Friday, February 21, 2014

Stuart, Iowa- perfect for a weekend getaway

Straddling the Adair and Guthrie county lines is the cute little town of Stuart. In a part of the state known for egg farms, it's no surprise that you are greeted as you enter town with a colorful sign-Stuart, Home to 1600 Good Eggs and a Few Stinkers.

Summer in Stuart is a busy time for the local folks, with a new aquatic center and weekly farmers market, there is always something to do during the summer, which is highlighted by the annual Good Egg Days. Like all the small towns across the state, Stuart's annual festival represents a theme unique to the town and offers entertainment and fun for all ages. Parades, contests, loads of food vendors, street dance and live music make the weekend-long event something special.

Stuart is also home to the historic Hotel Stuart. After sitting untouched for many years the hotel is under major restoration. It's exciting to drive by and see the changes taking place. Across the street from the hotel is the old Rock Island Depot, originally built in 1879, also under restoration.

Iowa's famous White Pole Road passes through Stuart and is to many the unofficial county line, with Guthrie County to the north and Adair County to the south. White Pole Road holds many events of it's own including an annual Tractor Ride and Corvette Club. White Pole Road was one of the original transcontinental roads, from Cape Cod, Maine, to Long Beach, California, and was known as "The Great White Way."

You wouldn't think it to drive through these quiet little Iowa towns but decades ago many incredible events took place. Criminal events! Stuart is home to the last bank robbed by Bonnie and Clyde on April 16, 1934. The building still stands and has been home to many tenants over the years, from shops to salons to the former police station. 

Not far from downtown Stuart is the historic All Saints Center, which was severely damaged by an arsonist in 1995. Although considered a total loss, the community came together to support rebuilding efforts and restoration was completed. Today the center serves as a community center with meeting space, a beautiful wedding chapel, and is a true testament to what can can happen when a community comes together. The foundation which supports the Center made a video tribute to the rebuilding effort and can be seen by clicking here.

Just a few miles north of Stuart is the Dale Valley Winery. The winery is housed in the old school house from the Guthrie County ghost town Dale City. It was moved to it's current location, loving restored, and become a beautiful place to spend a sunny afternoon with a bottle of wine on the deck. Every summer the winery is home to Winestock, a day-long music festival with live bands, wonderful wines and lots of vendors. At harvest time, the winery invites guests to come help with the harvest and enjoy the day with friends and wine lovers.

Back to downtown Stuart you will find lots of entertainment. Several restaurants are open, the local small town taverns, and several unique businesses you might not find just anywhere.

One of the most unique businesses in Stuart is Carver's Ridge. Originally launched as a landscaping business, and later evolving in carving boulders, Carver's Ridge now features a showroom/retail store where you can browse for unique gifts and locally made products. The shop hosts events throughout the years such as open houses and often hosts giveaways on their Facebook page.

Turtle Star Studio is another one of a kind business. Owned by artist/sculptor Lynsi Passuti, Turtle Star Studio features some of Lynsi's beautiful clay works, planters, vases, wall art- lots to choose from. She is often participating in art shows around the region and sells her unique items in local businesses as well. I spied several beautiful pieces at Dale Valley Winery on my last visit there.

Stuart residents don't have to make a trip to the city for night time entertainment either. The Stuart Bowl and Traditions Sports Bar and Grill is a great place for leagues and families to get together and have some food, fun, and good times, and one of Stuart's most valuable businesses is our Stuart Fremont Theater. No fighting the crowded parking lot, or waiting in line for hours to see that midnight showing. The Fremont is a beautiful, modern theater, recently upgraded to the new digital format and carries first run movies that change every week. Weekends feature matinees for families and yes, they even opened at midnight for some of those huge blockbusters! 

No visit to Stuart would be complete without a visit to the Stuart Speedway. This popular quarter-mile dirt track is a favorite of drivers from all over Iowa, packing the house on Sunday nights. This IMCA sanctioned track is home to hobby stock, sport modified, stock car, modified, mod light, mini sprint, late model, sport compact, outlaw front wheel drive, and enduro class racing. Each week hosts a different six classes. 

The Stuart Speedway is also home to "Rocktastic", an annual summer concert festival featuring nationally known classic rock bands and local rock bands.

With plenty of hotel rooms, and camping at nearby Nation's Bridge Park, Stuart is a wonderful choice for a weekend getaway this summer. Close enough to have access to city life, yet filled with small town charm.