Wausau, it’s a small town in Wisconsin, in the middle of a beautiful country where the hills are spotted with colorful barns immersed in cultivated fields.
Few people in the western world know that in the Wausau area, one of the best species of ginseng is produced. This ginseng is appreciated all over the world and especially in Asia, the largest export market for Wisconsin Ginseng.
In 2010 I had the privilege to photograph the cultivation process of the ginseng and portray most of the farmers associated to the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin. For the first International Wisconsin Ginseng Festival I was invited to do an exhibit of the images taken in 2010, part of the book “Wisconsin Ginseng”, and I had the opportunity to take the pictures of the Festival and the correlated events.
The festival was great and perfectly organized, the people at the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin and Lori McGehee from Millennium Marketing did a perfect job. A lot of people attended to enjoy the ginseng products offered at the booths and the live performers on the stage.
There were meany correlated events, a 5k run, visits to the farms and the possibility to go on the fields and pick your own root.
I really like festivals in small towns because the entire city gets involved and you can see the effort to make it great and the presence of the festival in every store, museum and hotel. I grew up knowing the USA from the movies and my feeling was to be in the classic Hallmark movie where every person in town works together to create a unique experience for the visitors.
A nice place to visit in Wausau is the Center for Visual Arts, they had an exhibit of paintings related to the ginseng and the building is really beautiful and with a perfect view on the 400 Block, the square where the Festival was organized. The building was a bank originally and during the restoration they found the original door of the vault, it gives a nice touch to the ambience. It is really positive to see such a big art community with really high quality of the works.
While I was there during the festival I felt again the reasons why I loved my previous trip: beautiful land and great people. I enjoyed to see again old friends and meet new ones and I appreciated even more the spirit of the people and the beauty of the land.
I arrived in Wausau two days before the Festival, to have the time to organize the exhibit and get over the jet lag, so I had some time to go around with my camera. The weather collaborated with perfect sunsets.
Wausau is divided by the Wisconsin River and south of the city the river widen and forms the Lake Wausau.
What I love more of the USA is the freedom to pursue happiness and you can see that freedom during a sunset on Lake Wausau. People jogging, fishing, boating and simply spending time to look at the sunset, but this time I saw something special that happens to see only in a free country: over the beautiful scene a Stearman biplane flying from the local airport.
I love to fly and I love to see places where the regulations and taxes are not killing the general aviation and the possibility to realize the dream to fly at the sunset with an old biplane. In USA this is taken for granted, but is not something common in Europe.
The Wausau Downtown Airport is really worth a visit, it is full of history and there is a very interesting collection of pictures starting from the beginning of the 1900. A little hidden gem for aviation enthusiasts.
The second day of the Festival my laptop hard disk crashed, it started to emit strange metallic noises and was gone. I never trust hard disks, so I had a copy to boot the system, an external drive with the backup of the pictures and still the original RAW on the memory card… but still was a panic moment and during lunch time I run to Best Buy to get a new SSD. The lesson here is that one of the difference between professional and amateurs is the habit to have always backups!
Another lesson is to always have a Swiss Army Knife, the computer version, in your luggage!!!
But in the panic there was a nice note, while I was on my way back from Best Buy I found the Rookery View Park, I was there around noon, not the perfect time for the light, but still I found it really beautiful.
Few miles out of the city is easy to find great views. The hills were starting to get the autumn colors and the view of the farms surrounded by the fields is always a beautiful sight.
Coming back from a farm I passed by the Wausau cemetery and I just stopped the car and went to take a walk. It was silent with a grey sky and I love the American cemeteries immersed in green grass. All is so quite and different from the Italian cemeteries crowded with stones and mausoleums. I just felt the need to walk and look around.
Part of the cemetery is reserved for the Veterans. It was impressive to look around and read the stones. Most of the people was involved in some war, from the WWII to the Iraq, and I started to think how many people from all the small towns in the USA were sent far away, in places they probably never imagined to see, just to save us Europeans from our own wrong choices.
There I have seen some stones of the Americans that made it back, but I never forget that, only in Italy, 350,000 soldiers mainly from USA and UK, gave their life to give us back the freedom that the Italians had put in the hands of Mussolini.
I have the freedom to travel thanks to the people that sacrificed their life to allow me to be free. I really love to travel and I love the rural USA where I can smell the freedom that some people give for granted and forget was paied with human lives.
In the USA I feel at home and Wasusau and its people are a part of what make me feel at home and make me feel a part of the great philosophy that created the American Spirit.