Westward Bound

Appears in the April 2021 issue.

2019 Julien Dubuque International Film Festival

Nestled along the Mississippi’s west bank, where the state lines of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin converge, lies Dubuque. The county seat of Iowa’s Dubuque County is a breezy three-hour drive and home to the 10th annual Julien Dubuque International Film Festival, April 18 to 25.

“We are becoming quite known as the boutique festival in the Midwest that is catering toward the independent filmmaker,” says Susan Gorrell, executive director. “We show features, docs, and shorts—all genres, from horror and thriller to comedy and drama—and our submissions are from all over, from Thailand, from Ireland, from Brazil.”

Because an in-person festival wasn’t held last spring due to the pandemic, this year’s fest is expanded from its traditional five-day span to eight days and will showcase more than 200 film entries from both 2020 and 2021. In addition to screenings, the lineup also includes workshops, panel discussions, and Q&As to learn more from the filmmakers themselves. “You can be a film enthusiast … but we have a lot of people who just love the atmosphere and excitement of what is happening here,” Gorrell says.
Most venues are within walking distance, but there’s a fest shuttle between venues—and to the Field of Dreams Movie Site in nearby Dyersville, Iowa, a must for baseball fans.

Face coverings are required and the fest will implement advanced ticketing, spaced seating, and temperature checks at venues. Tickets are available online (julienfilmfest.com) or at the festival headquarters, Hotel Julien Dubuque (200 Main St., 800.798.7098, hoteljuliendubuque.com).

While in town, take a river cruise aboard the Celebration Belle paddlewheel boat (celebrationbelle.com) or learn more about marine life at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (350 E. 3rd St., 800.226.3369, rivermuseum.com). Ascend the Fenelon Place Elevator, a historic funicular railway, for views of the river and downtown district from the top.

For a socially distant activity with seriously Instagrammable results, take to the streets. Through the nonprofit organization Voices Productions (voicesproductions.org), there are more than 45 colorful murals painted by local and out-of-town artists covering building walls throughout Dubuque.

Photos courtesy Digital Dubuque,