Arts & Culture » Visitors' Guide

Reedsburg, Wisconsin



Reedsburg, Wisconsin, the former Butter Capital of the U.S., is about four hours from Chicago, 20 minutes west of Baraboo on route 33. But why drive when you can fly? The Reedsburg Municipal Airport (1720 E. Main, 608-524-2396), owned and operated by T & J Aviation, offers two hard-surface runways, aircraft rentals, 24-hour fuel service, charter service, flight instruction, aircraft sales and maintenance, and no takeoff or landing fees. On August 3 it has its annual Fly In/Drive In breakfast, an enormous buffet that's only $5.

Carnivores and junk-food addicts will want to stop at Culver's (3323 E. Main, 608-524-2122), home of the locally renowned "butterburger." It's not fried in butter; the bun is lightly buttered and grilled. Frozen custard and assorted milkshakes and malts are also specialties.

Viking Village, the local near-monopoly, plants more than 100 acres of sunflowers, which start blooming in late July (on county road HH, about eight miles north of town). Harvesting takes place in October, and the resulting birdseed is sold at Viking Village Sunflowers (1633 E. Main, 608-524-6108).

Set back from the road after you enter town is Quintessential Quilts (940 E. Main, 608-524-8435), which claims to be the largest quilting shop in the midwest, with 9,000 bolts of fabric (all 100 percent cotton). Friendly ladies offer advice, teach classes, and oversee quilting bees.

Reedsburg proper, population 6,800, has culture in the form of the Museum of Norman Rockwell Art (227 S. Park, 608-524-2123), housed in what used to be the Church of God Chapel. It promotes itself in its literature with the slogan "Some People Own Rockwell Paintings. We Live in Them." Literally. Owner and curator Joyce Devore has lived in the building since it opened in 1982. More than 4,000 examples of Rockwell's works are on display, most of them magazine covers. Original Rockwells are scarce, and none will be found here. But that's not the point, Devore insists. The well-stocked gift shop has, among other things, magnets, T-shirts, postcards, posters, bells, puzzles, watches, books, plates, figurines, and more than 400 prints.

So why Reedsburg? Rockwell never even visited the town. Devore's brochure offers three connections: he was good friends with Claire Briggs, who was born there, though she moved to New York; Rockwell also painted the publicity poster for Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons, which starred Agnes Moorehead, who was born in Reedsburg; and "Reedsburg is similar in many ways to the small New England towns that Rockwell loved."

You can search for your own Rockwell covers at three antique malls, one at 195 Main, the other two a block west, at 121 S. Webb (608-524-4141). Dealers offer everything from furniture to books to glasswork to junk. I found records for less than $2, first editions of Sinclair Lewis and James M. Cain books, and a Charlie's Angels board game for five bucks.

Three miles east of town is the Pioneer Log Village and Museum (route 33 at route 23, 1-800-844-3507), which has three log houses, a log library, log church and cemetery (not log), blacksmith shop, country school, store, and three museum buildings. It's open only from 1 to 4 on Saturdays and Sundays, but admission is whatever you care to donate.

There isn't much nightlife in Reedsburg other than the movies. The Badger Theater (326 E. Main, 608-524-2413) and the Star Cinema (115 N. Webb, 608-524-4952) are located downtown at opposite ends of Main Street. The Badger has shows for "the entire family to enjoy"; the Star is one of those new-fangled places with six screens and the latest releases.

The annual Butter Festival, which runs from June 10 to 15 this year, features the crowning of Miss Reedsburg, a fest king and queen, and a parade, which usually includes clog dancers, a boombox band, and pretty much anybody who wants to drive a tractor or convertible along the parade route.

The health-conscious might want to hike or ride the 22-mile 400 State Trail, which starts at the Chamber of Commerce office in the renovated Reedsburg depot (240 Railroad St., 608-524-2850) and goes all the way to Elroy. Opened in 1993, the trail is named for the Chicago & North Western passenger train that used to travel the 400 miles between Chicago and Minneapolis in 400 minutes. You can rent a bike with child trailer, or bring a snowmobile during the winter.

--Richard Knight Jr.

Add a comment