“It’s the holidays,” the Buffalo County man told me. “It’s time to enjoy all we have here.” This farmer will be joining many others who take time to travel the Great River Road during the Holiday Season.
Communities along the Mississippi River are rolling out the welcome mat for holiday travelers. They want you to come and enjoy the season in the snow covered hills and historical river towns.
This month’s Midwest Living features a story about Christmas along the river. Writer Jeff Hoffert and photographer John Noltner explore Minnesota and Wisconsin towns along more than 100 miles of the river.
Alma, Pepin, Stockholm, Maiden Rock and Fountain City are mentioned in the magazine’s review of great places. But the article just touches the tip of what the Coulee and Chippewa Valley communities offer visitors. Many of the seasonal festivities begin Saturday and Sunday December 6th and 7th.
Your Wisconsin River trip begins at Prescott. The Friends of Freedom Park host the Holiday Bazaar at the Great River Road Visitors and Learning Center. The breathtakingly beautiful park is located high above the St. Croix River. Local artists date their tradition back to the 1930s with the founding of the Prescott Little Colony Art Group. Many artists and craftspeople will show and sell their art including the current artists of the Little Colony.
A little way down river, the Old Fashioned Christmas celebration in Maiden Rock offers carriage rides, food and good cheer. Demonstrations and workshops on knitting and textile crafts and a free ornament making workshop for children are just a few of the opportunities. Travel further down the road to the famous little village of Stockholm where Santa roams and fresh holiday pies are baking. Your horse drawn wagon awaits and around every corner fresh local food, art, crafts and other treasurers abound.
A few miles south, St. Nick hosts the Pepin’s Home Town Holiday. There are church bazaars, wagon rides and a cookie walk that will sell out by noon. Up the road, Wisconsin celebrates in Durand and Downsville at the galleries of Jean Accola and John Thomas.
In Alma you can tour historic homes and buildings decked out for the holidays, visit more than a dozen galleries and shops, a medieval museum and view the eagles while surrounded by warmth and art at Wings Over Alma.
The Christmas joy continues down river in Fountain City at what is boasted to be the largest Holiday Craft Fair in the area and The Taste of an Irish Christmas at the Monarch – the longest serving pub in Wisconsin.
Though not part of the 100 miles of Christmas, many other communities gather for their traditional holiday celebrations. Parade goers will bundle up and enjoy festivities in Trempealeau, Whitehall and Menomonie. Black River Falls and Eau Claire celebrate the delight and charm of holiday season this weekend with Old World Traditions in Black River Falls and sleigh rides, tree lighting and caroling along the confluence of the Chippewa and the Eau Claire Rivers in beautiful Eau Claire.
Opportunities to enjoy holiday music and festive theatre productions abound in Eau Claire, Stockholm and at the Old Main in Galesville. And you can take time to relax from the holiday bustle at one of the fantastic wineries in our area. They will offer wine tastings and special treats throughout the month of December.
Listed below is a small sampling of local events. Check area newspapers and local media outlets for other holiday events and festivals. Businesses and communities can post events and travelers can contact locals for more details at http://100milesofchristmas.org
Alma Christmas House Walk (2:30pm-7:30pm)
Whitehall Festival of Trees Parade
Pepin Hometown Holidays (also December 6 and 7)
Black River Falls Christkindl Festival (also December 6)
Whitehall Santa Day and Craft Fair
Stockholm Country Christmas (10am-6pm)
Maiden Rock Old Fashioned Christmas
Prescott Holiday Bazaar at Freedom Park
Eau Claire Christmastime in the City (12:00 – 5:00pm)
Fountain City Holiday Craft Fair (9am-4pm) and Taste of Irish Christmas
Trempealeau Holiday Parade
December 6 – 13:
Wisconsin Celebrates in Durand and Downsville (10am-5pm)
Menomonie Winterdaze Parade