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Out and About: Waverly, Iowa

posted on July 24, 2008 at 3:27 PM

Iowa is home to many communities with strong European heritages. Pella, as you know, has the Dutch influence; Decorah, Norwegian. And you can add Waverly and its German legacy to the list.

The town, founded with a lumber mill along the Cedar River, has grown from the days when William P. Harmon first arrived. During its naming ceremony back in 1859, a change in plans took place, possibly inspired by author Sir Walter Scott.

As always, there’s more to that story. As always, there’s more to that story. As we find out from Dan Kaercher in his “Out and About” feature, Waverly was almost named Harmon or Harmonville.

Ike Ackerman, Mayor of Waverly: “Initially the town was, I think, to be named Harmon, but at the naming ceremony, he or the speaker, whoever it was, had been reading the Waverly novels, and they inadvertently used Waverly instead of Harmon, according to the legend. So that's why we're named Waverly.”

That legend started the town. Today the city of 9,000 people along the Cedar River in Bremer County has become one of northeast Iowa’s fastest growing communities with a highly diversified economic base. Nearly every weekday, livestock interests attend the auctions at the Waverly Sales Company. But it’s the sales every March and October that bring people to Waverly from around the globe.

Ron Dean, Waverly Horse Sale: “You get people from all over the world that want to come here and buy something or maybe just watch the sale and see how things are going. It's a lot of fun. You meet a lot of nice people.”

Each spring the Waverly Midwest Draft Horse Sale takes over and offers a lot more than just buying and selling horses.

Lynn Telleen: “Mostly it's based on tradition. A lot of families grew up with horses. It all dates back to agricultural backgrounds. A lot of the families involved today are second, third, or fourth generation from horse owner families.”

The draft horse even gets its own magazine. It’s distributed all over the world, including North America, Europe, and South Africa. Waverly’s international flavor is also apparent at Martin’s Brandenburg downtown. The German-inspired restaurant features a menu of old country favorites and Midwest staples.

Martin Vollmer: “I think we are providing the people something that they will not find very commonly anymore because, simply, environment and times have changed.”

Martin has spent much of his life in Iowa, the last ten years with his own restaurant. He knows the formula for a successful establishment is an interesting menu and great service. Waverly’s sister-city is Eisenach, Germany, which is where the Wartburg Castle, associated with Martin Luther, is located.

The castle inspired the name of the Lutheran college in Waverly, Wartburg, an up-to-date liberal arts campus with 1,800 students. Waverly and Wartburg have worked together on many projects. The most recent and biggest financially is the W, the Wartburg-Waverly Sports & Wellness Center, to be shared by the college and community.

Since both were in need of new recreation facilities, the two partnered on the $30-million “The W.” Waverly has a lot of history, but it’s also looking to the future with a vibrant downtown along the Cedar River. The river still plays host to anglers and wildlife and offers other recreation for the community, helping to enhance Waverly’s quality of life.

Ike Ackerman: “We’re the second fastest growing community in northeast Iowa. We're a lot like Cedar Falls, only they have a larger base and a larger college. But diversification, bright people, energetic, and progressive, community minded is a good way to describe it.”


Tags: business colleges history Iowa tourism travel Waverly


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