There is a lot you can learn from the basic statistics of a town like population, median income, graduation rates, etc. The real story, however, is beyond the numbers. It’s beyond what people can see on paper.
Living in Marshalltown we see diversity, four beautiful seasons, arts and culture, and wildlife. More important to many of us, however, is beyond what we see. Those of us who live here, well, we rely on what we feel about this town.
If you’re considering a move to Marshalltown, please read these as a small (but not exhaustive) list of why you should make Marshalltown home. And if you’re a recent transplant let me be one of the first to welcome you and invite you to make Marshalltown your own.
1. The People
A diverse population
Marshalltown has around 28,000 people from different backgrounds, hometowns, languages, and experiences. We are a small-town community with big city diversity.
Because we have some global companies here we attract people from all over the world. At the same time, our town sees many people who were born and raised here returning as adults to put their own stamp on their community.
We have citizens from Latin America, Mexico, Burma, Europe, India, Asia, and all fifty states. As Lynn Olberding, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce says, “Marshalltown is a ‘microcosm’ of the world.”
I have had many conversations with moms who, like me, love the fact that our children can play and go to school with kids from all different backgrounds and ethnicities. Some of my kids’ friends speak different languages at home, some celebrate different holidays, some look different, some look similar and this is the norm my kids get to experience every day. What a great way to raise responsible and respectful global citizens!
Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Our town benefits from many of these small groups of people who are dedicated to change the world by making a difference in our community. Marshalltown, more than any other town in which I’ve lived (and I’ve lived in a lot) has community members who are driven to make the town better. From the “Optimist Club” to “Not In Our Town”, from “Moms Under God’s Grace and Strength” to “L.A.S.T. (Labor and Sex Trafficking) Watch,” small groups can and do impact our town.
2. Year-round family-friendly activities and recreation
Marshalltown has so many classes, activities, and recreational areas that are perfect for year-round fun. Read more about these in our Newcomer’s Guide.
There are opportunities to get outside and enjoy the weather, whatever the season! Enjoy golfing at our many golf courses, swimming at the Aquatic Center, camping at the campgrounds, fishing at the ponds, picnicking in the parks, and bicycling, walking, hiking, or running on the trails. Families spend a lot of time enjoying the fairgrounds, the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center, the Marshalltown Speedway, Appleberry Farm, and the skate park.
Families can find classes and activities at the YMCA, the Marshalltown Public Library, the Coliseum, shopping at the Marshalltown Mall or the Downtown business district, art classes at The Art Center, or a movie at The Orpheum Theater Center.
3. Modern and award-winning facilities
New and renovated spaces in and around our historic buildings add to Marshalltown’s character and personality. Their mere presence demonstrates how our community is well-cared-for by the people who live here and how community members are willing to invest in maintaining Marshalltown’s standing as a great place to raise a family.
Grimes Farm and Conservation Center
The center offers informative displays and there are regular fun and educational environmental classes. The farm has hiking trails that walkers and cyclists enjoy. Kids will enjoy the nature-based story hour, nature story walk, and the nature playscape.
The Marshalltown YMCA has been in Marshalltown for over 140 years old but a newer facility with a state of the art pool — the State Swim meet is in Marshalltown each year — always feel fresh and buzzing.
According to the website, the Marshalltown YMCA, “The Y brings families closer together, encourages good health and fosters connections through fitness, sports, fun and shared interests.” From parent/tot dance, family fun nights, camps, sports, and fitness classes, the YMCA is a great spot to connect with the community…and work on fitness too!
The building is a renovated movie theater that has been repurposed into a multi-use facility with a movie theater, a black box theater, a gallery, learning studio, scene shop, an amphitheater, and coffee shop.
The Marshalltown Public Library
In 2013, the Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded the Marshalltown Public Library the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The Director of the library, Sarah Rosenblum, was presented the award from the previous First Lady, Michelle Obama. Watch the video and read the press release.
The library offers A TON of classes, exhibits, and activities for toddlers to adults.
4. Arts and culture to rival a community of any size
Art enriches, engages, and inspires. It brings people together. It crosses divides. It creates creators. The best communities understand this. Our community of Marshalltown understands this.
The art we have in Marshalltown is unique to us and helps to give our town its personality. We have a robust collection of different forms of art built up over decades by passionate and committed community collaborators who saw and still see art as integral to a thriving community.
The support for the arts is a deep-rooted characteristic that stems from our belief in preserving our history and creating for the future.
We have performing arts from the Martha-Ellen Tye Playhouse, the IVCCD Orpheum Theater Center, Marshalltown Community Theatre, Live On Stage, and the Missoula Children’s Theatre.
Our community groups and organizations dedicated to the arts include: The Marshall County Arts & Culture Alliance, The Marshalltown Public Art Committee, and the Central Iowa Art Association that offers classes, camps, and activities for children and adults alike.
We have two great annual events dedicated to the arts. The Linn Creek Arts Festival in the middle of summer attracts artists and art-appreciators from all over Central Iowa. There are activities for the kids, food and music for the whole family, and, of course, all different types of art.
The Downtown Marshalltown Art Walk is in September and is a great opportunity to enjoy and buy art of different mediums from local artists.
Art Around Town
Marshalltown also has the Ray Frederick Gallery at the Marshalltown Community College and the gallery and ceramic collection at the Fisher Community Center. The Fisher Community Center was also the beneficiary of Iowan sculptor Christian Petersen’s final major work, “Dedication to the Future.” Marshalltown High School’s Roundhouse also features a piece called “Drills” by Gail Folwell.
We live in what many consider the best of both worlds. We’re a small town located in (or just outside of) Central Iowa. We benefit from many of the charms of a small town like no traffic, short commute times, knowing your neighbors and other community members, knowing your local law enforcement, and seeing your direct impact on the community.
Sometimes, though, you just need a bigger city for vacations or special occasions. We’re within driving distance of so many bigger cities that a day-trip or weekend city-experience is never out of the question! Bonus: Des Moines International Airport is only an hour away so we’re just an hour away from flying anywhere in the world.
Under an hour
30 minutes to Ames or Grinnell
45 minutes to Ankeny
1 to 1.5 hours
1 hour to Des Moines
1 hour to Cedar Falls
1.5 hours to Cedar Rapids
3 to 4 hours
3 hours to Omaha
3.5 hours to Kansas City
3.5 hours to the Twin Cities
5 hours to Chicago
5 hours to St. Louis
More posts in this series: