Finding what's new. Staying fresh.

By Carol / June 29, 2012 /

National Balloon Classic
Photo by Ward & Diane Roscoe

I was born and raised in Iowa and have spent (I hope) most of my life in a reasonably aware state. So you might think that in the past 60+ years I’d have seen or heard about most of what my home state has to offer. But if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

I am reminded of this every two months as I set off to find stories to write about for The Iowan magazine. As I research and write, I learn so many new things, and I learn so many new things about old things.

For the just published July/August issue, I learned that:

  • There is a tug of war between Le Claire, Iowa, and Port Byron, Illinois, that shuts down the Mississippi River. That’s right, Tugfest uses a 2,400-ft., 680 lb. rope to close down one of the world’s major waterways.
  • Iowa wineries invite customers to help harvest grapes. After a day working in the vines at Two Saints Winery VIPs (Very Important Pickers) enjoy a glass of wine and watch the just-picked grapes be skinned and crushed. Valuable labor for the winery. A fun day for the customers.
  • Hot air balloon pilots are licensed and regulated by the FAA. At the National Balloon Classic held in Indianola, aeronauts compete in races using the layers of air at different altitudes to make their balloons go up and down quickly. The most peaceful, serene races ever.
  • For 130 years, stonecutters at Rowat Cut Stone in Des Moines have cut and fabricated stone for 90% of the municipal buildings in Des Moines and surrounding states. They still work out of their original building, a couple of blocks from the Iowa Capital building.
  • The Lincoln Highway celebrates 100 years in 1913 and hundreds of Model Ts will cross the state next year in a commemorative ride to celebrate this first road that crossed the entire U.S.

As an Iowan and a writer, I don’t think I could have stumbled into a more perfect assignment. While I write my novel – a project that has spanned years – these assignments for The Iowan fulfill my need to see a writing project completed. Since the stories of interesting people doing interesting things in my home state appear to be endless, every two months I have a chance to say, “Wow! I didn’t know that! That is so cool. And it’s Iowa!”

It’s easy to get in a rut. To take the same route to work. To go to the same events every year. To get stale. I’ve found the assignment that keeps recharging my batteries. I’m curious how you stay fresh? Leave a note, I’d like to hear from you.

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