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Northern Iowa town celebrates 150th birthday

LAKE MILLS, Iowa (KTTC) – Lake Mills is a small town of 2,100 people in Winnebago County.

On Thursday, they began their sesquicentennial celebration festivities. The event continued Saturday with the parade and other events around town including a bags tournament, art and vendor fair, fundraiser lunch, softball in the park, homegrown film festival and more.

The Lake Mills Community School open house brought many alumni back to town to reminisce on fond memories.

“There’s been so many changes to the school over the years, so we thought it’d be great if people came.” said retired Lake Mills superintendent Daryl Sherman.

The school has been updated over the years but has managed to maintain its original charm.

“It’s an amazing school. We’re very lucky that the people in the administration have worked on the facility, kept it up to date,” said Mayor Candy Hanna. “I think we have one of the best schools in the state.”

“The staff knows each other well, the students. It’s like a big family, all the time.” Sherman said.

Another remnant of the town that was open was the country school museum which was rescued from being torn down by the Lake Mills Area Historical Society.

A local historian and Lake Mills native spoke about the town’s history.

“This was the largest settlement of people from the Nissedal valley in Norway outside of Norway.” said historian Jim Dietz-Kilen, who has traced his own ancestry back to the region.

The town thrived over the years thanks to the neighboring town of Bristol passing on a chance for a grist mill to be built there. Bristol residents also did not want to sell their land when the railroad wanted to come through.

“And they refused. Again, people from Lake Mills went to the railroad and said ‘We’ll donate the land’, so the train came through here.” Dietz-Kilen explained.

While the city and schools have changed over the years, the closeness of the community has stayed the same.

Sue Evans, Lake Mills Area Historical Society: “You know it’s people isn’t it? Life’s journey is about the people you meet,” said Sue Evans, a retired teacher and part of the Lake Mills Area Historical Society. “We could be in any other place, we could have palm trees instead of our oak trees.”

The fun continued Saturday night with live music downtown before beginning again on Sunday morning at 6:30 with a fishing tournament.

Alex Tejada

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