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Just across the street from the Corn Palace you’ll find a change of pace at the Enchanted World Doll Museum, which celebrates its twentieth year this year and is one of the largest and best doll museums in the world. According tro Valerie LaBreche, Director, the museum grew from a collection which Sheldon F. Reese started, bringing back dolls from all of his business trips to other countries. When he and his wife Eunice Thomas Reese had 3,500 dolls in their home, they decided it was time to build a place for everyone to enjoy the collection.


Every little girl and grown-up girl will delight in spending minutes or hours in the castle-like building which now houses them. But don’t limit the wonderful experience to just females. Even the men and boys will find much to be fascinated with! We expected only a small room of display and found case after case of beautifully displayed 4,800 dolls in scenes depicting fairy tales, nursery rhymes, First Ladies and dolls representing almost every manufacturer and type you have ever heard of through the last century. The collection includes over 2,000 dolls from 125 countries in festival and native costumes.


The nominal fee and all proceeds from the wonderful gift shop go to charities through a foundation set up before the Reese’s death.

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In the late 1800’s the town was competing to become the state capital and also trying to entice settlers and convince them that good grain crops could be grown here. (Lewis and Clark’s report labeled this a desert only suitable for buffalo.) The Corn Belt Real Estate Association decided in 1892 to have a festival to attract people and to show the crops that are grown here. They created a wooden castle structure on the Main Street and artists attached locally grown grains and ears of corn in three colors to the building, creating an ornate system of designs and murals. Although Mitchell did not win out for the designation of capital, it did grow in fame as travelers talked about the amazing work of art, which over 500,000 people come to see each year.

Annually for the past 110 years the Corn Palace is the center of a citywide festival in late August, displaying the works in progress. Artists’ work begins in June with the first harvest of sour-dock, which is used as borders and frames and accents. The next harvests are rye, milo, and oats, totaling 3,000 bushels of grain, are added to create geometric designs all over the outside of the building.

A retired city fireman, Dean Strand, is contracted to grow the corn for the murals each year. He has hand selected and bred strains of corn to develop eleven different colors for the art: browns, white, black, blue, calico, and yellow. After the September harvest 275,000 ears are split in half and the halves are nailed into place on the color-by-number sketches, using a ton of nails each year. From October till June the completed works remain on the building, making it the “world’s largest bird feeder.” (The birds actually only eat the seed from the milo.) At other times of year you’ll enjoy seeing some from the previous year and the new works in progress.

Be sure to go inside for a free tour and to see the photo gallery of the century’s art, as each year is different. Although artists were varied in the early years, a Master of Fine Arts, Oscar Howe, who was a Yanktonai Sioux and the Artist laureate of South Dakota, was the artist for the Corn Palace Murals from 1948-1971. He was succeeded by Calvin Schultz, a childhood polio victim who discovered his artistic talent when the disease confined him. He loved the festival as a youngster and pushed himself with his good leg in a coaster wagon to see the festivities.
Years later, from a wheelchair, he designed and oversaw the grain paintings from 1977 until this year. He was inducted to the South Dakota Hall of Fame for Arts and Humanities in 1998.
No trip to Mitchell will be complete without eating at Bill Jamison’s “Jackpot Gamblin’ Bar and Saloon Café.” You’d swear that it is an authentic century old saloon, but in fact is was opened about a dozen years ago. For years Bill and his wife visited flea markets and antique stores in many states collecting all the fascinating objects, which decorate every inch of walls and ceiling. The cowboy grub is excellent, and if you don’t find what you like on the large TV screens in the restaurant, you’ll have plenty to look at in every nook and corner!

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We would like to share with you our experience during this week’s jaunt to Camper World in Denton, Texas. Due to an early morning appointment for installation of a satellite finder we went to Gainesville the evening before to cut down on travel time the next morning. We were given a recommendation for Wayne Harper’s Restaurant on 35 North as a good bet for dinner (very close to the Outlet Mall north of Gainesville). We were so pleased with the excellent meal both of us enjoyed, only problem was that the servings were so generous we ate way too much! Our waitress told us that Mr. Harper also has restaurants in Denison and Sherman. Looking forward to going again for another good meal.

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We had an eight year old daughter, a six year old son, and a three-month old baby boy. My husband, then a rancher, was planning a business trip to Mexico to advertise for a large cattle sale he was having. I was not aware of how much he hated to leave his family for several weeks. I was too busy with three children’s daily needs! Early in the evening toward the end of May, with the Texas heat already pushing 100 degrees, he arrived home announcing, “I have a surprise for the family!”

In the driveway stood an old, nineteen-foot motor home. “Who’s here?” I asked. “No one. This is OURS!” was his excited reply. “What’s it for?” I asked, incredulous. “We’re all going to Mexico! ” he responded with great elation.

I was stunned beyond belief. “Are you crazy? We have a three-month old baby! I’m not getting in that thing!” “But, Honey, it’s great! I thought you’d love it! I just happened to pass it with a FOR SALE sign, and I thought it would be perfect. You and the kids can go with me.”

“But we have never mentioned camping in our whole ten years of marriage! You didn’t even ask me!” I cried.

“It was too good a deal to pass up! If I had waited it would have been gone,” he responded, still overwhelmingly pleased with himself and his good fortune.

“Well, I’d rather have a divorce than go to Mexico in that thing, in the summer, with three children, including our baby. You’ve lost your mind!” I angrily retorted, storming into the house, about to cry.

“But you haven’t even seen the inside yet. It’s great!” he said defensively, following me. “How much did you pay for that thing?” I asked. “It was only $5,000. Isn’t that amazing?” “Five thousand dollars!! I can’t believe you did that without discussing it with me! What were you thinking of?”

“I just want you and the kids to go with me when I go. It’ll be like a vacation. I’ve always dreamed of traveling through Mexico.”

“Well, I never even thought of it!” I replied, the tears of frustration and fury and fear taking over.

We fought, I threatened, he cajoled, he convinced, and we went. But there were several stipulations on my part. We had to have some protection. He didn’t believe in guns, but we had three children to think of. I would ask my single brother who had just gotten out of the army to go with us so we’d have another man along. Bill agreed. And my brother, who lived in South Carolina and hadn’t seen the tiny old box he was agreeing to risk his life in, jumped at the opportunity to “see the world and have an adventure!”

It took us several weeks to get necessary supplies, make vital repairs to the RV, and pack up. As we went in and out of the vehicle, stowing away loads of paper diapers, baby food, clothes, toys, etc., our elderly neighbor stood in her yard with a disapproving sour expression on her face. When my brother arrived and we loaded our final supplies (including two large hiking canes as our “weapons of protection”) into the RV and were about ready to take off, she had held her peace long enough. She came over and with hands on hips asked, “Why would anyone want to travel in that TRAMPER?” she asked loudly, as her bewildered good-bye.

Believe me, I kept asking the same question all the first 750 miles, until we were well below the border. The first few days were a battle until we all learned that in a tiny space everyone has to keep his things stowed neatly, because without “ship shape” order, people lose their tempers. Lesson number two was: do not serve food on the road in the interest of saving time.

I was playing short order cook and preparing sandwiches while going around our first set of mountains and Bill had to hit the brakes. I went flying to the floor just a second after returning the sharp knife to the drawer! I got a nasty bruise on my forehead, and we all learned a lot in a moment about life on the road.

It is now twenty-six years, five motor homes (each bigger and better than the one before), and about 250,000 miles later. That little TRAMPER proved to be the best investment in family life and fun times we ever made. We became addicted to seeing the continent and living in small spaces, delighting in each sight and each stop in towns and woods. We really had some pretty wonderful and some pretty scary experiences along the way, as I’m sure most campers do.

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If you are are traveling to New Orleans in an RV, you’ll find a beautiful new campground at St. Bernard State Park. About fifteen miles Southeast of the city in St. Bernard’s Parish off LA Hwy. 39, this park and campground is located at a real swamp area and is so picturesque. The cost is $12 (discounts available), and there is a gate which secures the place after 9 p.m. (Don’t leave without the combination because you cannot get back in.) It is a real adventure to camp here because it is right on the swamp’s edge, so you could encounter an alligator in your yard! There is a very nice swimming pool (for a few dollars extra). Of course, the campground furnishes its own giant mosquitoes too! Call 1-888-677-1400

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Crossing the US on Highway 10, plan an overnight or a week’s camping in Willcox, AZ, an authentic Old West town founded in 1880 at an elevation of about 4,700 feet. The old saloon in the heart of Cocheese and Geronimo Apache Indian country, is still a center of tourist and local activities. At the original carved-up, wooden saloon bar you can still buy drinks, but today they are cappuccinos, expressos, and lattes, and the very best homemade cinnamon rolls you ever tasted, made fresh daily by Beverly. The store, known as “Claim Jumper Espresso Bar,” is also an antique shop, “Mother Lode,” (520) 384-2875, and also the place to get information or book a tour. Open daily except Christmas and Thanksgiving Days, it is located across from the old railroad station. There are several other quaint shops worth visiting on this cowboy strip from the past. It’s present claim to fame is the childhood home of Rex Allen and museum to his “Arizona Cowboy” Country Western Music fame. There are many other points of interest in Willcox. Call to find out what you can choose for the time you travel: 1-800-200-2272. You’ll find La :laya Mirage, a bird-watchers’ serendipity; Fort Bowie National Historic Site; Dos Cabezas Ghost Town; Pearce Ghost Town; Cochise Stronghold; Cowboy Hall of Fame.
While in this area you have the opportunity to visit a “Wonderland of Rocks” and what the Apaches called the “Land of Standing Up Rocks.” It is one of the most amazing formations we have ever seen and was formed by tremendous volcanic eruptions about 27 million years ago. Wind and water have been the master sculptors ever since. Head southeast on Highway 186 for a 36 mile drive through desert/ranching scenery as you approach the Chiricahua Mountains, frequently hazed over by dust or severe fronts moving in rapidly. In the Chiricajua National Monument you’ll find incredible rock formations, spires, chimneys of great heights and balanced rocks which defy gravity and all visual laws! You can drive through in several hours, or better still, enjoy some of the seventeen miles of trails for bird watching, hiking, picnicking, camping, and amazing photographs and views. Snows, rushing water, and mud slides are possible depending on the season and the weather, so you may want to call ahead. Take proper hiking equipment for weather changes as you are in the high desert, above 6,000 feet.
You’ll find an interesting Visitor Center and well-marked trails, excellent restrooms and a beautiful campground in the thick forest of evergreens which have managed successful growth from the winter snows giving moisture to the rich desert soil. The beautiful campground has no hook-ups, and RV’s over 28 feet will have difficulty. For more information call (520) 824-3560

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Chautauqua, New York. This was such a wonderful experience for us. We stayed in one place for two weeks. Chautauqua is just hard to describe. It is on the shores of a very large natural lake, and was founded in 1874 as an summer training program for Methodist Sunday School teachers. It has now become a renowned center for the performing arts and a resource for the discussion of the important issues of our time.

A quote from their material says it best “Approximately 8,000 persons are in residence on any day during the nine-week session , and a total of over 150,000 attend scheduled public events. Over 300 students are accepted annually into the Chautauqua School of Fine Arts and Performing Arts and more than 400 open-enrollment special studies courses are offered each session. There is a very grand Anthenum Hotel also. There are many very grand private homes, and many B & B’s have developed from the lovely old Victorian homes. Many families, of several generations, have made this their summer home. It is now an Historical District, so nothing came be altered without permission. The National Geographic Traveler magazine featured Chautauqua NY in the 50 “places of a lifetime” to visit in America, describing it as “an idyllic retreat to enrich body, soul and mind”. We recommend it!

We stayed at a large RV park right on the lake very near the Institute. The first week I took a cooking seminar (Jewish Kosher cook) and a Yoga class, and Lawrence took an exercise class. The second week, I took a Word computer course, and we both attended the 10:45 morning lectures in the Amphitheater on the Civil War. I could write an essay on the content of these five lectures, but will just briefly outline them. These were not on the conduct of the war, nor the battles, but on the ramifications of this war at the time throughout the world and the ripples still today. All of the speakers were Ph. Ds, authors of many books, and college professors. There was also a Question and Answer session after the lectures, and I wished they could have gone on for hours. The subject of “reparations” came up each lecture, and none of the lecturers gave them any credence. I enjoyed the answer of the one black lecturer, who said that one ancestor was a slave, and the other was a freeman, so how could that be “analyzed”………….Incidentally, he thought the time for the “black only college” had passed. The lecture by the sole female Ph. D. who spoke on the role of women during the period was so interesting. She is a visiting professor at the Citadel. I bought her book on “The Plantation Mistress”….The role of the southern plantation mistress was very hard and very confined..not nearly as grand as “Mrs. O’Hara’s in Gone With the Wind.

Each morning there was a lecture with a religious theme, and this summer theme emphasized the exploring of the Islam, Jewish and Christian religions. Each week there was a different theme for the 10:45 lecture. If you can think of a subject, there is a short course offered (over 400 .. even saw one for decorating Ukrainian Easter eggs!) The second week, we took a two part cooking seminar on the foods of the North and the South. The two young chefs were from the Seattle area, and the food was delicious. He made a roux that took an hour to stir, and he and two of our class took turns stirring it. The Northern Menu was New England Clam Chowder and Sweet Potato Chowder with Ship Biscuits; Pan-Seared Cod with Summer Succotash and Northern White Bean Cakes, Blueberry Bread Pudding with Cranberry Chutney and Maple Cream (to die for!) and Old-‘Fashioned Lemonade. The Southern Menu was Louisiana Style Shrimp and Crawfish Gumbo (way too much trouble) with skillet cornbread, Virginia-raised Pork Loin with Hoppin’ John, braised Kale and Raspberry Barbecue Sauce (very good). and skillet peaches with butter pecan dumplings and vanilla bean ice cream (to die for), and minted iced tea.

WE did not begin to scratch the surface of the educational, cultural and fine arts offerings at Chautauqua, but did what we could easily do and enjoyed our stay there

“The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle is the oldest continuous book club in the country. Each week during the summer season a CLSC author is featured at a roundtable lecture.” My quotations are from their brochure. You can also call or write for the special studies catalog. These are a potpourri of courses which vary by the week. The staff person recommended pre-enrollment, so you will just have to see what is available during the time you are there.

The RV park where we stayed is Camp Chautauqua RV Resort. For their web site Click Here and phone: 716-789-3435. This is a very large park which contains privately owned homes and park models, and also the RV area. Parts of the
RV area are heavily wooded with narrow roads. We were assigned to the Choctaw area which is open and fairly level, and we will request that area again. It is very close to the Chautauqua Institute.

Even if you cannot attend this season, I think you might enjoy reading about the history and the cultural offerings during a Chautauqua Institute season. There are many young people there on scholarships for the symphony, dance and arts. I think the opera and theater participants are professional. Chautauqua was originally a summer training program for Methodist Sunday School teachers, and there are still religious programs and weekly sermons in the amphi- theater.

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William Howard Taft (1878), Gerald Ford (1941 Law), William Jefferson Clinton (1973 Law), George Herbert Walker Bush (1948) and George Walker Bush (1968), Presidents all and Yale University graduates. Founded in 1701, Yale is the third oldest college in the US, with 5,100 undergraduates plus 11 graduate & professional schools with 5,200 students. I had not been back to Yale and New Haven for 10 years. All I remember was a dirty, grimy city where I assumed I was going to be mugged (much like New York was ten years ago). I did convey my feelings to Renny Loisel, the public relations director of the Greater New Haven Convention & Visitors Bureau (15 towns and cities in Southern Connecticut, including the 125,000 that live in New Haven) at a recent travel writer’s conference. She sent me a copy of a new book- “How to Survive Your First Year of Marriage by Traveling” by Dominick A. Miserandino (these travel stories are available in hard copy or on-line at www. thecelebritycafe.com) Since Renny is mentioned, what I read made me want to try another visit. “New Haven? Oh, you mean Yale. There is nothing to do and it’s not safe. New Haven is America’s first city planned (1638) according to a grid model, and in the center of the grid is a big city green with three separate churches and examples of Gothic, Federal and Georgian design. It’s where Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote the lyrics for Oklahoma. It’s where they made the first hamburger over 100 years ago. It’s where the Knights of Columbus has its world headquarters.” By the end of his weekend with Renny he said; “New Haven is one of those cities I will be back to. It has high-quality restaurants, museums and nightlife. I’ve fallen in love with New Haven”.

I arrived at the New Haven Hotel downtown-(800) NH-Hotel after a 1 ½ hour drive from New York City. I parked my car and for the next day and a half I placed myself in Renny’s hands. We walked all the first day or took the free downtown electric trolley that operates Monday thru Saturday from 11AM to 6PM. Since I had recently lost 30 pounds we skipped Frank Pepe’s where the “tomato pie” was born and also its friendly rival Sally’s, a few doors down. Also not on my diet list was Louis’ Lunch where the American Hamburger sandwich was conceived.. Renny told me that New Haven also produced the first cotton gin, the first lollipop, and the first Frisbee. Plus the first public library (1656), planetarium (1743) pay phone (1880), intercollegiate basketball game (1897) and American collegiate football ( 1872 against Columbia).
Even I had heard of the Long Wharf Theatre, a not-for-profit regional theatre offering eclectic productions of classics and new works. Founded 30 years ago, it really sits on a long wharf next to the Interstate and the Long Island Sound. www.longwharf.org .The Amistad Schooner is docked nearby during the summer months. Not far away is Lighthouse Point Park that has swimming, nature trails and picnic groves on its 82 acres. The Yale Repertory Theatre is downtown and is known for its fresh interpretation of the classics and its premieres of new works. It is a recipient of a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. The Yale School of Drama has trained Paul Newman, Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver among many others. www.yalerep.org . Continuing with the performing arts, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra is the fourth oldest in the country. www.newhavensymphony.com .The Schubert Theatre, opened in 1914, has earned the title “Birthplace of the Nation’s Greatest Hits”. More than 600 pre-Broadway tryouts have been held here. It is now a non-profit performing arts institution presenting Broadway, dance, cabaret, music and family entertainment. www.shubert.com .
Right across the street from each other are the Yale Center for British Art, with the largest collection of British art outside the UK, which opened in 1977, and the Yale University Art Gallery, founded in 1832. It has 80,000 objects including masterpieces by Van Gogh, Manet, Monet and Picasso. After finishing our 75 minute free student led Yale Tour (10; 30AM & 2PM weekdays & 1:30PM on weekends) highlighting the history, architecture, culture & tradition of Yale we visited the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. It features one of the few original Gutenberg Bibles, and more than 600,000 volumes and several million manuscripts. All three museums have free admission.

While we walked through the downtown are we stopped at INFO New Haven Center where we found tickets, guides and information about the area surrounding the Green. The Amisted Memorial, a 14 foot relief sculpture, is located in front of City Hall. This is the former site of the New Haven jail where the illegally kidnapped Africans were imprisoned in 1839 while awaiting trial. We took a self-guided walking tour of the Ansonia Historic District with homes from the early 1700’s through the 1970’s, all but one are privately owned. The Broadway shopping district, around the university, contains the Yale Bookstore, run by Barnes & Noble, and everything young men and women on campus night need. Chapel Street is lined with Tony shops, restaurants and coffee houses.
We ate at the Union League Café, serious French food with a comprehensive wine list. Drinks were had at the Playwright Authentic Irish Pub & Restaurant with its majestic hand-carved bars brought over piece by piece from Ireland. Scozzi Trattoria & Wine Bar was perfect for lunch; breakfast the second day was at Atticus Bookstore & Café. I even took home some of their home made Chabaso bread. A must is Roomba with its Central, South American & Caribbean fusion cuisine. We came by later that night to sample their tropical elixirs. Reservations are a must as fans come to eat here from as far away as New York & Boston. My final meal was at Bentara and its Malaysian cuisine and 1,500 reasonable priced wines.

During my 1 ½ days in New Haven we walked everywhere and never once did I feel nervous or threatened. I guess 10 years really did change New Haven for the better. Click here or (800) 332-STAY.