By Roz Weis,
Inspiring community spirit in times of social isolation is challenging.
Laree Schouweiler of Decorah has taken that challenge to new heights.
The organizer of the second Driftless Yoga Festival is passionate about the upcoming project and the event’s equity in wellness areas.Driftless Yoga Festival was established in 2019 with a commitment to the community to make this event highlight what the Northeast Iowa region has to offer; from the epic landscapes to amazing organic farms, from bustling main streets to incredible restaurants.
According to Schouweiler, “This area thrives off the soil and businesses in conjunction with each other.”
More than 100 people participated in the first Driftless Yoga Festival in 2019, and the 2020 Fest promised to double the participation. However, COVID-19 had other ideas. Schouweiler, the sole organizer of the Festival, was forced to cancel the 2020 festival due to COVID-19 concerns and protocols. Planning for the 2021 festival began in December. Thoughts of virtual versus in-person events were debated, and the final decision to conduct a “hybrid” festival this year was determined.
Schouweiler is happy with the outpouring from generous donors in the community supporting the event and the mission to support participant’s healthy lifestyles.This year’s event, planned June 18-21, is being billed as “an equity centered yoga festival at the intersection of yoga, social justice and nature.”
The organizer is doing things a little differently this year, with a new line-up of virtual and in-person outdoor workshops designed to unite participants with movement, spirituality, and expression.
Schouweiler and her family moved to Decorah nearly a decade ago and her love for the Driftless region has only swelled over the years. She and husband Russ have three young children. In 2013 she opened Reefuel, a cycling and yoga studio in Decorah, and her connection with Decorah and the people here is grounded.
“I have a real sense of community,” she said. “and I want to help people know there is so much more to the Driftless area.”“I was blown away with the support of the 2019 festival and all the support from all the small businesses,” she continued.
After the resounding success of the 2019 event, Schouweiler knew plans could be revisited on a much larger scale.
“I knew we had something here,” she said.
She was disappointed in the cancellation of the 2020 event but has a renewed spirit when it comes to planning this year’s workshops and offerings.
According to Schouweiler, “I don’t need to tell you all the nitty gritty details, but I will share that Driftless Yoga Festival didn’t walk away unscathed from the impact of the pandemic and cancellation of the 2020 event.”
However, not all was lost. Moving forward, the festival promises more than two dozen presenters, and over 40 workshops during the three-day event. Booking potential instructors has been a labor of love for Schouweiler. Making wellness accessible for all was her goal in reaching out to the more than two dozen willing presenters. Outdoor events are centered around the area near Will Baker Park in west Decorah.
Among the program topics for the 2021 festival are: “Finding Refuge: Heart Work for healing Collective Grief;” “Getting to Know the Nervous System;” “Trout Run Trial Bike Ride – A Positive Spin;” “Spiritual Strength;” “Morning Meditations;” “Family Yoga;” “Cosmic Breath and Dance;” “Non-Judgement Mindfulness Hike;” “Yoga for Kiddos;” “LGBTQ + Equity-inclusion Workshop;” “Fascial Movement;” “Pathways to Inner and Outer Peace;” and many more.
Options to attend
There are several in-person and/or virtual ticket options from which to choose: Transform – $199; Assemble – $149; and Unite – Pay What You Can.One of the welcome initiatives for the 2021 festival is the renewal of the Sangha Bag (Sangha loosely translates to the word community in ancient Sanskrit). The bag is a gift to all ticket holders. Sangha bags, which will be virtually distributed, contain numerous tokens of generosity from local establishments.“A Sangha Bag helps participants become a part of our community, whether they attend the festival virtually or in person,” she said.Free community events
There are three free community events as part of the Driftless Yoga Festival, including family yoga for caregivers and children ages 2-67 at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 19; yoga for youth class June 19 for mini yogis ages 7-11 at 11:45 a.m.; and yoga for LGTBQIA and youth at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 20. There is no registration required for these activities.
Among the sponsors going the extra mile to make the festival experience one to remember are: Visit Decorah, Sugar Bowl, Rendered Unique, Thrivent Financial-Tri Rivers Associates, Slow Love Press, The Get Up, Letterwerks, Acupuncture Centre of Decorah, Patchwork Green Farm, Impact Coffee, Root 43 Juicery, Pulpit Rock Brewery, Sparrows Candles and Gifts, Deli Arts and Letters, Oneota Co-op and Yoke Fitness.As the festival dates near, Schouweiler hopes to foster a powerful human connection and said the Festival will abide by current COVID-19 guidelines. Love and compassion are at the core as personal space and boundaries are considered.
More information, full schedules, workshop presenters and ticket information can be found online at the Driftless Yoga Festival website at www.driftlessyogafestival.com