Visitors to Aurelia are welcomed with this colorful display of flowers.
Commercial Club promotes Aurelia -
The Aurelia Commercial Club is a group of concerned local citizens, mostly local merchants, whose purpose is to promote Aurelia as a community. Pam Allen, owner of Village Boutique and a proud member of the Commercial Club, said the organization is "always looking for people to provide ideas to promote Aurelia," and said that they do not necessarily have to be local merchants.
For the past few summers, the Commercial Club has sponsored a "Dog Daze" celebration in August, featuring a barbecue cook-off. There will not be such an event held this summer, though, said Allen, as attendance and participation have been disappointing. She thinks that perhaps the timing has been bad, with that weekend being one on which many families take their summer vacation, or work to finish other summer projects before school starts.
Though there will be no "Dog Daze" this summer, the Aurelia Commercial Club has plenty of other community events planned.
For example, the annual "Harvest Hoopla" celebration will be held on Saturday Oct. 17th this year. Though the Haunted Bates Hotel will no longer be a part of Hallowe'en festivities in Aurelia, there will still be a "Little Kids' Haunted House" at the Community Center that afternoon - just one of the activities planned for that day. The opening activity, also at the Community Center, will be a breakfast, sponsored by the Aurelia Kiwanis and the D.A.R.E.. program. The Haunted House and a kiddy parade will take place in the afternoon, and in the evening there will be a supper from 5 p.m. -6:30 p.m. That's not the end, though. Following the meal, there will be a dance, with "Big Band" music provided by a group which features Aurelia High School alumnus Keith Peterson among its members. The dance is being sponsored by dance lovers Chuck and Opal Wharton, and is also in honor of Chuck's 85th birthday.
Also on the agenda for the Aurelia Commercial Club will be the annual community Christmas celebration, and this year the date for those events will be Saturday December 12th. Among the activities planned for that day will be Crafts and Cookie decorating, an appearance by Santa Claus, and drawing for prizes.
In the spring, the Commercial Club puts on a City-wide garage sale on the last Saturday in April, and that is usually a very successful event as well.
Something new for this year is a Pre-Prom Expo at the Community Center. Facility Co-ordinator Amanda Smith is working out the details for this event.
Firm details on all of the events mentioned in this article will be presented to readers at a later date, as we receive them.
Current Commercial Club Board members are Bob Forbes, President; Dick Vogt, Vice-President; Cindy Krause, Treasurer; and Carla Peterson, Secretary.
Aurelia Heritage Society preserves town's history -
The Aurelia Heritage Society consists of a relatively small group of people, most of whom have lived in the town for most of their years, and wish to preserve the history and memories of the town. The group has their regular meetings on the first Thursday of each month, at the Heritage Society/Museum building on Main Street in Aurelia, which is located directly south of the Aurelia Public Library. New members are welcome anytime, and the Board would especially welcome younger members (i.e., 30 - 50 years of age) because the present members are all older than that, and could use some help with some of the physical tasks involved in maintaining the Heritage Society property. Of course, they would also welcome a few younger members to "keep the fire burning" in preserving the history of Aurelia.
The Heritage Society is charged with maintaining the Aurelia Museum, which is located in that building on Main Street. I have included a couple of photos of the exhibits currently on display there, but I would encourage everyone to visit the museum to check out all the fascinating items for yourself
Some items which were recently received from Sandie Nelson Cone, the great - granddaughter of John and Margaret Cottingham Howell, former Aurelia citizens, are three very well-preserved dresses which belonged to Margaret - one white dress, one black, and her brown dress (above) ,from her March 15, 1893 wedding.
Margaret Cottingham Howell
A few copies of the 1973 Aurelia Centennial book are still available also, at a cost of only $3. The Museum has virtually all of the Aurelia school yearbooks available for patrons' viewing, but there are a few years for which they have duplicates, so they are offering those for sale for just $5 each.
The museum also has a display of military uniforms worn by Aurelians during the various wars in which the U.S. has been involved, a lot of school -related items, and many other items of interest.
Heritage Society members have two recent developments about which they are very excited. The first is a building project at the Heritage House. The Heritage House, which I am proud to say was built by my great-great-grandfather Reuben R. Whitney in about 1879, was the first home in Aurelia, and is now owned and lovingly maintained by the Heritage Society. Though some "modern" touches are present, but, for the most part the home maintains an authentic period look. The Heritage Society was recently gifted with a black wrought-iron fence which they are placing around the house. Harold Peterson owned the house on Main Street which was torn down to make room for the parking lot for the new Aurelia Community Center, and he gave the fence to the Heritage Society.
Heritage Society member Lois Grigsby believes that the fence belonged to S. A. Frisbie,(pictured), an early grain dealer in Aurelia, based on an 1888 newspaper article she read, but says she is not absolutely sure of that.
A few weeks ago, Carlton Schuelke, Gerry Anderson, Sherm Nelson, and Ron Tuttle worked on-and-off for a week - ten days in some very warm weather conditions to put up the fence. At this time, the fence runs to the sidewalk south of the house, as well as a short ways back on the north side of the house. The Society paid Jeff Tuttle to rebuild some of the existing fencing, and it will all be painted black to give it a nicer, more uniform appearance. Their hope is that some additional fencing can be purchased which will be a close match to the existing section, and that the fence will eventually surround the house on all four sides.
The other fortunate news received by the Heritage Society recently was the fact that they had received a bequest from the estate of former long-time Aurelia residents Chester and Beth Sjoberg. Board members were aware that Mr. Sjoberg - who was a long-time employee at the former Farmers' National Bank, as well as a one-time city official and Heritage Society member - had left the Society some money, but were very pleasantly surprised when they learned the amount they will be receiving.
No definite decisions have been made on how to use the unexpected windfall. Some of the ideas which have been discussed include possibly updating the heating and cooling systems in the museum building, and / or having the building exterior redone on the north and south sides, which at this time have a rather "patchwork" look. Heritage Society Board members are waiting for estimates on these projects before they make any final decisions.
Aurelia Public Library keeps up with the times -
The Aurelia Public Library was first established in 1917 and started with the help of donations and fund raisers. Originally located in a small building on the west side of North Main Street, residents of Aurelia voted 113-33 in favor of issuing $6,500 of bonds to finance a new library building. With additional funding from the Municipal Enterprise Fund and the Library Board, the new library building on the east side of the street was constructed by Ament Construction of Cherokee for $15,970.48. In June of 1965, several volunteers, including many school-age children, moved the books from the old building across the street to the new building, and for 44 years now, the library has continued to serve both children and adults of the community well, as they seek to educate or amuse themselves. Back in the day, when we thought of the library, we naturally thought of books. My, how times have changed. The library still has plenty of books, of course, both classics and newer fare.
The Aurelia Library currently has seven computers which patrons may use, with some more coming soon. Bonnie Conley (pictured) , who has served as the Director of the Aurelia Public Library for five years, says that more than one-third of library patrons come in to use the computers, where they can catch up on news via the internet or use reference sites. In addition to the PCs, the library also has wireless access, so people can bring their laptops in and hook u to the internet that way. Another big part of library usage in the 21st Century is checking out videos. Conley said the Aurelia Library currently has more than 630 DVDs available for checking out. Videos for both children and adults are available, and the bulk of them, Conley said, have been purchased by the Friends of the Library organization. Conley said the library has also kept some of their old videotapes on hand, too, because they discovered that several children have VCRs in their bedrooms. And, of course, the Aurelia Public Library has a website, www.aurelia.lib.ia.us
, which is very active, kept up-to-date, and hosted free-of-charge by the state library.
The Aurelia Public Library, unlike when I was growing up in town a few years ago, is now open every day of the week, except for Sunday and holidays. Conley said that the building now averages 40+ people a day patronizing their services. On the surface, that may not sound like much, but for a town Aurelia's size, that's pretty good. In the moth of June, she said, they had more than 1,500 visitors.
The library recently learned that former Aurelia citizens Chet and Beth Sjoberg have bequeathed a substantial amount of money to the library, and, though the seven-member Library Board has not yet decided how that money will be spent, Conley is sure they will put it to good use in continuing to serve their patrons.
The Aurelia Library has a small staff - Conley, an Assistant Director, three part-time librarians, and one person who both cleans and serves as a part-time librarian.
The library has had a "story hour" for children since 1970 and still have it on Wednesday mornings during the school year. Kiwanis members serve as volunteer readers to the children. This summer, the library is conducting a summer reading program for 1.5 hours each Wednesday, and the group do all sorts of activities in addition to reading. The program is for children ages 3 - 10, and Conley said the average attendance has been 32 this summer.
As for possible future projects, the Friends of the Library held a very successful Quilt Show in April, and a repeat is a possibility. They have also talked about possibly hosting a computer class for adults this fall.
The Aurelia Public Library has been run by a Library Board since its inception in 1917. Current Board members are Pam Allen, Cindy Davis, Joy Draisey, David Fordyce, Roger Redig, Ardelle Staver and Ann Tell.
Amanda Smith co-ordinates events at the Aurelia Community Center -
The city of Aurelia opened a new Community Center last year, replacing an antiquated 1927 building with a new, much more spacious and accommodating facility.
Co-ordinating the use of the facility is no easy task, but Amanda Smith, who has served as the Facility Co-Ordinator since mid-April, feels that she is up to the task.
The personable Smith was born and raised in nearby Alta, and received post-secondary training in early childhood education at Iowa Western and Iowa Central Community Colleges. She has served as a before and after - school co-ordinator for the Storm Lake Public Schools for the last seven years, and loves working with kids.
When I spoke to Smith for this article, the Aurelia Community Center was to play host to the Fireman's Benefit supper the next evening. I asked Amanda if that event would be her first "big" event since taking over the job as Facility Co-Ordinator.
She laughed and said that no, she had a big wedding reception there just two weeks after she was hired in April.
In addition to booking the facility for receptions, dinners, meetings and so on, Smith also makes those seeking to rent the facility aware of some of their options, such as the full-service kitchen facilities, the excellent sound system, and the availability of fine china for their use. The cost of renting the entire facility for one day is $250.
Amanda is in the early stages of planning a "Bridal/Prom" show to e held at the Community Center probably at the end of January or beginning of February. Sequins Bridal of Cherokee has indicated that they can provide some dresses for showing, and Smith hopes to have booths set up for vendors to display jewelry and other prom and/or wedding items.
Speaking of weddings, Amanda Smith is engaged to Aurelia's Dustin Harrison, and the two are currently planning to be wed in September 2010.
3 Petes offers lunch in downtown Aurelia -
A veritable Aurelia institution changed hands a few months ago when Pete DePuma of Storm Lake purchased what was then known as Sandy's, located on the west side of South Main Street, and re-named the establishment 3 Petes. DePuma has three daughters and he reportedly refers to them as his "3 petes," hence the name. Just to clarify matters, though, his daughters are not actually named "Pete."
For those of you who aren't quite sure where the new restaurant is situated, it might help you to know that the building formerly housed Francis Tap, aka "The Tap" or "Orly's." Prior to that, it was known as Stutz Pool Hall (aka "Slick's").
Though there is still one pool table at the back of 3 Petes, and it does get some play from time to time, there is no card playing going on, and 3Petes, though it still has a bar and offers adult beverages and stimulating conversation, is now first and foremost an eating establishment.
DePuma has owned and operated The Pantry restaurant on Lake Avenue in Storm Lake for more than a decade, so he is not inexperienced in the food business. He also has a connection to the Aurelia community, as his wife Mary Ann has taught in the Aurelia elementary school for several years.
3 Petes has a staff of five employees and is open for business from 11 a.m. - (approximately) 10 p.m. six days a week. They are closed on Sundays.
The establishment serves lunch on weekdays, offering a menu of sandwiches and drinks. Wednesday night is Taco Night, and I think you can probably guess what the main entree is.
Saturday evenings, 3 Petes often offers a dinner (supper) meal, unless there is a big community activity going on, in which case they defer, encouraging Aurelia citizens to get in the community spirit and participate in that activity.
In the tradition of the small town restaurant, 3 Petes doesn't have a printed menu. According to employee Charlie Syndergaard, the restaurant staff get together on Sundays and plan out the week's menu - and then write it on a chalkboard, which is then posted on the front of the building.
Aurelia Cafe offers 3 down home meals a day -
The Aurelia Cafe, located at the south end of Main Street, is open from 7 a.m . - 7 p.m., so they offer breakfast, lunch and dinner to hungry patrons. The restaurant has been owned by Rey Gonzales of Storm Lake for about a year now.
The owner is also employed at La Juanitas restaurant in Storm Lake, so he is not able to make it over to Aurelia every day. Luis Sanchez is the chef at the Aurelia Cafe, and takes care of the restaurant on a daily basis, along with a wait staff. Sanchez, a native of Mexico, said that the Aurelia Cafe offers a variety of Mexican food as well as some traditional American breakfasts, sandwiches and other dishes.
If you come in for breakfast there are omelets and other early morning staples available. Hamburgers and other sandwiches as well as soda and other beverages are available for lunch, which is the most popular meal at the Aurelia Cafe. If you're in the mood for Mexican , the cafe offers tacos, burritos, sope, tostados, torta, taco salad, nachos, quesadillas, and chimichangas. If you'd rather have that a little later, they are open until 7 p.m.
The Aurelia Cafe is also the site for the town's coffee group every weekday morning, before they head to afternoon coffee at the Village Boutique meeting room.
Aurelia School faces uncertain future -
The Aurelia School District has provided its students, both past and present, with high quality education and extra-curricular activities for more than 100 years. Community members are understandably very proud of the achievements of students while they were in Aurelia, as well as in their subsequent post-secondary and career successes.
Times have changed in many ways, though. Though Aurelia students continue to excel, enrollment continues to decline. When I was a senior in Aurelia High School (1968) , our enrollment was at its peak, with the four high school grades each having 65 - 70 students. Next year, the total enrollment for all four high school grades will not be much higher than a single grade had back then . The projected high school enrollment of 80 will make the Aurelia School District the 12th smallest public school in the state.
The Aurelia School Board first started considering sharing with other districts back when I was on the Board, sharing high school football with the Alta District for one year before moving into sharing of all high school sports. Despite tremendous success in athletics, with the Alta-Aurelia teams capturing conference titles in virtually every sport over the six or seven years they were a combined program, sharing never really progressed much beyond the athletic arena, and both districts returned to their previous status.
Three areas of concern have led the current Aurelia Board to have discussions with both he Cherokee and Alta Districts regarding future sharing - 1. The continued declining enrollment in most school districts in Iowa, including all of those in this area of the state; 2. The upcoming Core Curriculum which has been mandated for all schools, and will be difficult for many rural schools to offer;
and 3. A "not very positive" financial outlook, in the words of Aurelia Superintendent Lynn Evans (pictured). Though the Aurelia Board itself has done a wonderful job of maintaining a solid financial base for the District, the projected amount of available state aid and local finances are not bright.
Though everyone's foremost desire would be for the Aurelia School District to remain independent, the Administration and School Board have decided that some kind of sharing will be necessary in the coming years. Both the Alta and Cherokee Districts have made proposals, and the Aurelia School Board and Administration are in the process of arranging a community meeting for later this summer, in which, with the assistance of a moderator, they will present a summary of past discussions and decisions as well as available sharing options.
Superintendent Evans hopes to hold such a community meeting during the last week of August. There are timelines which must be followed involved in any sharing agreements, so the time has come to make some decisions regarding the future direction of the Aurelia School District.