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Jefferson rings in Bell Tower event

Artisan colony opening coincides with festival

June 12, 2011
By PETER KASPARI, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

JEFFERSON - Hundreds of people chimed in and joined the celebration Saturday at the second day of the annual Bell Tower Festival in Jefferson.

Crowds lined the streets early in the morning to catch the parade, which featured class reunion floats, and appearances by Olympic gold-medal gymnast Jaycie Phelps and the Isiserettes, a drill and drum corps based in Des Moines that performed at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

The afternoon kicked off with the unveiling of a statue of Doreen Wilber, who took home the gold medal at the 1972 Olympics in Munich for archery. Wilber, who died in 2008, was from Rutland. In the statue, Wilber is posed with bow and arrow, and directly across the street from her is a target, at which she is aiming.

Article Video

Isiserettes at the Jefferson Bell Tower Festival

There was fun and games, but Saturday also featured the opening weekend of the only artisan colony in Iowa. Robby Pedersen, owner of RVP-1875, came up with the idea of the colony.

"I came home to Jefferson and pitched the idea to the local development committee," Pedersen said. "I'm really lucky because Greene County is very committed to the idea. They put up two-thirds of our building materials."

His idea, according to Pedersen, was to create a colony of craftsmen who specialize in diverse skills. It's a cooperative effort that incorporates consigned goods, a general store, tradesmen, and a chairmaker, among others.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Robby Pedersen, master furniture-maker and owner of RVP-1875, uses a trying plate to make a piece of wood smoother.

He and his apprentices converted an old warehouse into not only a home for the colony, but also a two-story stage that will be used for performances.

"My apprentices and I probably chipped in about 5,000 hours working on it," Pedersen said. "We used 20,000 feet of lumber."

Angie Eberle, manager of the general store that is a part of the colony, said the opening day attracted a lot of attention.

Fact Box

Bell Tower activities today

10 a.m. - Golf Tournament

Noon to 2 p.m. - Bell Tower Idol Contest Finals

12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. - Bill Kibby Retirement Reception

1 p.m. to 4 p.m. - Kids Fishing Derby

2 p.m. - The Great American Trailer Park Musical

2 p.m. to 5 p.m. - Heath Alan Band

4 p.m. - Texas Hold 'em Tournament

"It's a relief to have it open and be successful," she said. "It's exhausting getting it all together, but it's worth it."

Eberle added that she's also looking at inviting more people to join the colony.

"At the colony I run the general store, and I do recruiting as far as contacting artisans," she said. "I'm constantly on a search for people to be involved."

Today will be the final day of the 2011 Bell Tower Festival. Events begin at 10 a.m., and last until the closing ceremonies at 5 p.m.

Contact Peter Kaspari at (515) 573-2141 or



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