After moving to Mineral Point five years ago, my husband Bill and I felt pretty good about making it our new home. A walkable town with good schools, beautiful surroundings, arts and parks? Sounds pretty great to us. But discovering Shake Rag Alley was like the icing on the cake.
At The Shake Rag Alley School of Arts and Crafts you can learn jewelry making, writing, blacksmithing, rug hooking, basket making. Almost any kind of -ing you can think of. As a mom of three 6-year-olds, I’m always checking out the children’s programs, and July’s Family Festival was just the latest opportunity for the kids to get creative and have fun.
First, let me try to explain how special Shake Rag Alley is. It is a happy place. It is a sort of hidden place, and I imagine it is not unlike what Frodo and Sam’s shire must be like in Lord of the Rings. (Well, before the unpleasantries of The Ring.) The tree-lined paths meander along wooden and stone structures that host workshops all year long, and are dotted with art projects of the past – a painted rock, a mosaic stepping stone, a giant paper mache lizard.
This path is where we began our day at the festival, with a scavenger hunt followed by an art project that compiled the kids’ loot into a jungle collage. At 2 p.m. a bell signaled the reading of “Green Eggs and Ham” on Alley Stage, an outdoor stage adjacent to Shake Rag Alley that hosts theatrical, literary and musical performances throughout the summer season.
The cheerful familiarity of Dr. Seuss was followed up with a remarkable performance by a half-dozen kids from Chicago who drove three hours to recite their poetry. The Oak Park River Forest High School Spoken Word Club gave a one-hour performance, during which they shared their poems of abuse, loss, bad parenting, growing up and, humorously, breaking their iPod. These kids had poise beyond their years. Since I am not a poet, all I will say about it is: “Wow! Really. WOW!!!”
Our kids finished the day by painting mini birdhouses and getting their faces painted like cats, having the messy fun that should be a staple of childhood. And it is, whether you are an adult or a child, when you visit Shake Rag Alley.
Shake Rag Alley offers a variety of workshops year-round. Check out their programs for kids at www.shakeragalley.com/youth-programs.htm