Posts Tagged ‘Brucemore

During these tough economic times, people are cutting back on entertainment expenses, including travel. Instead of jetsetting across the country, people are opting for staycations closer to home.

But is that really so bad?  Sometimes we are so focused on getting away that we take for granted what’s available in our own backyard.

Next Sunday, the annual Explore section will be distributed with The Gazette. I have been this section’s editor for the past four years. This year’s edition will feature six daytrips: Amana Colonies, Decorah, McGregor-Marquette, AnamosaMonticello, MaquoketaDubuque and Galena, Ill.  As an Eastern Iowa native, I have been to most of these places, but look forward to visiting all of them this summer.

Photo by Cliff Jette/The Gazette. Bluesmore is just one of the popular annual events at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids.

Photo by Cliff Jette/The Gazette Bluesmore is just one of the popular annual events at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids.

For Mother’s Day, I met my parents Saturday at Brucemore in Cedar Rapids. The historic site was holding its annual spring plant sale. Although a little chilly, it was a beautiful day to wander around the estate. If you haven’t been to Brucemore or attended any of its events such as Classics at Brucemore (featuring “To Kill A Mockingbird” this summer), Cabaret in the Courtyard or Bluesmore, do so. It’s serene setting makes you forget about the rest of the world, even if it’s just for a few hours.

After checking out another plant sale at Corner House Gallery and Frame just down First Avenue from Brucemore, we were ready for lunch. I suggested going to Czech Village. Yes, there were other places a lot closer to First Avenue and Collins Road, but I am so impressed with Czech Village’s resilience after being devastated in last June’s flood, I wanted to support their businesses.

Although not completely rebuilt by a long shot, Czech Village has come a long way in the past 11 months. We ate at the Bohemian Café and Pub in the heart of the village on 16thAvenue. It just opened Monday; it was an antique shop pre-flood and has been renovated into a restaurant/pub/bakery featuring Czech dishes such as a pork loin sandwich topped with sautéed apples and cheddar cheese. In the future, it hopes to attract busloads of tourists visiting the museum which plans to relocate to the Music Loft building next door.

Photo by Cliff Jette/The Gazette. Sykora Bakery in Czech Village recently reopened to large crowds.

Photo by Cliff Jette/The Gazette. Sykora Bakery in Czech Village recently reopened to large crowds.

We then went to recently reopened Sykora Bakery down the street. I hate to admit it, but that was the first time I’ve been there. There was a line, but I didn’t mind the wait for freshly baked kolaches and turnovers.

At every place we visited, the owners and employees graciously thanked us for coming to their rebuilt business that was destroyed less than a year ago. They also invited us to come back to Czech Village next weekend for Houby Days.

It was questionable whether the annual festival celebrating all things mushroom would proceed due to continued clean-up efforts in the area. But it has been decided the show will go on. I highly encourage you to attend some or all of Houby Days next weekend, May 15-17. The residents and businesses of this Eastern Iowa treasure have put their whole lives into rebuilding this area the so love. While we can’t control the weather or the river, we can ensure the vitality of Czech Village’s future by throwing our support and dollars into it.

I plan on taking all sorts of stay-cacations over the next few months. I’ll write about them and take some pictures. I invite you to share your stay-cation stories and photos here. Please e-mail me at

A year ago in March my husband and I once again had the rug pulled out from under us.  Thinking he was entering a meeting to discuss printing options, my husband, Jeff, was told by his business partners that they had voted him out as publisher of the newspaper he and I created in our spare bedroom in 2005.

Our income was instantly cut in half (there is no severance when you get voted off the island), our stuff in the office was boxed up and the locks were changed. More significantly, we felt we had been betrayed by Jeff’s hometown. Again.

When we moved back to Iowa from Kansas in 2004, we thought we were instantly going to have a happy, peaceful life. I got my job at The Gazette and Jeff was offered the head coaching job of his hometown wrestling team, a post his father held some 35 years earlier. Jeff was substitute teaching, planning on finishing his certification.

Somewhere along the line, Jeff had the idea to start a weekly newspaper to take on the daily he had once worked at which had been stripped of its quality after a large media holding company bought it shortly after we moved to Kansas in 1997. He wanted to bring back quality journalism to his hometown and knew just how to do it.

We secured funding through a business partner and were on our way with a used Mac and a camera. The first issue came out June 1, 2005, and by August, there were more than 2,000 paid subscribers. By all accounts, it was a success story. Except for the revenue. People loved to read it but were somewhat wary to advertise in it. By Christmas, our business partner got fed up and wanted out.

We, rather accidentally, found new partners to buy out his shares and felt relieved it would live to see another day. As the money troubles continued, we were still convinced we could make a go of it. To top off the stress, Jeff was asked to step down from his wrestling coaching job due to a few impatient parents, assistant coaches and relentless fans. 

While subscriptions were steadily increasing, the paper continued to struggle as ad revenues couldn’t keep up with the competing shopper.  Jeff was told he didn’t do enough and didn’t care enough. I was struggling at my job at The Gazette as well. Our son’s special needs took their toll and we quickly realized this wasn’t the dream life we had anticipated.

When Jeff was released from his duties at the paper and our opinions were rendered worthless, we were devastated and had enough.  First the wrestling job, now this. He decided to give up journalism for good and enrolled in a program to get his master’s degree in special education. Because our trip back home wasn’t what we expected, we made plans to move back to Kansas once he finished his degree. He was in contact with the school district down there and I was in contact with my former newspaper company. In May we took a trip to look at houses and continued to plan our move.

Then, in July, something happened to both of us. On the same night, I went to the “Moving Home” performance at Brucemore and he went to a regional softball game. I was touched by the program which documented the epic flood in Cedar Rapids and the determination of the community to recover. He was touched by his softball team’s determination, only to fall one game short of going to state.

When we both got home, we had the same thing on our minds. What if we try to make it work here? Would we really be happier moving our son away from his friends and family? We were disappointed and hurt by a few people here, not everyone. So that night in July we changed our mindset and decided to stay.

Jeff is now the swimming coach and loves it. We have no regrets about completely ending our involvement with our former paper, especially through the recession. And while things at The Gazette have been trying lately with layoffs and reorganization, I’m glad I stuck it out.

Nothing is life is ever guaranteed, but I’m pretty sure in a year we’ll still be here in Iowa and finally peaceful and happy.

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