ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
ChopTalk: Animal care requires a team approach

Iowa raises lots of pigs! So, you may have questions about their care. ChopTalk host Laurie Johns talks about animal care with a livestock trucker and ISU expert.
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One of the state’s most scenic parks, Maquoketa Caves has been thrilling visitors with its natural beauty and subterranean geology since the mid-1800s. Photo: Iowa Department of Natural Resources


With spring wildflowers peaking and warmer temps in the forecast, it’s a perfect time to start planning state park travel. The first on our checklist is Maquoketa Caves in Jackson County.

About 40 minutes south of Dubuque and less than an hour north of the Quad Cities, the park is a perfect weekend getaway with an overnight in either city. There’s also camping in the park (reserve in advance).

The park features 16 caves, including "1,100 Dancehall Cave"—named after the community dances held here back in the day.

While Dancehall is easy to navigate and the largest in the park, other caves offer challenging spelunking experiences. On the 6-mile loop trail, you can explore options such as Hernando's Hideaway and Dug Out. Inside the caves, see unique flowstone and dripstone formations—pack a flashlight or headlight and hiking clothes for your explorations.

Other popular park attractions include Natural Bridge standing 50 feet above Raccoon Creek and the 17-ton Balanced Rock. Currently parking is only available in the lot, so come early or later in the day to snag a spot.
The Chalk the Walk festival in Mount Vernon will take place the first weekend of May. Photo: Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

It’s easy to find the annual Chalk the Walk festival in Mount Vernon. On the first weekend of May, head downtown until you find the streets that are covered in chalk drawings and admiring fans.

For the last 16 years, the hilly town near Cedar Rapids has hosted the event that traces its origins to 16th-century Italy, where artists known as Madonnari created temporary street murals, often inspired by the Madonna and other religious themes.

In Mount Vernon, one of Iowa’s Cultural and Entertainment Districts, the festival has grown to include 170 8-by-10-foot chalk drawings on all sorts of themes, each drawn by a different artist.

Last year the event went virtual, and artists submitted photos of what they’d drawn on their home sidewalks and driveways. The winning entry, by Mary Campbell, depicted a giant bottle of Purell.

This year, visitors will get to color in 2-foot-square sections of a community mural based on “The Scream,” the famous 1893 painting by Edvard Munch.

“After a year of being cooped up, we all know how that feels,” says festival organizer Joe Jennison, from the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group.

He is eager to bring back the festival in person—10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 1 and 2—and to chalk up another success. “It’s my favorite,” he says. “We do 14 festivals every year, and this one is always the biggest and best.”
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With all the stress you face in the normal day-to-day of life, the last thing you should have to worry about is whether your insurance would fully protect you if you faced a lawsuit. An umbrella policy is an economical way to provide peace of mind in a world where any lawsuit seems possible.
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Cinco de Mayo is just two weeks away. Plan a day trip of tasting tacos and other south-of-the-border treats in Marshalltown.


Writer: Beth Eslinger

On a recent trip to northeast Iowa, I made a quick stop in Marshalltown to check out downtown and discovered a wealth of Latin American restaurants (Trip Advisor lists nine local spots). The city is known for its large Latino community; in fact, the Latino population is over 30%, according to the latest census. Here are three restaurants and/or groceries to stop by for bites (and maybe a brew or sweet treat).

Ay Caramba (12 N. First St.)
Located right off Main Street in a historic white brick two-story, this restaurant specializes in gourmet burritos and also serves bowls, tacos, nachos and salads. It’s one of those pick your meat and topping places for a customized flavor. The corn salsa looks tasty and oh-so-Iowa.

La Salud Restaurant and Grocery (17 N. First St.)
Painted on the side of this grocery and restaurant, a brightly colored mural filled with flowers and butterflies (painted by Des Moines artist Jenna Brownlee) is a must-shoot image for your social feed. Sample a $2 taco or sopes, a fried tortilla topped with meat and fresh fixings (vegetarian available). Enjoy a brew or fruit Orchata with your snack.

Zamora Fresh Market (4 E. Main St.)
While in town, grab ingredients for your own Cinco de Mayo party at this Main Street store. The grocery has a sit-down dining area serving a la carte items such as tamales, tacos and posole. We think the mangonada sounds amazing. It’s made of mango ice cream, Chamoy sauce and chili powder. There’s also homemade ice cream.
A still from "The Wizard of Oz," which will be shown as a part of FilmScene Iowa's outdoor film series this summer.


FilmScene Iowa has put together a lineup of movies through October to be viewed outside at Chauncey Swan Park in Iowa City. The showings are free and open to the public, starting at sunset every Saturday and some Wednesdays. Called "FilmScene in the Park," the series has a mix of family-friendly, international and classic films.

The next showing is next Wednesday at 8:01 p.m., with "Wolfwalkers," an animated film about a young hunter who befriends a girl from a tribe rumored to transform into wolves at night. Other films in the lineup include "The Wizard of Oz" (June 5), "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (July 10) and "The Monuments Men" (Aug. 14).

Admission is first-come, first-served, and social distancing will be implemented with painted lines on the lawn. Get more details here.
Pella will celebrate the Dutch holiday Koningsdag, which is like Oktoberfest, but with a lot more orange, on May 1. Photo: Pella Historical Society and Museums.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

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.”

Soon it could be a big deal here, too. Pella plans to host its first local Koningsdag with a smallish to-do at 10 a.m. on May 1, when this year’s Tulip Queen and her court will hand out goodie bags for kids outside the Vermeer Windmill.

It’s sort of a warm-up act for Tulip Time, May 6-8 (although the flowers are already blooming).

Plans are in the works to expand Koningsdag in the future, with a junior and senior king contest, a costumed dog parade, Orange Julius-style smoothies, and all kinds of orange foods—even “stuff made with Cheetos,” Van Kooten says.

Many Pella locals have traveled to the Netherlands for King’s Day—or Queen’s Day until 2013, when Queen Beatrix passed the crown to her son Willem-Alexander—and they see the potential for a homegrown version here in Iowa.

Van Kooten would like to visit the Dutch festival, too, but will have to wait. Her job keeps her close to home in April, when she and the tulips are prepping for the main event.
A new exhibition at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids spotlights implicit bias. Photo: Science Museum of Minnesota


We all have implicit bias—unconscious stereotypes associated with groups of people—even if we don't recognize it. A new traveling exhibition at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids aims to increase awareness about this idea.

Put together by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the showcase explores the social science, psychology and consequences of implicit bias. Organizers say "being aware of our bias can help us recognize their influence and impact on our behaviors and worldview."

The exhibition is on display until May 16 in the museum's Smith Gallery, which is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Learn more here.
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