Newspaper Article Archive of
Follow the Sharon Center Road. Follow the Sharon Center Road.
Follow the road to a destination called Kalona. Named after a prized bull, you shouldn’t expect any emeralds when you arrive, but a treasure you will find nonetheless.
You won’t find a man behind the curtain with magic tricks; the splendor is completely real. And no one’s looking for brains, hearts or courage; folks in this town already have those items, and in fact, keep extras in their canning rooms, just in case anyone from Missouri is visiting for the weekend.
There’s no green witch with flying monkeys. Well, except for that one person who used to video record every City Council meeting, argue incessantly with the good mayor, and one time told me that my hogwash meter was in the danger zone (super funny, actually).
But someone threw imitation floodwater on her many years ago, and she must have disintegrated. Can’t say for sure, no one’s checked up on it.
And don’t think another troublemaker will easily fill the vacuum left by the first. They’re not that naive. In fact, they took care of one that showed up on the Bunker Mill bridge a few years ago, golluming a prized community relic behind the cover of a chain-linked fence. But no one was really scared.
With the powers of village spirit and clock-killing patience, the community stepped in and sent that wolf in sheep’s clothing back to its cave in Grinnell. With this town’s history of catching Scooby Doo villains, I doubt there will be another foolish instigator for at least a generation to come. They can see through the masks.
So with the threat of no Halloween characters showing up, and with the pleasant company of your little dog, enjoy the walk along Sharon Center Road. With the rolling hills and gentle valleys of the English River watershed, it’s a beauty that must be taken at full attention.
Please don’t stress about getting lost, you can get help from almost anyone. Unlike the box stores in the big city, people in Kalona will actually walk you to what you’re looking for, so don’t be afraid to ask. You see, in their stores eye contact is required, and on their roads waving is encouraged.
Now once you reach town your first encounter might be Steve, he’s the benevolent monarch who basically runs the place. With a fire hose in one hand and a golf cart key in the other, he can’t be missed.
But if you did come up from Missouri and can’t seem to find him on your own, his daughter-in-law Jessica will be happy to help you. She makes everyone look and feel better at the beauty salon, and she’ll do the same for you.
There’s also Ryan and Stephanie, the caretakers of town, progressively thinking about what’s best and what’s next. There’s Josh, the most creative mechanic this side of the Mississippi, and maybe the other side, too.
And Keri, taking great care of your most-prized possessions at school.
There’s Anne, Doreen and Ron, the custodians of the best library per capita in the world.
And Warren and Paula, providing unmatched ambiance and relaxed dining for so many years at Tuscan Moon. And the brewers, Lou and Ted, who, along with Kalona Coffee, Kalona Chocolates, General Store and Tequila Grill have taken local eateries to the next level since I moved in more than a decade ago.
There’s Tina, opening homes and welcoming new residents to the community. And quality friends like Smitty and Bill, always ready for a good laugh. There are warm neighbors like Karen and Jim, Lee and Connie, and of course, Donna and Darwin, my dream parents in a parallel universe. And so many others that you won’t forget.
Once you’ve met all these wonderful people and the night begins to fall you’ll get the feeling that maybe it’s all just a dream. So you close your eyes and click your heels three times to check, and expect to find yourself laying on a bed in rural Kansas. Instead you’re waking up on an Amish-made bench outside Golden Delight Bakery.
You check the time, and it’s 7 a.m. Yes! First in line! And as you push open the door, you smile, and your eyes whisper to your mind: “There’s just no place like home.”
Thank you to the community of Kalona from me and my family. My 10 years of calling it home are, and will be, unmatched. Happy holidays.
Former Kalona resident Cam Conrad currently lives in Ord, Neb.