Small town, big dreams.








When dollars or other resources are tight we choose our priorities.

As individuals, as families, and communities, and as governments. Sometimes that means that families prioritize food over music lessons, or schools cut art programs and prioritize math.

I get it. There is only so far we can stretch.

But what is the cost of removing art and music from our lives?

These are things that give meaning to our existence.

As a child I don't know how I would have fared the left-brained reality of school without the right-brained work of creating. I wore a back brace (like this one – think Sixteen Candles) all through high school. Which, arguably, sucked.

But art? Art fulfilled me and made me feel "normal" in some way. It was an outlet for the feelings of not fitting in and for being different. Which I think all of us need – even as adults – for our own varied reasons.

I stayed after school several times a week for art club, Art Honor Society, and just to muck about in the clay and paints. It made me whole. It made the hard bearable, and gave me a different perspective on my life and the world.

I wasn't the "girl with the brace" at that moment. I was just Me. Creating.

And even now, I turn to art to complete me. Photography, sewing, painting, drawing. They calm my mind and fill my heart. It is my meditation.


But back to Viroqua.

Viroqua is a small town. A seriously small town. At 4,500 people "art mecca" comes to mind for very few. And yet, in some way we are a creative nucleus out here in the countryside.

Viroqua is home to world class musicians, performers, dancers, woodblock carvers, illustrators, and fiber artists. It is astounding to see the talent that surrounds us here.

Viroqua is also the second poorest county in Wisconsin. So the dollars to fund inspiring art is limited.

The past two years Viroqua has been home to the Viroqua Harvest Moon Celebration. I've shared my story from the first two parades (and those links are worth reading to get a good feel for this amazing community and it's parade). And tonight Pete and the kids are off to help make puppets for this year's parade.

The parade is taking things up a notch this year, hiring a staff, (remember the singing banana dad from the breastmilk story? Yup. He's one.) and paying some artists actual dollars for their work and energy. Which makes sense. (We pay the roofer, why not the musician?) And because of the size of our little community we're casting a broader net to raise the money to make this happen.

You can take a peek into Viroqua and our creative work (and we'd be so grateful if you'd kick in a few dollars) by checking out the Kickstarter campaign we have going. My wedding dress even makes a cameo under the spinning rainclouds.

This is my town, these are my friends, and this parade means so much to us.

You're all invited to our parade on October 13 (How fun it would be to meet some more of you!) and where ever you are, you're also invited to help make it happen by donating through Kickstarter. To contribute, click here and then click the green button. It only takes a few minutes, and you pay nothing if the project is not fully funded.

Thanks, friends.


9 thoughts on “Small town, big dreams.

  1. The Dutch Girl says:

    It reminds me a little of Olympia WA’s Art Walk, although that is a much bigger city.

    I was all set to put it on the calender when I decided to check how far Viroqua is from Wausaukee. It’s a 5 hour and 13 minute drive. One way. A little much for one day. Maybe next year, we can plan a weekend trip. Have fun!


  2. denise says:

    Rachel, Thank you so much for sharing our story and your beautiful images from last year’s parade. Our core creative team meets in the studio tonight for the first time to get the ball rolling on creating this year’s giant puppets. Very exciting!!

  3. jen says:

    Just shared your beautiful pics with friends and family near and far.
    We are so excited to again be a part of this amazing event.
    How lucky to have such talented and spirited artists in our community.

  4. sarah says:

    rachel, this is very tempting. we sometimes drive between northern IL and southern MN, and i’ve wanted to stop in viroqua, but the time constraints haven’t yet made it an easy choice. this would be an excellent reason to come. especially if there’s an organic apple orchard near viroqua or towards madison. i’ve checked Local Harvest, but don’t seem to mesh with its search mechanism very well. i will keep looking, but thought i’d ask to see if you know one in the area. i know it’s been a rough year for apples, but maybe that’s only been in MI and not in upper WI. i can hope, at any rate. we’d love to u-pick and especially to combine it with a harvest parade trip. any suggestions for lodging/camping in viroqua while you’re at it? many thanks, as always!

  5. plumbing says:

    There are parade that I saw but this one I think is unique. This looks full of fun and everyone is obviously enjoy with the occasion. The success of this kind of parade is from the people who participates.

  6. kimberly says:

    I am amazed at all the artisans in our little town of less than 1000. It’s a dirt poor town for sure, but there is a lot of talent. It’s neat to see how we can support one another.
    Thanks for sharing your story! I love that.

  7. Julie says:

    Sarah, there is an organic orchard about 25 min south of Viroqua called Turkey Ridge its out side of Gays Mills. I’m not sure if they do you pick, but I would encourage you to look them up and give a call. there are lots of parks in the area that allow camping including Sidee (sp?) Hollow, and the county fair grounds in town. Also a little farther away for a more adventurous camping is the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. A beautiful place to hike and camp. And there is always the Vernon Inn or Viroqua B&B. I do hope you come this way either for the parade or another weekend just to enjoy our lovely town. Cheers

Leave a Reply