Small Town Surprises: sometimes apple pie, sometimes a strip club

We started off in Tigerton, a town with a population of 728. We originally intended to see the Rocks Are Fun Cafe and head on the next town, but we ended up getting lost, and we ended up downtown.

We walked up and down the street admiring Tigerton’s tininess, saying hello to locals, and trying to imagine life in such a small place. As we were about to leave, we made a split-second decision and decided to explore the village hall. The plaque outside said that, at one point, the building served simultaneously as the village hall, firehouse, and had two jail cells.

Tigerton Village Hall, built in 1905

Inside, we were welcomed by that indescribable smell of history and the aroma of fresh apple pies.

“We’re baking them for Applefest,” an older lady inside told us. “It’s in September, but we start making them now and freezing them because we make so many, and they taste just as good.” We later found out that Tigerton had won awards for Best Downtown Event for Applefest (and we vowed to come back to finally taste the pies that smelled so delicious!).

After receiving pamphlets and excited explanations of the hall’s restoration, the same kind lady explained that she’d helped to restore the building as close to the way it once was. They’d replaced the original doors for the horse-drawn fire engine, the original wood floors, and were showcasing one of the jail cells (which was simultaneously used as shelving for locally-made collectibles on sale). We toured the building, admiring the original bell showcased in the entryway, an ancient telephone on the wall, and upstairs, a showcase of all of the village’s history.

This talkative and friendly lady told us about her own time in the village, how she’d started out at the post office, then delivered mail, and now helped to coordinate the village’s largest events.

“When you come back for Applefest, ask for Eleanor, and they’ll help you find me,” she told us with a smile as we left.

Next, we finally found the Rocks Are Fun Cafe. The cafe itself sells pasties, the baked pastry, but there’s no way most people go for the food: the entire store is covered, from the walls, to the insides of tables and on top of them, with sculptures of rocks with googly eyes.


For awhile we admired the sculptures and chatted with the owner until he called us up to the counter.

“This is my favorite rock,” he told us, handing us a rough gray rock about the size of a fist. As he spoke I tried to figure out what was so great about the gray thing in Victoria’s hand. “It’s no longer on the moon, and it weighs more here than it would there, it’s very special to me.” We looked at it in wonder then and he took it back and set it on a shelf behind him. The old man smiled and said, “I don’t know if it’s actually from the moon, but it really does weigh more here than it would there.” We couldn’t help but laugh!

The next stop was the village of Wittenberg, which is strewn with fantastic murals, gardens, and sculptures. Here are just two of many:

Our next destination was linked to my family history. Near Wittenberg is a teeny, tiny village called Eland, which is currently populated by 203 people. I recently discovered that my great grandma used to live there, and that my grandpa had made many memories there when visiting family. One in particular was captured on camera: my grandpa and his cousin in front of a sign marking the intersection of county highway D and the end of OO.

Well, we found it!

D end, uh oh

Our last stop was to see the giant badger head near Birnamwood. The badger head was as large and strange as we were expecting. What we weren’t expecting was the giant squirrel sitting on a log-shaped building, and the Northern Exposure Gentleman’s Club on the same lot advertising exotic dancers and a full liquor bar.

In the end, the trip was an excellent glimpse into what makes Wisconsin wonderful: it’s history and its surprises.




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