The accolades have been raining down on Decorah like a deluge in recent years, confirming what we’ve known forever and a day: This small, but vibrant town in Northeast Iowa is one of the best communities of its size in all of America.
Whether you reside in D-town, or are just visiting, there’s no question the great quality of life that exists in this unique corner of Northeast Iowa is something to be cherished, valued and protected. Regardless of your “politics,” that’s something we can all support.
In case you might have missed it, the latest honor bestowed on our community came from the respected and widely read Smithsonian magazine, which named Decorah one of the top 20 best small towns in America to visit this year.
“From country music to herbal cocktails to horseshoe crabs to Rodin, our third annual list takes you to cultural gems worth mining,” the Smithsonian article states.
“They beckon from nearly every corner of the country, from grand rivers and awesome mountains, from the Great Plains and a misty farm valley and a venerable whaling harbor, and what never fails to charm us is that each one follows its own, unhurried clock, saving up stories to tell and making time to talk.
“They are America’s Best Small Towns to visit, and for this, our third annual search-and-enjoy mission, we’ve singled out communities for particular strengths in history, music, visual arts, learning, food, theater and science … We worked with the geographical information systems company Esri, which analyzed tons of data to find towns or cities of fewer than 15,000 residents where cultural opportunities abound, at least on a per capita basis.”
The article provides the following description of Decorah:
“If Decorah, Iowa, has a mission, it’s to prove that there’s much more to the Midwestern state than cornfields. Decorah sits in the heart of Iowa’s bluff country, an area heralded for scenic beauty and wildlife. Dunning’s Spring, just minutes from downtown Decorah, is a 200-foot waterfall — visitors can explore the area by bike or via a network of hiking trails.
“For those looking for a little dash of history, Decorah’s main attraction might be the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, which features over 24,000 artifacts and 12 historic buildings, making it not only the most comprehensive collection of Norwegian-American artifacts in the world, but the oldest and most comprehensive museum about any single ethnic immigrant group. Founded in 1877, the museum takes its name from the Norwegian word for “western home,” a tribute to the important presence of Norwegian immigrants in the Upper Midwest.
“But Norwegian-American artifacts aren’t the only thing Decorah stores in large numbers: the town is also home to the largest non-governmental seed bank in North America, Seed Savers. Think all tomatoes are created equal? Seed Savers has over 6,200 varieties of the fruit.”
The magazine goes on to point out the many shopping opportunities in town, etc. etc.
There’s no question the great, ongoing publicity about our community is much appreciated, I’d like to add that Winneshiek County – in its entirety – is a pretty special place as well. And, unfortunately, that fact is often overlooked. Yes, Decorah is certainly the “hub” of this area, but there’s so much more to offer throughout this magnificent county – from Kendallville to Jackson Junction to Burr Oak to Calmar to Ridgeway to Spillville to Fort Atkinson to Frankville to Ossian to Castalia to Bluffton to Freeport – and so on and so forth.
And those are just the communities – when you take the time to get off the beaten path and experience the places less traveled, it can be absolutely breathtaking. With the Upper Iowa, Turkey and Yellow rivers winding through its hills and dales, the countless creeks that can be found just about everywhere and the majestic limestone bluffs that add so much to the topography, Winneshiek County is a true treasure to behold.
We’re so fortunate to live here – no matter where it is in Winneshiek County. It’s a peaceful, safe almost pristine existence -- and all of us should count our blessings each and every day.