Two cities and two counties are now being recognized among Iowa’s Great Places, as part of the state tourism promotion program. The towns of Elk Horn and Kimballton, and Webster and Hamilton counties were selected this week. Cyndi Peterson, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, says the program combines state resources with local assets to boost areas which cultivate their unique qualities.

“It’s a pretty intense process that they have gone through, visioning and coaching from state employees,” Peterson says. “It’s been quite a process. It’s more than just writing a grant. It’s pulling your community together and not just the chamber or economic development folks. It’s everyone who lives in that area.” In this round, both of the new inductees are hyphenated entries — Elk Horn and Kimballton were submitted as one entry, as were Webster and Hamilton counties.

“Great Places is called Great Places and not Great Communities because what we’re looking for is a sense of place, when you enter it, you know you’re someplace special,” Peterson says. “It doesn’t mean you have to be within a city boundary or a county line. It could be a neighborhood that applies for a Great Place.” While many Iowa communities experienced dramatic and damaging flooding this summer, she notes that waterways are still seen by many as a tremendous bonus.

“Communities today are looking at rivers running through their communities as an asset, not a detriment,” Peterson says. “For many years, people have not thought about utilizing their rivers in the way that they think of today, either by building on them or providing recreational activities.”

Officials with the Iowa Great Places program also visited Albia, Lamoni, Manchester and Vinton this week — as all were finalists for the program. Learn more at: ““.

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City