‘Is this Heaven?’

‘No. It’s Iowa.’ ~ Field of Dreams

I was a person who left the state of Iowa as soon as I could, heading out to the big city of Washington, DC for undergrad. It took a senior year spring break trip with two of my besties to help me see Iowa with new eyes and lead me to gain an appreciation of my home state. We visited Iowa at the tail end of a blizzard in 2007 and enjoyed the warm hospitality of family and friends who were happy to share a little slice of Iowa with a couple of East Coasters. Even for me, a native Iowan, it was a whole new experience of Iowa.


In many ways, it is because of that spring break trip that I want to get married in Iowa. It seems like the perfect opportunity to share Iowa and the Midwest with loved ones hailing from elsewhere in the states. Thankfully, Greg, who is Missourian himself, was also interested in bringing our loved ones to the Midwest.

Greg and I want to ensure that people enjoy their Iowa experience. In addition to the scheduled weekend events, we will be suggesting other sites, attractions, and events to check out. Below, I have listed some initial suggestions and will post about more as I think of them. Also, feel free to reach out to Iowan native and good friend Kenny (kenneth.kahl@gmail.com) if you have something specific you are looking for.

Iowa State Fair

You haven’t really been to a state fair until you’ve been to a state fair in the Midwest. Complete with livestock, pickling & baking contests, butter cows, food on a stick, rides, and more, the Iowa State Fair is a tradition you don’t want to miss! The Iowa State Fair is being held August 8-18, 2013 in Des Moines, Iowa. A long time ago, I used to compete in gymnastics at the state fair and one of my favorite foods at the fair was the salt water taffy.

Des Moines Art Center

My brother Matt is an art enthusiast who lives in Des Moines and as such I have become very familiar with the Des Moines Art Center over the years. Don’t let this small art center deceive you; within are some amazing gems. Some of my favorites include Francis Bacon Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, Edward Hopper Automat, and Anselm Kiefer Untitled. Also, don’t miss the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines with an impressive collection of contemporary sculpture.

Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo

So not actually in Iowa, nevertheless, the Omaha Zoo is a great family friendly place to visit with an indoor rainforest, desert dome, nocturnal animal exhibit, Madagascar exhibit, aquarium, and so much more. Of all the animals at the zoo, my favorite when I was younger was the peacock.

Joslyn Art Museum

I was introduced to art at the Joslyn Art Museum located in Omaha, Nebraska. The first art exhibit I remember my parents taking me to was at the Joslyn, an exhibit of Iowan artist Grant Wood which included his famous American Gothic. Following that was a Degas exhibit (the plaster cast of the Little Dancer is a part of the permanent collection at the Joslyn). The building itself is an impressive pink marble art deco creation. The museum will have on exhibit at the time of the wedding, Renior to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color.

Dunlap, Iowa

Bonsall Appliance Show Floor in 1946

Bonsall Appliance Show Floor in 1946

Dunlap, a town of just over one thousand, is my beloved hometown. If you happen to go through, check out my dad’s store Bonsall TV & Appliance, first opened by my grandfather and my two uncles in the mid-1940s. Stop by Main Street Cakes & Gifts which serves very tasty breakfast rolls (and has an old fashion soda fountain where my grandma used to treat us grandkids with ‘phosphate sodas’). While there, grab a pork tenderloin at the Dairy Sweet (rated the Best Tenderloin in Iowa in 2005).


For more ideas about what to see and do, visit the following map:



Picture Perfect

Before meeting Greg, I had already dreamed about a wedding near Lake View, Iowa, where my parents have their cabin. I have long been excited about introducing my non-Iowan friends to the charms of Iowa, which include bucolic scenery, cheap drinks at the bar, and friendly people; and I thought that a wedding weekend that included boating, swimming, and water skiing seemed pretty fun to me. (Thankfully, Greg was also excited about this plan.) But I had never quite figured out where to host the ceremony and reception.

An option that is no longer open was the Lakewood Ballroom. A place with a long history, many kin and friends remember partying and dancing, back in the day, at one of the Lakewood Ballroom’s (it burned down several times). Sadly, the current building had fallen into disrepair and was not the most attractive of options.

Lake View has charming stone piers, where a family friend had previously been married, but the space is not big enough for a large wedding and still wouldn’t solve the problem of where to host a reception.

stone pier

photo source: Lake View & Black Hawk Lake Facebook Page

We had also considered the Chautauqua Building in Sac City, Iowa. I have to admit that I had never heard about the Chautauqua movement until I came across this building. Built in 1908, this auditorium once held lectures, concerts, and preachers. The building has an interesting history and an elegant rustic beauty both of which intrigued me.

chautauqua building

photo source: http://www.waymarking.com

At the end of the day, we found our location because of Greg. We were biking around the lake with my parents just weeks after getting engaged. Greg had wanted to stop at the hotel to find out about reserving a block of rooms. I, in an attempt to avoid the inevitable wedding planning, resisted. However, my parents wanted to stop and look at a cabin under construction across from the hotel and just then I needed to use the restroom. So there we were at the hotel talking with the staff about reserving a block of rooms and how we didn’t yet have a venue, when the staff person suggested Prairie Pedlar. My mom, who had been there ages ago, said ‘that’s it!’ and off we went to go have a look.

Prairie Pedlar really is picture perfect with 7 acres of beautiful gardens, a renovated Sears-Roebuck barn (yes, back in the day you could purchase a barn kit from Sears), a one room schoolhouse, and a chicken coop. The couple who owns it bought the farm in the 80s in a bit of disrepair and have turned it into a beautiful garden where they sell flowers and plants, host events, and host weddings. We feel lucky to have found such a lovely, enchanting venue. Now here’s to hoping that the weather cooperates!

photo source: http://www.prairiepedlar.com