"Wisconsin-Happy Festival State", by Eve Phillips. My husband and I love to travel in the state of Wisconsin where we live and get great pictures on the way. My name is Laurie Kutil and photography has become a great passion of mine since 2010. One thing I have learned in researching each town before visiting it is that, "Every town has it's story". When I do uncover those stories by connecting with local residents, our experience becomes so much richer. In turn, sharing the stories with you brings me joy :)
Take a step back in time at the Fort Koshkonong Rendezvous. It takes place every year at Rock River Park where the re-created fort is located.
On an elevated walkway you could see inside the whole stockade.
Inside the stockade were also horse-drawn hearses. Yes, they existed before the automobile. The paper they gave us at the admission tent had a great article about them.
This is the map and schedule of the event.
This year the theme was “Heritage of Wood and Tools” and and other pioneer crafts were also represented. Not only was the fort fully occupied, you could ride a horse-drawn wagon to an even larger encampment.
Here is video we made of our experience at our first rendezvous.
Inside of the stockade we saw bullets and lead shot being made (video), wool on a spinning wheel turned into thread. Also a large log being turned into boards, a painstaking process. Also a “General Store” with old fashioned candy, sponsored by the Simple Life Country Store in Ft. Atkinson.
We also had the pleasure of meeting Daniel R. Vogt of Brain-Tan Buckskin. If you have a deer hide, he is your man to make it into a beautiful hide or leather for your use.
Across the way kids were building their own forts under the supervision of Organizer Joel Winn and another volunteer named Rod McNamee of Ten Pin Motors, LLC.
He sawed some wood with Al too.
Lets take a wagon ride to the encampment on the other side of the park!
We arrived about 10 minutes later to the other side. Between the sound of muskets and cannons firing, also fifes and drums, you really felt you were in the 1770’s to the 1880’s. I could hear an Indian flute above all the din and went to see where it was coming from. The beautiful flute playing was by John Allen (Ten Horses) of Wolf Creek Crafts, a Native American craftsman who makes these beautiful flutes. He also is a guest in school classrooms showing then to children and teaching them about Native American culture. He also had CD’s for sale of his music and I got one for $10. Now I can enjoy it any time!
Now to see where the fifes and drums were coming from. I see Revolutionary War soldiers at the shelter. They were getting ready to march to the other side of the encampment! Watch video to join in! They had a CD for sale too for $15, but we didn’t get that.
We enjoyed our trip back in time here and hope to return next year, we learned a lot and had a great deal of fun!
Now that winter is over, we had a chance to get here to pay our respects to the Ho-Chunk ancestors that were buried here over 1000 years ago. A historical marker is in the park too.
The park is laid out with timbers marking the trail and signs marking each mound and it’s shape. See trail map here. The park was carpeted with leaves from the previous autumn, providing a soft crunch with each step.
This is the flyer with the history of this area.
Lets begin our walk, this is the right side of the park. We come across a small wooden bridge and wind around to our right.
All of the mounds have a sign in front of them. Many are too large to get in one shot.
The woods were serene with the sounds of spring birdsong, accentuating the feelings of peace in this place. The path took us close to an adjoining property with a chicken house, their soft clucking increasing as I got closer.
A Bird mound.
We are glad Jefferson County preserved these mounds for all to appreciate and see. As we finished our explorations, a young mom and her daughter arrived to explore this park too. The Ho-Chunk have a long history in Wisconsin and we respect them.
This is a peaceful community now with many activities for visitors and residents to enjoy. Our first stop on our November visit was to Evergreen Cemetery to see the Bellman Carillon Tower and Veterans Memorial.
The Chamber of Commerce is another great place to stop for info on Fort and the rest of Jefferson County. See their video.
We headed downtown to see other historic sites and markers. Nearby the Eli May house is the historic water tower. During the summer you can climb the stairs to have a good view of the city. Here is a view provided by a previous visitor.
Long before Europeans lived here, Native Americans did. The have many mounds in this area. There is a marker and a partially-preserved VERY rare Panther Intaglio on 1228 Riverside Dr. You can see it here.
The larger house near the Rock River is further down the driveway, we didn’t trespass to see it, just zoomed in.
Fort Atkinson also has a re-creation of their original Fort Koshkonong and stockade at Rock River Park. It was built between 1966-68 and hosts the Koshkonong Rendezous on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. We went on May 28, 2016.
Bring your bike along or take a walk along the Glacial River Bike Trail. Take a break at the depot/shelter. This is part of the Rails to Trails programs to convert old rail lines to recreational trails.
Fort Atkinson is also host to many businesses that provide good jobs and a fun night out. On our 2015 visit we went to Capn’s Roadhouse for lunch. It was Veterans Day and since Al is a Navy vet, he got a free steak dinner!
The restaurant is close to the high school, on the grounds is the historic bell that was part of the first high school building. It is in a semi-protective structure.
When we returned in May of 2016, we enjoyed lunch at Fat Boyz. A friend of mine recommended them for their chicken strips and he wasn’t kidding! We ordered one chicken strip basket and we couldn’t even finish it. Great value in a friendly atmosphere, a place fun for the whole family!
A great place for shopping is Nasco. They have discounts on toys and much more. I couldn’t help myself, I got a Duncan YoYo.
Jones Dairy Farm is also a major employer, I see their products in my local grocery stores all the time.
If you like live theater, The Fireside is a favorite destination for Wisconsinites. We have not yet been there yet, but we plan on it. You get dinner before the show for a complete evening out. This a family business, the 3rd generation has now taken up the reins to keep this popular tradition going at Fort (what the locals fondly call their city). They also offer Friday Fish Fry for just the food and no show.
If you just want something light, Beauty and the Bean is a friendly place with great coffee. The “beauty” part is the salon adjoining the coffee shop.
In March 2016, we enjoyed fish fry at the Sunset Bar and Grill in the town of Sumner (part of Fort). The food was fantastic! In the summer they have music outside. Take a selfie by the big anchor like we did 🙂
Enjoy a stop at Tuttle’s Pharmacy, open since 1931. Their friendly service can’t be beat either and are are ready to help with your prescription needs. There are many unique gifts ideas too.
Across the street is Catfish Alley, between two buildings, beautiful art work!
One place you need to make time for when you visit is the Hoard Museum and Dairy Shrine. We stopped there in November and didn’t quite complete our tour. We returned March 18 and saw the Dairy Shrine portion that we didn’t see before.
Behind the museum is the largest Intersectional Peony Garden in the country. On Saturday June 6, 2015, Fort Atkinson was officially declared “Intersectional Peony City of Wisconsin”. On May 28 of 2016, we had a chance to see these beautiful flowers in bloom.
Fort Atkinson is a very interesting community and we plan on returning as often as we can.