I was born and raised in Albert Lea, Minnesota. A small town surrounded by even smaller farming communities. My great grandparents were farmers, as were their parents. Eventually my grandparents moved into the “larger” town of Albert Lea and here we are five generations later in our beloved community.
Like many kids who grow up in small towns I itched to move away convinced that life would be better and much more exciting somewhere else. I lived in Colorado, for a small time Alaska, as well as various other states, and towns around the United States. After my husband and I got married in Colorado we moved back to Albert Lea. We wanted to spend time with my family and then after a couple of years we would continue our adventurous, nomad life. However, as life often does, it threw us a curve ball. Six months after we were married we got pregnant with our oldest. It’s amazing how kids force one to slow down and settle down. I am thankful everyday for her life, she is a blessing to us, and has taught us how to be selfless, more compassionate, and has given us a glimpse of the love our heavenly father has for us.
Yes, family is a huge reason we chose to stay, but there are many more components about living in our small town that we love. Here are the top eleven reasons we love our small town.
1. Our community continues to bring in fun and exciting events such as Wind Down Wednesday and The Big Freeze, and The Big Island Rendezvous. Wind Down Wednesday runs once a month throughout the summer. Bringing in craft, artist, and food vendors from around Minnesota. They also bring in live music entertainment and it is truly a family fun event! Last summer the Fire Department provided a splash pad during the event which provided a great way for our kids to cool off. They also had face painting, arts and crafts, and many other family friendly fun! An event we look forward to every month in the early spring to late fall. The Big Freeze is a fundraising event that benefits organizations around our community. The Big Island Rendezvous is designed to let event goers and exhibitors step back in time. Experiencing the colonial period, civil war, mountain men, and the settling of our nation. It offers educational days Thursday and Friday, Saturday and Sunday is open to the public to enjoy.
2. We are two hours from the Twin cities, an hour from Rochester, half an hour from Owatonna, and an hour from Mankato.Two hours from Sioux Falls, SD and forty five minutes from Mason City, IA. Honestly, that is as far as I want to get to big cities. Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting them. I love going to the Mall of America, I enjoy the Minnesota Sculpture gardens, Como Zoo, and other things the surrounding big cities offer. However, I am thankful the minute we reach Lakeville on the outskirts of the Twin Cities, because I know it means I’m going back to small town living.
3. Low Crime rate. We have issues in our town like any other place, but the crime rate in our town is minimal.
4. We have at least forty six parks throughout our town. Each block is within walking distance to at least two parks. In the winter time the City of Albert Lea provides hockey rinks and figure skating rinks through the community, free of charge, to skate at as long as the cold weather holds. They also provide warming houses at several of the locations. A great use of our tax dollars if you ask me!
5. Shinefest! It is a week long volunteer week started by a team of business owners called AzOne. A team who desires to make a difference in the lives of the people who live in our community. During Shinefest week there is a blood drive, clothing drive, a free oil changing clinic, and through an application process various houses around town are picked and fixed up. There are other years when the community as a whole is chosen. Parks get new wood chips, the downtown gets cleaned up and freshened up, and other community shared places get spruced up. We all benefit when our town is freshened up and functioning at its best. All of the work is donated by volunteers and various businesses donate all the supplies needed for each of the projects. Our community believes that investing in the lives of others is important and enhances the lives of the whole community.
6. Albert Lea Lake and Fountain Lake are the two main large lakes that our town is built around. However there are smaller lakes such as Pickeral Lake and Goose Lake that add beauty to our lives as well. Our lakes provide boating, water skiing, swimming, fishing, and beautiful paths for running, walking, and biking. There is nothing better than sitting on the edge of Fountain Lake watching our Fourth of July fireworks. A spectacular sight and wonderful memories.
7. Our community has formed committees such as Experience Albert Lea to begin bringing in new businesses, grow current businesses, allow community members to dream up projects that will enhance our lives, and even help provide funding to make their ideas possible. There are strong entrepreneurial programs in place such as ALEAP, ALEDA, and coming soon The Southern Minnesota Social Media Breakfast. Albert lea is growing and moving forward. It is fun to watch our small town step forward in progress.
8. The Albert Lea Public Library is one our families favorite places to go. They offer a large children’s library with not only great books, but legos, building blocks, puppets, and many more hands on learning opportunities. The adult and children’s libraries both have computers for various games and internet access. It provides fun and free events such as Zoo man, Magicians, and story time offered three different times during the week. Our library is also connect to the SELCO system which allows our library to borrow books from all over the state of Minnesota. A place that encourages learning, exploration, and adventure through amazing novels and stories.
9. Albert Lea has always had a strong performing arts and artist programs within our community. The Marion Ross Theater, The Lighthouse Event Center, and the Art Center are only a few outlets our community provides. The ACT Theater which performs at the Marion Ross Theater hosts plays, Opera’s via satellite, and various musicians. You can see the importance of the arts throughout our community. From our public schools who continue to have band, choir, and theater productions to the community Adult band, top notch theater productions, to Harmony Junction acapella group.
10. Myre-Big Island State Park has always been one of my favorite places to escape to nature. The bike trail in Albert Lea is connected all the way to the state park with a goal to connect it to other bike trails around Minnesota. Geo Caching, hiking, horseback riding, and camping offer our family multiple adventures throughout the year. My parents make it an annual tradition to gift my sisters and I with an annual park sticker. Making it a gift that continues to give throughout the year.
11. Eleven is my favorite reason of all to love our small town! We have little to no traffic! Our biggest traffic jam is on the 3rd of July during our Independence day parade and on the 4th of July when we have our fireworks display.
Albert Lea maintains its small town feel, yet continues to move towards progress. It is truly a wonderful place to raise our family!