Rave On Productions is holding open auditions for the roles of Ritchie Valens and Maria Elena in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. These are paid performance opportunities. This production will tour to three different outdoor venues in Nebraska and Iowa. All other roles have been cast.
Auditions will be held on Saturday, May 15 at Rave On Production Studios located at 8719 Countryside Plaza in Omaha, NE from 2pm-5pm by appointment only. Auditions can be scheduled by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
All actors in this production (with the exception of the actors cast as Buddy, Joe and Jerry) will play a primary character, in addition to other ensemble characters.
Those auditioning should be prepared to sing 16 bars of an early rock n’ roll song, or a song from a musical. Please bring your sheet music to the audition – an accompanist will be provided. If you wish to accompany yourself, please bring your instrument with you. (There will be an electric keyboard in the studio.) If you have a performance resume, please bring it with you (though it is not required).
Due to Covid-19 protocols that are still in place, masks are required upon entering the studio. Singers will be behind a plexi shield and can sing with masks off.
Ritchie Valens / Ensemble – (male or gender non-conforming) A rock n’ roll singer / musician with serious charisma, a dedicated eye for the ladies and the ability to hold the stage in his own right. His featured song is “La Bamba”. Actor must be able to act and sing – ability to play an instrument or dance is a plus. Ethnicity: Latino / Hispanic heritage.
María Elena Holly / Ensemble – (female or gender non-conforming) Receptionist for a music publisher, classy and well-educated, she eventually becomes Buddy’s wife. Actor must be able to act and sing – ability to play an instrument or dance is a plus. Ethnicity: Latina / Hispanic heritage.
Co-Directors: Billy McGuigan and Kimberly Faith Hickman Co-Music Directors: Billy McGuigan and Matthew McGuigan
Rehearsals begin July 12, 2021 in Omaha, Nebraska. Performance dates and venues are as follows: July 30 at 7:30pm at SumTur Amphitheater in Papillion, NE July 31 at 7:30pm at Soaring Wings Vineyard in Springfield, NE August 1 at 7:00pm at Davies Amphitheater in Glenwood IA
I was looking forward to this outing even more than normal. After getting fully vaccinated, I was ready to experience the most normal adventure I had enjoyed since the pandemic began and I wasn’t let down.
I started the journey by taking the scenic route through Fort Dodge where I enjoyed a quick bite to eat at Taco Tico before continuing my drive to my stopping point of Northwood, IA. Cashing in some points, I enjoyed a free night at the Holiday Inn where I was also upgraded to a suite which was much appreciated after a long day of work and driving. After a full night of uninterrupted sleep, I spent the morning puttering around before hitting the road again at 11:30am.
It was a gray day with sporadic, steady rainfall, but it didn’t dampen my spirits and I found myself in the North Shore town of Duluth and A.G. Thomson Bed & Breakfast, owned by Tim and Angie Allen, before I knew it.
I admit to being wowed when I pulled into the mansion’s parking lot. A.G. Thomson is a 1909 Dutch Colonial mansion, but looks absolutely pristine and brand new both inside and out. This property is so meticulously maintained that shoes are left on shelves at the front door.
The inn is absolutely immaculate and has loads of room to spread out with a massive living room, dining room and side porch. Wine is also sold by the bottle and a room under the staircase contains a refrigerator with water, soft drinks and wine (one complimentary glass per guest) along with a variety of snacks and a large DVD library.
The house had been built for William Ryerson for the sum of $17,000 (roughly $492K today) and passed through the hands of a number of prominent Duluth families. The name of the house comes from its second owner, Adam G. Thomson, who had a two story addition added to the rear, built the two story carriage house with a four room dwelling on the upper floor and a tool house.
My room was the Mayor’s Chamber, named for John Fedo who owned the house from 1986 to 1989. Fedo had been the mayor of Duluth and was one of the city’s most controversial figures. He is credited with the renaissance of Duluth’s lakefront, but was also the only mayor in history to be charged and tried for criminal offenses while in office though he was eventually acquitted.
The room contains the same elegance as found in the rest of the house. A queen-sized bed takes up a corner of the room. A tiled gas fireplace is set into one of the walls while the opposite side contains a 2 person whirlpool tub. The floral wallpaper lends brightness to the room and a leather chair and footstool takes up the center of the room where one can watch the TV set on the wall in comfort.
After getting myself set up, I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. A.G. Thomson is located in the Congdon district AKA the Mansion district. The area practically shouted wealth as I wandered past the million dollar homes while occasionally communing with nature. Deer were plentiful and let me get within a few feet for photos before bounding away. I enjoyed a phone conversation with my best friend, Josh, but eventually called it quits as the late afternoon was becoming a real pea souper and I didn’t need to literally get lost in a fog.
Even without a full vaccination, I would have felt safe visiting this town as Duluth set the bar for social distancing with protocols set in place for local businesses and a strict mask mandate. At Sara’s Table is certainly no exception as seating is set six feet apart.
The bistro reimagines traditional American food and it is quite tasty. I was seated in the library and it does have books you can read. For my dinner I enjoyed a hearty Rachel with fries and tried a cream ale with has the smoothness of a black beer, but lacks the bitterness. After my fine meal, I returned to the inn where I organized photos and took a long whirlpool bath before collapsing on the softest mattress I have ever lay upon and didn’t crack an eye until morning.
At breakfast I met Chris and Jessie Peterson and enjoyed some conversation with them while enjoying a repast of chocolate chip muffin, warm butternut squash soup, herb and black pepper scrambled eggs, sweet potato mash and French Toast with a blueberry compote. A truly fine and filling meal which gave me the energy I needed to visit Glensheen.
Glensheen was the home of Chester and Clara Congdon and their family. Chester was a lawyer and investor who was one of the first millionaires of Duluth. He had Glensheen built on a 22 acre tract of land located by Lake Superior for the princely sum of $854,000 in 1908 (modern day equivalent of $22 million). The Jacobean style mansion contains a jaw dropping 39 rooms and the property also contains a boathouse, gardener’s cottage, carriage house, tennis court and a stone arch bridge built over Bent Creek.
In 1968, the property was given to the University of Minnesota-Duluth by Elisabeth Congdon through a life estate and it continues to run the property to this day. Tragically, Elisabeth Congdon’s life was cut short when she was killed by her son-in-law, Roger Caldwell. It was theorized that the crime was committed so Elisabeth’s daughter, Marjorie (charged with & acquitted of the murder), could obtain her $8 million inheritance of which he was to receive $2.5 million. Caldwell would end up accepting a plea deal for second degree murder, but recanted his guilt in his suicide note. He never received the money.
I was quite fortunate to get a last blast of Christmas as Glensheen was still decorated for the Christmas season. Twenty-five Christmas trees and a plethora of decorations adorned the mansion. For social distancing purposes, the tours are self-guided, but placards containing the tour information are present at every stop and an audio tour can be had courtesy of the Glensheen app.
The mansion has been lovingly maintained and I was floored by the luxury in which the family lived.
The Congdons were also noted for their charity and generosity. Most notable was that the servants were permitted to enjoy the same menu as that of the family at meal times which was not the tradition of the day. Chester was also known as a dutiful and loving husband who kept a spare room that he could retire to on nights he worked late so he wouldn’t disturb his wife and gifting her with $14K worth of pearls each Christmas.
All in all, I spent 2 hours at Glensheen before returning to the inn to post photos and begin writing.
For the first time since the pandemic started, I would finally attend worship services instead of taking in an online service. A six minute walk took me to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary. The chapel is gorgeous and I enjoyed a pleasant service.
Then it was time for a little dinner and I opted for one of the inn’s favorite restaurants, Tavern On the Hill.
Tavern On the Hill is a bar/restaurant and must be quite popular as it was packed to socially distant capacity. I ended up taking a seat at the bar where I enjoyed a Thai Chicken Tender Melt. The sandwich is served on sourdough bread with the chicken glazed in a Thai curry sauce and covered with swiss cheese and bacon. I contentedly nibbled away on the sandwich while reading my latest volume of Sherlock Holmes pastiches. Once satiated, I returned to the inn for a quiet night of writing, reading and another whirlpool bath.
Sunday morning found me polishing this article a bit before making my way to breakfast. Today’s repast consisted of a dark chocolate raspberry scone with fruit plate and a main course of spinach artichoke baked potato, grape arugula salad and mushroom & asparagus cheese encrusted quiche. I spent a bit conversing with Chris & Jessie who told me about their day and I spoke a bit with Kirsten, the innkeeper, who regaled me with a story of how she and a friend traveled from Alaska to Duluth. I also got to meet with Tim, one of the owners, who had once lived in Omaha when he was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base.
And all too soon, it was over. But I had an amazing time here in Duluth and it was a much appreciated return to normalcy. Rest assured, I will be back in the area again, possibly for my annual Christmas review. But take the time to experience the peace and tranquility of Duluth and enjoy a night or two at A.G. Thomson House. As an ornament says at the second floor, you’ll enter as a stranger, but leave as a friend and you’ll enjoy some world class dining and luxury.
It was almost exactly a year ago that I enjoyed my last normal B & B run when I visited Astor House of Green Bay, WI. So it seems apropos that my most normal run since the start of the pandemic would also take place in Wisconsin. My destination for this journey would be Christmas House Bed & Breakfast owned and operated by Pamela Deskins.
The trip couldn’t have started out any better. The weather was absolutely perfect and I managed to dodge the rush hours of both Omaha, NE and Des Moines, IA. I got to enjoy a meal at my favorite hole in the wall, Iowa’s Best Burger Café, listened as the Iowa Hawkeyes delivered an absolute drubbing to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in basketball and arrived early at my first stop, Davenport, IA.
I had booked a junior suite at the Holiday Inn & Suites, but I didn’t know how good of a room it was going to be.
This was a very elegant Holiday Inn. I’d put it at 4 stars. Thanks to digital check-in, I was able to check-in the day before and merely had to pick up my key at the front desk. My room was on the top floor where I had a good view of the city and, while I’m not positive, I think I might have been upgraded to a full suite as I had a spacious living room, bathroom with a double sized shower and a separate bedroom with a king-sized bed.
I had a good rest that night.
I decided to eat in the hotel restaurant, the J Bar, for breakfast. Even had my diet not been limited by Lent, the breakfast buffet still would have been overpriced at $10 as it only consisted of a few items. I had some scrambled eggs, fried potatoes and a granola bar. The server did bring me a wonderful green salsa that added the perfect kick to the eggs and potatoes and the orange juice was mighty smooth.
At 11:15am I checked out, gassed up and continued the jaunt to Racine. My journey took me on the toll road that has taken me to Algonquin, IL on several occasions, but I was surprised to learn that all of the toll booths were closed. To pay, you need to go to the Illinois Tollway website and register your plate. Then the Tollway will eventually charge your credit or debit card.
Around the 2pm hour, I got off the interstate and started passing through small towns. I smiled as the towns seemed a bit more vibrant and enjoyed the vast farmlands and imagined what the leafless trees would look like in full bloom. Around 3:20pm, I saw the mint-colored Christmas House looming in the distance.
If this is your first time visiting my blog, you should know that I am a Christmas nut. It’s my favorite holiday and I feature a Christmas B&B review on my website each year. Thus, Christmas House called out to me with all the subtlety of the ringing of a chow bell.
I was met by Pamela who gave me a tour of the mansion before leading me to the Glam Suite which would be my base of operations.
The Glam Suite offers one plenty of room to stretch out and relax. The room’s mint-colored walls and off-white carpeting promote a calming effect. The room contains a small kitchenette with a fridge that contains complimentary water, a pair of comfortable red leather chairs, a large TV and a comfy king-sized bed with what felt like a memory foam mattress.
Once getting settled in, I started a more detailed exploration of the mansion.
Christmas House had been built in 1893 by Emily Baker, the widow of former Racine mayor Robert H. Baker, and one of the original “Big Four” partners of the J.I. Case Company, nowadays known as Case New Holland. The mansion has been home to some of the most powerful people in Racine’s history and also served as the women’s dorm for the St Luke School of Nursing for 35 years. It gained its name in 1987 when it began hosting the Christmas House for Cancer benefit which it did until 1995.
The house is actually a blend of two styles. It is built in the Colonial Revival Style, but follows the plan of a Queen Anne. It is also mammoth. This is easily one of the three biggest inns I’ve visited, yet it only contains 4 suites which allows for plenty of privacy. A Carriage House is also available for rental for even further seclusion.
And, yes, the theme of Christmas is prevalent in the mansion as the first floor contains Christmas trees, knick-knacks, decorations and a life-sized Santa Claus.
When I finished looking around the mansion, I took a constitutional around the neighborhood and soaked in the view of Lake Michigan. From there I returned to the inn where I relaxed for a bit before picking up some dinner from Red Lobster in nearby Mount Pleasant. I enjoyed some Salmon New Orleans with mashed potatoes and a Caesar Salad. After my meal, I spent a quiet evening watching a little TV and organizing photos.
Breakfast was a grand affair the next morning. An extra leaf was added to the table for social distancing and I met a truly charming couple, the Jacksons, from Bloomington, IL. We had some incredible conversation and I thank them for pointing me towards my next major B & B outing, Black Bear Manor of Ouray, CO, which I hope to do this summer after I’ve had a poke or two of COVID vaccine.
Pamela whipped up a delicious skillet of sunny side up eggs, sausage and hash browns along with cornbread crumble and Kringle, the famed danish pastry of Wisconsin. I also learned that Pamela has almost limitless energy and boundless humor. Pamela is not only extremely knowledgeable about the Racine area, but she is well known for her entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Aside from owning Christmas House, she is also a realtor and “Big Sister” for Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
She bought the inn in 2014 after it had been in foreclosure for 7 years and was responsible for over 70% of its restoration into the grand inn it is nowadays. To give you an idea of its disrepair at the time of Pamela’s purchase, the house literally had no roof.
For the first time in nearly a year, I actually managed to enjoy some local activities. I began with a long, leisurely walk through Petrifying Springs Park where the gurgling water of the streams provided some succor to the soul. I also had a phone call with my best friend, Josh, and some childhood memories were triggered as I saw some children enjoying themselves on classic playground equipment of slides, swings and merry-go-rounds.
After my hike, I visited a Kenosha, WI classic: Mars Cheese Castle. Admittedly, I originally thought it was a castle made of cheese. It is actually a store shaped like a castle that sells cheese, meats, clothes and old-fashioned candies and sodas. It even has a deli, restaurant and bar.
From there it was back to Christmas House when I did a little writing and took in an online worship service with Fr. Matt Barone.
When the service was completed, I was faced with a quandary. Did I want to have a very early dinner or wait until my normal dinner hour? Pamela had mentioned a local eatery called Kewpee’s, but it closed at 5pm. I thought about it and realized I wasn’t in the mood for a regular meal that night, so I went with the extra early dinner.
Kewpee’s is actually a Racine stalwart. There actually used to be a chain of them, but now only six are left and the Racine location is the only one in Wisconsin and it’s been operating since 1926.
The restaurant has the look of a fifties diner and is inspired by the famous kewpie dolls and there is a display case full of them inside. Being so close to closing time meant that there weren’t a lot of people inside so social distancing was an easy task. I ordered the double cheeseburger with the works, a side of fries and a Coke.
Not only does the place look like a fifties diner, it also has portion sizes to match with prices not that far behind. I personally appreciated the portion sizes as you get a great meal without feeling overstuffed. These are old fashioned burgers cooked fresh on a flattop grill and the fries are crinkle cut. Kewpee’s is also noted for its homemade root beer which I’ll make a point of sampling at some future date.
With dinner digesting, I returned to Christmas House for more writing, reading, photo organizing and some classic game shows on BUZZR.
Another great night of sleep led into a new day. Breakfast that day consisted of a pecan Kringle, strawberry waffles with whipped cream and cornbread crumble had sausage and egg added to it for quite the tasty melange. I had another satisfying round of conversation with Pamela and the Jacksons where I was introduced to the dancing skills of Pamela’s dog, Dewey.
This trip was just what the doctor called for and if you find yourself in Racine, make plans to stay at Christmas House. It’s truly as festive as the name sounds.
Omaha, NE–Super talent Billy McGuigan, known for bringing Buddy Holly and The Beatles to life on stage, announced the opening of McGuigan Arts Academy, a new twist on performing arts education and venues. The Academy’s mission is devoted to teaching life skills through hands-on studies in music, theatre, film, art and technology. Acknowledging that not every student of the arts wants to be a performer, McGuigan Arts Academy will nurture and showcase Omaha’s talent in every artistic realm.
“If this year taught us anything, it’s the need to connect and nurture one’s soul,” said founder Billy McGuigan. “Art is essential to that. How we create and present that art can be done in many ways. There is nothing else like this in the Midwest. McGuigan Arts Academy is designed to give anyone – from age 3 to 103 – the opportunity to learn confidence, cooperation and creativity. It’s more than development of talent. It’s development of the human spirit. Believe me, there is nothing more important than being the best person you can be. The arts have taught me that.”
McGuigan Arts Academy classes will be taught by full-time professionals led by Artistic and Education Director Kimberly Faith Hickman. “Kimberly is this mega talent in our midst,” said McGuigan. “A rare Broadway-accredited director, she honed her talent working on numerous Tony Award winning and nominated Broadway shows.”
In addition to the Academy, Rave On Productions will launch The Omaha Series; a season of shows presented in various venues across the Omaha Metro. The 2021 Omaha Series includes Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Waiting Room, Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story performed one night each at the Davies Amphitheatre, SumTur Amphitheatre and Soaring Wings Vineyard, The Rocky Horror Show and the McGuigan’s holiday tradition, Yesterday and Today, performed at the Slowdown.
Hickman most recently served as Artistic Director for the Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP). In her nearly five years there, she directed 19 productions and launched initiatives such as the OCP Directing Fellowship, sensory-friendly productions in collaboration with the Autism Action Partnership, and performances translated into Spanish in real-time. Her latest innovations, including Drive-In and virtual productions, assured that the show would go on.
“The pandemic helped me see endless possibilities for programming experiences – especially when I let myself break free from the traditional norms in theatre,” said Hickman. “Creating a production in a parking lot was really inspiring. We took a bold chance and before long, we had a sell out!”
Hickman and McGuigan agree that it was this collaboration during their days together at the Omaha Community Playhouse and the discovery that they both learned to love theatre via the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Georgia, that drew them together as co-visionaries for McGuigan Arts Academy.
“Our biggest revelation,” said McGuigan, “is that performance is a gift from performer to audience. Where that happens should be less tied to one space and more tied to access and an environment that blends with the creative product.”
“In addition to a myriad of classes,” added Hickman, “we will be casting and rehearsing four productions that will be performed at venues across Omaha including The Waiting Room in Benson, Sumtur Amphitheatre, The Slowdown and more.
McGuigan Arts Academy is located in Countryside Village at 87th and Pacific Streets. Thanks in part to generous sponsors, the Academy will offer class scholarships to those from across the greater Omaha metro who may not have the means to pay for them.
Today the road has brought me to Sheboygan Falls, WI.
At long last, it was vacation time! But what a change in plans. Originally, I had been gearing up for a trip to England which would have begun next week, but that plan had to be put on the back burner. So if I couldn’t be in England, I decided I would experience a bit of New England in the Midwest with a visit to Rochester Inn owned and operated by Ray and Kelly York.
I was struck by an incredible sense of déjà vu as Green Bay, WI had been the last place I visited before normalcy got upended in March. And the route to Sheboygan Falls is identical except for the last 45 minutes.
The trip started off rather well. I had a clear stretch of road. I enjoyed a meal at my favorite hole in the wall, Iowa’s Best Burger Café, in Kellogg, IA and arrived at the same Hampton Inn in Cedar Rapids that I had stayed at when I visited Green Bay.
Again, I had a very restful night, though I was somewhat disappointed by the breakfast. During the week, they still serve a hot meal, but during the weekends, they serve a to go bag. Mine had a banana, a honey bun, and a bottle of water. One would think that the hot meal would be served during the weekend and the to go bag during the week, but my best friend thought they were catering to business travelers during the week which was an angle I had not considered and could very well be correct.
Saturday was gray, murky, and rainy. But it was still an enjoyable drive. I ended up arriving in Sheboygan Falls earlier than planned and was hungry so I stopped at a McDonald’s to eat a sandwich and small fries while I read another mystery in a Sherlock Holmes pastiche I had been reading. Then I drove around the town for a bit before arriving at Rochester Inn.
Rochester Inn is located in the Cole Historic District and had been built by local businessman and pioneer, Charles Cole, in 1848. The building had been built in the Greek Revival style and was originally a trading post and general store with the Cole family living on the second floor and the third floor being used as a meeting place for the Midwest’s first temperance society. It is also believed that the building may have served as the town’s post office as Cole had been the postmaster.
The building had been several other businesses before falling into disrepair. In 1986, it was restored to its original grandeur and became a bed and breakfast.
The inn is reminiscent of a New England inn at the turn of the century and if you want seclusion and social distancing, this is the B & B for you.
Possessing only 6 suites, Rochester Inn is the first inn I’ve visited that has no common area outside of the entry hall which I suspect is normally used for checking in and out. The inn is currently utilizing a socially distant self check-in process and I found an envelope containing a welcome letter and inn keys waiting for me when I arrived. I made my way up the back stairs and reached my room, the William Brian Donlevy suite.
This tub is deep!!
Living room of William Brian Donlevy suite
Rochester Inn is famed for its two floor suites and I was hoping this would be the one I would be given. Without question, this is the most luxurious suite in which I’ve stayed to date. The first floor features deep blue carpeting adorned with symbols that reminded me of my old Webelos badge along with a leather couch, an elegant coffee table, and two armless easy chairs. On a table by the door, I found a plate of cookies containing caramel or butterscotch chips (perhaps both) which I munched on while walking upstairs where I found a four poster queen-sized bed, writing desk, vanity area, and bathroom containing a very deep two person jacuzzi tub. Flat screen TVs are located both upstairs and downstairs with the upstairs one having a DVD player and a DVD library is available in the main hall.
After getting settled, I relaxed for a bit before heading out for a little walk in the historic downtown area and the nearby neighborhoods.
Sheboygan Falls strikes me as a very well to do town due to the quality of homes I saw on my amblings. It also contains a large number of parks and I spent a bit of time at Sheboygan Falls View Park looking at the town’s namesake falls.
Dinnertime had arrived and I made the brief journey to Duke of Devon in nearby Sheboygan. Duke of Devon is an English gastropub that practices pretty good social distancing. I sipped on a ginger ale while enjoying a cottage pie which is a beef stew with tomatoes, marmite, and a mashed potato topping and it was quite tasty and filling.
After dinner, I returned to Rochester Inn where I spent the evening relaxing before retiring for the night.
I rose quite early the next morning and watched a little TV while I waited for my breakfast to be delivered.
As I stated earlier, there are no common areas in this inn which means no communal dining room. Breakfast is delivered within a thirty minute window that you mark on a card and hang up on your door. For those who must leave early, a continental breakfast can be left for you if you need to eat on the go.
At about 8:45, a tray was delivered to my room. It looked splendid and the food tasted even better.
Herb infused eggs with ham and cheese, fresh fruit, cinnamon croissant, with apple cinnamon jam, and OJ.
The meal consisted of a glass of orange juice with fruit and a cinnamon croissant that was so good that I literally leaned back on the couch and tapped my toes along with a casserole dish of herb infused eggs with ham and cheese. There was also a small serving of apple cinnamon jam. Now I’ve never been a jam fan, but this was so good that I spread it on my croissant to increase the cinnamon goodness.
After breakfast, I drew a bath and decided to try the herbal bath salts. It smelled like a field of flowers and I don’t know if it helped me to relax, but the perfect temperature of the water certainly did along with the massaging power of the jets.
After the bath, I started visiting the local parks beginning with Falls Park. I enjoyed gazing at the eight foot high waterfall while watching the red and gold leaves of the trees in the park. I spoke to my best friend for about an hour before the charge on my phone wore out. Then I headed to Settlers Park where I saw a pond full of mallards swimming and honking away.
Ah, Wisconsin in the fall!!
After a morning of exploring, I returned to the inn where I found a new plate of white chocolate chip cookies waiting for me which I enjoyed while doing a little writing and Facebooking.
About a quarter of six, I decided to walk into town and have an early dinner. My choice was Fat Cow Pub & Eatery.
Fat Cow Pub & Eatery
Very few people were in there which made distancing even easier and I decided for some local fare with the Cheese Curd Stuffed Cheeseburger.
This was a fantastic choice. It was served on a garlic aioli bun with lettuce, pickles, onions, bacon, and a bit of BBQ sauce. Juicy, filling, and just plain delicious. Feeling contented I returned to Rochester Inn where I organized some photos, watched The Blind Side, and hit the hay.
The next morning found me enjoying another leisurely soak before I got back to writing this article. A knock at my door at 8:50am brought a tray that consisted of fruit, OJ, little smokies, and Pecan Encrusted Cinnamon French Toast with authentic Wisconsin maple syrup.
Pecan Encrusted Cinnamon French Toast with fresh fruit, little smokies, and OJ.
And with another satisfying meal tucked away, I was ready to relax for roughly an hour before heading for home.
But if you find yourself near the Sheboygan Falls region, do yourself a favor and spend a night or two at Rochester Inn. You’ll enjoy some timeless elegance with some splendid meals and you can enjoy a bit of simplicity with the town’s numerous parks.
And welcome to Part II of this article. As McGregor was only a half hour south of Lansing, I decided to make a visit there in order to spend a night at Stauer House Bed & Breakfast, owned and operated by Donna & Robert Staples.
McGregor is a throwback to yesteryear. Like Lansing, everything is located on Main Street and a cornucopia of shops are available including antique shops, eateries, a rare book shop, a sweet shop, and even a local drugstore. Like a small town of yesteryear, a lot of places close up early or are not even open on the weekends.
Close to the town for a visit are the Effigy Mounds and the Spook Cave Boat Tours.
Stauer House is a Queen Anne style home which was built by architect E.W.H. Jacobs for local businessman, Peter Stauer in 1882. Stauer sold the home to another businessman, J. A. Ramage in 1904 where it remained in the Ramage family for most of the next 100 years. Though, after Ramage’s death in the 1940s, his children primarily used Stauer House as a part time summer home. In 2002, it was purchased by the Staples who lovingly restored it to its original beauty and saving it from the disrepair into which it had fallen.
I arrived in town around noon and entered through Stauer House’s back door. I was greeted by Robert and Donna and Donna led me to a unlisted fourth room known as the Captain’s Room. It is a very spacious room with a king sized bed at its center and containing from classic furniture and also containing an en suite bathroom.
After making a quick turn about the house, I took a walk around Main Street and did a rarity by stopping for lunch at Café McGregor. I continued reading Sherlock Holmes while munching on a small club sandwich with some kettle chips on the side.
After that it was back to the inn where I enjoyed doing a whole lot of nothing for the afternoon.
In the early evening, I took another walk and then spent the night writing, watching The A-Team, and enjoying a bath before retiring for the evening.
Shortly before 8am the next morning, Donna knocked on my door to let me know that breakfast was ready in the dining room. I made my way downstairs and found a series of dishes ready for selection. I took a little fruit, glasses of water and OJ, two pancakes, a piece of sausage, and a couple slices of an egg frittata.
It was definitely the quietest breakfast I’d ever had as not only was I the only guest but Donna and Robert had taken their grandchildren to school so I was completely on my own. But it was a most pleasant meal and I was especially impressed with the fresh frittata with its gooey cheese and the pancakes which were infused with cinnamon.
After that, it was a quick wrap up to this article before making the trip back to reality.
But when you feel ready to travel again, a visit to McGregor will be worth it for those who love nature, antiques, and classic Americana and a stay at Stauer House will be a comfortable one.
How good it feels to say those words again. I was badly in need of some downtime and a little research found me the relatively unaffected by COVID county of Allamakee in which lies the town of Lansing which is home to Thornton House Bed & Breakfast owned and operated by Frank Ebersold.
I enjoyed the scenic drive to Lansing, eschewing the interstate as much as I could and making a brief stop in my hometown of Fort Dodge to grab a quick bite to eat at Taco Tico before continuing to my stopping point of Mason City where I had a suite reserved at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.
For my regular readers, you might remember that when I traveled to Scotland last year, I joined the Hilton Honors program in order to check into my first hotel sooner. Shortly after returning home, I also joined the IHG loyalty program. IHG owns a number of hotels, most prominently Holiday Inn, and that loyalty program has already paid dividends.
With my travel bug neutralized for most of the past 6 months, I have been taking an occasional night to myself at a Holiday Inn. Thanks to various promotions which have boosted my points and tier score, I have earned enough points for a couple of free nights, achieved Gold Elite status, and am 2 stays away from reaching Platinum status (a status that normally requires 40 nights to earn, but a special promotion is letting me do it in 5). My stay in Mason City was my first night as a Gold Elite member. As such I automatically earned 300 points as a gift just for staying and I was warmly welcomed to the hotel with a sign in the lobby.
My room was quite comfortable and spacious, but seems to be following the trend of suites being really big rooms instead of multiple rooms. A nice soft king sized bed was the centerpiece of the room and led to a full night’s sleep for the first time in a while.
The hotel did offer a breakfast consisting of cereal, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches served cafeteria style. I had a “bowl” of Apple Jacks and a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich along with some OJ while I watched the news. I also invoked one of my benefits as a Gold Elite member and took a late checkout of 12:30pm so I could just check right into Thornton House when I arrived in Lansing.
It was a beautiful day for a drive and it seemed to go rather quickly due to the increased concentration needed to get to Lansing as one must navigate a series of back roads to reach the town. As I came closer to Lansing, I was stunned by the sudden transformation of the landscape into a valley as the hills grew in size and were covered by a lush forest.
I arrived in Lansing, a port town on the Mississippi River and also at the base of Mt Hosmer. The town reminded me of a much smaller version of Eureka Springs, AR due to its incredibly hilly nature.
I found the inn, parked my car, and rang the bell and was greeted by Frank who gave me a socially distant welcome and gave me a little history of the house.
Thornton House is an Italianate Victorian mansion built by Alexander McMichael, a grain shipping magnate, in 1873 during a boom period in the local lumber industry. Eventually the house passed into the hands of Dr. John H Thornton who, with his son, John W, became known as “the best medical team this side of the Mayo Clinic” and practiced out of the mansion. For the next 120 years, the house was owned by a Thornton before passing into the hands of Frank.
Frank led me to the Grand Room which would be my headquarters for the next few nights. The room consists of a bedroom and bathroom separated by a small foyer. The bathroom contains a jetted tub while the bedroom has a full sized canopy bed with original or period correct furniture and overlooked by portraits of Presidents Pierce and Lincoln.
I made a quick exploration of the house before taking a walk down Main Street where everything and I mean, EVERYTHING, is located. Gas, groceries, shops, restaurants, medical care, city hall, it’s all located there.
From there I returned to Thornton House where I puttered around for a while before heading back to Main Street and dinner at Milty’s.
I had been in the mood for a steak, but Milty’s seemed to be operating on a limited menu. Instead I enjoyed a rather ripping chicken, bacon, and ranch wrap with a side of fries. With the inner man satisfied, I went back to the inn where I spent a relaxing evening reading, organizing photos, and watching some classic game shows on BUZZR before enjoying a restful night’s sleep.
The next morning, I met Judith and Eric, who were also staying at the inn. Positioning ourselves on opposite ends of the table and we took turns serving ourselves from dishes Frank had set up in the kitchen. For myself, I enjoyed a delicious glass of triple berry juice and put together a plate consisting of a croissant, cheesy eggs (seasoned to perfection), sausage patties, and a homemade waffle which was quite light and fluffy.
Frank positioned himself on a nearby couch so we could share in some socially distant conversation which worked out surprisingly well. With a satisfying breakfast tucked in, I took a drive up Mt Hosmer to the local park where I spent a half hour walking the trails and getting a couple of good shots of the Mississippi River and town.
From there I went back to the inn for a bit before visiting the nearby town of Harper’s Ferry at Frank’s suggestion. Harper’s Ferry contains a Catholic church called Immaculate Conception which had been founded in 1848 by some Irish priests. The land is known as Wexford, named after the village where the priests had lived in Ireland and the church, itself, is reportedly a duplicate of the church in Ireland. A cemetery is also on the land and contains graves dating back to the same date as the founding of the church. A very interesting visit for lovers of history.
After that I returned to the inn to write and rest for the remainder of the afternoon.
About 5:30pm, I walked down to the Main Channel for my dinner. This is a local bar/restaurant and it would satisfy my craving for a steak as the Saturday night special happened to be a 10 oz sirloin with 3 grilled shrimp along with 2 sides. As you may have guessed, I did select that.
I had asked for a house salad which proved to be surprisingly simple as it just consisted of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and croutons with a bit of ranch dressing. The fresh vegetables were a welcome treat and I crunched away while reading a new volume of Sherlock Holmes pastiches.
The main entrée of steak and shrimp was quite delicious and it must have been my lucky night as the chef slipped me an extra shrimp. The steak was prepared just right and a little melted butter and au jus helped to bring out its flavor. The service wasn’t the best as I was only checked on once at the end of my meal, but as I didn’t need a refill, it came out in the wash.
A little jaunt back to the hotel found me writing a bit more, selecting photos for the article, and enjoying a relaxing bath in my jetted tub. And from there I read myself to sleep.
Breakfast the next morning was similar to the previous though we had sausage links, blueberry scones, and tomato and cheese omelets added to the menu. Another satisfying meal and a long round of conversation with Frank made for a fine morning.
So if you find yourself in Lansing when you travel again, you’ll find some nice outdoor activities, a little antiquing, some history spots, and a fine inn and host at Thornton House.
Normally this would be where I sign off, but this escapade isn’t over quite yet.
After 6 weeks of doing a play review or two each week, I was ready for a little downtime. I started thumbing through my trusty B & B spreadsheet and began looking at Astor House Bed & Breakfast. I was stunned at the affordability of the room rates and decided to book a little getaway.
So it was that on Friday night I found myself on the road again. I managed to avoid the rush hour of Omaha and was enjoying a rather speedy and pleasant drive. Around Stuart, IA I pulled over as I was hungry and decided to try an Impossible Whopper at the local Burger King (being a Lenten Friday and all).
The sandwich actually tastes amazingly similar to a Whopper. The difference is only slight and my fries were fresh so I got to enjoy a very relaxing meal before getting back on the road.
Around 9pm, I arrived in Cedar Rapids, IA where I utilized my Hilton Honors membership to rest for the night at a Hampton Inn.
Now I salute this hotel for some truly superior customer service. I received a call from the hotel the day before telling me that the swimming pool and hot tub were unavailable due to a burst pipe and they offered to refund my fee if I wanted to find a different hotel. While I had considered a good swim, it was tentative at best as I figured I would just be sleeping before finishing the drive to Green Bay the following day.
This Hampton Inn is currently undergoing renovations and my room was actually quite elegant. The king bed was a little firmer than I would have liked, but its spaciousness helped to relax me. I also noticed what appears to be a growing trend in hotels. . .no vending machines. More and more, it seems hotels now have a little kiosk area where they sell snacks and drinks on the ground floor as opposed to the olden days where one would just stroll down the hall to a machine for a snack or drink.
I had a fairly restful night’s sleep and went down to the dining area for breakfast.
Breakfast wasn’t too bad. This Hampton Inn offers some hot options along with cold cereal, bread and pastries. Scrambled eggs, smoked sausage, bagel toppers, oatmeal and waffles were also available. The oatmeal was fantastic, especially with a bit of brown sugar. I also tried a bagel topper (half bagel with cheese and onions) and a tiny bit of smoked sausage. As Nero Wolfe would say, “Satisfactory”.
This had to have been one of the more relaxing drives I’ve had in recent memory. The roads were fairly empty and the road to Green Bay is mostly state highways so I passed through several small towns and even noted a restaurant called Tabbert’s in the minuscule town of Rosendale that I shall have to try during some future visit to the region.
Around 3pm, I arrived in Green Bay. I drove around the downtown area for a bit before attending a 4pm service at Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church.
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church
Archaic is the word that leaps to mind when it comes to describing this church. The building is definitely old and feels more like a cathedral with its tiled floors and larger than life Stations gracing the walls. This diocese had also instituted some changes due to the coronavirus. No sign of peace and no Eucharist from the cup. It made me wonder if my own diocese would be adopting these changes for the duration.
After services, I finally checked into Astor House, owned and operated by Tom and Linda Steber. The Stebers purchased the property in September and are the third couple to continue the house’s legacy as an inn. Both were very warm and welcoming and clearly relish their roles as innkeepers. Linda’s father was a professional chef and she definitely has her own formidable culinary skills which I had an early sample of with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and cucumber water.
Astor House was built by businessman John Jacob Astor in 1888. Astor, himself, would eventually be immortalized as one of the victims of the Titanic. The house is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The inn contains five rooms, each themed with a different country. Most of the rooms also contain a hot tub and a fireplace.
My room was the Hong Kong Retreat. For pure value for the money, I don’t think the Astor House can be matched. For the $115 a night price tag ($140 during busy season) I had the largest room I have enjoyed yet. This room truly was a retreat with its pure white carpeting, soft queen bed with My Pillows (and you really do get a good night’s sleep with them), elegant fireplace and a 2 person hot tub set in the corner.
I had a little cultural fusion for dinner as I merged Greek and Cajun cuisine as I enjoyed a Gyro Wrap along with a cup of Nicky’s highly touted gumbo. You’d have to go to Louisiana to have gumbo as authentic as this. This is what gumbo was meant to be. Carefully spiced and seasoned stew with chunks of andouille sausage and chicken lathered over rice. It was heavenly. The wrap was also quite tasty and the restaurant even serves Pepsi products which would please my father to no end.
After the meal, I returned to the inn where I enjoyed a long soak in the jacuzzi (and only soaking. Bath salts are provided for the hot tub.) Then I got a little fire going as the night was getting a little chilly. Then I finished a novel, organized some photos, watched a movie and had an amazing night’s sleep.
I was ready to attack the day, but needed a little fuel to get me going. Astor House provides a menu so you can decide what you want for breakfast or even if you want breakfast. Believe me, you’ll want breakfast. Astor House practices sustainability so all foods are bought or grown locally whenever possible and everything is made fresh.
Breakfast began with a fruit salad drizzled with an organic honey/citrus dressing which was the bomb and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever used that expression in a sentence. The main course was a light and fluffy French Toast Brulee with crumbled bacon bits with a side of the inn’s signature potatoes. There was even a dessert course of lemon pound cake (which became my afternoon snack). The sideboard also had some of Linda’s award-winning doughnut muffins which are a must taste along with some lemon & lime water.
Filled with food, I was ready to do a little exploring. I went to the unincorporated community of Champion to visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. This is the only officially recognized Marian Apparition site in the United States. In the late 1850s the Virgin Mary appeared to a young Belgian girl named Adele Brise and instructed her to make a general confession, offer communion for the conversion of sinners and to teach the young in this very wild area the catechism. This Adele did until her death, walking everywhere within a 50 mile radius of the Shrine to teach. As a servant of God, Adele would dress as a nun despite never actually being part of a formal order.
Miracles have reportedly taken place at the Shrine though none are officially recognized by the Catholic church. Letters have come from many grateful visitors along with medical reports citing healings from various ills. The most impressive event was the sparing of the Shrine from the devastating Peshtigo fire when a storm quenched the flames which occurred while those at the Shrine prayed a rosary asking for the Shrine to be spared.
I would think it would be next door to impossible not to feel God’s presence here no matter your faith. It was a pretty moving and humbling experience to visit the grottoes and read Adele’s story and hear these tales of personal healing and conversion.
After my wanderings through the Shrine, I intended to visit the Badger State Brewing Company. But I made a misstep. I had hoped to get a tour of the brewery, but found they only conduct the tours on Saturday afternoons. So I settled for a green beer before going on my merry little way.
As I left the brewery I saw the legendary Lambeau Field in the distance and decided to get a closer look. For any readers who are not into sports, Green Bay, WI is the home of the Green Bay Packers, one of the National Football League’s first football teams. Green Bay is one of the smallest, if not the smallest, cities to have a professional football team. Unlike other teams, the Packers are actually owned by the city of Green Bay.
After getting a photo and waving at the stadium for a friend of mine (she’s a huge Packers fan), I returned to the inn for a bit of writing and to finally enjoy the pound cake I couldn’t eat at breakfast.
Around 6pm, I decided it was time for dinner so I hit up a true Green Bay institution: Al’s Hamburger.
Great food lies inside this non-descript edifice.
Al’s has been going since 1934. Inside the unassuming white brick edifice is a step back in time to the 1950s. It’s a small diner with booths and classic tools and everything is a la carte. It’s also cash only, but there is an ATM on the premises. I had a deluxe (1/2 pound patty with bacon, lettuce and mayo) along with some fries. The food is served on a tin tray and the burgers are nice and juicy.
With dinner out of the way, I took a walk around the Astor neighborhood. This is a historic neighborhood and there are some impressive old money houses in the area. I imagined what some of these homes might look like during the Christmas season, but a glance around told me how bitter the winter could be in the area. Green Bay clearly had plenty of the white stuff this winter as large amounts of snow are still prevalent.
I actually had a pretty quiet evening. Reading, writing and relaxing. About 10pm I called it a night.
Breakfast the next morning consisted of a “mushroom & swiss burger” quiche along with the signature potatoes. Absolutely exquisite! For dessert, I had an original creation from Linda. An English scone pudding with a citrus whipped cream topping. I was glad I had opted out of the opening course of berries and cream because I had just enough room to enjoy this sweet treat.
This has been one of my more enjoyable B & B outings and Astor House has definitely entered my top tier of inns. If you want some fresh, homemade cooking, if you want some excellent hospitaliy, if you want some fun activities (especially during summer tourist and football seasons), then make a visit to Green Bay and book a room at Astor House. It’s a dandy little oasis.
Bellevue Little Theatre presents Temporary Insanity Auditions
Sunday, March 15 @ 7:00 pm
Monday, March 16 @ 7:00 pm
Bellevue Little Theatre will hold auditions for Temporary Insanity at the theatre, 203 W. Mission in Bellevue, at 7 pm on Sunday March 15 and Monday March 16. This world premiere farce was written by Des Moines Playwright Karen Scheaffer, and the BLT is proud to present it as a close to our 51st season.
Jon Flower will direct the production which will run the week-ends of May 1, 8, and 15. An adult cast of ten, ranging in age from 17–65, is needed for this farce. For additional information please contact the director at email@example.com
* COLLYN (pronounced Colin) 45ish. Female. Married to Mike, Emerson’s business partner and best friend.
* EMERSON 45ish. Female. Married to Ted, Collyn’s business partner and best friend.
* MARIE FORRESTER 65ish. Female. Emerson’s mother.
* ROSE Appears to be about 17. Female. Emerson’s daughter.
* WILL BRANCH 35 – 40. Male. Actor.
* TED 45ish. Male. Married to Emerson. Real Estate Agent. Accidentally hypnotized to experience an entire gestation every 24 hours.
* SAMUEL BRIARWOOD 65ish. Male. Owner of Briarwood Hotels and Collyn and Emerson’s potential client.
* PHILOMENA (PHIL) BRIARWOOD 33ish. Female. Sam’s niece. Sam is training her to take over Briarwood Hotels.
* HEGLUND Appears to be about 17. Male. He is a pizza delivery person and goes to high school with Rose.
* MIKE 45ish. Male. Married to Collyn. CPA.
Synopsis: In this fast-paced farce, Collyn and Emerson run a marketing firm but haven’t landed a major account. A dinner invitation is extended to a potentially lucrative client who’s in town for one night. However, Emerson’s husband, Ted, has been mistakenly hypnotized and now goes through an entire gestation period every 24 hours. To ensure a smooth evening, Collyn’s husband, Mike, takes Ted out for drinks. Emerson sequesters her daughter, Rose, in her room and enlists her mother, Marie, to serve dinner. She hires an actor, Will Branch, to play her husband. Everything goes according to plan until Ted shows up with an intoxicated Mike just before the clients arrive. Will Branch discovers he’s now Collyn’s fake husband, while Rose’s admirer desperately tries to ask her out with a message pizza and the client turns out to be Marie’s old flame. Then Ted goes into labor. Will they still get the account?
PLEASE NOTE: ‘Bellevue Little Theatre does not discriminate, and auditions are open to all.
Auditions for the fourth production of the Chanticleer Community Theater 2019 – 2020 season, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, will be held on Monday March 2nd at 6:00 p.m. with callbacks scheduled for Saturday, March 7th at 7:00 p.m. Auditions will be held in the Hoff Arts and Cultural Center, 1001 South 6th Street, in Council Bluffs, IA. If you would like to audition but can’t make the March 2nd date please contact director Daena Schweiger at firstname.lastname@example.org. An additional off-site date may be scheduled for auditions. Please check Chanticleer’s website or social media channels for audition site updates, or contact the director via email.
Please prepare 32 measures of music. An accompanist will be provided. Please bring sheet music to the audition – no acapella singing or singing with pre-recorded music will be allowed. Please be prepared to sing your song in a different style – (i.e. French, Country, Hip-Hop, Elvis, etc.)
We ask that you wear comfortable clothing and shoes as you will be asked to learn and perform a short dance routine in jazz style.
Please bring a calendar to reference for rehearsal conflicts. Having conflicts will not necessarily preclude you from being cast but we need to know to plan schedules. NOTE: There will be some weekend evening rehearsals in addition to weekday evening rehearsals. Rehearsals are tentatively scheduled to begin Saturday, March 21 in the evening and will be held in our new home at the Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center. Performance dates are May 15 – 24, 2020.
The cast calls for both adult performers as well as youth and young adult performers (ages 7+). We would like our production to reflect the diversity of the world. As such, actors of all races, ethnicities, gender identifications and abilities are welcome and encouraged to audition. Actors with disabilities who need to request an accommodation needed to audition, please contact Bob Putnam, theater manager, at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Told entirely through song with the help of a main character Narrator, the musical follows preferred son Joseph. After being sold into slavery by his brothers, he ingratiates himself with Egyptian noble Potiphar, but ends up in jail after refusing the amorous advances of Potiphar’s wife. While imprisoned, Joseph discovers his ability to interpret dreams, and he soon finds himself in front of the mighty but troubled, Elvis-inspired, Pharaoh. Joseph’s solution to Egypt’s famine elevates him to Pharaoh’s right-hand man and reunites him with his family.