Oskaloosa Iowa & Mahaska County!
The name Oskaloosa rolls off the tongue in four cool syllables. The name was explained on the Oskaloosa Main Street website. “Oskaloosa was named for a Creek princess named Ouscaloosa, which means “last of the beautiful.” Ouscaloosa was captured by the Seminoles and married Osceola, a Seminole Chief. “
The County name is equally lovely. The name came from a chief of the Ioway tribe, Chief Mahaska (White Cloud). I was honored this past June to be hosted in this cool town by the Oskaloosa Main Street. Oskaloosa was the second part of my Iowa journey. The first part of our journey was to Pella. There Jill Vandevoort of Visit Pella set out an amazing agenda for Keith and I. The second part of our jaunt Deann De Groot of Oskaloosa Main Street planned our fun time in lovely Oskaloosa and Mahaska County!
Streigel Acres, Ostriches and More!
Our first stop was Striegel Acres. Marj and Marion Striegel own Streigel Acres an ostrich farm outside of Oskalaoosa. “I used to have corn and beans and pigs,” Marion said.
“When we were dating,” Marj explained, “Marion said lets raise ostriches.” Since Marion had raised livestock all his life, this wasn’t a huge change, just a different animal! That was in the late 1980’s and they decided to go to Kansas City to a seminar and find out about it. They learned that you can raise a lot of ostriches on a small piece of land. Liking what they heard they decided to raise both Emu’s and ostriches. The two married in 1993 and have had the ostriches since then as well.
“If we raise both, we will make better use of the hatching facilities,” Marion thought. These two flightless birds lay eggs opposite each other. Then there is the differences in size and personality. The Emu’s weighed in around 100 pounds and have three toes. Ostriches weigh 300 pounds, and have two toes. Both I learned are considered red meat. While you can’t tell the difference between a male and female in the Emus, Marion said you can tell them in the ostriches. Emus are native to Australia, and Ostriches to South Africa.
“Emus can jump six feet in the air, straight up! You have to be very patient. You can get and manhandle the ostriches and tell if they are going to kick,” Marj said. Because they were easier to deal with, they decided to go with the ostriches.
Ostrich eggs, which they collect weighs 3lbs. “They are equal to about 23 chicken eggs. Marvin boils the eggs and it takes an hour and a half. We also measure out about a fourth of a cup and scramble them. Also we freeze dry the eggs and sell them for pet food.” Marj added. “They lay an egg every other day.”
“We process our birds. An egg takes 42 days to hatch. Then the ostriches grow about a foot a month until they reach six months, then they fill out. We process them at 16-18 months,” Marj added. They take the birds to a market in Earlville, Illinois which they like because it is federally inspected. I laughed when I imaged them going down the road in a livestock trailer. In Iowa the ostriches are classified as livestock. The meat is 97% fat free.
They also use the the leather. “It is the second most durable leather in the world. They make boots and brief cases from the hides.”
There is also a large demand for feathers as well. Marj is also quite artistic and uses the eggs for floral and feather designs. She also engraves the eggs as well.
It was great to see the majestic birds and meet the Striegels. I even got to see a male ostrich dance! The Striegels are trying to assist others that want to go into the business. They started the Ostrich Cooperation of Iowa. The Striegels also have honey as well. This diverse farms offers a wonderful variety of products!
Before arriving at the McNeil Stone Mansion, where we would spend the night, we stopped in at Stam Greenhouse. We arrived just before they were getting ready to close. However, we were able to spy the beautiful flowers they have to offer!
McNeil Stone Mansion B&B
Awestruck was the word when we saw the beautiful McNeill Stone Mansion B&B to check in. The owner Virginia Walker met us and gave us a tour of this mansion built between 1908 and 1909. The mansion was built by Wilbur A. McNeil, a wounded Civil War solider. He and his brother bought coal mines, then sold them to the railroad in 1881.
The McNeils expanded with interests in lead mines, near Dubuque, Iowa; silver mines in Colorado and gold in the Black Hills as well as leasing coal mines in the Canmore, Canada area for twenty years.
Virginia Walker’s beautiful home that she purchased with her late husband Gary was designed by the firm of Hallett and Rawson. The architecture is drawn from Colonial Revival and Mission Spanish Colonial Revival modes. Virginia shared that this limestone edifice house has lasted through the ages because of its innovative use of steel and concrete. This made the house virtually fireproof, and soundproof.
“We first saw this house in 1998,” Virginia said with snow piled around it with a flashlight! After purchasing it, they lovingly brought it back to life.
“It took seven years to restore,” Virginia shared.
Filled with antiques Keith right away spied an Ev Weber scratch built farm toy in a china cabinet. We learned that Virginia and Gary had been farmers prior to moving to town. We were kindred souls from then on!
“After Gary quit farming he restored cars,” Virginia said. Before we checked out she even gave us a tour of her lovely cars that include a 1949 Buick Roadmaster Sedan and a newer, but just as cool 2003 Lexus convertible with a maple dash!
Besides the word Aloha built into the fireplace in the solarium, there are several unique aspects to the house. The floor in the living room, and dining room are Mexican Tabasco hardwood! The stairway is amazing and there is a beautiful light from an 1880’s mansion in New Orleans.
We were thrilled with our lovely room that boasted a great jacuzzi tub. Luxurious to say the least! The next morning Virginia spoiled us with a great breakfast as well.
After stowing our bags and oohoing and ahhing after the wonderful tour, we headed out to Friday After Five!
Friday After Five in Oskaloosa
Friday After Five during the summer in Oskaloosa is a wonderful time for the residents! We headed downtown to the beautiful square filled with music, food and vendors. The event brings families together on the historic downtown square where the centerpiece is the amazing bandstand. The bandstand was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Jessica Reuter, the Oskaloosa Main Street Director shared that the bandstand was built in 1912.
Downtown we tried dinner from the wonderful Mr. Taco using our Oskaloosa Bucks! I admired the sculpture of Chief Mahaska and the other sculptures. There is even a Spanish Torpedo that was given to the city on the square. The evening was delightful. Best of all, people of all ages came out to enjoy this event that brought people together in this wonderful small town!
Art on the Square in downtown Oskaloosa!
The next morning after a lavish breakfast at the McNeil Stone Bed and Breakfast, we headed downtown for Art on the Square! The 52nd Annual Art on the Square was one of Iowa’s oldest continuing art festivals. This wonderful event featured emerging artists booth, community art project, and more! While shopping I found a cool pair of leather earrings I had to have from one of the vendors.
We met Deann De Groot and Jessica Reuter of Oskaloosa Main Street who had a booth on the square. I was so impressed by the art in Oskaloosa. The evening before I had noticed the eagle sculpture when we parked. Jessica shared that this was part of the Sculptures offered in the 2021 Oskaloosa Sculpture Tour. The Oskaloosa Sculpture Tour is a function of Fine Arts and Cultural Events (FACE) of Mahaska County, a nonprofit that promotes the arts and artworks in and around Oskaloosa.
We had also noticed a cool mural earlier in the day. I learned that his mural according to local resident Vince Provenzano was of one of their local legislators John F. Lacey. The mural Deann shared was painted by local art teacher Brent Bollman. We learned that the idea of national parks was born with the Legislator Lacey. Later in the morning, we actually met Mr. Bollman and got a chance to take his picture!
Art Blooms Here – Decorated Windows in Oskaloosa
The project coincided with Art on the Square and area artists painted temporary murals on the windows of storefronts. Oskaloosa Main Street District Jessica Reuter shared that thirty windows were decorated. The Oskaloosa Main Street is rather historic. “We are the 3rd Mainstreet in Iowa and this is our 35th anniversary,” Jessica said.
What a way to celebrate! The windows were so creative. We saw decorations from flowers, to a giraffe, to flowers planted in a wagon. Art definitely did bloom downtown in vibrant color!
Art Alley & Super Saturday
Along with all the other goings on, there is a cool Art Alley in Oskaloosa. This alley has murals and history. Keith was blown away by the history of Phil Jones who we learned played drums for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He has been sharing that picture and history ever since we returned home. Besides just the history in the alley it was Super Saturday. That meant fun pop-up vendor markets. These happen on the 2nd Saturday of the month, 10 am to 1 pm, June through October!
At the end of Art Alley is the Oskaloosa Art Center. When we toured here in this space that is art gallery/event center/lesson center, I thought so much of my grandson Cade. He would love the opportunity to take art classes. They said they hope to start offering live music and dances again soon!
When asked where to stop for lunch everyone said Tasos Steak House. The advice was spot on. Keith enjoyed an Italian beef sandwich. I tried the chicken pot pie. Rib sticking and good!
Shopping in Oskaloosa
With downtown decorated and shops open, we checked out some of the local businesses. We loved the cool Book Vault. This unique store used to be a bank, and in fact served three other banks after the original. Serving as a bank until 1962, then for 30 years it housed Oskaloosa’s Abstract legal documents. Then it was an antique store and now serves as a wonderful independent book store. We spent some of our Oskaloosa bucks here. I got a book and cool apron! We loved the beauty of this building.
I stuck my head in cool Smokey Row Coffee which was brimming with customers. Salvaged Designs was another favorite stop. The owner said she grew up in the garbage business and loved to recycle! I bought a neat pottery dish there that now graces my kitchen island! The Eagles Nest was a great Christian Bookstore we admired. Mahaska Drug Store and Betsy’s Boutique were other fun stops.
When shopping and admiring the downtown windows we stopped at Debbie’s Merle Norman. Debbie Sedrel the owner shared that she had a Celebration Barn and asked if we would like to see it. Yes we did!
Debbie’s Celebration Barn
Debbie Sedrel explained that she created Debbie’s Celebration Barn as a wedding and event venue. “God has his hand on this,” Debbie said.
Her barn is quite unique. It was built in 1972 when 70-year-old Ben Vanderhook tore down old barns in Mahaska County and surrounding counties. We went to look at this amazing barn set on 3½ acres. The barn is a 147×46×60 Quonset hut barn, set in open fields as well as mature shade trees. Inside the barn is decorated with white lights and more. There is seating for 340!
Outside Debbie has a double Dutch swing, a bridge and other accommodations for an outdoor wedding. If couples choose, then the reception can be moved indoors. She also has a few Macaw birds that she uses for photos as well!
After the barn, we headed for Nelson’s Pioneer Farm!
Nelson Pioneer Farm & Museum
Being a farm girl I was very excited about this stop. What made it especially fun to be heading to Nelson Pioneer Farm & Museum was that they were having their Knots, Loops & Other Twisted Crafts show as well! This is also the site of the Mahaska County Historical Society (MCHS). The museum and farm exists due to the the generosity of the Nelson family. They bequeathed their family homestead to the MCHS in 1958. The site includes 15 historic buildings dating from the 1840’s to 1970’s!. There are two large barns that house a wonderful display of agricultural equipment!
The farm also sports a cool garden and historic village. Keith and I admired the windmill and the array of amazing old iron in the Nelson barn and ag building!
Check this out if in the area!
Before heading home, we had one last stop, Frisian Farms Cheese House. This wonderful stop had amazing gouda cheese that we had packed in a cool bag for the ride home. Owner Mike Bandstra who grew up milking cows on the farm where we stayed at the Cheesemaker Inn Bed and Breakfast went on to become a cheesemaker and opened Frisian Farms Cheese House with his wife Jill.
Oskaloosa is full of amazing things to see and do! Art is everywhere in Mahaska County whether you are talking sculptures, architecture, the historic bandstand, or old iron at Nelson Pioneer Farm and Museum. Take time to make plans to come to Mahaska County and see this history and fun for yourself!