As the summer months wind down and school is around the corner, the Root River Trail System prepares for one more big event for the summer going into fall, Taste of the Trail.
Each community offers an abundance of activities, food and music in their own particular style and taste.
"Each town is unique and each one will do something unique about themselves that fits their town," described Sarah Wangen, Preston's tourism director and one of the contributors to planning Taste of the Trail.
Taste of the Trail really began only a few years ago, but each year the event seems to grow and grow. Those coordinating it, namely tourism and chamber of commerce directors and a few volunteers from each city, meet once a month to continue to discover new and better ways to attract both local residents and tourists to the Bluff Country.
"It is good to focus on working together and putting the whole event on together to attract people to our community rather than try to compete against each other," Wangen noted. "We work in collaboration to bring events and towns together."
The Trail Towns group consists of the nine communities along the Root River Trail system, including Fountain, Preston, Lanesboro, Harmony, Rushford, Whalan, Rushford Village, Houston and Peterson. The group works to promote and better their trail community as a whole, which in turn also benefits their own individual communities.
"The group meets monthly to put together activities for the whole group to bring exposure to the whole group," said Wangen.
Planning for the Taste of the Trail event can be traced from the end of the event last year. Talk at the monthly meetings focuses on ways to get involved in the trail, how to better the area for the whole year and how to improve the next year's event.
"We want to show people what is unique about our communities so that they will want to come back again," Wangen commented.
The goal for Taste of the Trail is to give people a fun time during the last weekends of summer so that they may return home with good experiences from the area. Some of these may be people from within Fillmore County, a mile away or 100 miles away.
"There is a marketing committee in the group that focuses on how to advertise the event. We have been sending press releases to over 50 newspapers and news stations," Wangen explained.
"We try to get people from the Cities, Decorah, La Crosse and Winona to come for Taste of the Trail. We advertised Taste of the Trail when BAM was here too," she continued.
This year, Taste of the Trail will open up the three-weekend tour of the nine towns that encompass the Root River Trail system in Fountain, Harmony and Preston on Saturday, Sept. 6. Since each town is different, they will be focusing on something that makes their town stand out.
For example, in Preston people will be able to try out a smoked trout spread and learn how to fly fish. They will also be able to see a few alpacas from Rockie Top Acres Alpaca Farm.
Harmony will concentrate on live music and kids activities. Houston will bring nature and animals to the forefront. Peterson will present farm life and animal life, and Fountain will offer Amish tours, just to name a few.
And there will be other fun things to look for, too. Tractor and wagon rides in Preston, a vintage 1860s style baseball game in Lanesboro at 2 p.m., Chirp the Balloon Artist in Whalan and grand prize drawings.
Each town will be exhibiting music by local artists, including the Rutabaga Brothers, the Rhubarb Sisters, Charlie Warner and Risk Factor.
Taste of the Trail offers a wide variety for people to enjoy. And of course, in each town there are many options for food to help each person enjoy the day even more.
Each weekend, Taste of the Trail will begin at 10 a.m. and last until 3 p.m. giving visitors time to hike, ride or drive to one of the other towns on the list.
Fountain, Preston and Harmony are first in rotation this year. On Sept. 13, Houston, Rushford and Rushford Village will be the next sites featured. And Sept. 20 rounds out Taste of the Trail in Lanesboro, Peterson and Whalan.
"Each year the weekends are rotated. Last year Preston was one of the last places to visit, and this year it is the first," Wangen described.
Each place offers an assortment of food and traditional delicacies.
"The theory is that they come for the food. Visitors like the locally produced stuff and the samplings of what the restaurants offer," stated Dave Harrenstein, who works with Taste of the Trail in Lanesboro.
And not to far away, Whalan also lists a great deal of Norwegian delicacies such as lefse, blood klob, sweet soup, Irish whiskey cake and rommegrot to name a few of the samples offered.
"The lefse is prepared on a wood-burning stove by a local gentleman and we will have a French chef cooking crepes on a gas grill," noted Wes Harding.
As Taste of the Trail approaches to just over a week away, excitement begins to build up in each town as they individually prepare for their visitors. Each town offers a wide variety of excitement and attractions for people of all ages to explore this Bluff Country region.
"It will be fun to get to see new visitors here in Preston. And it will be exciting to see what other towns are doing for Taste of the Trail as well," Wangen stated.
"People can ride bike or walk to each town. But if they can't do either, I still encourage them to drive to the next station," she concluded.
People in each community may have seen the posters displayed in business windows promoting Taste of the Trail, which give a general schedule of the weekend. Schedules will also be published in this newspaper prior to the events each weekend. Details are also on the Root River Trail Towns Facebook page or the website www.rootrivertrail.org.