37 Things You Only Know If You Grew Up In The Iowa Great Lakes

I might be all grown up and married, living life far away from the homeland, but if there is one thing my heart knows backwards and forwards, it's the Iowa Great Lakes. Here are 37 things that you would only know if you grew up there:

  1. The University of Okoboji is not a real university.
  2. You have had to correct a tourist's pronunciation of "Okoboji" (Oh-koe-boe-gee) more than one time in your existence.
  3. Only first-timers to the IGL swim in East Lake. The rest of us know the algae will give you swimmer's itch. Pssht. Rookies.
  4. Oh, yeah, there are actually tons of summer tourist's in the Northwest corner of Iowa. It's basically the Iowa version of the Wisconsin Dells. Just a lot smaller... and probably prettier. No one outside the state will believe you when you tell them you're from a "tourist town in Iowa." Unless they have family that owns a lake house there. 
  5. The 4th of July in Okoboji is the single best celebration in the Midwest.
  6. Winters in the IGL are certainly quieter, but still full of great events. The Winter Games on frozen West Lake, for example.
  7. At least once, you probably got stranded at a friend's house during a blizzard because your parents didn't want you to risk driving home... as if this was a bad thing. Sleepover on a school night?
  8. Even though Spirit Lake and Okoboji are rival schools, everyone still had friends at the other. You either worked together at Hy-Vee  or an area restaurant, your parents worked together, or you were actually neighbors.
  9. You probably had a teacher who was married to another teacher in the same school. In fact, there were a lot of teaching spouses.
  10. Uh oh, car broke down? Take a tractor to school, son.
  11. You had at least one friend who lived on a farm or in the country.
  12. Nothing to do? Wal-Mart.
  13. Using the bike trails to get to the beach/movie theater/work was typical.
  14. Okoboji got a late start... wait for it.... SPIRIT LAKE TOO! (or vice versa)
  15. Of course you had Minnesota friends, they were 15 miles away!
  16. Every fancy/celebratory dinner = Minervas
  17. If you had to choose the summer traffic on Highway 71 through Arnold's Park or slick winter roads, you'd probably choose winter roads.
  18. Boats, booze, bikinis: summer summarized. Except you were probably working more often than not, while all the tourists got to enjoy it.
  19. Tropical Sno: Making up a flavor and naming it. 
  20. Blue Bell Ice Cream is for the South. Up here, we have Blue BUNNY. #LeMars
  21. Also, Nutty Bars are a staple. These are not a Little Debbie treat, either...
  22. Taco House season opening FTW!!!
  23. If you didn't have an ice fishing house, your best friend did.
  24. Cruising Lakeshore Drive is a windows-down-ride only.
  25. Didn't you know? Harrison Ford has a house on it... #rumors
  26. "Mom, I'll be at the waterspill watching the carp"
  27. Hey! Good Cookies ice cap? Who needs Starbucks..
  28. Great Lakes Cinema 7: Only worth it if the movie you want to see is in one of the stadium theaters.
  29. The Abby Gardner Museum will tell you about the massacres on our land. And scalpings. It was a typical field trip... one in which you always hoped you would somehow spot an arrowhead in the surrounding dirt.
  30. Santa comes to our radio station every year for gift requests from kids who call in. 
  31. Oh, there's a tornado warning? Let's all watch the sky on the porch!
  32. Bonfires every.single.weekend.
  33. "K-U-O-O Oooooookoboji!"
  34. Sunsets in 'Boji are unbeatable.
  35. Riding on "The Queen" is not nearly as fun as whipping past it on a wave runner.
  36. "Cruising the Loop"
    (I was a loop-hater, but if I DID cruise the loop, I jammed out to all the wrong songs. Such as Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys (which I just discovered is like a really gross song). It was just better if I didn't go to the loop)
  37. When you go home to visit, anywhere you go, you'll know at least one face. There's no place like home.

Growing up in The Iowa Great Lakes was so memorable and came with such a tight-knit community. Though I've moved all the way to Georgia and will not be giving up the sunshiny, warm weather anytime soon, those summers on the beach of West Lake will always have a place in my heart. 

TravelJoy Johnson