‘River Town’ stories told in PdC documentary

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This photo of clammers in Prairie du Chien is one of many historical photos featured in the film. The men and year are unknown.

Mike Valley dips the battered blue gill in oil for a fish fry thrown for Prairie du Chien’s Class of 1972 reunion.

Nancy Thurn goes through old Prairie du Chien photos during filming of the documentary.

Bob Collins, in his ‘50s Chevy, cruises St. Feriole Island, while discussing his memories of the Fourth Ward.

Dan Moris was the creative force behind the new documentary, “Life in a River Town: Prairie du Chien,” which will have three free showings for the public, Tuesday, Aug. 16, at Prairie Cinema. (Photo by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin


The new documentary, “Life in a River Town: Prairie du Chien” will be presented Tuesday, Aug. 16, at Prairie Cinema. There will be free public viewings at 4 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., sponsored by the Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Council. This is part of the city’s year-long 150th anniversary celebration.

Putting to work his creative media experience, Dan Moris served as the documentary’s producer, camera man, interviewer, sound editor and more. This was one of Moris’ largest-ever project scopes, which was months in the making. The 35-minute film features seven main community personalities plus a few other cameos.

“It touches on those important parts of Prairie du Chien history but also the elements of life in a river town that transcend time, through a bunch of different perspectives,” he shared.

One authentic thread in the film tells about life in the Fourth Ward—a unique riverside neighborhood that was once bustling with the activities of those who lived and ran businesses there but was relocated in the 1970s due to recurrent flooding. Today, fondly known as St. Feriole Island, the space is essentially a city park with serene and historic attractions and a few privately owned properties. 

“Life in a River Town” also brings in the modern day stories of how people are using the river today, carrying those traditions on and passing on the torch in some cases. 

“Things change but there are still lots of elements that are very similar to how they used to be, if you just look for them,” Moris stated. “The documentary ties in the historical influences and how they impact more modern day life in this town.”

Key characters in the movie are: 

•Patrick Igou, business owner of a local gathering place and self-employed trapper, whose family roots are deep in Prairie du Chien and who is raising the next generation to appreciate the river.

•Mike Valley, business owner and commercial fisherman with a thick family history here. He grew up in the Fourth Ward.

•Mary Antoine, who has longtime family ties and whose knowledge of Prairie du Chien history is endless.

•Bob Collins, a one-time clammer and longterm dispatcher, whose storytelling is like no other. 

•Nancy Thurn, a lifelong Prairie du Chien-er who hosts the 50th class reunion fish fry, which opens the documentary.  This reunion showcases many prominent stakeholders of the community who she graduated with from Prairie du Chien High School, Campion Jesuit School and St. Mary’s Academy.

•Angie Henderson, someone who everybody knows and likes and is into backpacking and hiking, mostly in the bluffs of Wyalusing State Park, Pikes Peak and Effigy Mounds. 

•Norb Aschom, who reported the news at the Prairie du Chien radio station for over 50 years. He brings forth the perspective of being there for all things that happened.

Certainly, Moris’ voice narrates the program throughout. 

On Aug. 16, he plans a short producer’s message before each showing. The entire event should take under an hour. There will be concessions available for purchase, thanks to Prairie Cinema and owners Lee and Diane Akin. 

“I think this is going to be a cool movie theater experience, a real celebration. Generally, a lot of people are excited about it,” Moris said. “My feeling is, when they watch it, they’re going to feel really proud of where they live, where they came from or where they spent their summers. And, if you didn’t see these things before, you will now.”

Following the debut, the documentary will likely be available online, at some point, Moris noted. The chamber owns the rights and has yet to determine how else it may be distributed, such as on DVD, via a streaming service, etc. For more information, contact the chamber of commerce office at 326-8555.

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