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Genuine Northwest, Fall Edition

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Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.

National Historic Cheesemaking Center

2108 6th St., Monroe, Wis., (608) 325-4636, nationalhistoriccheesemakingcenter.org

Today it’s pretty difficult to imagine a United States without cheese factories, but there were no such things until the 1830s, when European immigrants commercialized what had been a household task. Oddly enough, Swiss immigrants in New Glarus, Wis., originally made their cheese with milk transported from Ohio. That’s because Wisconsin farmers were focused on growing wheat, not raising cows, until much later in the 1800s, after wheat crops had depleted the soil and wheat farming moved west. Local farmers soon realized just how well-suited their landscape was to raising dairy cows. Once railroads arrived, the making and shipping of cheddar (and other) cheeses transformed the local economy, giving Wisconsin a “gold rush” of its own kind.

Learn these and other cheese facts when you visit this national museum for a $5 admission price. View a 15-minute video that explains the ancient art of cheesemaking, with past and present methods explained; visit Imobersteg Farmstead Cheese Factory, on the property; learn the story of local cheesemaking through the late 1800s and early 1900s; and receive a goodie bag that includes a cheese dip spreader. The Milk House Gift Shop sells cheese-related mementos, books and cards, and nearby stores sell quality Wisconsin cheeses, sausages and other local goods. If you plan to go this fall, don’t wait; the museum closes for the season on Oct. 31 and re-opens in April. Hours: Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Labyrinth at Womanspace

3333 Maria Linden Dr., Rockford, Ill., (815) 877-0118, womanspace-rockford.org

Do things in your life feel a bit out of balance? Consider taking a quiet walk through this labyrinth, with the intention of clearing your mind and gaining insight, as you literally circle to the center. Surrounded by prairie and woods on a quiet oasis in the midst of the city, the labyrinth is open to women and men, on any day, during daylight hours.

Labyrinths have been in use for more than 4,000 years, and this one is a labor of love constructed by Womanspace volunteers, who worked on it for two years before its completion in 2002. The 11-circuit design emulates a famous French labyrinth in medieval Chartres Cathedral and is made from aglime, pea gravel and 20 tons of local limestone rock. In fact, if the rocks were laid end to end, they would span 2,200 feet, or seven football field lengths. A labyrinth is not a maze; once you reach the center, you will have walked on every part of the path. Many people like to walk to the rosette center of the labyrinth, leave a symbol of their walk intention on the large limestone rock, and then retrace their steps outward. The trip to the center and back offers powerful life metaphors and insights, say designers of the local labyrinth.

Follow the “prayer ribbons” in the Womanspace woods to find the labyrinth.

Womanspace is a nonprofit organization established in 1975 with the mission of “connecting, empowering, creating and transforming our world – one woman at a time.” It’s located next door to the School Sisters of St. Francis, off Spring Brook Road and Applewood Lane.

Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies & Frances Wood Shimer Memorial Arboretum

203 E. Seminary St., Mount Carroll, Ill., (815) 244-1173, campbellcenter.org

Did you know that one of the best international learning centers for museum collections care training exists right here in our region? The Campbell Center for Historic Preservation teaches archivists from museums around the world how to care for, store and display various precious items, from paper artifacts to historic firearms, textiles and other objects, both organic and inorganic.

This historic, 14-acre campus and arboretum is an especially lovely place to stroll during autumn, with its 250 trees representing 60 species, many of them personally planted in the mid-1800s by the founders of the campus.

The school began in 1852 as the Mount Carroll Seminary, led very successfully by two East Coast-educated women, Frances Wood Shimer (administrator) and Cinderella Gregory (director of education). Shimer arranged for the school’s affiliation with the University of Chicago before her retirement in 1896. Seven decades later, Shimer College relocated to Waukegan, Ill., and the former campus was purchased by a group of local citizens, who formed The Restoration College Association; its name was changed in the 1980s.

Today the center offers certified courses in collections care and historic preservation, taught by some of the most respected faculty members in this field. It also rents out space for conferences and meetings. Stop in to stroll the arboretum and view the lovely early-20th century Georgian Revival buildings designed by the same architects who dreamed up the main building of the Art Institute of Chicago and Stanford University.

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