Life is sweet in the ice cream capital of the World
This is a delicious tale of ice-cream and a vibrant community in a Midwest American town, right in the heartland of USA.
Le Mars Iowa USA earnt the title of Ice Cream Capital of the World, in 1994. More ice-cream is produced in this one town than any other town on the planet. Family-owned business Wells Blue Bunny started manufacturing their first products back in 1913.
Most visitors stop into the Wells Visitor Center and Ice Cream Parlor in the main street. There are over 40 flavors to choose from, interactive displays and information about the company, spread over the two-story building. In June every year there is a four day ice-cream days festival featuring car shows, concerts, socials, outdoor movies, carnivals, games, fun runs and bike races, markets and scavenger hunts. It all culminates on the final day with a street parade through town.
Over 50 fiberglass five foot tall ice-cream cone sculptures are scattered throughout the town. They have been painted by different artists and organizations. It is a treat to follow the trail and discover the different types.
I am a big fan of the little free libraries, so this next picture gets two ticks of approval. Little free libraries are great when you are traveling. Pick up a book, read it and drop/swap it at the next one. no carrying around heavy books in your luggage, and others get to read them too.
It is fun to see the ice-cream cone theme to go with the placement, such as the artistic sculpture outside the arts center.
The town also has Alley Art, a public art project started in 2013. These amazing murals can be discovered on 42 buildings throughout 9 downtown alleys and 6 parking lots. Over 115 artists have painted beautiful artworks. Check out the train mural and see if you can identify dairy features disguised as ordinary items.
(Yes, the train does go right through the town. As teenagers we would play fire drill when our cars were stopped on a Friday or Saturday evening by the train passing through the middle of town. Kids today would think we were crazy, but when stopped, everyone would jump out, run around the car and then jump back in before the train passed through. Strange, but it was fun!)
I also truly like the different architecture in town. This is middle America, a town of extended families and new neighbors. Residents sit on porches and greet each other during the warmer months. This is like coming home.
There is even a rotunda in the park for a band to play upon. Seriously, at times this town is truly like a rom com movie.
Looking like it could be a set from a movie, is the Plymouth County Courthouse. Built in 1902, its exterior is smoothly-dressed red sandstone. The front features an impressive columned portico.
The main street of town is lined with carefully preserved old buildings. As you walk along the street, there are signs on these premises that detail they year it was built, the various purposes it has served over the years, and frequently a photo from the archives. Le Mars was established in 1869, so there are plenty of old buildings to admire.
There are some superb places to eat in town. The multi award winning Archie's Waeside was named 2nd best steakhouse in America by Rachel Ray magazine. Bob's drive in serves many classic "drive in" foods, including taverns and hot dogs. They are so popular, another Bobs has opened at the summer vacation destination - Lake Okoboji in Iowa. My favourites though, is the Pizza Ranch, mainly because their broasted chicken is superbly tender, and I make this a definite dining destination whenever I am in town.
Le Mars, with a population of around 10,000 people is located in prime crop growing farmland. The name does not really mean anything, it is an acronym of the first initials of a group of women who attended a party for town in the 1890s (It was previously called St. Paul Junction).
This is truly a charming small town that has something for everyone. Whether it be any of the activities listed above, attending the County Fair in Summer or the Christmas events in Winter, this is one place I enjoy coming back to year after year.