Tag Archives: tourism

Getting out and ‘art’-bout for the holidays

During the holidays, there often is a flurry of travel and excitement as family and friends visit. Whether you are entertaining out-of-town guests for a day or a week, there are plenty of venues to check out that will introduce the visual culture of Milwaukee in ways both conventional and unusual.

Unusual Muses 

The roots of the work “museum” go back to ancient Greece and reference locations such as temples dedicated to the Muses, who were patron goddesses of the arts. Museums today are repositories of knowledge and still significant sources of inspiration. You already know about major Milwaukee museums like MAM, but some of those that don’t come to mind as quickly are as appealing to guests of all ages. 

The Grohmann Museum is located on the campus of the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and its association with industry is deeply rooted in its permanent collection. The works come from Dr. Eckhart Grohmann, who had been acquiring art since the 1960s and donated his collection to MSOE in 2001, followed by the gift of the museum itself. 

More than 1,000 pieces are on view, with imagery associated with various labors from the 16th century to the present. Ironworkers, farmers, even taxidermists and glass blowers are among the types of workers represented in this expansive collection of paintings and sculptures. 

Architecturally, the building is unique. The entryway atrium features a mosaic floor that introduces the themes of the museum through images of a farmer, textile worker, blacksmith, miners and foundry workers. On the exterior of the building, a rooftop terrace is overlooked by 12 monumental bronze sculptures that depict various professions. 

The Harley-Davidson Museum also celebrates muscle and machinery, but in a distinctly focused way. Exhibits detail the history of the iconic motorcycle company, from its inception in 1903 to its near demise in the 1980s through its subsequent success, with engaging interactive displays and enough motorcycles on view to keep Harleyfest going year-round.

There are many special exhibits as well, such as the Experience Gallery where visitors can sit on bikes, and the Design Lab, which offers a peek into the engineering and styling that goes on behind the scenes. Recent Watercolor Paintings By Willie G. Davidson also is on view through Jan. 3, and celebrates the artistic flair of the renowned designer. 

Beer baron Capt. Frederick Pabst looms large in Milwaukee, as does the industrialist’s palatial home on Wisconsin Avenue, completed in 1892. The Pabst Mansion is now a museum that captures a taste of life in the gilded age. 

The architectural details and art permanently on view in the home are captivating, but the patina of history becomes even shinier as the mansion is decked out in its holiday finery. Christmas trees, garlands, topiaries and all sorts of festive installations decorate each of the rooms, making the museum seem even more like a home for the holidays. 

Guests can tour the mansion daily, but tours usually stop at 4 p.m. Dec. 18 is the exception; that day, guests can get the full decorative experience with “twilight tours” 5-7 p.m. Tickets are $16, $9 for children ages 6-17 (advance orders receive a $2 discount). 

See and Sip 

If your guests need more than art to stimulate them, consider one of the city’s many galleries that double as bars.

If Walker’s Point is your destination, explore Var Gallery. Established in 2013 by Josh Hintz and Renée Navis, it began as an artist studio collective. A move last year to its current location, a former aluminum factory, expanded Var’s endeavors to include a performance space, bar and art gallery. 

The current exhibition, One Year in Walker’s Point, celebrates this anniversary with a show that includes many of the two dozen artists who also have studio space in this multipurpose building. Live music often is part of Var’s schedule, as well as drawing sessions and other performance events. In fact, the gallery will be hosting a special New Year’s Eve celebration, beginning at 5 p.m. on Dec. 31.

Heading into Bay View, Tonic Tavern is another place to find a mix of art and music, along with a vibrant social scene. With rotating exhibitions organized by artist Jeff Redmon, Tonic hosts regular opening receptions often accompanied by live bands spanning numerous genres. 

Currently on display are works by painter Melissa Dorn Richards, whose taste for abstraction turns ordinary objects like mops into intriguingly unfamiliar things. Tonic’s spacious outdoor patio is a big draw during the summer, but the bar has a year-round appeal, thanks to the cozy fireplace in the gallery area. 

In Riverwest, the visual and the drinkable come together in a most charming pairing at Art Bar. Owner Don Krause intended art to be a main feature of this establishment from its inception 12 years ago, and since then thousands of artworks have graced its vibrant walls, including December’s Mini exhibition of small art. Along with changing exhibitions, an array of events and live music offer stimulation that goes beyond the visual. 

On Display

The Grohmann Museum is located on the campus of MSOE at 1000 N. Broadway. msoe.edu.

The Harley-Davidson Museum is located in the Menomonee Valley at 400 Canal St. harley-davidson.com.

The Pabst Mansion is located near the Marquette University campus at 2000 W. Wisconsin Ave. pabstmansion.com.

Var Gallery is located in Walker’s Point at 643 S. Second St. One Year Celebration & Collective Show continues through Jan. 3. vargallery.com.

Tonic Tavern is located at 2335 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in Bay View. Work by Melissa Dorn Richards will be on view throughout December. tonictavern.com.

Art Bar is located in Riverwest at 722 E. Burleigh St. The current exhibition, Mini: Tiny Art at Tiny Prices, will continue throughout December.

Belgium tourist boards latch on to cat craze on social media

Belgium’s tourist boards have latched onto a social media craze of cats that gave Brussels light relief during a tense five-day security lockdown in the wake of militant attacks in Paris.

Images of the city’s streets deserted as security forces hunted suspected Islamist militants have dealt a blow to Belgium’s tourism industry, with hotels reporting many cancellations.

When police on Sunday asked the public in Brussels not to share details of their operations on social media, Belgians took to tweeting each other pictures of their cats.

Capitalizing on the social media hit, Belgium’s three tourist authorities have now released a 20 second video film showing cats at Brussels’s landmarks such as the historic Grand Place or the Atomium, which they said was filmed at the height of the lockdown.

The video depicts cats dancing all over the city, some wearing black bowler hats or with green apples in front of their faces in a nod to paintings of the Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte.

In the background, a saxophone is heard, an invention of the Belgian Adolphe Sax. The original trend drew a warm response on social media, and the tourist authorities said they wanted to show how proud they were of Brussels and its residents for their good-humored response to the crisis.

Belgium’s capital has been on maximum alert since Saturday over the threat of a possible Paris-style attack. A coordinated assault in which 130 people were killed in Paris on Nov. 13 was claimed by Islamic State.

Brussels, home to the European Commission, reopened its metro system and schools on Wednesday, albeit with armed police and soldiers still patrolling.

“Tourism Flanders, Visit Brussels and Wallonia-Brussels Tourism are proud of the people of Brussels and wanted to give them an extra boost,” they said. “Their winking cats evoked great sympathy at home and abroad.”

On the Web…


Travel news: Cuba guide, New Orleans lights, hotel emojis

Tourism in Cuba has boomed with the resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S., and a just-published travel guide offers an up-to-date look at visiting the country.

“Cuba As Never Before” by Louis E.V. Nevaer, looks at not just classic attractions like Havana’s rum museum and Ernest Hemingway sites, but also offers a guide to some of the newest places of interest to tourists, including the contemporary arts scene, private restaurants known as paladares and even Airbnb listings.

The book also offers advice on car rentals, tipping, cruises, flights, tour companies and private guides, and explains current regulations on travel by U.S. citizens.  In addition, the book includes information on communities and subcultures ranging from Cuba’s gay and lesbian scene to surfers, Santeria and Cuban Jews.

Offbeat recommendations in “Cuba As Never Before” include La Marca tattoo parlor, Arte Corte Papito’s hair salon, and Promociones de ICAIC for original Cuban movie posters.


New Orleans is bringing back an unusual art installation and festival of lights called LUNA Fete that debuted last year.

The outdoor art-and-lights event uses historic buildings as a canvas for contemporary lighting, animation and interactive video. The event begins Nov. 29 and ends Dec. 5.

The undertaking is inspired by the Fete des Lumieres in Lyon, France, which attracts millions of visitors annually. The New Orleans project was one of three similar initiatives launched last year in the U.S., with the others in New York and Boston.

A work called “The Pool” by artist Jan Lewin, in which a pool of swirling circles of light and color changes as spectators interact with it, will be shown at Lafayette Square each night of the festival.

A second work by OCUBO, a Portugal-based studio, will use the facade of the Power House Theatre at 1847 Polymnia St. for the projection of a story featuring local children along with graphics and animation, also to be shown each night of the festival.

A third work will be presented Dec. 4-5 at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, where the artist Miwa Matreyek will present live performances integrating her shadow with animation of dreamlike scenes. That will be an indoor event with $10 tickets.

Local artists’ projects will also be shown throughout the week around those three sites and along Julia Street, New Orleans’ contemporary arts district.

The event is being produced by Arts Council New Orleans. Details at http://www.artsneworleans.org .


The Aloft hotel in Manhattan’s financial district has launched a new way to communicate with guests who need room service: by emoji.

The program is called Aloft TiGi for text it, get it.

The hotel sells six specialty kits, ranging from $10 to $30, which guests can order by texting the right emojis to a dedicated number along with their room number.

Kits include “The Re:Fresh,” with toothpaste, toothbrush, razor, shaving cream and deodorant, which can be ordered using emojis that include a tub and shower; “The Hangover,” two bottle of vitaminwater, Advil and two bananas, ordered with emojis for a drop of water, a pill and a banana; and “Surprise Me,” promising “fun swag” and “cool stuff,” ordered with an emoji of a wrapped box.

The hotel then confirms the order via text and delivers it to the room. Charges are included on the checkout bill.

Details at http://www.alofthotelshub.com/news/aloft-hotels-launches-worlds-first-emoji-only-room-service-menu/ . The hotel is located at 49-53 Ann St.

They believe: Bigfoot enthusiasts gather at retreat to swap stories

Bigfoot believers gathered over the weekend in western New York, convinced the legendary Sasquatch has left its footprints all over the region.

About 100 people sported buttons saying “I believe” and swapped stories at the fourth annual Chautauqua Lake Bigfoot Expo.

Organizer Peter Wiemer knows it may not be the first topic that comes to mind in the rural county, best known for the Chautauqua Institution, a summer retreat devoted to scholarly and artistic pursuits.

“You say Bigfoot in a room full of people and watch everyone stop and look to see who’s talking,” he said with a laugh.

And while he may have started the event as a way to draw people to the tourist-dependent region and his family’s rental cottages, he said he has since met dozens of people who are certain they’ve seen one of the ape-like creatures in the area, far from the oft-cited Pacific Northwest.

Wiemer is now enough of a devotee that he’s tried to get New York state to put Sasquatch on its list of endangered species, alongside the mud turtle, the golden eagle and the cougar.

The Department of Environmental Conservation isn’t convinced. Its 2012 response in part: “This mythical animal does not exist in nature or otherwise. … No program or action in relation to mythical animals is warranted.”

Don’t tell that to Julia Karanasky, who was afraid she had a peeping Tom when she became aware of a large figure clearing his throat outside her bedroom window on her second night in her Niagara Falls home in 2009. Then she heard the stories of regular Bigfoot sightings on the nearby Tuscarora Indian Reservation.

“I keep telling people, ‘I think he came to my house that night,”” said Karanasky, who sat in the front row for the expo’s lectures.

Speakers included Steve Kulls, an Adirondacks-based Sasquatch detective who debunks Bigfoot hoaxes while seeking out credible reports, and Ken Gerhard, a cryptozoologist in pursuit of evidence of mystery creatures including the Loch Ness Monster, the chupacabra and werewolves.

Dave Wargo said that years ago he smelled the pungent beast before he saw it standing on railroad tracks near the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania.

“People make fun of you,” said Wargo, who has appeared on Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” series. “But I know what I saw.”

Yeti, Sasquatch, Ape-Man, Bigfoot. No matter the name, sightings have been reported in virtually every state, with more than 100 listed in New York and more than 250 in neighboring Ohio. Washington state leads, with more than 600 reports, according to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Association.

Happy trails: More campers using state parks this year

New figures show a record number of campers visited Wisconsin state parks this year.

More than 159,000 campsites were used according to registrations by the state Department of Natural Resources through the first weekend of October. DNR section chief Chris Pedretti says that includes more than 388,000 nights of camping in state parks. The numbers beat previous records set in 2012.

The numbers don’t include the Columbus Day weekend when campers are enjoying the fall colors. The State Journal  says the numbers for registration and nights stayed include about 5,000 campsites in 54 state parks and southern forests. 

Experts say good weather and a weak economy fueled the rise in campers this year. 

Sunken treasure? | Lake Michigan shipwrecks could buoy local economies

Treasure lies at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

In some places, the treasure is found 10 feet under the blue-green water. Elsewhere, a diver needs to go deep into the cold, freshwater lake to find the historical riches.

Wisconsin’s sunken wealth is not in gold or silver, but in shipwrecks — schooners and tugs, barges and canallers, many of them built in the 19th century and once engaged in the economic expansion of the United States.

On Oct. 5, via a video message played at a conference in Chile, President Barack Obama declared his support for a new marine sanctuary to preserve and federally protect the integrity of many of these shipwrecks.

“This major announcement will protect and preserve some of Wisconsin’s most treasured places and boost our local tourism economy,” said U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin and a leading advocate of the sanctuary effort.

The Wisconsin sanctuary proposal and one for Maryland are under review, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration taking public comments into January 2016.

The Wisconsin sanctuary would encompass an 875-square mile area of Lake Michigan along the Wisconsin coastline from Port Washington to Two Rivers. The sanctuary — the southern boundary is about 27 miles north of Milwaukee — would include 80 miles of shoreline.

“The nominated area contains an extraordinary collection of 39 known shipwrecks, 15 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” said John Broihahn, state archeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison. WHS is dedicated to preserving historic shipwrecks and facilitating “responsible” diver access to the sites. It is at the forefront of the campaign to establish the sanctuary.

“This designation,” Broihahn said, “will allow us to focus on protecting these underwater museums, which are physical reminders of the men and women who made a living, and sometimes died, working on the lake.”


More than 1,000 shipwrecks are on the bottom of the Great Lakes. The wrecks serve as time capsules for historians and archeologists. Consider that everything on board a ship that sank in 1849 is from that year or earlier — tools, clothing, books, maps, charts, cargo.

The WHS says the proposed marine sanctuary contains “an extraordinary collection of submerged maritime heritage resources”:

• Wisconsin’s two oldest known shipwrecks.

• At least 14 intact shipwrecks.

• 15 shipwrecks on the National Register of Historic Places.

• At least three shipwrecks with standing masts — a Great Lakes rarity.

• The best-preserved shipwreck in the state. The steam tug Robert Pringle still “reportedly has nautical charts stowed in drawers in the wheelhouse,” according to the nomination papers.

The site also contains the palace steamer Niagara, which was carrying about 300 passengers, many of them immigrants arriving to settle in the Midwest. Sixty died when the ship caught fire and sank into the lake in 1856.

“A lot of people, their connection to the lake is the shore, the beaches and dunes. I really encourage people to look into what’s out there in the lake, in the water,” said Gary Kettle, a recreational diver from Milwaukee. “The history that’s out there. And the beauty. Some of the best diving in the country.”

The sanctuary site may contain as many as 84 other shipwrecks.

The site, said Broihahn, covers “a major shipping highway directly involved in the expansion of the United States.”

A sanctuary designation helping preserve these shipwrecks would have a ripple effect, bolstering conservation of the largest freshwater system in the world and expanding recreational, educational and tourism opportunities.

Overdue opportunity

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for national marine-protected areas totaling 170,000 square miles of water from Washington state to the Florida Keys. 

However, the government has not designated a national marine sanctuary since 2000 and only one sanctuary is in the Great Lakes — Thunder Bay in Lake Huron.

So it seemed a sink-or-swim proposition in October 2013, when Baldwin urged NOAA to re-open the public nomination process for the first time in 20 years.

“Having the vision and support of Sen. Baldwin throughout this process has been critical,” said Rolf Johnson, CEO of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc. “The senator understands how important this sanctuary could be to our economy and to opening up new educational opportunities for our citizens.”

In June 2014, the Obama administration announced marine sanctuary nominations would be considered.

And, in December 2014, Gov. Scott Walker submitted the “Lake Michigan — Wisconsin National Marine Sanctuary” nomination, prepared by the historical society and the state coastal management program with endorsements from historical societies, museums, tourism bureaus, environmental groups, chambers of commerce, universities, school districts, elected officials and also various recreational groups representing fishers, divers, yachters, kayakers and sailors.

The thick nomination package also included statements from some residents on the coast, such as Pat Wilborn of Port Washington, who encouraged a designation and boasted about his city’s churches and community groups, a diversity in liberal and conservative thinking and in general a good quality of life in a “nice place to live.”

“This is really a grassroots movement,” Broihahn said of the support.

Economic impact

News that NOAA was moving forward with the proposal thrilled many, but the most enthusiasm could be found in the coastal communities of Port Washington, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Two Rivers.

Greg Buckley, Two Rivers city manager, said, “Our community’s history is written on the water: The two rivers that reach their confluence at our harbor on Lake Michigan and the big lake itself, where our location on Rawley Point has made Two Rivers witness to many shipwrecks.”

Two Rivers and other communities on the mid-Lake Michigan coast have struggled with the loss of marine industry jobs, but have succeeded in reclaiming waterfronts for recreation, education and tourism. They’ve revitalized downtowns and invested in libraries, museums, trails and tourism initiatives.

Manitowoc boasts a federally recognized port, a maritime museum and is the docking site for the S.S. Badger carferry that crosses the lake to Ludington, Michigan.

Port Washington has a deep-water harbor, an award-winning lakeside park and the Port Exploreum, which focuses on maritime history.

Two Rivers is home to one of the last commercial fishing companies on Lake Michigan, as well as dive shops, the Great Lakes Coast Guard Museum and the Rogers Street Fishing Village. Visitors to any of these locations can expect to hear about the Rouse Simmons, aka the “Christmas Tree Ship,” a three-masted schooner that disappeared in a wintery gale in November 1912. 

“As a community pursuing redevelopment that will turn our face back to the water, we see the establishment of the national marine sanctuary as a huge asset, in terms of drawing visitors to our area and increasing public appreciation for our marine resources,” Buckley said.

Collecting comments

NOAA now is asking for public input on the proposed Wisconsin-Lake Michigan National Marine Sanctuary.

Public meetings are Nov. 17 at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, Nov. 18 at the Wilson House in Port Washington and Nov. 19 at the University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan.

NOAA also is collecting comments online at www.regulations.gov through Jan. 15. The docket number for the project is NOAA-NOS-2015-0112.

Mail comments to Ellen Brody, Great Lakes Regional Coordinator, ONMS Northeast and Great Lakes Region, 4840 S. State Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48108

Did you know?

About 22 percent of Wisconsin is under water. The state’s lakes and rivers contain thousands of archeological sites, including shipwrecks, the remains of trading posts, lumber mills, quarries and other structures. Source: wisconsinshipwrecks.org

Renovation modernizes South Dakota Corn Palace

The Corn Palace has been steeped in agricultural tradition since 1892, so when the caretakers of one of South Dakota’s most popular tourist attractions decided it was due for some maintenance, they also decided to gently nudge it into the 21st century.

Gone are the fiberglass green-and-yellow onion domes, replaced by airy steel versions. A new marquee, larger corn murals and a walk-out balcony have been added outside. And in perhaps the most modern touch of a $4 million renovation, the palace’s night face now features LED lighting that plays dramatically across the building.

“It needed a facelift,” said Katie Knutson, director of the Mitchell Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It needed something to draw a different crowd.”

The Corn Palace, which also features an arena to host concerts and high school and college basketball games, draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Knutson and others are hoping the new look will attract a new generation of tourists — and bring back previous visitors interested in seeing what’s changed.

The redesign hasn’t pleased everyone in Mitchell, a town of about 15,000.

Catina Kost, a Mitchell native who owns a consignment shop on Main Street, said some people think the “Las-Vegasy” look is too much of a change. She said some of the negativity may have come from the months-long delay between the old domes’ removal and the new domes going into place.

“There are so many people dissing it and being disrespectful about it when you read about it online,” said Kost, who said she likes it.

“I just try to be supportive,” she said, adding: “It’s our monument in town.”

The first Corn Palace was built in 1892 so settlers could display the fruits of their harvest. Almost every year since, artists have created colorful new murals on the outside walls using corn of different varieties and color, a fall tradition that costs about $150,000 a year. The building’s annual makeover begins each May when crews start tearing down the rye and sour dock that surround the murals. Workers dismantle the previous year’s corn murals in late August or early September.

Local artist Cherie Ramsdell then creates paintings to be enlarged and projected onto full-size black tar paper, so her designs can be outlined in a “corn-by-numbers” pattern. A crew of decorators follows her directions on where to nail each half-split cob.

Diane Bollinger, a recent first-time visitor to the Corn Palace, raved about it as she posed for a picture alongside her husband, Allen, and daughter, Lauren. The Bollingers were making a cross-country road trip to Seattle from Charlotte, North Carolina, and their first planned South Dakota stop had been the Badlands. Repeated texts from her friend in Charlotte, Francis Schonder, convinced the trio to pull off at the Mitchell exit.

“I’m so glad we did,” Bollinger said. “Have you ever seen anything like this?”

Matt Morrison, who moved to town recently from Sioux Falls to become lead pastor of Fusion Church, acknowledged that he doesn’t have the attachment to the Corn Palace that a Mitchell native might have. But he said he likes the updated look.

“The options for lighting at night definitely give it an element that it didn’t have before that I really like,” Morrison said.

New England port lore: Whaling, pizza and a perfect storm

New England’s ports are reinventing themselves to compete with one another and from larger ones, but they were once legendary. From one of the world’s great whaling ports to the Navy’s first submarine base and the city featured in “The Perfect Storm,” here is a look at their lore:


One of the world’s great whaling ports of the 19th century, New Bedford, Massachusetts, became wealthy as its whaling fleet grew. The New Bedford fleet reached its peak in 1857, with 329 vessels employing more than 10,000 men, according to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The inspirational story of whalers attaining the American dream shaped the city and surrounding region, said James Russell, the museum’s president.

After petroleum was discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859, sperm whale oil was no longer in great demand for lighting. Confederate cruisers destroyed Yankee whalers during the Civil War. Many remaining whaling merchants moved to San Francisco to get to the western Arctic faster, since they could send their products east using the new transcontinental railroad.


Groton, Connecticut, is known as the “Submarine Capital of the World.”

In 1916, a naval yard and storage depot along the Thames River became the Navy’s first submarine base. It grew exponentially during World Wars I and II. The base was home to the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, which was launched in 1954. It’s now proudly displayed at the Submarine Force Museum next to the installation.

Almost every submariner is stationed at the base for training at least once, and the nation’s newest fast-attack submarines can regularly be seen gliding along the Thames. They’re built just 4 miles down the road at General Dynamics Electric Boat.


Gloucester, Massachusetts, was one of the earliest fishing ports in the country, if not the first, according to the Cape Ann Museum. A group of Englishmen, attracted by the deep waters and abundance of codfish, landed there in 1623 to fish and establish a settlement.

The city remained a fishing center as immigrants from Nova Scotia, Portugal and Sicily came to fish, but the industry declined through most of the 20th century because of overfishing and new regulations, the museum said.

In 1991, what became known as “The Perfect Storm” formed hundreds of miles east of Nova Scotia. Six crew members of the Andrea Gail, a sword-fishing boat from Gloucester, were lost at sea. Their story became the basis of a book that was turned into a blockbuster movie _ and a part of the American lexicon.


One of Colonial America’s leading seaports, Newport became part of the infamous triangular trade.

Rum from Massachusetts and Rhode Island was shipped to Africa to be traded for slaves, who were taken to the West Indies to be traded for sugar and molasses. Some slaves were taken back to New England, along with the sugar and molasses to make rum.

Many Newport families owned slaves, and the city’s harbor teemed with trading ships, according to the Newport Historical Society.

The picturesque city later reinvented itself as a summer resort, attracting artists, writers and scientists, the historical society said. During the Gilded Age, elite families like the Vanderbilts built the mansions for which the city is now known, along with musical festivals and sailing.


Enslaved Africans aboard a Spanish ship, the Amistad, revolted in 1839, seizing it and sailing up the East Coast. The U.S. Navy captured the ship and forced it to dock in New London, Connecticut.

The slaves were jailed in New Haven, Connecticut, and began a long legal fight to win their freedom. Former President John Quincy Adams defended them, arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that they were free people who acted in self-defense.

He won the case, and they were freed.

Steven Spielberg depicted the famous rebellion in a 1997 movie, “Amistad.” A replica of the ship now serves as a symbol of America’s early anti-slavery movement.

The ship is spending this summer docked in New London, Connecticut.


The port of Mystic is known for a pizza parlor that helped launch Julia Roberts’ career.

After a few low-budget films, Roberts auditioned for “Mystic Pizza” and landed the role of a teenage waitress in Mystic, Connecticut. Screenwriter Amy Jones was inspired to write the story about life in a New England port community and the romantic misadventures of three waitresses while she was vacationing in the area.

Released in 1988, the movie became a cult classic. Roberts told The Associated Press in 1990, “None of us on that movie had really done very much. It was a chance to show somebody something.”

“Mystic Pizza” helped transform Mystic into a tourist destination. Roberts immediately went on to star in “Steel Magnolias,” then the smash success “Pretty Woman.” The rest is history.


Maine has a rich maritime history.

Dockworkers, or longshoremen, have labored on the waterfront in Portland for more than 150 years. In Bath, shipbuilding has been a way of life since 1762, when the sailing ship Earl of Bute was launched, and the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard is located there now, according to the company.

Navy ships have been overhauled in Kittery, Maine, just across the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, since 1800, when the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was established as a public shipyard.

Kenosha HarborMarket benefits consumers and entrepreneurs alike

At times, there are more than 10,000 people walking through Kenosha’s HarborMarket, listening to musicians, sampling food and purchasing arts and crafts from some 200 vendors under tents. It’s no grocery store.

And that’s nice. As someone who has been to the market many times, I guarantee you can count on a great experience. You can buy asparagus bundles for just a buck. Get organic honey fresh from the hive. Buy a variety of food dips and chips. Acquire hand-pressed soap. Meet friends or make new ones. Even haggle over prices.

And with no political, religious, or point-of-view booths there, the HarborMarket can make life a bit more pleasant for five hours on a Saturday.

“The market is modeled after a European-style market,” says chairperson Ray Fiorgianni. “There are no vehicles and thus a much more vibrant atmosphere than guys selling produce off the back of a truck,”

Fiorgianni’s been with HarborMarket since its inception in 2001: “It began as a city project with 18 vendors and by the season’s end it was 36.”

He says the market continues to attract new vendors, growing 10-20 percent each year.

Fiorgianni sees the HarborMarket as a boon not only for consumers, but for vendors and their employees. “We’re producers and employers who create jobs, and we think the HarborMarket is a pretty powerful tool,” he says. “It’s essentially a job factory.”

One attraction is the low fees for vendors. If you are in the agricultural business, sell processed foods (cookies, for example,) or are a self-crafting artist, the fee is just $40, with discounts available for seasonal spaces. Nonprofits get an even better deal. Fiorgianni says the market waives their fee. The only real start-up costs are products, market materials and a white pop-up tent, along with an employee or two.

The low barrier to entry means the HarborMarket is often a test site for businesses. Without having to buy or rent a location, entrepreneurs can take a chance without losing a lot of money if an idea falls flat.

But HarborMarket has had many success stories over the years. Ice cream parlor and candy store Sandy Poppers went from a tent to a storefront, as did Ambrosia Juice Company and Ellie Mae’s Canning & Pies. Other vendors, like Pinn-Oak Ridge Farms and WisConian Delectables, now distribute goods throughout Kenosha County. And Fiorgianni doesn’t think they’ll be the last to expand. “I can see some of our vendors now that could be in restaurants or supplying grocery stores.”

Expansion plans are underway. Fiorgianni’s organization has opened another outdoor market called WestoshaMarket along Highway 50 in Bristol, at the former site of Farmer Brown’s Nursery and the Haunted Barn. And a feasibility study is in the works to take the market indoors, by building a permanent structure. 

KenoshaMarket hours are Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The market is on Second Avenue between 54th and 56th streets behind the Kenosha Public Museum and the Civil War Museum. The WestoshaMarket is open Wednesday 3-7:30 p.m. through Aug. 26. From October to May, the KenoshaMarket moves to the Rhode Center for the Arts, 514 56th St. Visit kenoshaharbormarketplace.com or westoshamarket.com for more details and maps.

Wisconsin farmers turning fields into temporary pizza parties

As the farm-to-table movement connects more consumers with local farmers, some farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota are shortening the distance between the plow and the plate. They’re inviting customers over for pizza.

On Wednesday nights when the weather is nice, Pat and Tammy Winter serve well over 200 pizzas to guests at their Red Barn Farm near Northfield, about an hour south of Minneapolis. Customers make a picnic out of it, setting up chairs and tables outside the 101-year-old barn and packing in soda, beer and wine. Children chase the chickens and pet the horses while their families wait for pizzas to emerge from wood-fired ovens.

While pizza farms have sprouted across the country as agritourism grows, they’re particularly popular in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where they provide small farms with extra income and city dwellers with opportunities to get in touch with their food sources. Farmers and diners alike appreciate that the pizza toppings often were grown or produced on site.

Most farms keep things simple by requiring guests to bring their own napkins, plates and utensils and to take their garbage home. They may offer limited, if any, beverages. But this isn’t about fine dining; it’s about a dining experience and one that often boasts an unbeatable pastoral setting.

“It’s fun to get people back out to the country,” says Pat Winter.

For small farmers with an entrepreneurial spirit, diversification is a useful strategy for growing their businesses, says Greg Schweser, an expert on sustainable local food systems with the University of Minnesota Extension. Diversification can mean agritourism, such as selling pizza or hosting visitors for overnight farm stays, Schweser says. Farm wineries already do a lot of those sorts of things, he notes. And farms that have to add commercial kitchens to comply with regulations also can use them to produce products — such as jams and baked goods — they can sell in the off-season, he said.

“Direct sales to consumers, that’s the best way to capture the most value for the dollar,” Schweser says. “There’s no middleman. There’s no wholesalers. That’s how small farmers are making it.”

Terra Carey and Kara Denney of Minneapolis recently dined at Red Barn Farm. They had eaten at other pizza farms and knew the drill. They spread a blanket next to the vegetable garden, opened a bottle of rose wine, and spent time relaxing before savoring their pizzas — one with olives, tomato and fresh basil, another with locally-made sausage and the Winters’ own sauerkraut.

“It tastes like a hot dog in pizza form,” Carey says.

The Winters say they weren’t looking to get into the pizza business when they bought the 10-acre farm about seven years ago. It found them. 

He had worked in real estate until the market tanked. She was a baker, and they thought it would be fun to build a brick oven and make pizza. At first they served only family and friends, but it took off. They also turned their barn into a venue for weddings and receptions, events that they cater and that have become their main business. Their little general store sells their salsas and breads, as well as eggs from their 60 hens.

Running a pizza farm isn’t all idyllic. It takes a lot of hard work and the tenacity to overcome regulatory headaches. While the Winters were able to make the necessary investments, regulations led Dave and Mary Falk of LoveTree Farmstead Cheese near Grantsburg, Wisconsin, to scale back Pizza by the Pond.

The Falks use a sourdough fermented for three days, topped with artisanal cheeses from their sheep and cows and seasonal Northwoods delicacies such as fiddleheads and wild ramps. But Mary Falk said they’re able to open to the public this summer for only three weekend days plus three holidays because of tangles with inspectors. Otherwise they’re limited to private parties. To get in, it helps to get accepted into their private Facebook group.

“We’re pretty bizarre. We warn them — Ma and Pa Kettle revisited,” she said. “We’re not manicured. It’s pretty rustic.”

A pioneering pizza farm is A to Z Produce and Bakery near Stockholm, Wisconsin, where Robbin Bannen and Ted Fisher open only Tuesdays and spend the rest of the week farming. They’ve been making pizza for 17 years. Bannen said they never intended it to become such a phenomenon. She worries they’re already exposed enough. She wants to protect the experience for existing customers, and keep their workload manageable.

“We do this because we love it,” she said. “We don’t do this because we want to get rich and we don’t do this because we have grandiose ideas of what a farm is.”

Pizza nights on a farm offer a fun, festive atmosphere that can help consumers put a face on their food and generate customer loyalty for a farm’s other products, said Andrew Bernhardt, a community food systems specialist with University of Wisconsin Extension.

“They’re selling an experience by letting people come to their farm, and I think there are a lot of people out there hungry for this experience,” he said.

Selected pizza farms

A to Z Produce and Bakery

Tuesdays 4:30 to 8 p.m.

N2956 Anker Lane, Stockholm


Borner Farm Project

Alternate Fridays through Oct. 30

1266 Walnut St., Prescott


LoveTree Farmstead

Sundays 2 to 8 p.m.

12413 County Road Z, Grantsburg


Red Barn Farm of Northfield

Wednesdays through Oct. 28

10063 110th St. E, Northfield, Minnesota


The Stone Barn

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 5 to 9 p.m.

S685 County Road KK, Nelson


Stoney Acres Farm

Fridays 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. through Oct. 31

7002 Rangeline Road, Athens


Suncrest Gardens Farm

Thursdays and Fridays 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. through August, Fridays in September

S2257 Yaeger Valley Road, Cochrane