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August 13: News from around the Driftless Area
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‘News from Around the Driftless Area’ is a compilation showcasing the excellent work and interesting tidbits from the community journalists sprinkled throughout our area.

VIROQUA – Due to COVID-19, the annual Vernon County ‘Stuff the Bus’ brat fry has been cancelled. Donations are still being accepted at the Vernon County Health Department, Embroidery & More at 201D Swiggum Street, Westby, and People’s State Bank at 101 North Main Street in Viroqua. The program is open to all Vernon County children who meet the federal household eligibility guidelines of incomes at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty rate. Eligible children can apply to receive backpacks and school supplies… Fifteen years after Viroqua-based Kickapoo Coffee Roasters began, its three owners have renamed the business Wonderstate Coffee and plan for continued growth in sales and in the number of Wonderstate cafes. But they add that sales will be flat this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The business roasted its first batch of coffee under the new Wonderstate name on July 27. In April 2019, the owners announced their decision to change Kickapoo Coffee’s name. They said the Kickapoo Coffee name was chosen to honor the Kickapoo River Valley, where the business has its roots. But they also said that the Kickapoo tribes are a people and that by using the Kickapoo name, their coffee business had claimed a name that was never its to take… The De Soto School Board approved the district’s final reopening plan at its regular meeting on July 20. School is scheduled to begin September 1. The reopening plan includes three instructional options for families: traditional classroom instruction, where students receive all instruction in the classroom setting on school campuses; remote choice learning, where students are at home connected to the classroom instruction via Google Classroom Meetings and families may also choose, at their comfort level, to shift from remote choice to traditional classroom instruction, or vice-versa, during the school year (devices will be provided as needed and attendance taken); and De Soto Virtual Charter School (the charter school has operated for five years), an additional option for K-12 at-home education; a semester commitment is required for this option… The History Alive Project picked the August 22 date, ordered the cake, received the official OK from the Westby City Council to hold a Westby as a City Birthday Party. Twenty-two different activities had been planned. Then in mid-March the coronavirus arrived, forcing the Birthday Party Committee to revise its plans so as to still observe this event, choosing those activities that could be safely done. The events on August 22 include a 10 a.m. kickoff to be held at the Seas Branch School lawn, 122 Nelson Street, Westby. Visitors will be able to take a self-directed tour of the 1886-built home, where there are many photos and stories of earlier times in the city. A ‘Norwegian kids peek-thru board’ will be available for photo opportunities and there will be a children’s coloring opportunity. Cake pops will also be served. The committee will continue to take items for the time capsule. Two drawings will be held at the HAP House. The winning names for the ‘100 Paint Rocks Hunt’ will be drawn at 2 p.m., followed by the drawing for the winners of the 2020 Syttende Mai button raffle at 4 p.m. Another part of the celebration is the walk by/drive by “\’Decades of Homes Tours, which begins August 18 and runs through August 23. Maps will be available August 22 at the kickoff and at the HAP House. In addition, there is a ‘100 Painted Rocks Hunt’ which starts August 12 and ends August 21.

VIOLA – All residences, businesses, and schools in Viola will be powered by 100 percent renewable wind energy due to a new partnership between GoMacro and the Village. According to a news release from GoMacro, the company worked with the Viola Municipal Electric Utility, the Upper Midwest Municipal Energy Group, and renewable energy advisors to design a program to replace all traditional energy sources in their community with wind power. GoMacro will cover the additional costs of purchasing renewable energy credits for the entire municipality so that residents won’t see any difference in their energy bills. The initiative went into effect beginning with the August 2020 billing cycle.

LA FARGE –Larryfest Bluegrass Festival is the latest casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. The popular Bluegrass festival is held annually in 24 Valley between LaFarge and the small community of Dell. Festival organizers, who still have costs to keep their grounds in shape, are offering those who previously purchased tickets three options: keep this year’s ticket at the purchased price to use for the 2021 event; return your ticket by October 31 for a refund; or donate your ticket money to help offset this year’s financial burden – if you choose this option, please mail your ticket back to KVAMA-Larryfest Tickets, Attn: Larry Sebranek, N1753 Hess Road, LaCrosse, WI, 54601-2636… With the threat of COVID-19 increasing in Vernon County, and this year’s cancellation of the summer Music in the Park programs in LaFarge, at least one group of musicians decided to hold an impromptu program. A group from around the area including Joe Persons of LaFarge, and Bill Doolan, Dan Solverson, Jennie Solverson, and Brad Thew of Viroqua, played music in Bean Park on July 30… The Village of LaFarge Joint Review Board held a second meeting on July 30. The purpose of their meeting was to review and approve the project plan amendments for the village’s Tax Incremental District (TID #1). Amendments to the plan are to add the proposed Main Street renovation project into the original TID plan which was used when Organic Valley was formed. The new plan also added an additional three years onto the plan’s ending date. The board voted to approve the required resolutions.

ONTARIO – Thanks to the talents and generosity of Kendall resident Gail Schoenfeld, the community has had a steady supply of cloth face masks for sale at the Three Sisters Treasures (which is next to the library in downtown Kendall)… The vines in the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District Memorial Garden were transplanted as small vines from Wrigley Field? One of the district’s school board members brought them back from Wrigley and transplanted them years ago…

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN –Crawford County buildings remain closed to public, in-person business, following discussion at a Crawford County Board Personnel Committee meeting July 29. No date has been set for reopening, so county residents must continue conducting business needs via phone or, under special consideration, by appointment in person. Presently, a number of county employees are still working from home as they have been since Wisconsin’s Safer at Home orders were introduced… Free COVID-19 tests at Hartig Drug, 101 S. Marquette Road, Prairie du Chien, will be Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting Thursday this week, from 7 to 9 a.m., or in Platteville, at 180 West Pine Street, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays starting next Wednesday from 7 to 9 a.m.  All Hartig Drug coronavirus test collection sites can be found at The online portal helps patients make test collection appointments. Any individual is eligible to test, even if they are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. “Hartig Drug is excited to partner with HHS on this program to deliver free COVID-19 testing options to communities in the tri-state. The majority of testing capabilities seem to be emphasized in urban centers, so we look forward to providing free and accessible testing in several of our rural communities,” stated Charlie Hartig, CEO of Hartig Drug Company… The Prairie du Chien Parks and Recreation Department will be offering one last kayaking class on August 20 from 5 to 7 p.m. They ask that the participating are at least 10 years old. Register online at