ST. ANSGAR, IA (KTTC) – It’s a busy weekend in St. Ansgar, with an all-school reunion, and the annual get-together they call Town and Country Days.
“It’s a small rural community. You know where kids are. You know who lives across town from you.” said long-time resident Dianne Miller.
Named after the patron saint of Scandinavia, St. Ansgar was founded in 1853 by Reverend Claus Clausen and served as a center for the spread of Norwegian immigrant settlers across the border into Minnesota.
“They came across the prairie in about 40 covered wagons and spread out from there. That was the beginning of our community and we take a lot of pride in our heritage as well.” said Bryan McKinley, who was born and raised in St. Ansgar.
The First Lutheran Church built in 1868 still stands today, as do many historic homes and downtown buildings. Today, it is known as the Garden Spot of Iowa and a quick stroll around its streets will show you why. As charming as the buildings are, the sense of community is what brings people to this the growing small town of around 1,100.
“I can’t think of a better place to have a family come and we’re seeing that.” said McKinley.
That sense of community can be felt in South Square, an old elementary school that now houses a coffee shop, creative arts gallery, event space and serves as a practice space for the Cedar Summerstock Theater, which is in its third year.
“I bring in college students from all over the country that are preparing for careers in theater.” said founder Nancy Nickerson Lee.
This weekend’s Town and Country Days sees alumni of St. Ansgar High School returning to enjoy events all weekend. They include a bike ride, 5K, horticulture fair, quilt show, agriculture exhibits and a parade.
“Many things for the children. That’s what makes the Town and Country Days fun, it’s a family event.” Miller said.
This quiet Iowa town in Mitchell County seems to stay in the minds of those lucky enough to have called it home.
“There’s something special about this place.” said Lee.
This weekend, children’s activities will be held in Clausen Park, named after the town’s founder.