The Driftless Area is called home by literally hundreds of artists and artisans, who find inspiration in its beauty and a peaceful place in which to work. There are those who work in visual arts, in paint or pastel, in clay or glass, in wood or metal, with a camera or even a computer. There are poets, authors, actors, and storytellers. There are those who make artisanal breads and cheeses, honey and maple syrup, brews and wines, and marvelous local foods.
Finding them is often a treat in itself.
On Main Street in Viroqua, stop in a local artist cooperative to find a cornucopia of local art offerings—oil and watercolor paintings, etchings, stained and blown glass, ceramics, and jewelry in varied styles. Wander into the public market next door for more art offerings interspersed with antiques and other goods, and the irresistible aroma of bread from the artisanal bakery at the rear of the market. Further down the street is an independent bookseller featuring works of local authors.
Head to Prairie du Chien, and marvel at the Mississippi River Sculpture Park, where life-size bronze figures from the pages of history and prehistory gather together near the central fire circle as if meeting for a present day rendezvous. Visit the county administration building, where galleries are being established to celebrate the artists of Crawford County.
On the third weekend in September, the Driftless Area Art Festival is held along the banks of the Kickapoo in Soldiers Grove. Distinguished by its mission to showcase only regional artists, the popular festival features over 80 visual arts exhibitors, live music and performances, and great local foods.
If it’s music you’re after, the Gospel and Blue Grass Festival held mid-July at the Vernon County Fairgrounds is one of the best. Larryfest, held near La Farge in mid-August is a must-see for folk, blue grass, and old-time music, and you can get laid-back at the Prairie Dog Blues Festival on St. Feriole Island in Prairie du Chien.
Viroqua’s restored theater is the home to a series of performances each year, from concerts to plays. An “underground” cabaret is a great place to catch improv performances and two times a year, productions by the area’s Too Busy to Play Players. And now, we’ve even got our own radio station—Radio Driftless.
Farmers markets are a perfect way to experience the region’s bounty. Every Saturday morning from May to October, the Viroqua Farmers Market takes place in front of Wisconsin Technical College on Main Street. Here you’ll find an abundance of locally-grown, often organic produce; homemade jams, jellies, and chutneys; maple syrup and honey; Amish-made baskets and furniture; and local crafts. A new farmers market in Gays Mills takes place on Thursdays from 4:30-7:00.