We are staying near Cedar Rapids, Iowa with friends this week and so we’ve had a nice chance to get to know the place.
It is a very interesting and engaging city, full of open, friendly people with a Midwest sense of humour (you’ll see what I mean as you read on). I have become a big fan of the place.
Did you know that Cedar Rapids is the hometown of Grant Wood, the man who painted “American Gothic”? This quintessential image has been posted, copied and parodied many times since Wood painted it in 1930. We often see it as a sarcastic poke at the old-fashioned values of rural folks (like those in the Midwest) but Grant Wood intended it to be a positive reinforcement of those strong values, an uplifting message leading into the Great Depression.
This positive nature is embedded in the culture in Cedar Rapids. Its official nickname is “the city of five seasons”. This isn’t a weather-related advantage, but rather a comment on the short commuting time compared to other major cities.
Our friends live in Mount Vernon, a nearby community full of commuters. It takes them 20 minutes to drive the 15 miles (24 km) to downtown Cedar Rapids. We live in West Kelowna, and it takes us 30 minutes to drive 15 km (only nine miles). You gotta love the American highway system.
Anyway, an advertising firm hired to promote the city jumped on this and came up with this comment:
Life is the sum of all the seasons with which it is filled. And if we have time to enjoy the things most important to us, life is rich and full indeed.
In Cedar Rapids there is time enough, time to enjoy the seasons as they pass. Extra time. Precious time. A fifth season.
People here really do seem to cherish that fifth season and make the most of it.
I mentioned the sense of humour the locals have. It’s evident in the unofficial nickname of the city: “the city of five smells”. You see, the city has four milling plants, including the biggest one in the world for Quaker Oats, where they make not only oatmeal but cereals like Life, Honey Nut Cheerios and Captain Crunch in all its forms. If you are lucky, you’ll be in town on “Crunch Berry Day” when the sweet berry smell of that cereal wafts over the city.
The fifth smell is apparently Mount Trashmore, a manmade hill that comes from the old dump site which is now covered with grass and has paths and park land and an observatory, being the highest point in the city. I can honestly say I didn’t smell anything unpleasant, and I was thoroughly impressed by the innovative idea.
How can you dislike a place where they make fun breakfast cereal? If that doesn’t convince you, what if I told you they have street signs that say, “Closed for sledding during winter months” on some suburban hilly roads? I am not kidding, I’ll post the picture I took on my Happy Gourmand Facebook page. (link: https://www.facebook.com/HappyGourmande )
You might think all this seems a bit silly, not nearly serious enough to warrant attention for one small city in the (northern) middle of a huge country. Maybe that’s so, but maybe a bit more silliness in how we solve the challenges of society is just what we need in today’s world.
The community I see here seems to be enjoying themselves quite a bit. I think we could all use a dose of more seasons, more smells and more fun.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.