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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The Amana Maipole Dancers, all volunteers, have been dancing with their ribbons for more than 30 years. The tradition is seen in many European folk celebrations.


Writer: Hailey Allen

Iowa seems to have gotten the message that spring has arrived, and that’s something worth celebrating. Head to the Amana Colonies this Saturday and Sunday (April 30 and May 1) to experience Maifest, the annual festival welcoming the season.

The revelry kicks off with a Saturday morning parade followed by the dirndl-wearing Amana Maipole Dancers performing German traditional dances and songs. Indulge in food from diverse cultures at the World Food Truck Fare and find a variety of live entertainment at Festhalle Barn.

On Sunday, go on the Wine, Beer, and Chocolate Walk to sample some of the main village's best offerings while filling up your punch card. Enough punches and you score a sweet, souvenir Maifest drinking glass.

Maifest is held in the main village; find other event details and times on the Amana Colonies' website.

Photographer Paul Brooke, shown here in southwestern Brazil, is one of the featured creatives in the Iowa Arts Council’s "Meet the Artist" series. Photo courtesy of Paul Brooke.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

In the age of Zoom, it’s easy to take for granted how much you can discover with just a few clicks of a button.

In the Iowa Arts Council’s online "Meet the Artist" series, viewers have recently learned about the Ames poet and photographer Paul Brooke’s treks through Iceland and the Amazon rainforest. They’ve seen Louise Kames’ meditative art installations in Dubuque and heard Brittany Brooke Crow of Des Moines explain how she creates self-portraits to overcome her self-doubts and insecurities.

The Iowa Arts Council offers the free series to showcase the creative work of this year’s five Iowa Artist Fellows, and two more sessions remain. At noon May 5, Emma Murray of Des Moines will discuss how her new podcast offers "where are they now" stories about folks from the late radio host Casey Kasem’s long-distance song dedications from the 1970s and ‘80s. (Register here and read more about Murray in this recent dsm magazine article.) At noon May 12, Francesca Soans of Waterloo will explain how she weaves layers of memory and culture into her documentary films. (Register here.)

Can’t tune in live? No problem. Check out the recordings on the Iowa Culture channel on YouTube.

The owners of Rodina in Cedar Rapids use locally sourced, sustainably and humanely raised ingredients in their Midwest comfort food. Diners looking for something coastal will also find seafood dishes.


Writer: Hailey Allen

Located in Cedar Rapids' Historic Czech Village is Rodina (1507 C St. S.W.), a restaurant dedicated to delivering elevated Midwest comfort food.

The menu, which rotates seasonally, is crafted around locally grown produce and meats. Right now, you may find mains like braised chicken, fried pickles with ranch dressing, grilled cheese (with an optional addition of bacon) and salads highlighting fresh greens.

Samuel and Phoebe Charles, co-owners of Rodina (aptly named after the Czech word for "family"), were Iowa natives before venturing to Chicago and Denver for several years. They decided to return to Iowa to open the restaurant they had always dreamed about. Last year, executive chef Samuel won the Iowa Restaurant Association's Chef of the Year honor.
Pella wraps itself in orange for King's Day this Saturday. Visit for a day of fun, food, live music and games.


If you can imagine Germany’s Oktoberfest—but with more orange—you can picture Koningsdag in the Netherlands, where orange is the color of the Dutch royal family.

The annual celebration of the king’s birthday "is a huge blowout," says Valerie Van Kooten, executive director of the Pella Historical Society and Museums. "The whole country turns orange. It’s a really big deal there."

It's soon becoming a thing here, too. Pella hosts its second
Koningsdag April 30 with a competition to be a King for the Day—guys can complete in the junior (under age 14) and senior events in contests that test strength, wit and ability to eat Dutch fare (we hear there's herring).

Night brings live entertainment with a special King's Day brew from Gezellig Brewing Co. and other drinks. Learn more at The following weekend (May 5–7), the annual Tulip Time takes over downtown for more Dutch tradition.

Morels are a surefire sign of spring. If you’re up for a hunt, the DNR suggests sticking images of the fungi on your desk or other high visibility areas so you can spot the patterns in nature. Photograph: Iowa Morel Hunters.


We’re hearing from neighbors in southern Iowa that the spring delicacy is popping up throughout wooded areas. With recent rains and warmer temps, it’s time to be on the lookout for the tasty fungi. Here are a few tips from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to enhance your hunting chances.

1. Wait for nature’s signs of spring before searching for morels: lilacs budding and ready to flower; mayapple leaves opened up like umbrellas; and flowering trilliums, bloodroot, trout lily, Virginia bluebells, dandelion, spring beauty and columbine. Track morel sightings:

2. The chances of finding morels improve when daytime temperatures reach the 60s and nighttime temperatures are in the 50s. More specifically, a soil temperature of 53 degrees is the time to start looking. Variables affecting ground warmth include type of soil, the degree that the ground slopes and its aspect, the amount of sun or shade, soil moisture and the time of day.

3. A warm spring rain can trigger morel emergence. As a general rule in Iowa, it is best to start looking in April, and then continue to hunt through mid-May.

Find more hunting tips as well as cooking advice at the Iowa DNR's website.

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Michael Zahs with a film reel in a still from "Saving Brinton," the documentary about his discovery. Photo courtesy of  Barn Owl Pictures.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

A few years ago, Michael Zahs, the beloved history teacher and legendary pack rat from Washington, Iowa, flew to film festivals all over the world to help promote "Saving Brinton," a documentary about a box of century-old film reels he’d discovered in a farmhouse basement.

These days, he’s touring closer to home for a spinoff project. Zahs is narrating "Brinton Surprise," a multimedia concert series that Red Cedar Chamber Music is touring through May 15 throughout eastern Iowa (with a May 7 stop farther west in Winterset). It’s the third program the Marion-based group has developed around the Brinton Collection, with a new batch of world premieres.

Performed live with silent movies and magic lantern slides, the music for violin, cello, flute and guitar pays homage to movie pioneers like the Lumiere Brothers, Thomas Edison and the barnstorming impresario Frank Brinton, who screened moving pictures in theaters and tents across the Midwest in the 1890s and early 1900s. So it's fitting the new concert tour started last week at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival. Surely Brinton was there in spirit.
Pantries on wheels serve all areas of rural Iowa, including this truck delivery in North English. Photo: Joe Crimmings.


Dawn Hamilton has been fighting food insecurity for more than a decade. It still breaks her heart when she sees her fellow citizens cry. She’s the mayor of Malcom, a town of about 600 an hour east of Des Moines. These are her neighbors, her friends. And they need help.

"There are some that come to us and say that we saved their life," Hamilton says. She isn’t the only one who’s witnessed the effect of food insecurity in rural communities, which typically don’t have the same access to food and assistance as larger cities.

Nationally, Feeding America found the country’s rural counties had the highest percentage of food-insecure children—a staggering 84%—even though the poverty rate in Iowa’s rural and urban counties are both about 11%. The pandemic exacerbated the issue. Feeding America projected that the percentage of food-insecure people in rural counties nationally rose nearly 2% last year (a higher rate than urban counties).

Some of the need is served by brick-and-mortar food pantries around the state. But because of resource constraints—including a lack of money and volunteers—some communities don’t have pantries. Or if they do, their access is limited. Mobile pantries are one of the solutions.

Read the rest of the story here.

Iowa Stops Hunger is an ongoing initiative by Business Publications Corp. Inc. to raise awareness of food insecurity and inspire action to combat it.
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