ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
ChopTalk: The Circle of Sustainability

For Iowa pig farmers, sustainability isn't just a trend, it's a way of life, and has been for generations. From pigs to pork chops, Laurie John talks with farmers about the circle of sustainable pig production.

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The pool at The Inn Hotel, new in 2019. Photographer: Drew Dau.


Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, the Beach Boys and Cheap Trick all played the legendary Roof Garden Ballroom at Arnolds Park in Okoboji back in the artists’ heydays.

Thanks to a $15 million renovation, the park is still feeling its groove.

At the recently reconstructed Roof Garden, classic orchestras, contemporary rhythm and blues artists, and ’80s rockers perform to visitors of all ages. Just one of the updates at Arnolds Park, the Roof Garden is perhaps its most storied structure.

The Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame, located less than a block away, tells the history of the music venue. Through interactive displays, you can discover some of the bands to headline the Roof Garden, see some of the playbills, and study some of the artists’ contracts. (Louis Armstrong earned $1,000 to play in 1952, and the Everly Brothers made $1,750 for their 1965 show.) Catch one of the movies to learn about the Iowa Great Lakes’ past, as well as the appeal of ballrooms in the mid-1900s.

Next door, the Great Lakes Maritime Museum is worth a quick cruise to see paraphernalia from the area—wooden boats, an early scuba suit, rows of motors, vintage fishing gear, town pennants and more. Several old amusement park games and a giant wooden slide, which you can ride, are part of the Arnolds Park Museum, located inside the Maritime. And at the Arnolds Park entrance, a new carousel is accessible to all, with chariots for those in wheelchairs.

New in 2019, the Inn Hotel offers boutique luxury within a short walk to the museums and amusement park. Decked in a 1920s theme, with a lobby of green paneled walls, leather furniture and vintage lake photographs, the hotel offers a relaxed, sophisticated experience. A second-floor courtyard pool is an inviting place for drinks and sunbathing. At the hotel’s Caribbean-themed restaurant, the Beach Club, order a rum flight or Havana Club Sour to pair with a Cubano. Finish with crème brûlée infused with coconut and vanilla bean.

For more information and upcoming events, visit

In Elk Horn, Sankt Hans Aften, a Midsummer celebration, features a bonfire, fireworks and more. Photo: Museum of Danish America.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

There are lots of ways to get rid of a witch. In Oz, spill a bucket of water. In Elk Horn, strike a match.

During Sankt Hans Aften, the annual Midsummer celebration on June 26 at the Museum of Danish America, locals affix a paper witch to a pole high above a bonfire, “so it takes awhile to get her,” says Nicky Christensen, a museum spokeswoman. “We hide some firecrackers in her hat, which is scary even when you know it’s coming.”

The solstice tradition (minus the fireworks) originated centuries ago in Denmark, where folks lit bonfires to repel witches and other evil spirits, sending them off to a mountain in northern Germany. Modern Danes view the ritual with mixed emotions, considering Europe’s history of religious persecution, but many still burn stuff they want to forget from the previous year. Students often torch their final exams.

Visitors can do that in Elk Horn, too, via a designated path leading to the museum’s bonfire. Masks, work-from-home sweatpants, takeout cartons—they can all go up in smoke.

Besides all the festive incineration, the free event features traditional Danish music and a not-so-traditional Danish-American surf-rock band from Colorado.

And also: hot dogs. According to custom, bright red Danish-style hot dogs are served with fresh onions, French-fried onions and remoulade, a mayonnaise-based condiment flecked with pickled veggies, including onions.

As Christensen puts it, “The more onions, the merrier.”

Hmm ... maybe fire isn’t the only thing that repels evil spirits.
Why Everyone Can Benefit from Financial Planning Services

Do you fully understand the biggest risks you face, for example, losing your ability to work or leaving your family without proper planning? Understand how to protect today by addressing potential threats to your financial future.
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The Uptown Ankeny Farmers' Market is a favorite activity, taking place every Saturday morning throughout the summer from 9 a.m. to noon. Photo: Uptown Ankeny.


Located in the heart of Ankeny, Uptown is the ultimate Saturday hub for fitness, fun, food and more. Park the car and explore these activities.

Pose in the Grass: Every Saturday morning at 8 a.m., free outdoor yoga takes over Wagner Park. Yogis of all skill levels—including kids—have fun practicing downward dog and warrior two. Instructors lead from the elevated bandshell, so it’s easy to follow along in this judgment-free, grassy zone.

Shop Like a Local: Also on Saturday mornings nearby, area vendors bring honey, sweets, fresh produce, arts and crafts, and more to the farmers market. Two open-air pavilions are easy to explore, and there’s ample parking in the area.

Cruise the Trails: With 90 miles of bike trails in town, it’s easy to find your perfect path. A perennial favorite is the High Trestle Trail starting right in Uptown. Spend a day on the 50-mile-round trip ride exploring the towns along the way and snapping photos of the High Trestle Trail Bridge.

Chill with a Brew: Several drinking and dining establishments are right off the trail in Uptown. Park your ride at the Trailside Tap or Firetrucker Brewery for a cold one, then stroll to nearby Uptown Food & Beverage Co. for a burger or specialty pizza.

Find Retail Bliss: Whether you’re looking for a new bike, home décor, or a clothing refresh, you’ll find options here. Favorites include Walnut + Willow and Charmed Chic Boutique. Make sure to walk by Stoner Music to see if any local artists are jamming out on their guitars.
Backbone State Park, Iowa's first, can be one of your Iowa State Park Passport stops.


Want to hit one of the more than 60 state parks this summer? The Iowa State Park Passport program has returned for 2021 (2020 was its inaugural year), offering prizes and challenges for exploring. The free online signup tracks your progress as you visit.

The first 1,000 people to check into 10 parks will receive a 2021 Iowa State Park Passport t-shirt. If you reach 30 parks, you'll be entered to win one of four Fitbit activity trackers. There are also monthly prize packs, including paddleboard and water sport accessories, camping accessories, cooler sets and more.

Find more information and sign up here.
Helping Solve Food Insecurity
At Bankers Trust, we believe combating hunger and food insecurity requires a combination of efforts across the food system. That’s why the bank proudly supports several organizations that are addressing food insecurity in Central Iowa and beyond, including the World Food Prize, Meals from the Heartland, the Food Bank of Iowa and Eat Greater Des Moines.
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The Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls will host "The Suffragist" musical, featuring Broadway performer Nancy Opel, July 16–18. Photo: Gallagher Bluedorn.


An upcoming, Iowa-made musical at University of Northern Iowa's Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls aims to showcase the struggles women went through to earn the right to vote. "The Suffragist," which debuts on July 16 and runs through July 18, follows well-known suffragists such as Alice Paul, Carrie Chapman Catt, Lucy Burns and others.

The musical features Broadway performer Nancy Opel, who was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical  in 2002 for her role as Penelope Pennywise in "Urinetown." Her other Broadway credits include "Evita," "Teddy and Alice," "Sunday in the Park with George," "Anything Goes" and "Memphis and Cinderella."

Tickets start at $29.75. Find more information here. The show was funded, in part, by a grant from the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.
Six dresses worn by Donna Reed, the Denison-born, Oscar-winning actress, are on display at the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines. Photo: Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

This week, during Iowa Museum Week, you could visit Matchstick Marvels in Gladbrook to see 70-some sculptures and scale models of famous structures like the U.S. Capitol and the International Space Station, all made from 8.5 million matchsticks and glue.

You could swing by the National Hobo Museum in Britt and choose a nickname for yourself, like Frisco Jack or Connecticut Slim, two of the notable hobos whose artifacts are on display.

You could visit the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines and see a new showcase of six dresses worn by Donna Reed, the Oscar-winning actress who was born 100 years ago in Denison.

Iowa boasts about 400 museums statewide, according to the Iowa Museum Association. Each year they generate approximately $384 million for the state’s economy, support more than 6,000 jobs, and attract more than 5 million visitors.

If you plan to be one of them—during Iowa Museum Week or whenever you go—be sure to check online for the latest hours and safety protocols. Most Iowa museums have reopened now that the pandemic is easing up, but visiting guidelines may change from one week to the next.
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