News And Notes
May 3

6 Famous Places To Visit In Iowa

What do you know about Iowa? Located in America’s Heartland, not only does this state boast the highest literacy rate in the country, it is the birthplace of John Wayne and home to romantic covered bridges, an infamous murder house and the one and only “Field of Dreams.” Here are six locations that are worth a visit in the Hawkeye State.

Fox River Mills Sock Animals

Fox River Mills, Inc. Founded in 1900 in Osage, Iowa, this turn-of-the-century mill purchased the Nelson Knitting Company 92 years later and, in the process, acquired the trademark on the Red Heel socks used to make sock monkeys and other sock animals. From athletic socks to work socks, women’s socks to kids’ socks, Fox River Mills makes them all and includes instructions for making a sock monkey in every packet.

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May 2

6 of America’s Best Craft Beer Festivals

Asheville Brewgrass Festival

Whether you’re  pulling up a stool at your local bar or attending a professional sporting event, chances are good that a selection of craft beer will be on tap. Defined by The Brewers Association as “beer brewed in small, independent, traditional breweries,” craft beers continue to grow in popularity across the United States and festivals that celebrate them abound. Here are five events to put on your calendar.

Brewgrass Festival — Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is known for doing two things very well: bluegrass and craft pints. The Brewgrass Festival brings those two things together for one of the premiere brewery festivals on the East Coast. In fact, Asheville has been named “Beer City USA” four years in a row! Brewgrass 2015 will take place September 19 and feature over 50 breweries, as well as music from Jeff Austin Band, Big Daddy Love and Packway Handle Band.

The 5 Best Bluegrass Festivals in the Country »

American Craft Beer Fest — Boston, Massachusetts
Home to Cheers, the bar where everybody knows your name, Boston also houses the American Craft Beer Fest, presented by Beer Advocate and Harpoon Brewery. This year’s festival, May 19-20 at the Seaport World Trade Center, will offer 640+ craft beers from 140+ American brewers. Over 15,000 beer enthusiasts from around the world are expected to attend — but leave the under-21s at home since there’s a strict no-kids policy.

Top of the Hops Festival — Charlottesville, Virginia
Top of the Hops Festival may be one of the newer brewery festivals on the map, but what it lacks in age, it makes up in size and attendance. With access to over 150 craft beers for sampling, a number of which are made locally, visitors can attend beer education sessions and seminars like Food Pairings and Cooking with Beers, all in the heart of historic downtown. Plans for the 5th Annual Top of the Hops Festival will be announced soon.

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May 1

Blake Shelton Has Second Week at No. 1 on Top 20

Blake Shelton's "Sangria" Music Video

Photo courtesy of facebook.com/blakeshelton.

Blake Shelton fended off wife Miranda Lambert to claim a second week at No. 1 on Top 20 Country Countdown with his new video, “Sangria.” Videos from Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban with Eric Church round out the Top 3 this week, while Lambert dropped to No. 4 with “Little Red Wagon.” Easton Corbin also made his countdown debut with his latest video, “Baby Be My Love Song.”

Top 20 Photo Gallery »

Want to re-watch some of your favorite interviews? Get Top 20 online extrasincluding videos and photos. You can also cast your votes and take a look at the current chart to see where your favorite videos land.

This Week’s Chart

  1. Blake Shelton – “Sangria”
  2. Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns”
  3. Keith Urban w/ Eric Church – “Raise ‘Em Up”
  4. Miranda Lambert – “Little Red Wagon”
  5. Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  6. Cole Swindell – “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey”
  7. Reba McEntire – “Going Out Like That”
  8. The Swon Brothers – “Pray For You”
  9. Billy Currington – “Don’t It”
  10. Sam Hunt – “Take Your Time” Continue Reading

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May 1

Is Your Porch Ready for Spring?

Spring Porch and Deck Decor

Photo courtesy of DIY Network

With spring in full bloom, chances are you’re spending more time outside, already enjoying the milder weather — unless your porch or patio looks dingy and uninviting. Now is the perfect time to revamp your outdoor space. From here on out, the weather only gets nicer, making it harder to resist an evening of sipping drinks under the stars. To inspire a patio makeover, here are some quick design tips to give your outdoor area the refresh it needs.
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Apr 30

5 Budget-Friendly Bridesmaid Dresses

 

Finding inexpensive bridesmaid dresses that fit, flatter and coordinate might be harder than picking your own wedding dress. It’s important to consider your bridesmaids’ budgets and body types when shopping for dresses. Probably the easiest way to go about this is letting bridesmaids choose their own dresses based on a price and style with which they’re comfortable.

Since I just finished this part of wedding planning myself, I wanted to help other brides and bridesmaids who may also be struggling, so I compiled this list of bridesmaid dresses that look just as pretty and elegant as designer styles, but for a fraction of the cost.

Budget Lace Bridesmaid Dress

Photos courtesy of The Knot and ModCloth

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Apr 29

See the Sights on Shania’s Farewell Tour

Shania Twain is returning to the road! This spring, she announced her first North American tour in 11 years. The Rock This Country Tour will kick off June 5th in Seattle and stop in 48 cities.

“This is a celebration tour,” Twain said in a press release. “It’s party time! The Rock This Country tour will have a different spirit than my past tours. It’s a Shania they’ve never seen before. A lot of years have gone by and I’ve got a lot more to share.”

Shania's Rock This Country Tour

Shania Twain Photo Gallery »

If you’re planning to see Shania in a city near you, why not make it a mini-vacation and check out a few sights along the way? Here are some Great American Country recommendations.

Rock This Country stops in Jacksonville, Fla., on 7/15, and heads to Miami on 7/16. Circle those dates on your calendar and add a few of these Unexpected Florida Destinations to your itinerary.

 

And what would a country music tour be without a stop in Nashville? Before Shania rolls into Music City on 7/31, browse our Top 10 Tennessee Trips and take a look at our Nashville Travel Guide for strategic side-trip planning. Continue Reading

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Apr 28

Made From America Premieres April 30

Premiering Thursday at 9/8c, Great American Country’s new series Made from America follows Gabe Johnson, a T-shirt designer with a passion for Americana, on a trip across small-town U.S.A. To find inspiration for his retro T-shirt designs, Gabe is traveling the nation in search of the American spirit.

Made From America Host Gabe Johnson

Gabe Johnson, host of Made From America

Co-owner of Horses Cut Shop, a Seattle-based company with a mission to save America by selling T-shirts, Gabe tells the stories of unique places, mom-and-pop shops and authentic people through his shirt designs. Not only do the T-shirts promote the businesses they represent, they also put money back into the pockets of the hardworking owners. By giving the small businesses a portion of the T-shirt sales, Gabe is finding a way to keep true Americana from fading away.

Interview with Gabe Johnson »

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Apr 25

Beautiful, Budget-Friendly Wedding Dresses

Shopping for a wedding dress on a budget is hard — like really, really hard. It requires creativity, compromise and serious searching both online and in stores. However, it is possible to find a dress that matches your style, price point and vision. When dress shopping, try not to feel defeated. Chances are, you won’t have a “Say Yes to the Dress” moment. I didn’t.

What’s most important is finding a dress that fits you and your budget. Then, once you find your dress, stop looking! Feel confident in your purchase, and rock it on your wedding day.

To prove that beautiful, stylish dresses exist (and to inspire skeptical brides-to-be), I found cheap alternatives that mimic pricier styles. Now, go forth and shop!

Runway: Houghton Bride

Photo courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar

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Apr 24

Blake Takes Over No. 1 on Top 20

Blake Shelton - Sangria

Photo courtesy of facebook.com/blakeshelton.

It was a battle between husband and wife for the top spot on Top 20 Country Countdown, but Blake Shelton came away the winner with his new video, “Sangria,” taking over the top spot, knocking Miranda Lambert down to No. 2 with “Little Red Wagon” after two weeks at No. 1. Little Big Town and Kip Moore also made their countdown debuts with their latest videos.

Top 20 Photo Gallery »

Want to re-watch some of your favorite interviews? Get Top 20 online extrasincluding videos and photos. You can also cast your votes and take a look at the current chart to see where your favorite videos land.

This Week’s Chart

  1. Blake Shelton – “Sangria”
  2. Miranda Lambert – “Little Red Wagon”
  3. Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns”
  4. Keith Urban w/ Eric Church – “Raise ‘Em Up”
  5. The Swon Brothers – “Pray For You”
  6. Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  7. Cole Swindell – “Ain’t Worth The Whiskey”
  8. Maddie & Tae – “Fly”
  9. Reba McEntire – “Going Out Like That”
  10. Billy Currington – “Don’t It” Continue Reading

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Apr 24

Hit the Road, Y’all!

Meet Jeremy Pawlowski, the vision and voice behind the popular blog and Instagram feed “America Y’all.” Our sister site, DIY Network, profiled Jeremy as a Creative Genius over on the blog Made + Remade, and we think Jeremy embodies the spirit of Great American Country. Here, Jeremy gives some advice for seeing America (without quitting your day job!) and also shares a handful of photos from his recent trip to Big Bend National Park.

Jeremy Pawlowski

Photo courtesy Ryan Millar

Camping, hiking, travel, adventure. In a world where we are inundated with images of far-off majestic places, it’s easy to feel like the four things I mentioned are unattainable. Just a few years ago, I was that person staring at photos on my computer screen, dreaming of a life lived on the road, feeling like it would never be mine.

Big Bend National Park

Photo courtesy Jeremy Pawlowski

It started with a trip to a park not more than an hour away from my home in Austin, Texas. A quick overnight camping trip was all it took to help me shake away the preconceived notions I had about what it took to travel and enjoy the outdoors.

Big Bend National Park

Photo courtesy Jeremy Pawlowski

That one quick trip helped me realize how much there is to see and do in my own backyard; I had caught the travel bug. I started by checking out the state parks in close proximity to my home and, slowly but surely, kept driving further and further every weekend, all the while still making it home by Sunday night to get ready for work the next day.

Big Bend National Park

Photo courtesy Jeremy Pawlowski

I often have people ask me how I find the time and money to get out so much. And the answer is quite simple.

You don’t need fancy gear, you don’t need a lot of money, and you don’t have to quit your day job.

Big Bend National Park

Photo courtesy Jeremy Pawlowski

You can usually find me hiking in jeans, a t-shirt and tennis shoes; my tent is from Wal-Mart and my sleeping bag is a hand-me-down. The biggest expense throughout my travels is gas. All you need is the eagerness to explore the outdoors.

A couple of years and thousands and thousands of miles driven, from state parks in Arizona to national parks in Utah, some of my favorite places to visit and explore are not more than an hour away from home.

Big Bend National Park

Photo courtesy Jeremy Pawlowski

So, if you have the urge to travel, get out there and start with a day trip, and then a quick overnight camping trip. You’ll see that it isn’t all that intimidating, I promise.

Written and photographed by Jeremy Pawlowski of “America Y’all

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