

Fun and games. No trip to Boji would be complete without a ride on the Legend roller coaster. Built in 1930, it’s the 13th-oldest roller coaster in the world. You can also race your besties in go-carts, play vintage pinball, or check out antique wooden boats at the Maritime Museum.

Tasty treats. Find snacks to enjoy while strolling through Arnolds Park. Options include frozen chocolate-covered bananas, saltwater taffy, coffee, popcorn and hand-dipped ice cream. There’s also sit-down dining.

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Musicians of all sorts take over downtown Ames April 28.


By Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

It’s no secret that retailers play music in their stores to influence customer behavior. Muzak, after all, has been around since the 1930s.

So if you’d like to conduct a little market research—or, really, just have some fun—stroll the Ames Music Walk on April 28, when 30 music acts will perform in 30 businesses in downtown Ames, an Iowa Cultural and Entertainment District. This year’s lineup includes popular local bands, Iowa State University students and even a group of recorder players.

"It’s exciting to see the streets full of people," Ames Main Street Executive Director Sarah Dvorsky says. "The goal is to make Ames' Main Street a hub for arts and culture."

Based in downtown Waverly, Root is hosting an affordable beauty-based retreat July 22-24 complete with yoga, skin care and makeup master classes. Plus there’s a swag bag.

From the ia archive

Writer: Brianne Sanchez

Krista Dolash is carving out a niche in the multibillion-dollar cosmetics industry with Root, a Waverly-based company that has green beauty bloggers buzzing.

The business grew from a hobby, which stemmed from Dolash’s desire to eliminate toxic chemicals from her everyday life. Reading the ingredients on the supposedly natural makeup she was using, she discovered a list of what she considered to be harmful fillers.

"I felt misled and honestly kind of bummed out," says Dolash. That prompted her to order raw ingredients and start formulating her own vegan, gluten-free, mineral-based foundation in her kitchen.

Read the full story from ia magazine here.
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