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Business Record editorial: Vacation at home


The standard raillery against the Hawkeye State goes something like this: “Iowa. We do amazing things with corn.” That’s true, of course. In Iowa, astonishing and revolutionary uses for corn, its No. 1 cash crop, are contemplated daily. But as the summer stretches ahead like an expansive vista waiting to be explored, there are many more exciting things to do than watch the maize grow.

Vacation Iowa. It’s a trend, not an oxymoron, that has taken hold in an anemic economy and the return to simpler pleasures that followed the September 2001 terrorist attacks. From the riverfront revivals taking place along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to the hidden treasures of the Loess Hills in Western Iowa to the Great Iowa Lakes in Northern Iowa to the slow, relaxed pace of Southern Iowa, there’s plenty to do here. The state is a sensory delight.

See it on a bicycle. The state is well along on a goal established in 1987 when the Legislature directed the Iowa Department of Transportation to develop a comprehensive trails plan. With more than 700 miles of trails in existence, Iowa ranks fourth in the nation for miles of recreational trails. Trails provide a tranquil vantage point for viewing Iowa’s beautiful countryside while at the same time enjoying the small-town hospitality.

Hear it at dozens of concerts and places where music was born – in Clarinda, birthplace of big band leader Glenn Miller, or Davenport, where jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke, was born – or where it is enshrined – the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper” (J.P. Richardson) performed for the last time.

Taste it at the Iowa State Fair, where Iowa puts its best on parade, or at the oodles of festivals in small towns, where hospitality and good, interesting food are synonymous. Festivals are named after favorites like sweet corn, strawberries, watermelon and ethnic foods, and at the State Fair, there isn’t much that isn’t available on a stick.

Feel what it was like to grind corn by hand or any one of dozens of tasks that defined early life on the farm. All are authentically re-created at Urbandale-based Living History Farms, undeniably one of the best agricultural museums anywhere in the world.

Smell the fresh air of Iowa, relatively unpolluted in comparison with states that have large metropolitan areas and almost daily smog warnings. Breathe in the nostalgia-filled aroma of freshly mowed hay. Savor the earthy, musky smell of newly turned dirt that gathers in the nose in a reminder of how spring smells.

This year, vacation Iowa. We do amazing things here – with corn, and in all other aspects.  

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