116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
When the editorial board planned visits into rural communities as part of the larger Beyond City Limits series, we expected to learn new things, maybe also bust some stereotypes. We did not, however, anticipate our first two excursions would be as equally informative as they were different.
Saturday we two plus community editorial board member Justin Wasson attended the annual Rowley Days celebration in Rowley, a town of roughly 260 people located 35 miles north of Cedar Rapids. It was the board's second field trip; the first being West Liberty's annual picnic.
While West Liberty visitors certainly touted diversity and cooperation, folks in Rowley promoted friendliness and resilience.
'Small community; big hospitality,” as one resident told us when we asked what she wanted people to know about her town.
Such affection hadn't diminished for families who once lived in Rowley but moved away. Throughout the day we heard from those who hailed from Rowley, or whose parents or grandparents live there. The draw of small town life, the Mayberry-esque qualities, keep them coming back to support the 'home of their heart.”
Multiple generations gathered for the tractor pull. Firefighters helped children steady hoses during water fights. Small groups of men - some young, some old - tucked into pockets of shade along the main drag to admire classic cars and trucks and discuss their favorites.
Pride and dedication were apparent in every activity. After all, the fun and entertainment was for friends and family and, in Rowley, 'everyone knows everyone and is willing to help.”
Max Grover, for instance, is a proud resident, a member of one of the larger families in the area. The first was his great-grandfather, who arrived in 1867. Max explained he was raised as a 'farm kid” in a house that he can see from the window of his current home. A mail carrier for decades, Max says life in the prairie town has always been friendly, but not without challenges.
Folks in Rowley are proud of their new rural water system, their fire department and updated roads. Many mentioned how important it is to support existing local businesses.
But they are also interested in increasing their tax base by enticing more young families and businesses to their community. A bakery or grocery store would be a good addition, they said.
Editorial board members will continue to visit with residents in Eastern Iowa towns over the coming weeks. Today, we'll be in Elkader and we're planning at least three trips during August. When you see us, be sure to stop by and let us know what makes you and your town unique.
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