September 22, 2017

Small Town Charm

by Steve W

Leaving the cornfields of Nebraska behind, we entered the cornfields of Iowa. In many of the fields. we saw wind farms, with large propeller-driven turbines that generate electricity. There is much debate about the value of these farms vs. the detrimental effect they have on the quality of life for those who live near them.

Not everyone is a fan of these wind farms.

What we found interesting, however, were the many trucks transporting propeller blades on the highway. Up close, they seem much larger than you would think seeing them mounted on the turbines.

We were headed for Mason City, initially just as a stopover on our way to Minneapolis, but after reading about the town, we decided to stay an extra day and look around. We found out that there were plenty of interesting things to see here. When we first parked in town, we noticed a lot of sculptures on the streets. As it turns out, some of them are owned by the city, but many of them are on display so that the citizens can vote on which ones they wish the town to purchase. Here are a few examples.

This one seems so lifelike!

One of our first stops was Central Park (yeah, I know <g>), which has sculptures as well as monuments to veterans who have died in the various wars. One of the sculptures shows a conductor leading an unseen orchestra. We soon realized that this was an omen of things to come.

We learned that Mason City was the birthplace of Meredith Willson, composer of "The Music Man". Mason City is the blueprint for Willson's "River City" (where "ya got trouble") and many of the town landmarks are represented in the play and film. There is a small square dedicated to Willson, and his boyhood home is a local landmark. There is also a Music Man Museum, featuring sets from the motion picture.

There are also references to Willson scattered around the town.

Note the suitcase with the tag "H. Hill", the main character in The Music Man
Our next stop was the MacNider Art Museum, a small museum which had a large display dedicated to puppeteer Bil Baird, who was most famous for his marionettes, most notably featured in the film "The Sound Of Music".

At the Museum, we picked up a book about the architecture of Mason City, where Frank Lloyd Wright and his disciples designed many of the houses. Most famous among them is the Stockman House, pictured below. But there are many interesting houses designed by the Wright disciples and others in this small town (Mason City was named the #8 best city for architecture lovers by Conde Naste). As we stood outside one of them, the owner came out and invited us inside for a tour.

There are also some beautiful churches.

Note the rainbow banner on the church above.

But is anybody listening?

As with any small town, there are local businesses and local events that we are not accustomed to.

We found the people of Mason City to be extremely friendly, some stopping to ask if they could help us find something when they saw us looking at our map of the city. If you are in the area, it is worth a stop to see this small town of 28,000 people, which claims to be the largest urban center in North Iowa. Things are different there than in LA, and that's part of the experience we are sharing.

Next stop: Minneapolis, Minnesota

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