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Destination Iowa: Renaissance Faires

Explore Fairy Tale & Fantasy

Story & Photos by
Steve Nibbelink
The Record
Graphic Designer

It is the time of fairy tale and fantasy.  Knights of old do battle once again.  The Renaissance Faires of Iowa hold court in the Amana Colonies over the Memorial Day weekend every year.  There are also three events in the Des Moines Sleepy Hollow Sports Park the first three weekends of September.
The 19th annual Iowa Renaissance Festival & Gathering o’ Celts was held at the Middle Amana Park Memorial Day weekend.  This family friendly gathering was named ‘Iowa’s Best Family Fest’ for the third year in a row

European history and world culture were presented as edutainment for all age groups. The characters, theatrics and folkways of the 13th to 17th centuries were brought to life with a cast of 200 costumed role-players. The true-to-life jousting matches, cultural exhibitions, and demonstrations entertained people from all over the state.

Sir Broderick Geoffrey and Sir Roland Fallsworth of Joust Evolution preformed to a cheering crowd three times a day for the entire weekend.  Sir Geoffrey cautions his younger fans that he has been jousting professionally for 20 years and he’s still learning.  His opponent for the weekend, Sir Fallsworth tore a tendon in his hand on the last joust of the day on Saturday.  Fallsworth has endured 7 major surgeries, 4 minor surgeries, and 300 stitches during his career.  His advice is to not do this at home.

The Brotherhood of the Steel is a volunteer organization that demonstrates sword fighting.  Their members train for a year and half with wooden mock-ups before they are allowed to fight with metal swords.  Stavolin, a Norse Guard has been sword fighting for more years than he can remember.  He suffered an injury during the weekend and had his fight permit pulled.

However, individuals can partake in other aspects of the fun.  There are inter-active demonstrations of bow and arrow shooting, knife throwing, and foam sword fights.  You can increase your fun by purchasing period authentic costumes from local vendors.  Jewelry dealers, leather workers, steel smiths, and weapons specialists will help you complete your costume.  A basic costume will run about $100 – $150 for a tunic, pants, belt, and blade.

If you missed out on this year’s Memorial Day event you can follow next year’s schedule at this web site.
If you’d still like to attend a Renaissance Faire this year there are three weekends in September filled with medieval entertainment.

The opening weekend of the 8th annual Des Moines Renaissance Faire brings Canterbury-on-Sherwood to life with knights in shining armor, warriors from ages past and the classic legends from stories of European lore.

Sept. 11th – 12th – ‘SCOTS, BRITONS & IRISH’
From the Highland Champions and their heavy lifting games to the archers of Sherwood Forest, the land of faerie tales and pre-American history (Great Britain) brings us entertainment, food and merchants from afar. Be thee Scot, Welsh, Cornish, Irish, Briton, English, leprechaun, elfin, faery, Shakespearian or are simply intrigued by these lively cultures, this weekend was created for lasting memories and the pleasure of all.

The Queen’s Navy sails the high seas, yet docks at the Canterbury River, only to find freebooters of all sorts, both historical and fantasy. From Capt. Morgan to Capt. Hook and from sailing wenches to treehouse faeries, this is the weekend for all things of sea legend. Landlubbers beware as our castle town gets invaded by delightful characters from lands as near as the Caribbe and as far as Persia.

Sleepy Hollow Sport Park is located just south of the Iowa State Fair, 4051 Dean Avenue, Des Moines, IA, 50317, contact Max Kenkel 515-262-4100 or The web sites for the two events are and

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Destination Iowa, Fluff/Inspiration, News, Reviews and Culture, RPG | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Destination Iowa: Living History Farms

300 years of Iowa farming history comes to life

By Steve Nibbelink
The Record
Graphic Designer

Check out all the photos shot for this story at this FB photo album.

It’s unusual to see and hear the sights and sounds of an Iowa farm smack in the middle of urban sprawl. However if you visit the Living History Farms in Urbandale you’ll get exactly that.

Nearly 40 years ago the Living History Farms purchased the historic Flynn Mansion from the State of Iowa. Located on 500 acres just off of Hickman Road in Urbandale, the outdoor museum has expanded to include working examples of an Ioway Indian village, an 1850s pioneer farm and a 1900 Iowa farming homestead.

The museum complex is also home to the fictional town of Walnut Hill. This town depicts rural Iowa town life in the year of 1875. Actual buildings from the period have been purchased, moved to the museum and restored. Hands-on displays include but are not limited to visits to the Blacksmith, the farm implement store, the drug store, the general store, and the Church of the Land, which is built on the site of Pope John Paul II’s historic mass in 1979.

The Living History Farms is home to several buildings on the National Historic Register, including the aforementioned Flynn Mansion. The entire complex has been listed by the New York Times as “one of 100 places to see before you die.”

Located at 11121 Hickman Road in Urbandale, the museum complex is approximately 74 miles southwest of Conrad. Open from May – October, admission is $11.50 for adults, $7 for children 3-12 and $10.50 for citizens 60 and over.

Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Saturday and Sunday Noon – 5, May 1 – August 22 also 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday and Sunday noon – 5, Aug. 25 – Oct.15.

For more information about Living History Farms point your browser at

Upcoming 2010 Special Events at the Living History Farms include:
Farmer’s Market 4-7 p.m. every Wednesday May 12 – Oct. 6.
Historic Baseball Games played on premises July 4, July 18, Aug. 8, Sept. 5, Sept. 19, and Oct. 3.
Behind the Barn Concerts are scheduled for July 7, July 25, Aug. 4, and Sept. 1.

July 3-4
Family Weekend: Independence Day. Free ice cream floats will be available with paid admission on Saturday the third. On Sunday come celebrate an 1870’s Independence Day.

July 17
History Snapshot: Circuit Court
Be part of the Jury as costumed museum staff recreate court cases from 1870s Iowa.

Aug. 7-8
Family Weekend: Threshing Days. Experience the many methods and machines used to harvest oats and wheat at the historic farms.

Aug. 14
History Snapshot: Pioneer Wedding. Join the 1850 Pioneer Farm staff as they recreate a wedding complete with ceremony, dancing and a wedding cake.

Sept. 4-5
Family Weekend: Farmer’s Fall Carnival. Visit our carnival with music, old-fashioned carnival games, and pony rides. Enjoy a melodrama and the 1875 traveling museum of curiosities.

Sept. 18
Photography Day. Take pictures of the scenic park. Photography experts will be on hand with photo tips and workshops.

Sept. 29 – Oct. 3
Historic Quilt Show. View rarely seen quilts from this nationally recognized quilt collection. The quilts will be displayed in the Church of the Land.

Oct. 2-3
Family Weekend: Harvest Fest. Help museum staff bring in the harvest as you handpick the corn. Afterward you can enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride and sample fresh apple fritters.

Oct. 21-24 & 28-31
Family Halloween Nights
Dress in your favorite costume and come trick-or-treating in Walnut Hill. Horse-drawn wagon rides, storytellers, marshmallow roasts and much more will complete the experience.

Dec. 11
Prairie Christmas. Celebrate a holiday open house with a prairie feel. Visit with Santa Claus. Participate in an old-fashioned church social and ride in a horse-drawn wagon.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | Destination Iowa, Life near an Iowa Cornfield | , , , | Leave a comment

Destination Iowa: Pella

Courtesy of The Record

See all the photos shot for this feature by clicking here.

More than Just a Tulip Festival,
Pella Offers Year Round Sites to See

There’s a little touch of the Netherlands in Marion County.

Located on State Highway 163, Pella is about 43 miles south-southeast of Des Moines. This picturesque community was founded in 1847 by Dominie (Dutch for Reverend) Scholte and the group of 800 immigrants who came to America in search of religious freedom.

Pella honors its Dutch heritage the first full weekend of every May with its annual Tulip Festival. Parades, flower shows, antique car displays, and more Dutch food than you can sample in a day are perennial parts of this three-day event.

This year Pella celebrated its 75th Tulip Festival by setting a world record. 2,604 dancers put on their Klompen (wooden shoes) and danced. Completely surrounding Pella’s Central Park in the downtown area, those involved filled the streets three lines deep and spilled out past the park on both Main and Franklin streets. The Guiness Book of World Records was on hand to authenticate the record setting 5-minute dance.

However, you are not limited to the first weekend in May for experiencing a touch of Dutch hospitality. The Dutch storefronts are visible year-round and decorated for the holidays in the winter. Many of the museums are open ten months out of the year. Pella is also home to North America’s largest working grain windmill.

The Scholte House Museum was the home of Dominie Scholte and his family. It is open for self-guided tours Monday–Saturday, 1-4 p.m., March through December. You can find this museum at 728 Washington Street just north of the square.

Just past downtown on Franklin Street is the Vermeer Windmill, Pella Welcome Center and Historical Dutch Village. This block-sized complex is the home to a whole series of interconnected museums. The Vermeer Mill is an actual working grain mill built in Holland and shipped to America piece-by-piece. Wyatt Earp’s boyhood home is also part of the complex. Many other daily aspects of a typical Dutch village, including a Klompen (wooden shoe) maker are on display as well. The village is open to the public 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, March to December, weather permitting.
A replica canal and working Klokkenspiel have been built over the alleyways of the south side of Franklin Street. Pella’s historic Opera House has been restored to its former grandeur. The canal, Klokkenspiel, and Opera House are operational year-round.

The Pella Window Corporation has its worldwide headquarters in Pella. The Pella Corp. has restored the old Pella railroad depot and has turned it into a museum for the company. Pella is also the home of Vermeer Manufacturing and Central College.

Make plans now to schedule May 5, 6, and 7 of 2011 for the 76th annual Tulip Festival. But you’ll want to make note of these events as well.

• Kermis July 10, 10 a.m.-noon. Kermis is the traditional Dutch summer celebration of food and games. Kermis would be the Dutch equivalent of Conrad’s own Black Dirt Days.

• The Fall Festival September and Fall Flower & Quilt Show Sept. 24-25.

• The Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) Festival is Nov. 27. There will be a parade at 10 a.m. A party at Monarchs and the Opera House will follow with admission and reservation.

•The Village Christmas Walk runs from Nov. 13-Dec. 31. The Dutch Historical village is decorated for Christmas in traditional Dutch fashion.

May 26, 2010 Posted by | Destination Iowa, Life near an Iowa Cornfield | , , , , | 2 Comments