By: Anastasia Penchi
Holmen is a lot more than a suburb of La Crosse with a star that lights up on its most prominent bluff.
This village of almost 10,000 people has its own schools, churches, restaurants, grocery store and downtown Main Street. Granted, it doesn’t have everything the big cities have, but that’s part of its charm.
Holmen is known for a great summer festival featuring locally produced sweet corn other known features – equally appealing — are its great recreational opportunities that include trails for enthusiasts to bike and hike.
If small town communities are your thing, here are some thing to keep in mind about Holmen:
1) It’s all about the Korn
Holmen is known for offering its residents, neighbors and visitors freshly picked ears of corn that are grilled to perfection during its annual Kornfest celebration. Eating this corn is a sure sign that the heat and humidity of Wisconsin’s summer has arrived. Kornfest is held annually in August, but keep in mind that corn is only served on Saturday and Sunday. Other fun things happen at Kornfest, too, thanks to its community organizations. The Holmen American Legion organizes the festival in general and offers up music, a fun run and bingo, among other traditions; and the Holmen Lions put on a parade and classic car show. Also on the Kornfest menu is Pogy’s chicken, brats from the Holmen Locker and Meat Market and a St. Elizabeth’s breakfast on Sunday morning. If you leave this festival hungry you are doing it wrong.
2) Whose business is it anyway?
Take your family out to eat at Features Sports Bar & Grill or at Pizza Corral or T-Jo’s. Shop for groceries at Festival Foods. Buy supplies at Holmen Ace Hardware. Stay at Prairie Inn & Suites. Play golf at Drugan’s Castle Mound. Patronizing local businesses is hardly a hardship.
3) A historic hike
The Eagles song, “Seven Bridges Road” wasn’t written about McGilvray Bottoms, located about three miles northwest of Holmen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pretend it was. Locally known as Seven Bridges Road, this road was closed in 1948 due to continual flooding, but it now serves as a hiking trail to some of the country’s rarest bowstring truss bridges built from 1905-1908. The road is listed on both the National and Wisconsin Registers of Historic Places, and is technically within the state-owned Van Loon Wildlife Area. A parking lot and picnic area mark the entrance. Take some bug spray and an MP3 player so you can hear the Eagles song as you walk along. And if you go close to dusk, you will see that there are stars in the northern skies, too.
4) Parks and concerts are a priority
Holmen has 12 parks, including Deer Wood Park, a 40-acre community park with hiking trails, a sledding hill, ball fields, tennis courts, play areas and more. This community was also one of the first in the area to have waterslides and a water play area when it opened the Holmen Area Aquatic Center in 1999. Halfway Creek Park in the middle of town has a band shell that features musicians every Sunday night through mid September — just bring blankets or lawn chairs for seating and listen to the music for free.
5) Make the two-wheel connection
Biking in a natural setting is easy in Holmen as Halfway Creek Trail follows Halfway Creek for 3.4 miles and then connects to the state’s Great River Bike Trail. The Great River Bike Trail is Wisconsin’s 24-mile trail that travels through prairies and the backwaters of the upper Mississippi River valley. It was built on an abandoned railroad line. That trail then connects to the La Crosse River State Trail, which then connects to the state’s Elroy-Sparta State Trail, which then connects to the “400” State Trail. Most of these trails are made of a finely crushed limestone surface so it is comfortable for biking (or even just walking). These trails total more than 100 miles, so if you are still going after this, you may want to consider the Tour de France.
Freelance writerAnastasia Penchi is graduate of UW-La Crosse and a long-time Coulee Region writer who has written for area newspapers and magazines (www.loislaneforhire.com).