Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What I’ve learned about Forest City, Iowa May 28, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Downtown Forest City, Iowa.

Downtown Forest City, Iowa, on a recent dreary Saturday.

“YOU’RE REALLY NOT FROM HERE, are you?” Monte Topp surmised after telling me that Forest City is home to Winnebago Industries.

I could feel the lack of recognition flicker across my face, prompting that comment from Monte, who lives just to the east in Fertile, Iowa. “No, I’m from Minnesota,” I said. And I’m not a camper, I thought, but didn’t speak.

Still, I should have recognized Winnebago Industries as “the leading United States manufacturer of motorhomes and related products and services.” I’m certain the Winnebago Industries Visitors Center and Museum would have educated me, as would a tour of the manufacturing plant. But, since I wasn’t particularly interested, my husband and I didn’t stop while on a brief visit to Forest City.

Another interesting name. The Cow Palace is apparently a livestock auction house.

Another interesting name. Forest City Cow Palace is apparently a livestock auction house.

Monte might not be pleased with my lack of interest. But he laughed when I suggested his name, Monte Topp, sounded like that of a rock star.

My first glimpse of Heritage Park of North Iowa, driving into Forest City from the south.

My first glimpse of Heritage Park of North Iowa, driving into Forest City from the south.

He also mentioned that Forest City is home to a mega Winnebago campground. And besides Heritage Park of North Iowa where I met him, Monte suggested touring the Mansion Museum, which was closed when we were in town.

Waldorf College is located in Forest City with this building directly across the street from the Winnebago County Courthouse.

Waldorf College is located in Forest City with this building directly across the street from the Winnebago County Courthouse.

Later I learned from Minnesota Prairie Roots reader Erin, who attended Waldorf College in Forest City some 20 years ago, that Oak Knoll, the college president’s house once decorated in swanky 70s décor; The Lodge, a “hidden gem” hotel and restaurant where some of the rooms once served as horse stables; and Pilot Knob State Park, the second highest point in Iowa and with an historic stone tower, would also be interesting places to visit. (Thanks, Erin. I always appreciate reader tips.)

What a stunning building, left, in the heart of downtown Forest City. It appeared abandoned and in need of repair.

What a stunning building, left, in the heart of downtown Forest City. It appeared abandoned and in need of repair. Just consider the potential for this architectural beauty.

Yes, I should have done my homework in advance. But, as often happens with my regional travels, minimal planning is involved. It’s just drive and see what one discovers. And, no, I don’t have a smart phone or a laptop to instantly connect me to information while traveling.

BONUS PHOTOS:

This collection site for cans for Relay for Life and for toys for needy kids shows me this is a community that cares.

This collection site for cans for Relay for Life and for toys for needy kids shows me Forest City is a community that cares.

On the way out of town, I spotted this machine shed style building, home to Borderline Pizza and Taco Jerry's.

On the way out of town, I spotted this machine shed style building, home to Borderline Pizza & Video and Taco Jerry’s.

FYI: Click here, and then here and, finally, here to read my first three posts from Forest City, Iowa. Check back next week as I begin a series of posts on a recent visit to Clear Lake, Iowa, to the south and east of Forest City. I’ll also take you to Lake Mills in a future post.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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16 Responses to “What I’ve learned about Forest City, Iowa”

  1. Almost Iowa Says:

    Yes, I should have done my homework in advance. But, as often happens with my regional travels, minimal planning is involved. It’s just drive and see what one discovers.

    That is how you find the really good stuff. If you know about the points of interest, they will draw you in. If you don’t, it is what you see that draws you in.

  2. Dan Traun Says:

    Cow Palace! Love it. I think I prefer the “just drive” method as well. You can certainly plan, but those plans can easily change due to weather and other unforeseen circumstances.

  3. Dave Herzogs Island Time Steel Drums Says:

    If you haven’t already been to Clear Lake, IA make sure you visit PM Park. It’s owned by the OddFellows and has a great history. It’s primary purpose these days is a resort and a perfect spot for a wedding. It’s managed by Cris and Rahn Brager. It’s right on the lake, has the best tiki bar in Clear Lake, and the food in the restaurant is wonderful. The small hotel has been changed from a boys dormitory – and each year they remodel a room or two. Live music most Friday nights (summer) – and normally a wedding on Saturday. The history of the place is worth the visit!

    Barb & Dave

    • Barb and Dave, my husband and I visited Clear Lake on May 15/16. We saw a lot, but did not get to PM Park. I think a return trip is in order as we missed other sites. The weather was not the best on our second day in town. Next week I’ll begin a six-part (maybe seven) series of stories about Clear Lake. Lots to see and do there. Thanks for your tips. I always appreciate hearing from readers.

  4. I see more of the MidWest from your posts than I do in real life. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thread crazy Says:

    Enjoyed seeing Forest City, Iowa, as we have a Winnebago and have often thought of driving up that way sometime. Borderline Pizza looks like an interesting place too. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Sweet Posy Dreams Says:

    I really like the cow palace. Sounds like it could be a dance hall in Texas.

  7. Beth Ann Says:

    Forest City is a pretty nice little town, isn’t it? I think of all the folks I know who really love everything about Northern Iowa and Forest City aways comes up in conversation.


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