Page 1

Vol. 2, Issue 1 • • $3.95

Highlighting communities that have become part of OUR STORY...small-town living at its best!

"OUTSTANDING IN THE FIELD" notable people in our story country

INSIDE: A Passel of New OUR STORY Town Spotlights 1

We won’t let your finances slide.

Spencer, Iowa • (712) 262-3030

table f

It means what’s all in this magazine! Giddy-up!!

CONTENTS Sweet Swine County’s zany ‘corn flakes’ pose here for some recognition! See more of them on pages 42-44

OUR STORY Dish 12 Fran and Don Deal in Algona, IA 26 Sweet Swine Scoop 56 Bully Bullhead Weekend Ruthven, IA 59 Our Story’s “Family” of Communities 67 The Barn Theatre— Willmar, MN 70 The Albert Lea Community Theatre 76 Mick Meyers at Pipestone’s Chamber of Commerce

Featured Stories 7 Outstanding in the Field

And Even More!

Millicent Gappell

57 Discovering Palo Alto County 73 The Lund-Hoel House Museum

on “As the Corn Grows”

75 Freeze Your Caboose Off!

41 Drama! Suspense! Corn! 61 Pet Kingdom in Algona, IA 71 Country Maid Helping Others to Help Themselves in West Bend, IA

77 The Stalk Smasher Ringsted, IA

81 George’s Fine Steaks & Spirits New Ulm, MN


Canby, MN

St. James, MN

79 Our Story’s $5,000 Giveaway Program

RELUCTANT PUBLISHER: Jeff Rouse OUR STORY Studios Fairmont, MN 56031 Tel: 507.236.5607 Web:

City Spotlights


11 Sheldon, IA - “Where Families Come First”


13 Hartley, IA - “The City with a Heart” 15 Storm Lake, IA - “A Year-Round Destination!” 17 Sioux Rapids, IA - “On the Hills of Buena Vista County” 19 Spencer, IA - “Home of the Clay County Fair” 27 Spirit Lake, IA - “Capstone of the Iowa Great Lakes”


29 Estherville, IA - “Living the Good Life” 33 Bancroft, IA - “The Garden Spot of Iowa”

COPY-CAT CHIEFS: Samantha Lund-Hillmer Bryan Peterson

35 Montevideo, MN - “All-America City of 2004” 37 Haywarden, IA - “A Town of History” 38 Milford, IA - “Southern Gateway to the Iowa Great Lakes” 39 Ellsworth, WI - “It’s Worth Discovering Ellsworth!” 45 Lake Park, IA - “Where You Can Spend a Vacation or a Lifetime!” 47 Swea City, IA - “A Little Town with a Big Heart” 49 Litchfield, MN - “On Lake Ripley”


50 Paynesville, MN - “An Area for All Seasons”

PERFECT PRINTER: John C. Draper, Publisher Pipestone Publishing Co. and Page 1 Printers

51 West Bend, IA - “A Rock-Solid Community’” 53 Brookings, SD - “Bring Your Dreams”

Copyright© Our Story Productions, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. All editorial content including designs in this publication are the property of Our Story Productions, LLC and are for private, noncommercial use only. No rights for commercial use or exploitation are given or implied.


“I just love antiques and this store is chocked full of them!�


Yea, yea, yea. I know…I know. I should do this, I should do that. So if you think you know better, send me an email. I’ll probably look at it. I might publish it, I might not. But keep it pithy. I’ve got a lot to do.

So YOUR story's better? Dear Our Story Productions: It seems like you guys never stop growing! Besides watching you on TV all the time, I’m really enjoying reading your magazine and snooping around on your website. Now, I hear on the grapevine here in Sweet Swine County that I can follow you on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, too. Who woulda thought you’d make all of us in the county pretty famous?! I guess I should say, “thanks”! Until my next email, I remain, Daly E. Mailer, Jr.

If you feel you must, you’ll find our email address on Good luck! 5

Congratulations, Jeff Rouse, on growing your dream to the point of “not being able to do it yourself” anymore! We consider it a pleasure to have worked with you as the first Iowa small town to be on Our Story’s show!   Best of wishes to all of you for more continued success!   Deb Hite, Executive Director Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce 1121 Broadway Emmetsburg, IA 50536 Phone: 712-852-2283

Here are comments from two of our new Twitter followers: "I love As The Corn Grows!! keep it going...all you can're doing GREAT!" -@Sixcesful "As The Corn Grows Oh,.. I loves me some Corn!! Wooo-weeee!!" -@EdwardsDrum

"Remember, it's not just the past but the present that becomes OUR STORY!"

Dear Readers, your favorite characters while they live and love “As the Corn Grows”! Remember to catch the latest news about them as well as all the other zany goingson in Sweet Swine County at www.sweetswinescoop. com.

In case you haven’t already guessed it, we’re big believers in Midwestern small towns—and all their businesses, points-of-interest, museums, historic sites, and incredible hospitality venues! And that includes libraries, too! You now can read The Road to OUR STORY magazine in over 100 libraries throughout OUR STORY country! So patronize your local library, and take a peek at our magazine when you do.

This issue has features about many wonderful communities that have recently joined the Our Story “family.” Our expansion in Iowa continues unabated, and we’re also really happy to introduce you to the scenic town of Ellsworth, Wisconsin.

There are a few new faces at Our Story Productions. Dani Kainz has joined our sponsorship enlistment team, and is proving to be a brilliant photographer, too! Scott Evans is helping us widen our Internet presence on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, as well liaising with our sponsors—and, as we say in Sweet Swine County, “That ain’t the half of it, folks!” Read more about Dani and Scott on our website under the “ABOUT US” tab.

In short, sit back and enjoy! Jeff Rouse

Executive Producer Our Story Productions

In this issue we’re bringing you the newest kernels about the corny fun that’s sprouting in the lives of


Photo: Tom Dodge • In Memoriam: Donald Dodge 1924-2011

Reports About Remarkable People in the Our Story family

M illicent Gappell

atively inspired artworks translate the foibles and follies of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses, and are used in the book to represent Millicent’s investigations into the timeless themes of love, betrayal, heroism, tragedy, intuition, and power in the characters and actions of Athena, Venus, Diana and other “A-List deities”—demonstrating the many parallels of classical life to our modern times.

hen it comes to creating an artful life, Millicent Gappell is a virtuoso. She has traveled along a multifaceted life-path as a wife, mother, concert pianist, interior designer, artist, writer, teacher, and public speaker—the quintessential embodiment of a Renaissance woman of the 20th century who continues to blaze imaginative artistic trails into the 21st. Building upon these layers of experience, Millicent recently has culminated years of research and artistic expression into her new book, The Art of Myths and Music, in which she also takes on the role of storyteller.

Millicent writes in a recent article, “We all need heroes and heroines, larger-than-life figures to look up to or be tantalized by. As I reread these myths . . . I recognized myself, my friends and world figures. When we read about the king and queen of the Olympians, Zeus and Hera—he, the philandering husband and she, the humiliated wife—we are reminded of Bill and Hillary Clinton, the former “king and queen,” if you will, of America. Think of Elizabeth Taylor and Angelina Jolie, our Aphrodites (love goddesses) who, when they see a man they want, go after him regardless of whether or

The Art of Myths and Music is a remarkable narrative illustrated with photos of Millicent’s glass art pieces from her Mythology collection. These cre7

Millicent at her Steinways in her home.

not he’s available. Cary Grant and George Clooney remind us of Adonis, a man so handsome that two goddesses, Aphrodite and Persephone, fought over him.” Certainly, Millicent’s insights allow readers to find new meanings in old stories! The Art of Myths and Music also includes Millicent’s music CD with pieces selected and performed to enhance the reading experience—mating her storytelling skills with her musical talent. Millicent told us, “The Fates, literally, have helped me realize my dream of combining my passions, having fun, and letting the goddess inside me . . . come out into the light, to shine for the whole world to see.” And shine she does! Kudos to Our Story’s longtime friend and “family member,” Millicent Gappell, for venturing into the field of her dreams, and taking us with her! To read about Millicent and view more of her artwork, visit: You may also watch Millicent on Our Story Television at: “Great Goddess” from Gappell’s 2011 Mythology collection 8

More-to-Crow-About Corner Kudos to Springfield, Minnesota’s Tiger Head Golf Coach, Peter Hedstrom (pictured right), and Tiger Head Basketball Coach, Lance Larson (pictured left)! On October 8, 2011, the coaches were honored at the Minnesota Hall of Fame Banquet in St. Paul where each received Minnesota State High School Championship plaques. Peter Hedstrom is a long-time friend of the Our Story “family,” and has been a devoted coach to many of Springfield’s high school athletes over the years—to the benefit of the students, school and community!

“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.” —Ara Parasheghian

(Photo courtesy of Sheila Larson)

Readers inside and outside Sweet Swine County recommend: The Art of Myths & Music –Millicent Gappell Now Available Worldwide on! “An artistic tour de force by my poetic friend, Millicent!” —Ronnie P. Silage, Poet Lariat, Sweet Swine County “From one goddess to another, you MUST read this book! Giddy-up!” —Prairie Ann “The Gods Must Be Crazy with delight because of this book!” —Urban Katie 9


Iowa ocated along the Floyd River in O’Brien County, Sheldon, Iowa was founded in 1872 and named for a railroad man, Israel Sheldon. Sheldon was the first railroad town in the county and also the first town to incorporate. Today, the city is at the crossroads of Highway 60 and U.S. Highway 18 and is a growing community with an emphasis on family, manufacturing/industrial businesses, education and communications.

Sheldon is well-known for its annual display of marigolds, and the moniker of its local schools’ athletic teams—the Orabs. Officially, an Orab is a cohesive fusion of two brilliant and powerful colors—orange and black. Sheldon is the home of Northwest Iowa Community College and Village Northwest Unlimited. The nonprofit Village was founded in 1975 “to provide purpose, privacy and dignity for all people” with disabilities including intellectual disabilities, brain injury, cerebral palsy, autism, Down Syndrome, epilepsy, and others. Sheldon’s wide, inviting neighborhood streets and many recreational facilities offer residents and visitors a safe, peaceful and comfortable place in which to shop, play, and call home!

Watch for information about businesses in Sheldon, IA in our next issue!


There Are Some Great Deals in Algona, Iowa!

When we asked Fran what advice she would give to someone who is interested in opening a small-town business, she chuckled and said, “Well, I’d highly recommend you make sure God told you to do it!”

s Robert Frost said, “By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day!” Ask Fran and Don Deal—they know a lot about work, and the time it takes to be the bosses of their own small-town businesses. For over 42 years, both have been working long hours as fixtures on Algona’s business scene: Fran, at her well-loved store, Fran’s World of Beauty, and Don, at his dealership, EcoWater Systems Lindsay of Algona.

Divinely said, Fran! Congratulations to the Deals for exemplifying “small-town living at its best”!

Fran told us, “Initially, I was selling Kawai pianos and had just one on display, but you can only sell so many pianos, so I decided to develop a little back area in the store devoted to religious gift items. When I think back on it, I probably should have been put in a loony bin, but I kept adding more things to sell, and now people come here to shop among thousands of boutique items and gift merchandise. They can even get a cup of coffee and a muffin, too! So I expanded the store’s name to ‘Fran’s World of Beauty—Praise Shop—Coffee Shop—Boutique.’ My husband runs his business out of the same building, so we’ve got quite a diverse operation here.”

Visit Fran and Don Deal at: Fran’s World of Beauty 516 South Phillips Street Algona, IA 50511-3529 (515) 295-3439

Indeed, Don Deal has been operating his EcoWater dealership since 1959—representing the world’s largest manufacturer of residential water treatment systems that has been setting industry standards for over 80 years. 12

EcoWater Systems Lindsay of Algona 520 South Phillips Street Algona, IA 50511-3529 (515) 295-3755

When Professor J. Von Tron's time machine continues to malfunction, she accidentally stays in the here-and-now while journeying to towns and communities throughout OUR STORY Country. But that’s OK. The Professor finds out that all of these towns are making interesting history right now, just like they did in the past and will in the future. Read about the Professor’s latest time machine breakdown below. And watch all the other places she’s visited on

Hartley, Iowa “The City with a Heart”

With a population of 1,672, Hartley, Iowa is a small but vibrant community in O’Brien County that builds on its traditional agricultural strengths in diverse and innovative ways. Hartley supports and attracts a range of new and diverse technology-based businesses, with an economy that is buoyed up by a variety of recreational opportunities and events. Located in the northwest corner of Iowa, 20 miles west of Spencer on U.S. Highway 18 and 20 miles east of Sheldon on U.S. Highway 18, Hartley’s friendly small-town atmosphere offers visitors and residents a quality of life that is unparalleled, and the Chamber of Commerce strongly promotes business activities and events that strengthen the local economy. People flock to Hartley each year on the first weekend of August for the town’s “Summerfest” celebration. Hartley is served by the Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn School District and the Hartley Public Library is open Monday through Saturdays throughout the year. Hartley’s Meadowbrook Golf & Country Club is a municipally run nine-hole golf club located 3.5 miles south of town on M12. It holds the distinction of being named Iowa’s “2003

9-Hole Course of the Year.” As far back as the 1870s, Hartley’s faith community was developed when area Methodists conducted the town’s first Sunday school classes in a private home. Ten years later, the first church in Hartley was built, and today there are four churches located within Hartley that provide spiritual inspiration and faith enhancement to family and friends. Hartley’s Community Center is often used for special events and as the meeting place where town residents gather to prove the point that theirs is “a City with a heart,” filled with supportive, caring citizens.



Word about Sweet Swine County, and all the other great counties and towns throughout OUR STORY Country, has made its way around the world! Tourists are traveling in droves to our area and regularly report back to us about what they’ve experienced! This story just came in from Dort from Downunder about her visit to Storm Lake, Iowa. “G’day Mate!” right back atcha, Dort!

“A Year-Round Destination!” Perched on the banks of a 3200-acre lake, Storm Lake is one of Iowa’s richest, most diverse communities. With a population of about 10,600 and serving as the county seat for Buena Vista County, Storm Lake is a small city with big sophistication. Its friendly residents support an inviting community that is a center for business and a favorite of travelers. Storm Lake is a year-round destination with a fascinating history dating back to the days of the early settlers who began arriving in large numbers upon completion of the railroad there in 1870. At that time, Storm Lake was officially laid out on the north shore of the lake. Much of that early history is preserved in the fascinating Buena Vista Historical Society Museum with displays including the Pioneer Main Street along which is an authentic 1870s log house.


Storm Lake is home to one of the Midwest’s most thriving arts communities as well as Buena Vista University, a Tyson Foods meat-packing plant and a Sara Lee turkey-processing plant. MetaBank’s headquarters are located here, and other multinational businesses dot the landscape. Visitors flock to Storm Lake for year-round festivals and events that include the annual “Star Spangled Spectacular” on the 4th of July, the newly developed “LakeFest” scheduled later in July, and the always well-attended Labor Day Weekend Celebration. Whatever brings you to the shores of Storm Lake, you’ll find it’s hard to leave this wonderful community!

Visit or for more information on Storm Lake, Iowa!

Photos, opposite page, from left: Buena Vista College; Cross country skiing; Harker House; Waterskiing on Storm Lake; Beach lighthouse. Photo, above: Sunset over Storm Lake 16

Guess what lovely charmers from the South have moved to Sweet Swine County—The Savannah Sisters! Indeed, they gave up their southern plantation home to join the pillars of Midwest society right here on a farm in OUR STORY Country. Join the “sistahs” as they go sneakin’ around to daintily whiff out the excitement in the mighty-fine towns of the area. A taste of their expert reporting is below. Why, I declare! You can even watch them on!

“Located on the gently rolling hills of Buena Vista County”


For more information on Sioux Rapids, Iowa log on to:


With a population of about 720, Sioux Rapids, Iowa is hidden in the gently rolling Iowa hills in the northernmost part of Buena Vista County. The first settler in Buena Vista County, Abner Bell, located in this area, and as part of a complex of historic buildings, the community displays his cabin, an 1875 county schoolhouse as well as the old Sioux Rapids Theatre Museum. The town is home to several churches, including Catholic,

Lutheran, Baptist, and Methodist denominations. Sioux Rapids also has a swimming pool, an American Legion Post, a community center, and various local businesses. Area visitors and residents enjoy a wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities at the nearby Gabrielson County Park on Gustafson Lake where there is a sandy swimming beach and picnic areas with a playground for children. The Little Sioux River connects to Linn Grove and makes for great canoeing. Sioux Rapids hosts the annual “Tall Corn Days� festival near the end of July. In the past, this has included a parade, street dance, sweet-corn feed, a 5K run/walk, and sports tournaments that are widely supported by the entire community.

Photos, top right: Garrison Lake Below: Veterans Memorial Left: Park with picnic and playground areas


Word about Sweet Swine County, and all the other great counties and towns throughout OUR STORY Country, has made its way around the world! Tourists are traveling in droves to our area and regularly report back to us about what they’ve experienced! Traveling bird-watcher, Ellen Seesmore, also focused her binoculars on Spencer, Iowa lately and spied all kinds of great things!

Only a 15-minute drive from Iowa’s Great Lakes region

stands today. The Clay County Agriculture Society was orga-

and located at the confluence of the Little Sioux and Ocheye-

nized in 1879 and was significant to the history of Spencer. In

dan Rivers, Spencer, Iowa is an enterprising city where

1917, the Clay County Fair Association was formed and since

country charm and a modern lifestyle go hand-in-hand. In 1859, George E. Spencer allowed his name to be used to form the city and in 1871, Spencer was chosen as the official county seat


of Clay County. By 1878, the first

that time it has grown to the greatest county fair in the world. The nineday fair attracts more than a quarter of a million visitors each year! With a population today of about 11,300, Spencer was ranked the 10th

railroad was built through the black, fertile prairie to Spencer,

Best Place to Live in the United States by Relocate-America.

and in less than a year, the settlement grew from 300 people

com’s, America’s Top 100 Places to Live for 2007. Also listed

to a bustling town of 1,000. The courthouse, built in 1901, still

in The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America, Spencer is a


“Home of the World’s Great Clay County Fair”

flourishing center for the arts. One of the town’s biggest attractions, Arts On Grand, offers year-round exhibits, classes and special events. Spencer has it all: museums, theaters, sports, shopping and great dining! Plus, residents enjoy a particularly healthy lifestyle, with excellent health care in a beautiful environment that provides biking and skiing trails, picturesque campgrounds, nearby golf courses, and terrific bass fishing in the surrounding lakes! With so much to recommend it, it’s no wonder people are attracted to Spencer!


Stone Fox gives these Spencer, IA businesses two thumbs up!


“I love Spencer, IA almost as much as I love Sweet Swine! Just look at all of these awesome businesses!�


Spencer, Iowa has so many cool businesses... We’re just speechless! 23

We LOVE shopping, so when we say Spencer, Iowa is the place to go when you want to “shop-til-you-drop,” you know it’s true!


“I’m steppin’ out again. This time I’ve found my way to the quaint town of Spencer, Iowa! I need to get out more!”


Original Andy Warhog Paint-o-graphs Donated to Sweet Swine County Museum! y into the nd their wa ave fou weet Swine o-graphs” h tin a “p known as S g ll o e rh w a , g W o y d rh s of ten so! Wa riginal An ated a serie nty Museum re u c ng o C lly e ia it in in w ter, while painti Sweet S ccidentally nt barn pain a e ” in s e m c e ie re p p rt County’s op Swine-A op, “I ed-edition P it t Swine Sco e im e “l w d S lle ld a c to g o of his rh n a e k on’s barn. W n photos Clem had ta paint Clem Johns te y f m o one of group a to t in a g m e in k th o that ped was lo I kinda drop and noticed n m e e h w th d rs e o v b neigh kly retrie e to throw ident. I quic Clem told m I can now h g u o h cans by acc lt A . kinda neat. me an idea they looked n’t. It gave painting id d I ile h d w la g rt a I’m te fine a s re c -e them away, n to y new serie s with one s til you see m ! I’m very n u it a kill two bird W . s ut-building ’s corn crib farmplace o ting Earl Silo in a p nty Museum ile h w d Swine Cou t e e w S that I create es into s u prestigio se ten piec e e th th f t o a n th o y ti round ona happ ccept my d m people a a o fr to s t u fi it n tr e e e d has s art and ollection of their large c crethe county!” tion with his n e tt a e id an astound unty-w Cafe drew s gained co ’s a ie h d g E o t a rh a n W xhibitio his recent e ations, and pening! e oos at th o -l y k o lo 7 1 ing

ional s s e f o r P unty’s “ for Hire! o C e n i w Sweet S ners” Available Mour

Yes, Sweet Swine Scoop has learned this popular club is now enhancing the sadness at special events throughout the county including anniversary parties, lodge meetings, bachelorette parties, and retirement parties--literally wherever a tear could be shed in a special moment when tears are so needed. Club president, Ima Tearson told Sweet Swine Scoop, “Event planners may book all 19 members of The Professional Mourners for large, sad events, or just book the famed Wailing Sisters (pictured here) for smaller functions. Whatever your mourning needs, The Professional Mourners are guaranteed to make a sad moment the saddest ever!”

One of Sweet Swine County’s best known clubs-The Professional Mourners--is now available to hire out for your sad events! 26

Oh, Ellen! You know how to work a camera! But it’s easy when you’re shooting a town as lovely as Spirit Lake, Iowa!

Spirit Lake, IA

More info about Spirit Lake businesses appears in our next issue!


“The Capstone of the Iowa Great Lakes” Serving as the county seat for Dickinson County, Iowa, the city of Spirit Lake is the capstone of the Iowa Great Lakes. It is located to the south of Big Spirit Lake, the largest natural lake in Iowa, and on part of the western shoreline of East Okoboji Lake. These glacier-dug lakes make up a chain that is well known for its beauty and recreational opportunities. Spirit Lake takes its name from the Dakota Sioux Indians who referred to the large lake to the north as “Minnewaukon” or “Lake of the Spirit.” Spirit Lake was incorporated in 1879. The downtown district and the surrounding residential areas and parks hold a bit of history at every turn. The 5,000 citizens of Spirit Lake have been careful to preserve their historic past while moving forward to expand their city as an important business, cultural and recreational center. Both the Dickinson County Museum and the Spirit Lake Public Library hold many stories from the past—a past of which Spirit Lake is very proud. Spirit Lake has a vibrant downtown with a variety of retail businesses. An industrial park provides current employers and potential companies with attractive amenities. The city’s neighborhoods are safe and the schools offer excellent educational opportunities. With a four-season lifestyle, thriving business climate and great quality of life, Spirit Lake is one of the most beautiful and dynamic cities in the Midwest!


Legions of fans are watching “the stars come out” in Sweet Swine County and beyond! Yes, many infamous Our Story celebrities are show-bizzily digging up all kinds of entertaining information about people, places and events in the area. Celebrity Earl Silo, adored as the TV co-host of “Split Hoof Tonight” and star of “Earl Steps Out,” is stepping out again right here with this story about Estherville, Iowa! You go, Earl!

“Living the Good Life” Located in the Des Moines River Valley, Estherville, Iowa was

just a few miles north of town. Known as The Estherville

named in honor of Esther Ridley, the wife of Robert E. Ridley—

Meteorite, it burrowed 15 feet into the ground when it struck.

one of the men who platted the town. It was during the summer

Portions of the meteorite are now on display in the Estherville

of 1857 that settlers first arrived in what would become Emmet

Public Library, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

County and for which they would name Estherville as the county

in Washington, D.C., and the Naturhistorisches Museum in

seat. Estherville holds a particularly important place in history

Vienna, Austria.

because on May 10, 1879, a 455-pound meteorite fell to earth


Estherville holds another interesting claim to fame. It was

Days” is considered to be “the festival to end all festivals”!

here that the word, “blizzard,” was coined and used in print

The celebration includes free sweet corn, a parade, car show,

on April 23, 1870 by the editor of The Estherville Vindicator,

children’s games, golf and disc-golf tournaments, a street

the town newspaper.

dance, craft fair, river float, fireworks, and a wonderful variety of food vendors.

Today, Estherville’s nearly 6,400 residents support a vibrant

To find more information on the town of Estherville, log on to

community that offers many opportunities for people interested in history, nature, athletics, outdoor recreation, shopping and great dining. Each year, Estherville’s “Sweet Corn

Photos, opposite page, from top, left: Fort Definance Shelter House; Swinging Bridge entry; Swinging Bridge; Fort Defiance Park Entrance. Photo, from top left: Sweet Corn Cooking in celebration of Sweet Corn Days; Sweet Corn Shucking; Rock Garden; Downtown Market in Estherville; Parade of Lights.


Estherville businesses are just... fancy.


“Boy, do I need new clothes!” Watch for a story in our next issue about Racine’s For Him & Her Clothing 614 Central Ave. Estherville, IA 712-362-3302 32

Bancroft, Iowa is where you’ll find Ellen. Camera in hand, she’s busy shooting up a storm!

Named after historian and diplomat George Bancroft, the town “The Garden of Bancroft, Iowa, was first surveyed in the fall of 1881. Serving as an important agricultural and railway hub for the area, numerous merchants established operations in Bancroft in that first year that included a grocery, lumber yard, iron forge and hardware store, as well as three restaurants, the Bank of Bancroft, and a hotel called the Globe House.

With a population today of just over 800 people, Bancroft Spot of Iowa” holds small-town values with bigtown ideas. The town’s thriving main street businesses include a grocery store, hardware store, furniture store, home entertainment sales and service, pharmacy and restaurants. Service businesses include a dental clinic, chiropractic clinic, attorney, accounting/CPA office, spa, nursing home, fitness and health center, locally owned bank, as well as a medical clinic, EMS, and volunteer fire department. Residents welcome visitors to enjoy all of Bancroft’s many recreational opportunities in its beautiful parks, including the famed and historic Bancroft Memorial Ballpark. There is much to see and do in Bancroft!


By the early 1900s, four general stores, two drug stores, and two hardware stores were located in Bancroft. Early telephone service was established around 1900, and a waterworks system had been in operation since 1895. Many of the merchants and business established during this period are still familiar to Bancroft’s residents today. These include the Bancroft Register newspaper; Farmers and Traders Savings Bank; Hatten Brothers; Kennedy Brothers Department Store; P. J. Nemmers; and Welp Cement Products.

To learn more about Bancroft, Iowa visit their website:



montevideo, mn “All-America City of 2004”


parks and bike trails winding through it. Montevideo’s medi-

Serving as the county seat of Chippewa County, Montevideo, Minnesota has a population of 5,400 and is located at the

cal campus includes a new $40 million hospital and clinic,

convergence of the Minnesota and Chippewa rivers about 140

a nursing home, assisted-living facility and one of the best

miles west of Minneapolis. Native Americans and fur traders

small V.A. clinics in the nation. The economy has diversified

shared this area of the prairie through the first half of the

to include growing retail trade areas, service and light manu-

19th Century. After the Dakota Conflict in 1862, the govern-

facturing industries, including food processing, a modular

ment opened the area to homesteaders. Railroads were built,

home builder, and a niche of firms building high-tech parts

and Norwegian, German, Swedish, Dutch and Irish settlers

for medical, commercial and military uses. The city is also

soon followed. Finally incorporated in 1879, Montevideo

home to a burgeoning artists’ community, and serves as a hub

had already played an integral part in the Dakota Conflict of

to the annual Meander—Upper Minnesota River Art Crawl.

1862 when the tribes surrendered and released 269 captives

In 2004, Montevideo was named an All America City by the

to Colonel Henry Sibley. A monument commemorating this

National Civic League—an honor awarded to only ten cities a

event was dedicated in 1894.

year for achieving uncommon results in community-building activities by its citizens.

Today, Montevideo remains a wonderful, comfortable

place to live. The city is green and beautiful, with rivers,




“A Town of History”

Located on the Big Sioux River in Sioux County, Hawarden, Iowa has a population of about 2,500. Named in honor of the leading British statesman of the 19th Century, William Gladstone (who came from Hawarden County, England), in 1887 the town of Hawarden was incorporated after it had annexed the nearby village of Calliope in order to form one larger community. However, historic Calliope Village has been preserved and attracts many visitors to view its 14 buildings including the original post office, the Community Church, a stagecoach depot, courthouse and jail. Each year, Hawarden hosts “Big Sioux River Days” on Labor Day weekend when Calliope Village comes alive with tours and activities. oramic views of the Big Sioux River Valley.  Together, the 379 acres allow access to the Big Sioux River, large outcroppings of Sioux Quartzite, and have electric and nonelectric camp-

Earl: “Wow, Cousin John! Look at this great town of Hawarden, Iowa!” CJ: “I know! There will be more info in our next issue!”

sites, hiking trails, park shelters, and educational programs held by the Sioux County Conservation Department.

Hawarden’s residents are proud of their strong faith community that includes ten churches. The strength of those residents’ community spirit is easily seen as well in the town’s well-kept City Park in which the Hawarden Area Veterans Memorial was built to remember the names of 1,030 local veterans who have bravely served their country. The West Sioux School District provides education for the citizens of western Sioux County including the towns of Hawarden, Ireton, and Chatsworth. Just 6.5 miles northeast of Hawarden is Oak Grove—a picturesque 101-acre outdoor recreation area adjacent to Big Sioux Park, comprised of 278 acres that offer pan37

Milford, Iowa ocated in

four stops in Milford each day, deliver-

joined in the joke and refers to itself


ing mail, groceries, clothing, lumber,

as the “campus radio.” The Milford

coal, and machinery along with settlers

Commercial Club actively promotes

and visitors.

the city by celebrating an annual sum-

County, Iowa, the city of Milford

mer event called Pioneer Days in late

is often referred to as the southern gateway to the Iowa

Today, Milford’s nearly 2,500 resi-

July as well as a holiday festival called

Great Lakes region. The first settler

dents have created a unique destina-

the “Holiday Fantasy” held each year

in Milford Township was recorded in

tion point for the many travelers who

on the weekend after Thanksgiving

1866, and in 1882, Milford was platted.

enjoy the surrounding lakes and who

weekend. Milford offers its residents

When train service by the Milwaukee

swell the summertime population

well-established public services with its

rail line was established, Milford ex-

of the county to over 100,000. Mil-

numerous city parks, great community

panded quickly as two passenger trains making daily trips to the Great Lakes region from Des Moines would make

ford is home to the fictional “University of Okoboji”—a creation of three brothers in the early 1970s as a joke. The university’s

facilities including a new Community Building and High School Auditorium, and high-standard school system as well as a fire department, police force and a public library that was started

name is now used in

in 1923. Scenic Horseshoe Bend Park

connection with

and Elinor Bedell State Park in Milford

several annual fund-raising

a 1 nfo events for i w o & e I . charity, rd, Scen , ads sue o f s l includMi e 1; otos ing i k h ing bike Ta re p com rides, a marathon, Mo n up a and a winter games competiin

add wonderful outdoor recreational amenities to a community whose residents welcome all visitors with open arms.

As William Shakespeare said, “What is a city but the people?”

tion. A local radio station, KUOO, has

“The Southern Gateway to the Iowa Great Lakes” 38

We never thought we’d ever see this happen. Earl Silo is livin’ the celebrity life in Ellsworth, Wisconsin! Get out there and mingle, Earl!

Ellsworth, Wisconsin “It’s Worth Discovering Ellsworth!” •

Located just 30 miles from the Twin Cities, Ellsworth, Wisconsin offers a rural lifestyle with easy access to all the advantages of a big city. Serving as the county seat for Pierce County, Ellsworth is also renowned for being the “Cheese Curd Capital” of Wisconsin. Named after Civil War Colonel, Elmer E. Ellsworth, Ellsworth was platted as a village in 1862 and incorporat-


ed under the laws of Wisconsin in 1887. In 1885, the Omaha Railroad established a depot one mile east of Ellsworth and the community of East Ellsworth was formed. Ellsworth and East Ellsworth operated independently from one another for some time, but now they function as one city. Built in 1905, the Pierce County courthouse was constructed in Ellsworth

for a cost of $85,000 and replicates the style of the Wisconsin State Capitol building. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, Ellsworth has a population of about 3,300 and is the hub of Pierce County at the intersection of four major highways (10, 63, 65 and 72). Ellsworth’s location affords it great recreational opportunities since it is near the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, state and local parks, and hiking trails and golf courses. Ellsworth also is the center of Pierce County’s 210 miles of snowmobile trails. Several nearby streams and rivers provide outstanding trout fishing. Ellsworth’s Summit Park Young Field is home to the popular Ellsworth Hubbers baseball team, and each year Ellsworth hosts the annual Cheese Curd Festival, showcasing many quality products made at the Ellsworth Co-op Creamery. Many other events throughout the year include the Ellsworth Polka Fest, Old Car Club Show, and the Pierce County Fair. It’s certainly worth making a visit to Ellsworth!

Photos, opposite page: Pierce County Courthouse Photos, left and above: Picnic tables, a playground and picnic shelter in one of the many parks in Ellsworth


Prairie Ann

Garret Dawson

Boris Cherchankov

Officer Dave

Betty Thompson

Ralph Jenkins aka Vladimer Cherchankov Elmer Plow Chef Randy

Waitress Norma

Little John

Clem Johnson

Aunt Minnie 41

Sergio Ferleone

Daisy Mae with Garret Dawson

Lawyer Ed Ronnie P. Silage, Poet Lariat

Willy Odum

Cousin John

And there’s plenty of it on Our Story Productions’ “reality” soap opera, “As the Corn Grows”! In 2008, Our Story Productions developed the comic “reality” soap opera called “As the Corn Grows” to follow the humorously convoluted lives and times of the citizens of Sweet Swine County. “As the Corn Grows” gives you—the viewer—a real-life glimpse into rural life as portrayed by a lovable cast of characters who bring new 42

meaning to the word, ‘corny’! The soap opera series kicked off with Sweet Swine County’s well-loved Aunt Ella very sick and nearing death. At her bedside, Aunt Ella was surrounded by Elmer Plow, Prairie Ann, Mrs. Swanson, and Cousin John—all of whom, ultimately, were chomping at the bit to find

State Fire Marshall Dempsey O’Malley

Prosecutor Kent Kingsley

Elmer Plow Family

Willow Brooks

out who would end up inheriting her farm. As the story unfolds, we learn that upon Aunt Ella’s death her will and last testament names her longlost citified niece, Urban Katie, as her heir. When she is told the news, Urban Katie gives up life in the big city and returns to Sweet Swine County in order to take over and run her newly inherited farm, much to the chagrin of Cousin John (aka John Robert Olson)—Sweet Swine County’s ever-conniving, dastardly entrepreneur and owner of The Pluck-N-Cluck chicken business, It Will Be Gone Savings and Loan, KLUK TV Enterprises, The Daily Boar Newspaper, Sweet Swine Scoop gossip tabloid, and several thousand acres of farmland, among other enterprises. When a very determined Urban Katie arrives in Sweet Swine County, she Citizens of Sweet Swine County

Destiny Disaster 43

Natasha Cherchankov

Clarice Plow

Betty Plow

Dougie Dougan

Earl Silo

soon discovers she’ll be butting heads with Cousin John as she puts her nose to the ground to learn how to farm. Behind the scenes, Cousin John does everything in his power to undermine Urban Katie’s success in the hopes of getting the farm away from her, which he believes rightfully belongs to him! It doesn’t take long for Urban Katie to become ensconced in Sweet Swine County life, and also into the intriguing dramas of all the residents who live and love “As the Corn Grows”! Urban Katie

Mystic Ray Trial of Elmer Plow Jury

Lonesome Ron

Bonnie Silage

Johnny Happening 44

Cassadee Davis

Lake Park, Iowa “Where you can spend a vacation, or a lifetime!”

Lake Park is a friendly community located in Dickenson County in northwest Iowa near the Iowa Great Lakes area. Situated around beautiful Silver Lake, the first settlers arrived in the Lake Park area by horse or oxen teams in the 1860s. Lake Park was later incorporated in 1892, ten years after the railroad pushed through the area.

Top: Lake Park Wildlife Preserve Middle: Lake Park Depot Bottom: Lake Park City Park

Over the past 150 years the town and community has endured fires, blizzards, tornadoes and other calamities that have tested the towns strength; yet, Lake Park continues to flourish to this day. But no community can survive without the help of volunteers and organizations. Lake Park has several groups that contribute to the well-being of the area. Along with the organizations, Lake Park has three churches that provide spiritual leadership for its citizens. Lake Park has an array of things to do in the great outdoors with their parks, their lake and the many acres of public lands in the area. Silver Lake alone is nearly two squaremiles in size with camping offered at two lakeside locations. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has many public areas for hunting or just getting back to nature. The golf course offers nine challenging holes of golf and the Heritage Square Museum shows how life used to be in Lake Park. The Harris-Lake Park school district has twice been named one of America’s best schools by U.S. News & World Report, and a separate report by the Des Moines Register found the Harris-Lake Park grads have the highest grade-point average in Iowa’s public universities. Lake Park’s new high school, community center, athletic complex and bike trail add together with all the town’s other amenities to make it a great place to spend a vacation or a lifetime!


“Oh, I love shopping in Lake Park, Iowa!”


Ellen definitely “sees more” when she’s out and about! Today she’s in Swea City, Iowa!

Located in Kossuth County— one of Iowa’s largest counties— Swea City was incorporated in 1895 and derives its name from “Svea,” a nickname for Swedish pioneer leader Capt. R. E. Jensen who settled in the area in 1870. Initially, Swea City was called Reynolds. The railroad passed through Reynolds, but the settlement wasn’t granted a post office because one already existed in the nearby village of Swea just six miles to the northwest. Residents ultimately agreed to consolidate the communities by moving the post of-

fice to Reynolds which then was renamed Swea City—creating a town of 161 citizens. Today, Swea City is a small but vibrant small community of about 600 people. The town’s well-kept Reynolds Park features a large municipal swimming pool, picnic facilities, playgrounds, and a unique band shell that was built in the 1930s. A bronze sculpture by Swea City artist Wayne Thompson also graces the park. Entitled, “In The Park,” the life-sized sculpture depicts a boy, a girl and


their dog playing in the park. Thompson’s over 100 sculptures representing Midwestern themes are being enjoyed in communities throughout Iowa and Minnesota. Swea City residents are proud to acknowledge the cultural contribution Thompson has made to their fair city.

“I do love taking a dip in Swea City’s pool.”


Litchfield, Minnesota

On Lake Ripley

“Large enough to serve you; small enough to know you!”

esting near the shores of beautiful Lake

golf course, enjoy fine dining locations, and participate in one

Ripley, Litchfield, Minnesota serves as the

of many festivals and events throughout the year. Litchfield’s

county seat for Meeker County. Located 60

annual July “Watercade” festival is the city’s biggest celebra-

miles west of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro

tion. Activities include a golf tournament, parade, Art in the

area, Litchfield is among the largest of a

Park exhibition, four-mile run, fishing contest, kiddie parade,

series of “whistle-stop” towns that were built

fireworks display, Little Crow water-skiing show, and the

in the 1800s as the railway was expanding from Minneapolis.

popular Miss Litchfield queen coronation ceremony. Down-

When the town was organized in 1858, it was originally called

town Litchfield has been designated a Commercial Historic

Ness, in honor of Ole Halvorson Ness who was one of the first

District on the National Register of Historic Places with more

Norwegian settlers in the area. In 1862, St. Paul & Pacific

than 40 structures dating back to as early as 1882.

Railroad Co. investors—the brothers Electus, Egbert and Edwin Litchfield—plotted a rail track through Ness on its way

Photos from left: Litchfield is home to many parks and trails; a “Birdseye Postcard” from 1900; GAR hall - Grand Army of the Republic Hall. Built in 1885 for the Frank Daggett GAR Post No. 35, It is one of four remaining halls in Minnesota. from Breckenridge to Minneapolis. In 1869, Ness Township

Visit their websites for more information:

residents petitioned to have Ness renamed Litchfield to honor or

those enterprising railway developers. With a population today nearing 6,800, Litchfield’s smalltown flavor is enhanced by community life that boasts a strong education system, fiscally responsible government, high-quality medical services, a strong faith community, and a wide variety of employment opportunities set in an area that offers many recreational opportunities. Visitors can take a walk around serene Lake Ripley, play on Litchfield’s 18-hole 49

Paynesville, Minnesota “An Area for All Seasons”

estled in the heart of central Minnesota

The settlements of Paynesville and New Paynesville merged

in Stearns County along the north fork of

into a single “Paynesville” in January 1905.

the Crow River and near Lake Koronis, Paynesville attracts thousands of visitors

These days, more and more people are lured to Paynesville

each year who enjoy a myriad of recreational opportunities.

by the great opportunities the area offers. In addition to the

Three lakes are the core of the local tourist trade, particularly

scenic beauty of the lakes, a wealth of outdoor and indoor

during the summer. Rice Lake and Lake Koronis are linked

activities are enjoyed by residents that include fishing, hik-

by the north fork of the Crow River. Lake Koronis—covering

ing, hunting, golfing, sporting activities, antique browsing,

3,014 acres—is just a mile south of Paynesville. Rice Lake is

movie- and museum-going, and shopping. Paynesville’s retail

located several miles to the northeast, and further upstream

shops run the gamut from florists to car dealerships, and boat

from Koronis is Long Lake, located seven miles west of town

showrooms to antique dealers. With a population of about

just south of Highway 23.

2,500, Paynesville’s agriculturally related businesses, modern health care system, manufacturing base and retail businesses

The site of Paynesville first appeared officially on area maps in

offer citizens a diverse economy in which to thrive. Visitors

1857 when Edwin E. Payne formed a post office there. Thirty

are encouraged to visit and explore Paynesville . . . and are

years later when the Soo Line Railroad arrived in the area, a

invited to remain for a lifetime!

second post office was opened right near the tracks. A new separate village called New Paynesville developed at this site.

Log onto for more info!

Paynesville is home to many parks: Veteran’s Park (featuring NEW Park Shelter), Gazebo Park, Nature Trail Park, South Street Park, Maple Street Park and Veteran’s Memorial Park.


Word about Sweet Swine County, and all the other great counties and towns throughout OUR STORY Country, has made its way around the world! Tourists are traveling in droves to our area and regularly report back to us about what they’ve experienced! This story just came in from Frenchie LeBeau about his visit to West Bend, Iowa. Sacré bleu, Frenchie! You are zee man! Merci!

West Bend, Iowa “A Rock-Solid Community”

Established in 1856 and incorporated

is marked as the site of the Grotto of the

West Bend features other historically

in 1884, West Bend is located in two

Redemption—the world’s largest grotto.

interesting sites including a restored

counties—Kossuth and Palo Alto--in the

Frequently called “The Eighth Wonder

school house, post office, and sod house.

center of a vast, lush, level expanse of

of the World,” the Grotto represents the

An old-fashioned soda fountain, located

Iowa farmland northwest of Fort Dodge

largest collection of minerals, petrified

in The Villager, serves visitors 1930s-

midway between state highways 18 and

rocks, precious stones and gems concen-

styled malted milks, milk shakes, and

20. West Bend was named for the sharp

trated in any one spot in the world. The

cherry, lemon and lime cokes. Num-num!

turn the Des Moines River makes toward

Grotto of the Redemption is a composite

the west at a point southwest of the

of nine separate grottos, each portraying or

town. On most road maps, West Bend

a scene in the life of Christ.

Photos from top, left: school house; old post office; sod house; Grotto, Glory to God in the Highest; Grotto; phone booth



Word about Sweet Swine County, and all the other great counties and towns throughout OUR STORY Country, has made its way around the world! Tourists are traveling in droves to our area and regularly report back to us about what they’ve experienced! This story about Brookings, South Dakota just came in from Rudy the Runner, where he took a breather while on his run to another finish line!

“Bring Your Dreams”

south dakota Brookings, South Dakota is the fourth largest city in the Mount Rushmore state with a population of about 22,000. Named after Wilmot W. Brookings—a spirited pioneer promoter—Brookings was originally surveyed and platted in 1879 in preparation for the railroad. After the railroad had bypassed other area settlements of Fountain, Oakwood and Medary, many merchants from those towns packed up their businesses and moved to Brookings, immediately boosting the town’s growth.


Today, Brookings is the envy of many communities. Serving as the county seat for Brookings County, the downtown has beautifully kept historic buildings with great shops, restaurants, and entertainment spots. Brookings also is home to South Dakota State University, the largest institution of higher learning in the state. Each summer during July, Brookings’ beautiful Pioneer Park is used for South Dakota’s premier two-day juried art festival. Over 200 artists from across the nation exhibit their skilled and handcrafted works of art. The festival also features music performed in the park’s historic band shell, and on side stages throughout the park. Nearly 75,000 people attend the Brookings Summer Arts Festival while enjoying the many other incredible features the city offers to visitors from throughout the Midwest.


Word about Sweet Swine County, and all the other great counties and towns throughout OUR STORY Country, has made its way around the world! Tourists are traveling in droves to our area and regularly report back to us about what they’ve experienced! This story just came in from Canada Dirk about Bully Bullhead Weekend in Ruthven, Iowa. It’s a great place, eh?

Something’s Fishy in Ruthven, Iowa! There’s fun in store for every member of your family at Ruthven, Iowa’s annual Bully Bullhead Weekend! This three-day community-wide festival is one way Ruthven celebrates its “way of life” in the beautiful surroundings of the Lost Island Lake area. Held each year on the weekend following the 4th of July, the celebration includes among

many events a parade, tractor ride, kids’ carnival, athletic tournaments, fireworks, and, of course, the famous bullhead fishing tournament for which the event was named. The celebration was created in 1992 by a group of community-minded residents as a way to highlight the great

life found in Ruthven and the beauty of neighboring Lost Island Lake and its surrounding wetlands. Since its inception, Bully Bullhead Weekend has grown into a well-attended attraction that people also use for reuniting with relatives and friends hailing from the community’s past. Don’t forget to bring some worms!

For more information about the festival as well as photos of the event from past years, check out: 55

Superstar Garrett Dawson finds endless entertainment in Ruthven, Iowa.


We often hear that the rural way of life is dying. We believe, however, that our way of life is merely changing-adapting to a vibrant new future--and we citizens of Palo Alto County are proud to share with you how we are embracing these changes while preserving our unique rural heritage!

The Road to Our Story

Palo Alto County, Iowa Iowa’s Palo Alto County was named for the first battlefield victory in the Mexican-American War. The first settlement in Palo Alto County was established along the east bank of the Des Moines River in 1855 by the Carter and Evans families. Soon afterwards, another group of Irish settlers—with names like Nolan, Neary, Mahan, Laughlin, Hickey and Crowley—joined the immigrant community near what is now the town of Emmetsburg, which today serves as the county seat. Named in honor of the Irish patriot, Robert Emmet, Emmetsburg and the surrounding area retain the distinct influence of Irish heritage, culture and customs. In 1962, the link to Ireland was further reinforced when Emmetsburg’s mayor and the Lord Mayor of Dublin made a joint proclamation declaring the two as “Sister Cities.” Emmetsburg’s annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration draws people from throughout Palo Alto County with a three-day annual gala event that includes honoring visiting members from the Irish Parliament.

With a population nearing 9,500, Palo Alto County is comprised of the communities of Ayrshire, Cylinder, Curlew, Emmetsburg, Graettinger, Mallard, Rodman, Ruthven and West Bend. When the county seat was moved to Emmetsburg in 1875, a brick courthouse was built there in 1880. Designed in a Victorian style, the courthouse has been much changed during remodels in the 1960s, but it still functions as the primary headquarters for government services for the county. Palo Alto County has many interesting historical sites, a popular annual county fair that celebrates small-town spirit, and for outdoor recreational enthusiasts, the Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center about 15 miles west of Emmetsburg provides recreational and educational experiences for the public as well as initiates programs designed to protect and enhance the natural and cultural resources of Palo Alto County.



Small-Town Living at Its Best! OUR STORY’s primary goal is to innovatively report on all aspects of the incredible life we share in the Midwest! Via our cable-TV programming, on our Internet website and in this magazine, we seek to relate—often with a tinge of humor—the latest and greatest “goings-on” in OUR STORY’s “family” of communities. Just take a look at this ever-expanding OUR STORY family! Wow! MINNESOTA: Adrian Albert Lea Alden Amboy Appleton Arlington Balaton Belle Plaine Beresford Blooming Prairie Blue Earth Canby Cannon Falls

Edgerton Eyota Fairmont Fulda Gaylord Granite Falls Henderson Hendricks Jackson Janesville Jordan Kasson Kenyon Kiester Lake Benton Lake City

Lake Crystal Lakefield Lamberton Le Center Le Sueur Litchfield Luverne Madelia Manterville Mapleton Marshall Mongomery Morton New Prague New Richland New Ulm Nicollet Olivia Paynesville

The Our Story family is growin’ like a weed. Just look at all these towns we’re spotlighting! I know, it’s a heck of a read!


Pipestone Red Wing Redwood Falls Sanborn Sherburn Slayton Sleepy Eye St. Charles St. James St. Peter Springfield Tracy Trimont Truman Tyler Wabasha Wabasso Walnut Grove Wanamingo Welcome Wells West Concord Willmar Windom Winnebago Winthrop Worthington Zumbrota

Minnesota SOUTH DAKOTA: Brookings Flandreau Madison Milbank Yankton

MINNESOTA (See list on the left)

WISCONSIN: Ellsworth Hudson

South Dakota

IOWA: Algona Arnold’s Park Emmetsburg Graettinger Hawarden Milford Ringsted Sheldon Spencer Storm Lake West Bend

Armstrong Bancroft Estherville Hartley Lake Park Okoboji Ruthven Sioux Rapids Spirit Lake Swea City




Pets Rule!

Pet Kingdom in Algona, Iowa

If you’ve always wanted to meet “The Royalty,” Pet Kingdom holds court every Monday through Saturday at 117 E. State Street in Algona, Iowa. And quite a royal court it is! There are kings barking orders, purring princesses, and other royals thumping, chirping and swimming for your attention. In 1973, Dean and Cleo Benschoter were goaded by their love of animals to open a pet shop in their rural Algona home. In 1983, they relocated their store to downtown Algona, and upon their retirement in 2001, Debra Wolfe was crowned the new owner. She rapidly set about restoring the historic late-1800s building and transformed it into a royal wonderland for pets called “Pet Kingdom…Where Pets Rule.” Pet Kingdom offers 5,000 square feet of shopping fun, where pets also especially love getting the majestic treatment at their very own Pet Spa and Boutique.

Reviews of the store glow with regal approval. Leena M. in San Jose, CA wrote, “It is the coolest pet store I have ever seen! I can’t even describe how amazing this store is. The downstairs has almost wall-to-wall aquariums with goldfish and other types of pets and supplies. The upstairs has everything from special cards for every occasion, to glamorous doggie collars, and even artwork featuring pets. If you ever have the chance to visit charming downtown Algona, Iowa, stop by this store!”   Erin M. in Cedar Rapids, IA adds, “This is such a fun pet store. They carry pretty much everything you would ever need for your fur-baby, including good food brands, too— especially for such a small town. Can’t wait to go back!”


Just ask any of the pets in the store, they love it there, too! “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” —Anatole France Pet Kingdom 117 East State St. , Algona, IA 50511 Ph: 515-295-2374 • Fax: 515-295-2298

Photos from top left: Pet Spa for the “royal treatment�; Pet fashions; Pet carrying cases, collars and sparkles; Pet collars and cologne. Photos opposite page, top: Pet Kingdom store front; Toys, leashes and fun stuff; Pet Kingdom back yard.


“Look at all of these marvelous shops in Algona, Iowa! I must tell Bobby Ray!”


Algona, Iowa businesses are fashionable enough for Paris.


If “The Women” say Algona, Iowa businesses are fab, then you know they are! Who has better taste than “The Women”!


“Look at all of these cool business places! I LOVE Algona, Iowa!”


On each episode of The Cocklebur Morning Show, history buff, Bobby Ray, shares with viewers the interesting discoveries he’s made over the weekend when traveling throughout OUR STORY Country. That Bobby Ray is always on the go! He sure does have the knack for finding incredible stories, like the one below! To watch any video broadcasts of Bobby Ray’s Weekend Adventures, go to


or all you theatre lovers like me, the Willmar Community Theatre operates a wonderful nonprofit community theatre downtown in “The Barn Theatre” at 3214th Street SW. This is one of only

a few community theatre companies in the country that has its own building and engages directors for each main-stage play. During 1987, the theatre group relocated downtown

Our mission:

to provide affordable, quality performing arts to west-central Minnesota. into a newly renovated former JC Penney building. From this location The Barn Theatre now provides cultural and artistic entertainment for the public that includes plays, recitals, orchestral opportunities, art exhibits and much more. The


mission of The Barn Theatre is to provide affordable, quality

building next to the current theater was purchased to provide

performing arts to west-central Minnesota. The Barn Theatre

additional space and to. extend programming. It’s certainly

is currently in its 39th year of offering a wide range of theatri-

worth taking a trip to Willmar—not only to visit that incredi-

cal productions to the area while it promotes community

ble town, but also to take in a great event at The Barn Theatre!

involvement, affords opportunities for personal growth for its

The 2012 winter/spring season brings two comedies to “the

volunteers, displays and develops artistic talent, and provides

boards”—“Almost Maine” by John Cariani and “Born Yester-

community leadership for the fine arts.

day” by Garson Kanin. For all the news about these upcoming shows and other information, visit

In the spring of 2002, the Barn continued to expand. The

2012 winter/spring brings 2 comedies:

“Almost Maine” by John Cariani & “Born Yesterday” by Garson Kanin.


“Wow! Willmar, MN has so many places to shop!” 69

The Albert Lea Community Theatre

Albert Lea, Minnesota

The Albert Lea Community Theatre (ACT) got its start for a time in Albert Lea, The Marion Ross Performing Arts in 1965 with the support of an integral group of Albert Lea Center has been ACT’s home for many years while it serves as residents spearheaded by Dr. John Campbell and his wife, the hub of Albert Lea’s burgeoning cultural life. Nancy. The play, “The Man Who Came for Dinner,” kicked off the first season in the little theater in Southwest School ACT has planned a great 2012 season with productions that continued to be used the that include the hilarious “How next 14 years for productions. to Talk Minnesotan (Winter “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the By the late 1970s, because the Version)” opening in April, and most immediate way in which a human being can share Albert Lea Community Theatre the Tony award-winning musihad expanded its schedule and with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” cal “Oliver!” opening in July. –Oscar Wilde roster of events extensively, a new state-of-the-art theatre For more information see was created from the historic The Albert Lea Community Masonic Lodge. Named for the famed actress Marion Ross Theatre’s website at and also the (“Happy Days”) who was born in Minnesota and who lived City of Albert Lea’s website at


Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “There are no days in life so memorable as those which vibrated to some stroke of the imagination.” When Iowa farmer Ken Banwart and his wife, Marlene, started a “pastry-making project” to supplement their family’s income in the midst of the late-1980s farm crisis, one would wonder if they expected that small imaginative enterprise would grow into a successful manufacturing and food-service company with approximately 75 independent dealerships in 40 states. In Marlene Banwart’s words, “It was almost impossible to make enough on the farm, so Ken found a part-time job in town [West Bend, IA]. Even with Ken’s part-time job, it seemed we were still going backwards. In 1989, Ken suggested that we put out a truck patch (a real large garden) and sell the produce at the local farmer’s market. It seemed like a good idea since the kids and I could help, and it would be a family project. The first year that we started to take our produce to the farmer’s market, we noticed that there were a few venders successfully selling baked goods. It seemed logical that we should consider doing the same. A small voice inside kept telling me to ‘do something with the braided pastries,’ so we started to make baked goods—one of them being the braided pastry. In May of 1991, we decided to start producing and marketing our braided pastries on a larger scale and as an official company. We created the Butter Braid® brand name for our braided pastries and named our company, Country Maid, Inc., as we set up a small manufacturing plant in the basement of our home.” The rest, as they say, is history. 71

“Do the right things In the right ways At the right times With the right people For the right reasons!” As the success of Country Maid skyrocketed, the Banwarts decided early on to develop ways to share their success with others. To that end, the Banwarts created the corporate mission statement of “Helping Others Help Themselves,” and have transitioned Country Maid into a 100% employee-owned company that is strongly committed to keeping rural Iowa vital. With over 60 employees in the West Bend area, and many more opportunities provided by through their independent dealerships, that vitality is alive and well! For more information about Country Maid, Inc., and the incredible fundraising opportunities the company makes available to nonprofit groups around the country, please visit their website at:


Did you know our Canada Dirk is a history buff, too! The Lund-Hoel House Museum in Canby, Minnesota is right up his alley!

Stepping Back in History at

The Lund-Hoel House Museum, Canby, MN

In 1890, Canby, Minnesota’s

of Canby who was also founder-

that offers visitors a fascinating

inimitable entrepreneur John G.

president of one of the three banks

glimpse into life in the late 1890s.

Lund announced to the editor of the

in town, Lund’s extravagant new

Its balconies, porches, and promi-

Canby News that he “was thinking

home equally reflected his larger-

nent turret are painted in dark

of building a residence” north of

than-life image at the time.

green with white gingerbread trim

the town park’s square. Unbelievably, a mere 49 days later, Lund’s

in order to retain an accurate VicLocated at the corner of Highway

torian flavor. The landmark fence

reported “palatial residence” had

75 and 4th Street in Canby, today

constructed of “hardheads” (field

been completed. Long known for

the Lund-Hoel House is listed on

stones) was added to the home in

being a hustling, bustling, self-made

the National Register of Historic

the summer of 1900, at which time

millionaire land broker and mayor

Homes while it serves as a museum

the Canby News reported, “This


events. Visit the Lund-Hoel House website at for many wonderful photos of this fascinating home, as well as historical information about the developstone is odd yet there is a charm

ment of the town of Canby!

about it which tends to make its surroundings home-like and unique.� The former carriage house has been developed into an interpretive center that exhibits turn-ofthe-century artifacts including a horse-drawn carriage that is still being used for parades and special


See for more information on the historic Lund-Hoel House.

in St. James, Minnesota!

n your mark, get set, ready, don’t freeze … RUN! And do it around St. James, Minnesota’s scenic St. James Lake on February 12, 2012 for the 6th Annual “Freeze Your Caboose Off!” Walk/Run. Sponsored by the St. James Chamber of Commerce and other supportive businesses in the community, the Freeze Your Caboose Off! event is a sure-fire way to shake off the winter blahs (and jiggle away some of those extra pounds you’ve been accumulating while in hibernation!). Winners of the four-mile walk/run receive great awards and prizes, and all participants get to share in warming refreshments and camaraderie after the event. The St. James Chamber of Commerce has long been supporting the cultural and economic life in this vibrant community that serves as the county seat for Watonwan County. Visit the Chamber’s extensive website for all kinds of great information about St. James—a town that was established in 1870 and has been going strong ever since!


Pipestone, Minnesota’s Chamber of Commerce Supporting the “Home of the Red Stone Pipe” as the site of the Pipestone National Monument. Pipestone’s historic downtown district is one of Minnesota’s largest with 20 beautiful Sioux quartzite buildings built in the 1880-1900 time period listed on the National Registry for Historic Places. Pipestone’s residents are proud of their history, wellplanned economic development, and great quality of life that include well-publicized events such as the annual “Keepers Traditional PowWow” and biannual “Civil War Days” reenactment festival. The Pipestone County Museum is a must-see for its wealth of history that is artfully preserved and displayed.

he Pipestone Chamber of Commerce is a community membership organization that busily promotes commerce, tourism, education, agriculture, and professional interests in the Pipestone area. Along with over 42 organizations and service clubs, Pipestone’s Chamber contributes in making this historically fascinating community a better place to live, work, and play! To great success, Executive Director Mick Myers has long guided the Chamber’s supportive presence to include being the community’s public relations specialist, researcher, spokesperson, sales manager, receptionist, and credibility expert.

Kudos to Mick Myers and the Pipestone Chamber of Commerce for creatively supporting “small-town living at its best” in this wonderful community!

And there is much to promote about Pipestone! With a population of about 4,350, Pipestone is nationally recognized


in Ringsted, Iowa Farmers throughout Our Story country know how sharp, stiff cornstalks can chew up expensive tires on their farm equipment. Cornstalks—particularly those of newer BT hybrid varieties—are virtually able to cut and nick tires, in some cases causing threeyears’-worth of wear and tear in just one crop season. And with tires ranging from $1,000 each, and a track costing up to $16,000, this is a valid concern to say the least. So Brad and Eric Eisenbacher ad Toby Morris of Ringsted Welding & Fabrication decided to do something about it. With their extensive knowledge in assembly, welding and painting, they went to the drawing board with engineer Howard Taylor (formerly of Art’s Way Manufacturing) and a “smashingly good idea” was born: The RWF Stalk Smasher. The Stalk Smasher is basically a gravitypressured roller that does exactly what the name implies—it smashes stalks flat so they don’t shred up tractor tires. A hydraulic cylinder lowers and raises the bar connected to the roller, and with the proper mounting bracket, the Stalk Smasher can be transferred to 20 different tractor models used in the field, without any drilling or welding. The Stalk Smasher has been successfully tested on thousands of acres of farmland. Find out much more useful information about Ringsted Welding and Fabrication’s Stalk Smasher on the company’s website at

Ringsted Welding and Fabrication 705 E. 240th Street Ringsted, IA 50578 (712) 866-1693


“Get over to Edgerton, Minnesota and you’ll see why I like it so much! It’s the home of the famous annual ‘Dutch Festival’ as well as all these businesses!”


Help Your Favorite Our Story Sponsoring Business or Organization Win $5,000! Current annual sponsors have the opportunity to be awarded $5,000 in Our Story’s Giveaway. How? Simply, go online at and vote by clicking on the name of your favorite participating business or organization. The participating business or organization that garners the most votes on Our Story’s Giveaway website wins. Each participating business or organization has a 1-in-200 opportunity to be awarded $5,000, or to further donate the award to a charity of its choice. WHEN? Our $5,000 Giveaway voting period begins March 5, 2012 and ends April 2, 2012. Within 10 days, Our Story will show up at the winner’s door with $5,000, and we’ll also be filming and photographing the winner for our TV program, “Our Story: Smalltown living at its best!” and our magazine, and Internet websites. Contact Our Story Productions for further details via our website: 79

“I love Bank Plus in Graetinger, Iowa. They know how to treat their customers!”

“You all know my cooking show! Well here’s one of my secrets: I buy all my ingredients at Fairmont’s Fareway Foods.” 80

Betty Thompson “polka-ed” on over to New Ulm recently and had a spiritual experience at George’s Fine Steaks & Spirits! Read what she thought about the restaurant below.

Well, friends, there’s nothing finer than walking into a restaurant and being greeted by the owner like you’re a long, lost friend. And that’s just what can happen when you dine at George’s Fine Steaks and Spirits in New Ulm, Minnesota. It’s not uncommon to find George welcoming you at the door and leading you to a seat at one of the booths, tables or bar, while he

on George’s extensive menu including lamb, duck, pork, seafood and pasta dishes. But I’m really a sucker for George’s delectably tender rib-eye smothered in sautéed mushrooms. Are you salivating yet? I am, just from thinking about it! If you’re a prime rib lover, then Friday and Saturday evenings are for you. George serves up his “world famous” prime rib those

since New Ulm is the town for beer, you’ll find plenty of varieties here. Don’t worry, there is a full bar for all of your “spiritual” needs! George also kindly applies a 10% seniors’ discount on food orders, which is an especially nice feature from such an especially nice restaurant. So, I say, get on over to George’s Fine Steaks and Spirits in New Ulm and live a little! You deserve

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food” - George Bernard Shaw introduces you to all the other dining patrons along the way. Friendship always makes food taste so much better, doesn’t it? At George’s, friends or not, the food stands out superbly, and if you’re in the mood for a good steak, this is THE place to find it! Actually, there’s little you can’t find

nights, and chances are, without a reservation, you’ll have a hard time getting in—everyone “in the know” packs the place. George intelligently offers a wellselected and affordable list of wines that you won’t often find in other smaller-town venues and, of course,

it! Oh, it’s a great place for private parties, too. Who could ask for more?! George’s Fine Steaks & Spirits 301 N Minnesota St New Ulm, MN 56073 Phone:  (507) 354-7440 Open Monday thru Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

View the menu at: 81







OUR STORY Productions 109 W. First Street Fairmont, MN 56031

ou are now departing the world of Sweet Swine County where fantasy and reality collide on The Road to OUR STORY—Smalltown living at its best! “Remember it’s not just the past but the present that becomes OUR STORY!”

The Road to Our Story Vol. 2 Issue 1  

Our Story's fun-filled Magazine.

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