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Ice Cream, You Scream: Driftless Treats


by Sara Friedl-Putnam • Photos by Inspire(d)
Originally published in the Summer 2014 Inspire(d)

Deep in the recesses of the Library of Congress lies a treasured document authored by Thomas Jefferson – and, no, it’s not a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

This document, handwritten by Jefferson himself in the 1780s, calls for “two bottles of good cream,” “six yolks of eggs,” “a half-pound of sugar,” and “one vanilla bean.” It is, according to the library, one of the first recipes for ice cream recorded in the United States.

Today, more than three centuries later, the International Dairy Foods Association ranks Americans as the top consumers of ice cream in the world, with more than 48 pints of ice cream downed per person per year. So pervasive is our passion for ice cream, in fact, that Ronald Reagan declared July as National Ice Cream Month exactly three decades ago.

Luckily, area residents will find plenty of ice cream shops eager to satisfy their cravings for this delicious frozen concoction throughout the summer months. Whether your preference is soft-serve or hand-dipped, chocolate or vanilla, go on, read on, and then treat yourself to a cup or cone of ice cream at one (or all!) of the following Driftless Region establishments.


The Whippy Dip
121 College Drive, Decorah, Iowa
Owners: Rosie and Greg Carolan
Open seasonally

It may not rank up there with Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July, but make no mistake about it: Opening day at the Whippy Dip is among the most anticipated days of the year in Winneshiek County.

Owner Rosie Carolan estimates a couple thousand people indulged in a soft-serve ice-cream treat – cookie-dough Tornado, anyone? – at the Whippy Dip on opening day last March. “We had long lines stretching both directions along College Drive for hours,” she says.

There’s nothing fancy about the Whippy Dip, but therein lies its (considerable) charm. Whether you crave vanilla or chocolate (or both!), served in a cone or cup, this iconic Decorah business – marking 60 years this past spring – sticks to the basics, dishing up ice cream plain (or with any number of toppings) sure to please even the most discriminating palates. “We’ve heard very few complaints,” says Carolan, who, with her husband, Greg, has owned and operated the Whippy Dip since 1985.

According to Carolan, the Whippy Dip’s fans have a former Decorah milkman, Derwood Baker, to thank for opening the shop back in 1954. “He delivered milk early in the morning and then worked here in the afternoon,” says Carolan, the fifth Whippy Dip owner. And while the ice cream machines, menu, and milk supplier have changed over the years, the bricks and mortar have remained the same.

“We have a great building in a great location,” she says. “We’re near the campground, the bike trail, the movie theatre, Luther College, the local schools, the swimming pool, and, of course, the Upper Iowa River.”

Still, location – or the contagious Whippy Dip nostalgia – doesn’t entirely account for the establishment’s staying power. “We use premium dairy products to ensure our ice cream is rich and creamy; we offer other fare like tacos-in-a-bag and foot-long hotdogs; and we have unbelievable help,” says Carolan, who employs nearly two-dozen high school students as well as a handful of adults. (Her husband, Greg, power-washes the premises every morning and serves as its go-to mechanic.)

Carolan admits that those sunny summer Friday nights when lines stretch down College Drive do generate a bit of stress, but that comes with the terrain of running such a well-known and loved business.

And the feeling is mutual, says Carolan: “I love running the Whippy Dip – I love my employees, I love our customers, and I am very grateful to be doing what I am doing.”


The Sugar Bowl
410 West Water Street, Decorah, Iowa
Owner: Brittany and Nathan Todd
Open seasonally

Craig Running knew a good thing when he saw it.

A longtime Decorah resident – he was raised in the town – Running believed buying retail space along the town’s main Water Street was a “win-win situation” when he seized the opportunity in 1999.

“I tore down the rental building that was here and then spent eight years designing and building this space,” he says of the Sugar Bowl, the balconied, two-storied ice cream parlor he opened in 2008. “I thought that there was a niche market for quality, hand-dipped ice cream, and I was pretty sure it would work…who doesn’t love ice cream?”

Who indeed – especially when that ice cream is made by the Chocolate Shoppe, an award-winning producer of hand-dipped ice cream headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin.

According to Running, it was more than serendipity that led him to select the Chocolate Shoppe as his ice cream vendor. “I had a conversation with a man who made it a point to mention that the best ice cream he had ever had was from the Chocolate Shoppe,” he says. “I called up the company and told them I was opening an ice cream shop, and they immediately sent 16 different pints to my front door. By the time I polished off the first pint, the decision had been made.”

In 2016 Running decided it was time to hang up the scoop – and when across-the-street neighbors Brittany and Nathan Todd shown interest, a smooth transition of delicious ice cream serving continued! The Sugar Bowl currently dishes up 24 different flavors of the Chocolate Shoppe’s ice cream from his dipping station, with choices ranging from Old Fashioned Vanilla to Kitty Kitty Bang Bang (cheesecake-flavored ice cream with raspberry flavoring, Oreos, and chocolate chunks). The most popular flavors? Zanzibar Chocolate (containing three kinds of cocoa) and Zoreo (made of Zanzibar ice cream, marshmallows, Oreos, and chocolate chunks).

And while ice cream remains the star of this Water Street establishment, its décor – described by Running as “industrial deco” – has garnered plenty of admirers as well.

The bright-white building contains a treasure trove of antiques, from a 1952 Whizzer motorbike to a Popsicle Red Ball Express train (one of only about 200 made). “It was a long process, but I enjoyed acquiring these items,” he says. “I had collected and restored cars, trucks, and motorcycles for a long time so it wasn’t such a stretch to start collecting and restoring things that were displayable here.”

As Running envisioned when he opened the Sugar Bowl, the combination of rich-and-creamy ice cream and eye-catching antiques has proved irresistible for many a Decorah resident and visitor. “It’s been quite successful,” he says with a smile. “And business gets better every year.”


Homestead Dairy
850 Rossville Road, Waukon, Iowa
Owners: Tom Weighner, Paul Weighner, and Tom Walleser
Open year-round

Homestead Dairy has dished up ice cream for less than three years, but it already serves a frozen treat literally fit for a king.

The dairy had been making ice cream for only a few months when Luther College’s general manager of dining services presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: Would the Homestead Dairy accept a commission to make cinnamon ice cream in honor of Norway’s King Harald V and Queen Sonja for an all-Iowa-foods banquet?

They jumped at the chance.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” admits Angela Weighner, who makes the dairy’s ice cream using only milk produced on its two Northeast Iowa dairy farms.

She need not have worried: King Harald gave the cinnamon ice cream an unequivocal thumbs-up at a news conference held at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum a few hours after the banquet.

Few would disagree with that assessment. The dairy has created 40 ice cream flavors to date. “We take the time to ensure we produce a quality product,” says Weighner, who credits the rich taste and creamy texture of its ice cream to the fact that it uses pasteurized, not homogenized milk, meaning the milk is less processed. “We also figure out the right amount of flavorings and mix-ins and make only small batches at a time.”

WW Homestead opened the Waukon dairy in 2012, and it has quickly become a “must stop” in the region for cheese curds, ice cream, and soon – coffee! In addition to seating both inside and out, the parlor offers 16 different flavors in its dipping station – coffee toffee is Weighner’s favorite – and most of its other two-dozen flavors (including the cinnamon!) are available in take-home pint cartons too. The dairy also sells fresh creamline milk, cheese curds, butter, block cheese, and ice-cream cakes. A full coffee bar addition should be open for RAGBRAI riders in July 2017, making this a “midwest delicacy one stop shop”!

“It’s hard work but very fun to come up with new flavors that people really like,” says Weighner when asked the best part of running an ice-cream shop. “There’s really nothing that compares to seeing families spending time here together enjoying our ice cream.”


The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor
207 Pearl Street, La Crosse, Wisconsin
Owners: Michelle and T.J. Peterslie
Open year-round

Not all that long ago, bikers were a familiar sight at 207 Pearl Street in downtown La Crosse. “It was a very popular biker bar,” recalls T.J. Peterslie. He and his wife, Michelle, bought the building in 1990. “On a nice Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t unusual to see more than 80 choppers parked outside.”

Today, the location attracts a very different clientele. Gone are the choppers. In their place? Tables and chairs packed with ice cream lovers of all ages enjoying a scoop from The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor.

Peterslie describes the transformation as a labor of love.

“Ice cream parlors were a prime social meeting place from the 1800s into the 1900s,” he says. “We wanted the Pearl to be a place where people could bring the whole family, enjoy a treat, and step back in time to when things were simpler and less stressful.”

To evoke the feel of an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor, the Peterslies scoured the Midwest, picking up the tables, chairs, mixers, sundae dishes, dipping cabinets (circa 1940s), and a bubble-gum machine that all help give the Pearl its unique charm. “You can’t just order these things,” he says.

It was Peterslie’s late father, Oscar, who created most of the ice cream flavors – from Mississippi mud and butter pecan to the bestselling vanilla – as well as the fudge and other sweet confections for which the Pearl has become so revered in and well beyond La Crosse over the past two decades. (The Peterslie’s daughters – Dani, Azia, and Tara – have followed in their grandfather’s footsteps and make much of the ice cream and candy sold at the Pearl these days.)

“My dad was adamant that we serve homemade ice cream, and he is why the Pearl is here,” he says. “We enjoyed designing the Pearl, but once we opened it, running it was like running any other business. My dad took ice cream-making courses at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, researched recipes online, bought our ice cream-making equipment down in Texas, and was just magic working behind the counter.”

While remaining tight-lipped on their ice cream making process – “We can’t really talk too much about how we do what we do,” he says – Peterslie says they’ve reaped nothing but rewards since entering the ice cream biz more than two decades ago.

“It’s a happy business,” he says. “When customers come in, they have the attitude that they are going to treat themselves to something good, and you in turn feel good knowing you are selling them something that they really want.”


Barrel Drive In
2014 Highway 150S, West Union, Iowa
Open seasonally

Top off a burger and fries with a shake, sundae, or cone served by carhops at this classic drive-in restaurant.

Country View Dairy
15197 230th Street, Hawkeye, Iowa

Wonder where the popular Yotopia Frozen Yogurt in downtown Iowa City, Iowa, procures its frozen yogurt? Look no further than Country View Dairy, purveyor of many flavors of yogurt found in stores throughout the Driftless Region.

904 Short Street, Decorah, Iowa

It’s not just the home of the ButterBurger. This restaurant serves fresh soft-serve frozen custard with a variety of toppings.

Happy Joe’s Pizza and Ice Cream
105 East Water Street, Decorah, Iowa

Sundae anyone? Follow up a tasty pizza with your choice of classic hand-dipped ice cream flavors and treats.


Sara Friedl-Putnam, an avid ice cream lover, thoroughly enjoyed doing “research” for this article and highly recommends readers sample a treat from all of the friendly Driftless Region establishments profiled in it.


Q&A with Mason Jennings


Introduction and interview by Benji Nichols
Originally published in the Summer 2016 Inspire(d)

We’re proud to say we’ve been big fans of Seed Savers Exchange and Heritage Farm for a long time. And for many a moon, Iowa troubadour Greg Brown (of whom we are also big fans) has graced a beautiful summer evening to help raise funds for the ever-growing cause of saving and sharing heritage seeds and plants.

When Brown announced that 2015 would be his final year for the Seed Savers benefit concert, there was, happily, another extremely talented artist waiting, literally, in the wings.

Well-known Midwest musician Mason Jennings was at the benefit last year, and the magic of that moon-lit evening in rural Decorah swept him away. With just a little peer pressure from Greg Brown and friends, Jennings counted himself “in” to perform the 2016 benefit show – when that show was cancelled due to wide spread flooding in 2016, a re-do was penciled in the books for July 2017!

Jennings – a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist – is a Hawaii native who now calls Minneapolis home. He has sold hundreds of thousands of records to much acclaim – the album “Blood Of Man,” which Jennings recorded on garage band (playing all the instruments himself), received a 4-star review in Rolling Stone. His thirteenth album “Wild Dark Metal” was released just this past spring – of the album, Jennings has said, “It deals with loss, love, suffering, longing, and mystery. I hope it finds the listener who is looking for it. I hope it brings deep medicine. I hope you play it loud.”

For close to 20 years, Jennings has toured the world, bringing audience members his unique style of musical medicine. This summer, joined by friends and fellow Iowa-rooted musicians The Pines, and combined with the incredible setting of Seed Savers, folks are in for some real magic.

Inspire(d) was lucky enough to have a few moments to collect some fun thoughts from Mason Jennings as he anticipates the upcoming benefit concert.


I: You’ve been anchored out of Minneapolis going on two decades now, with real roots in the 400 Bar (RIP) and the entire Minneapolis scene. What first got you to Minneapolis and has kept you coming back to the Midwest?

MJ: My dad lived there for a few years and I visited and felt at home. I love the size of the Cities. The way the community supports artists and the close proximity of nature. The seasons work for me creatively too. Equidistant to both coasts for touring… great place to raise a family… the list goes on. I love Minnesota. I love Iowa too.

I: From our understanding you attended the Greg Brown benefit show last year at Seed Savers and were inspired. Can you tell us about your experience?

MJ: I love Greg’s music and the concert setting was amazing. Seed Savers seems like an amazing place and it was inspiring to see folks coming together to support it. Both Greg and Iris Dement took me aside that night and told me they thought I should play it next year. And I listened and agreed.

I: The Pines will be opening the Seed Saver’s Benefit show in August, and Benson Ramsey (of The Pines, and Iowa music legend Bo Ramsey’s son) also contributed photos to your new album “Wild Dark Metal” – when did you all connect?

MJ: I met Benson about six years ago at a friend’s wedding. We immediately hit it off and have been hanging out ever since. I think he is an amazing person and his songwriting is very moving to me. The Pines are easily one of my favorite bands. They’ll be joining me onstage at Seed Savers too, which will be fun.

I: Do you keep a garden at home at all?

MJ: I don’t keep a garden yet but I love gardens. I’m hoping that being (at Seed Savers) will inspire me to someday start one.

I: Ok. Rapid fire! First thing that comes to mind:

Midwest: Prince
Summer food: Corn
Family: Forever
Currently listening to: 89.3 The Current
Seed Savers Exchange: Hope

Don’t miss this evening of incredible music in an even more incredible setting! Here are the details:

Who: Mason Jennings and The Pines, with Pieta Brown
Where: Seed Savers Heritage Farm
When: Saturday, July 8, 2017. Doors 5 pm. Concert 7 pm.
How: Buy tickets online at

Cresco, Iowa


Cresco Community: A history of innovators

By Aryn Henning Nichols • Originally published in the Summer 2016 Inspire(d)

“You make your family,” says long-time Cresco, Iowa resident Bootie Kapler. “Cresco is my family.”

In that family, Bootie Kapler would definitely be the mom. If there’s a committee, volunteer position, or, really, any person in need, Bootie is there. Seriously – she sits on at least a dozen area boards. If they ask, she says yes.

“I don’t mind as long as we get something done. And so often they feed you,” she says with a chuckle. “I do lots of volunteering too.”

From taking shifts at Howard Community Hospice or The County Store non-profit to tour-directing for CUSB Bank’s VIP 55+ club –“We went ALL OVER creation! Before that, I’d never even been on a bus!” – Bootie finds a way to help out.

BootieKapler“You do a lot of reading and calling, and eventually you learn how to do things,” she says. “Oh, and every year I make 12 Easter baskets for local shut-ins. I even made myself a bunny costume to deliver them! Can you imagine?! Ha! It’s the best thing in the world to make people laugh.”

The now 78-year-old moved to Cresco when she was 14. A few years later, when she graduated high school, it looked like Bootie was heading on out.

“My parents gave me two weeks to move out of the house. That’s just the way things were then,” she says. “I wanted to be a nurse. The tuition for an LPN was $75 for a year back then – I knew I could afford that – so I went to St. Mary’s in Rochester.”



“When I ran out of money, I came back to Cresco. Some classmates and I had the intention that we were going to get to Denver, Colorado, once we had enough money. But I met a cute fellow with black curly hair instead,” she says.

Bootie and Ike Kapler got married in 1959. “I went west!” she says with a big laugh. “Half-a-mile west… to this farm!”

Bootie opens the door to her farmhouse with a hug. Inside, oldies music is playing. There are fresh-out-of-the-oven butter brickle cookies and, of course, hot coffee.

She may crack a lot of jokes, but there’s no doubt that all Bootie wants is to be there for her community.

“The support from your friends in Cresco – they may want to know every possible thing about you, but they sure are there for you in a crisis,” she says.

When Bootie and Ike’s youngest daughter suffered through anorexia in college, their friends supported them without judgment, and when Ike passed away in 2004, 500 people came through to pay their respects at the funeral.

So when Bootie ran into a local businessman at the grocery store, lamenting that he couldn’t find land in town and was looking elsewhere to start his new business, of course Bootie had to help.

“I said, ‘What if I sold you part of my farm?’”

Photo by Jessica Rilling

Photo by Jessica Rilling

Right on the edge of town, the 60 acres of property was perfect for Cresco growth, and Bootie was eager to see jobs and dollars stay in the county. She and her family made the sale in late 2008, and Campsite RV and Shopko have since been developed there, joining an already industry-rich community that includes, to name a few, Featherlite, Alum-Line, Donaldson, Masonry Technology Incorporated, Bear Creek Archeology

“The hospital too,” Bootie continues with the list. “Oh, and Plantpeddler. They employ a lot of people.” She pauses. “I work there part time.” (Of course she does.)

“But I just drive around delivering flowers and making people happy. It’s pretty good work. Better than bill collecting!”

Bootie is just one of the thoughtful and innovative people who make things GO in Cresco. But really, throughout history, Cresco has been home to a great many innovators – people who aren’t afraid to take chances – on their career, on themselves, and on their community.

150 years ago, Cresco founder Augustus Beadle recruited folks to the freshly platted land with the promise of a railroad and a good life. There’s a beard-growing contest in the name of Augustus for Cresco’s upcoming 150th Birthday Celebration.


Many years after Augustus, Cresco High School’s most famous graduate, Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dr. Norman Borlaug (1914-2009), developed a high-yield, drought-resistance strain of wheat that helped billions of people grow food that could survive – and help them survive – on their land. Cresco hosts the Norman Borlaug Harvest Fest most falls to celebrate his accomplishments as well as those of the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation (the next Harvest Fest is 2017).

And Cresco native Ellen Church (1904-1965) innovated an entirely new profession – that of airline attendants! The local airport is named in her honor.

The town itself sits about 10 miles shy of the Iowa/Minnesota border. It is the Howard County seat, and roughly 4000 people live there. The main drag – a tree-speckled Elm Street – takes you along historical buildings (the recently renovated theatre and the library buildings are over 100 years old and still operating under their original purpose), a variety of bronze public art sculptures, and a great big county courthouse. It’s charming. And it’s clear people in the community care – about each other and their town.


“I know it sounds cheesy, but the best part about Cresco is its people,” says Katie Ferrie, a local “do-er” and the marketing co-chair for Cresco’s 150th Celebration. Katie volunteers in addition to working her day job at CUSB Bank and keeping up with two busy, young daughters.

Yep, folks in small towns have to wear many hats if they’re going to make progress.

“Some of the best volunteers are some of the busiest people,” says Mark Johnson, technology manager at Cresco’s Masonry Technology Incorporated. “I’m a big believer in altruism. We need to give back.”

BrendaMarkJohnsonMark and his wife, Brenda, love living in Cresco because of the great proximity to nature of all kinds – from Prairie’s Edge Nature Center, to Vernon Springs, to the 22-mile Prairie Springs paved bike trail that connects to the Prairie Farmer Trail and links Cresco, Ridgeway, and Calmar, Iowa. But they are especially passionate about the cross-country ski trails – trails they helped create.

It was the mid 70s when Mark and Brenda came to Cresco – separately; they met and eventually fell in love after they were recruited as teachers in the Cresco school district.

“They specifically were looking for a physical education teacher who could also teach art,” Brenda says with a laugh.

Mark had degrees in English and reading, and ended up teaching those skills through computers. He went on to become an Adobe Master Teacher, and also taught classes at the Northeast Iowa Community College center in Cresco.

“I learned much more from the kids than they ever learned from me,” he says.

It was shortly after their arrival in Cresco that the new couple got their first cross-country skis.

“We bought them in La Crosse because nowhere around here sold them,” Brenda says.

Back then, people just beat down their own tracks for skiing. But the Kiwanis club made a trail near Prairie’s Edge Nature Center and Mark and Brenda started to really get into the sport.

“We got so excited about it we bought a little house just east of the courthouse and turned part of it into a ski shop,” Mark says with a laugh.

It was all very DIY – they bought a snowmobile and had a local blacksmith make a track-setter. They helped start the Upper Iowa Ski Club in the early 1980s. Although the club doesn’t exist anymore, its mission continues on. A group of volunteers, with help from the Howard County Conservation Board, that currently keep the trails going, and they’ve made significant (re: state-of-the-art) equipment upgrades. The group now grooms some of the best cross-country ski trails in the region.

Mark and Brenda volunteer elsewhere too. In the warmer months, Brenda helps to clear trails at the Nature Center and works at the local Meals on Wheels, and Mark is on the Normal Borlaug Heritage Foundation Board and both serve on the Prairie Springs Trail Committee.


“I get more out of it than I probably put into it,” Mark says. “I’ve met so many great people, and you walk away feeling good that you’ve helped out…that you’ve accomplished something.”

A lot of the challenges that face the community of Cresco are universal to small towns…heck, maybe all towns.

“The doers can get tapped out,” says Jason Passmore, Executive Director of Howard County Business and Tourism. “We’re also seeing a population loss. It’s hard to get younger people to come live here. Like a lot of rural Midwest towns, we’re seeing a decline in enrollment in schools. We have a lot of great manufacturing here in Cresco, but the workforce is aging. So we need to bring in families to replace that depleting workforce. We’re going to have to become more diverse, and that can be a challenge.”

But they’re up for the challenge, says business and tourism Development Coordinator Spiff Slifka.

“We’re asking ourselves, ‘What will draw people? What will set us apart?’” Spiff says. “We’re trying to take on that next level infrastructure.”

The City Council is on board as well (no pun intended). They’ve worked over the past couple of years to increase energy efficiency in town – all the streetlights are LED, as well as the new Cresco Theatre marquee (but designed to be historically accurate). Plus, they’re early participants in a solar power purchase agreement.

“By spring we will have 300+ kW of solar panels on city property. We are really working hard on reducing the city’s energy usage to save the taxpayers’ money,” says six-year city council member Amy Bouska. “We’re pretty proud of what we’ve got over here.”

As Bootie says, Cresco is family. The people of this small Midwestern town are working hard for each other and their community. They’re making great efforts to bring folks in to visit and work and live, and they are carrying on a rich history of innovation.

“For 40 years, I’ve been part of project after project to help make this community better,” Mark says. “And that’s the thing. The people of Cresco keep re-making or re-working ourselves to be even better.”


Aryn Henning Nichols loves heading out to meet people for these stories, and figure out what it is that makes them feel proud to call their towns home. Cresco is a really cool place, and Aryn looks forward to heading over there more this summer for some outdoor fun!


Cresco 150th color logo

Cresco 150th Birthday Celebration July 20-24, 2016

There are SO MANY things happening for Cresco’s big 150th Celebration – here are just a few of the highlights.

  • Augustus Beadle Beard Contest!
  • Live music and entertainment all weekend
  • Lots of kids’ activities (bouncy houses, slides, and more)
  • Cooking contests
  • Food vendors
  • Cruise to Cresco Car Show & Tractor Show
  • Pine Wood Derby
  • Fly-In Breakfast
  • Art in the Park
  • Grand Parade
  • Tons of tours – Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame, Borlaug Heritage Farm, Ag Education Center, Howard County Museum, Cabin in Beadle Park, County Hospital, Cresco Theatre, Kellow House, etc.

Head on over to or for additional details and up-to-date information.

PrairiesEdgeCenterOther Cool Cresco Stuff to Check Out:

Prairie’s Edge Nature Center

The Prairie’s Edge Nature Center was opened in 2000 – it gets its name from the native prairie planted right outside its doors. The Nature Center also houses multiple displays, including live animals, such as a tiger salamander, native fish swimming through a 180-gallon tank, and a live honeybee display. Outside, enjoy trails for all seasons!

Iowa’s first rock ladder dam at Vernon Springs

Right across from Prairie’s Edge Nature Center, Vernon Springs Rock Ladder Dam was introduced and then completed in 2010. Instead of an outdated dam, the river now contains 280 ft. of pools and rapids that spread this drop out with an average grade of three percent versus the previous dam’s vertical drop of eight feet. The rapids open the Turkey River to fish migration while making the area safer for people of all ages. This first-in-the-State of Iowa rock arch rapids is safer for people and now wildlife and offers a unique perspective to the Turkey River and Vernon Mill Pond.

Prairie Farmer Trail

A 20 mile crushed limestone trail that connects Cresco and Calmar, Iowa. It’s a great bike ride through native prairies and Iowa farmland.

Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation & Farm

The Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation owns Dr. Borlaug’s boyhood 103-Acre farm in Northeast Iowa. There’s the farmhouse/museum, various outbuildings, and an old schoolhouse on site. Visit in September for the Norman Borlaug Harvest Fest (next one is scheduled for 2017).

Cresco Theatre / Opera House

This amazing theatre and opera house hosts live music, theatre, and popular movies as well! It was recently renovated and painted with amazing intricacy by Riehle Decorating.

Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame

Check out cool Iowa wrestling history. Housed in the Cresco Welcome Center, it’s a great launching point for your Cresco visit. And don’t miss the super-awesome IWHOF mural on your way in!

Cresco Fitness Center and Indoor Pool

This place is a lifesaver in the winter for those with kids! Swim time!

Driftrunners Snowmobile Club

In addition to cross country skiing, there’s great snowmobiling in Howard County. Driftrunners Inc. is a non-profit organization established in 1968, has a long history of snowmobiling in Northeast Iowa. They host an annual Snowfest weekend event in January (2017 will be the 45th!).