ia: The best of Iowa arts and culture
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
Choptalk talks with Iowa pig farmers who are paying it forward in their communities!

Meet the Lundells fire fighters, coaches, animal caretakers! Two generations of pig farmers that aren't just raising pigs, but also growing Iowa communities.

Listen and Follow

If you can't make the party in person, tune up your bicycle and tune in to the RAGBRAI route announcement Friday night. Photo courtesy of the Des Moines Register.


Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Believe it or not, RAGBRAI is nearly a half-century old.

Leaders of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa will unveil the July 2022 route during Friday’s ticketed announcement party at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines. The doors open at 7 p.m., the program starts at 9 p.m., and you watch via livestream on RAGBRAI’s Facebook page.

This will be the first chance to learn which eight cities will host riders overnight on the 49th route. For many fans, it’s also the first chance to meet the ride’s new director, Matt Phippen, a longtime rider who grew up in Vinton.

The announcement party will feature the central Iowa band Not Quite Brothers and precede the annual Iowa Bike Expo, with more than 70 exhibitors, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the same building. Plus, if you’d like to relive a few RAGBRAI highlights, take a spin down memory lane in the award-winning exhibit “Riding Through History” at the State Historical Museum of Iowa.

The Russian Ballet Theatre will perform a reimagined production of "Swan Lake" at three Eastern Iowa venues this March.


Russian Ballet Theatre will bring their new production of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s timeless classic, "Swan Lake," to Eastern Iowa in early March. Founded in 2015, the RBT is a touring ballet company that shares a passion for enriching Russian ballet traditions through new productions of classics.

Choreographed by Nadezhda Kalinina (Mariinsky Theatre, Teatro Lirico, Omsk State Music Theatre), the performance features hand-painted sets and over 150 hand-sewn costumes. Audiences can catch the RBT in Davenport (March 1 at the Adler Theatre), Dubuque (March 2 at Five Flags Center), and Cedar Rapids (March 6 at The Paramount Theatre).

Scenic hikes will take you past Catfish Creek, which meanders through Swiss Valley Nature Preserve in Dubuque County. Now is a perfect time to snowshoe or cross-country ski the park's trails.


Winter is a wonderful time to enjoy Swiss Valley Nature Preserve, especially by snowshoes or cross-country skis. Located 4.5 miles southwest of Dubuque in Peosta, the preserve features 476 acres of woodlands, wetlands and prairies and more than 10 miles of hiking trails, including a groomed cross-country ski trail. Free, first-come, first-served snowshoe rental is available during Nature Center hours, both here and at the nearby Mines of Spain State Recreation Area. A minimum of four inches of snow is recommended.

Find details on special educational programs and seasonal weekend hikes in the area, such as the Feb. 12 Snowshoe & Wine Hike at Park Farm Winery, on the Dubuque County Conservation Facebook page. That event includes education on the Driftless area during a steep, 45-minute guided snowshoe hike, followed by a glass of wine and social time at the winery. The registration fee of $10 per individual includes a guided hike with a naturalist, information on the history of Park Farm Winery, and a glass of wine. Details.
Art Cullen, shown during the filming of the documentary "Storm Lake," will be a speaker in the online Iowa History Book Club series. Photo: Hazel Pictures


Back by popular demand, the State Historical Society of Iowa’s online book club returns with a new thought-provoking lineup.

The Iowa History Book Club opens its second year at 7 p.m. on Feb. 3 with Art Cullen, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and co-owner of the Storm Lake Times, who will discuss his book “Storm Lake: Change, Resilience and Hope in America’s Heartland.” The Cullen family and their paper are also the subjects of “Storm Lake,” an award-winning documentary film about their fight to save Iowa’s small-town newspapers.

Later, the book club will feature Richard Bennett’s “Mormons at the Missouri” on April 14; the late Sen. John Culver and John Hyde’s “American Dreamer: A Life of Henry A. Wallace” on Sept. 22; and Linda Clemmons’ “Dakota in Exile” on Dec. 1.

“We were delighted with the response to last year’s schedule of books and authors, and we are featuring another top-notch set of offerings this year,” says Andrew Klumpp, who edits the State Historical Society of Iowa’s quarterly journal, "The Annals of Iowa." Klumpp leads each online discussion.

In addition to the book club, the historical society continues its series of Iowa History 101 online presentations with a session at noon Feb. 10 about the Friendship Train, which collected donated food to send to Europe at the end of World War II. Registration to all of the online events is free but required.
There's plenty of meat on the menu at Lunchbox in Fairfield, but this vegan soup (butternut squash, cashew cream, sage, lime and pomegranate reduction) has us considering the possibilities of a plant-based diet.


Starting with takeout lunches and catering in December 2020 and expanding to dine-in service in the summer of 2021, Lunchbox in Fairfield is the latest venture of husband-and-wife food and fitness entrepreneurs who recently relocated from Asheville, North Carolina. With more than 30 combined years of hospitality experience, the couple behind this Southern American restaurant and its ever-evolving menu share a passion for serving detailed dishes that evoke comfort and pique the diner's interest.

"The corners we don’t cut and our attention to detail that comes from our fine dining background—that elevates the food," says chef/owner Camp Boswell.

The restaurant also is launching an occasional ramen pop-up (the first is this Friday), inspired by a previous restaurant called Broth Lab. And special supper club events called "The Southern Table" offer a high-end prix fixe experience with wine pairings. The Valentine's Day menu and tickets are available on their website.

Read our ia magazine roundup of five new restaurants, including Lunchbox. Click here.
What You Need to Know About Buy Now, Pay Later

Take a look at the pros and cons of the popular Buy Now, Pay Later trend so you can make informed decisions about when shopping online or making big purchases.

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Enjoy innovative seasonal flavors of kombucha in a cozy taproom setting at Wild Culture Kombucha in Iowa City, or take a growler to go as you explore the college town. Photo courtesy of Wild Culture Kombucha.


Whether you're sprinting toward the finish line of "dry January" or cutting out the booze long-term, Wild Culture Kombucha Taproom in Iowa City (210 N. Linn St.) has you covered. Fermented tea is packed with probiotics. And exciting flavors like Juniper Berry and Cinnamon Plum are a must-try if you've only had the traditional. Or, opt for zero-proof cocktails with a snack board. The taproom also carries a selection of Iowa craft beers for drinkers who are more into booze than 'booch. Check their Facebook page for occasional events, too.

While you're in town and still making good on your resolutions, squeeze in some exercise. Members of the public can purchase an affordable day pass to the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center (309 S. Madison St.), which offers access to the climbing wall, wave pool, and other state-of-the-art facilities. Purchase at the front desk.

WHAT INITIATIVES HAS YOUR COMPANY DONE TO COMBAT HUNGER AND FOOD INSECURITY? Each year we invite our case managers nationwide to join us in our annual "Hunger Challenge" initiative. We ask them to identify individuals in their communities who are struggling with food insecurity and who may not qualify or have access to a nutrition program through a health plan or community organization. If we find the individual is eligible for assistance, we work with the case manager to get them set up on a program. If not, we donate a cooler of meals to those individuals while they work with their support network to find a more long-term solution. We are happy to provide thousands of meals to those who may otherwise go without.

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Beth Cody's book, “Iowa Gardens of the Past: Lost and Historic Gardens of Iowa,” includes hundreds of images to help readers envision gardens from the 1850s through the 1980s.


Writer: Veronica Lorson Fowler

Take an Iowa garden tour through time, stopping along the way at a modest 1873 vegetable plot outside a log cabin in Council Bluffs, the fanciful grounds surrounding the Hubinger Mansion in Keokuk in the 1890s, and a charming cottage garden in Mason City in 1931.

You’ll visit all of these and more in “Iowa Gardens of the Past: Lost and Historic Gardens of Iowa” ($35, Iowa Garden Press). Kalona resident Beth Cody has pulled together 250 historic images, woven together with informative and inspirational text, that show us how Iowa’s first rustic gardens bloomed into ambitious landscapes reflective of the development of the state.

Read the full story here.
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