A new heyday for Jefferson

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

It is the middle of June, and Jefferson is lush with spring. It is a rain forest of fifty shades of green, flowers blooming in the jungle, birds crazy with song dawn to dusk. On the edge of town the corn is two feet tall, and people are as busy as the environment – prosperity in the soil and along every sidewalk.

I’m surrounded by the feeling that Jefferson has crossed some hurdle in its forward movement since designated a Main Street town in 2012: the vision is coming to pass.
Downtown, new-old storefronts look spiffy even as they mimic 1888 rather than 2018. The style is old, the wood and paint and lots of the bricks are new. Are there more people and more autos?

Yards are mowed so often in this growing season that the whole town looks like a park. The trees seem suddenly to have leaped skyward like Jack’s beanstalk to become the giants of my childhood. It may be an illusion that they’ve all grown 20 feet. It’s nearly the summer solstice and we’ve had lots of rain and early hot weather – the sycamores and silver maples, a Siberian elm near me, the oak hammock of Chautauqua Park, all these trees tower along the streets.

Ideas have taken hold that promise hard work but much optimism. Along with the new-old of the buildings is that lively spark of a new-old of the pioneer spirit. A nation known for the endless individualism of its citizens is showing off in Jefferson the country’s two and a half centuries of working together for the good of the whole.

Because of our oft written about “rugged individualism,” history has less to say about our asking for and offering help of and to one another. It ignores that a nation made up of all other nations couldn’t have turned out this well unless people came together in groups and clubs and co-ops and granges and councils and volunteer organizations galore.

In the way of all things, I’m sure not all is right with everything in this town (we can all count the ways), but with the spirit in the air that I feel as I walk around town, many problems will get fixed and some will go away as people chip at them. The difficult problems are being considered, talked about, aired both casually and pointedly; things will happen because the ideas are in the air, ideas that abound regarding our children’s education and attracting newcomers – two issues bound tightly together.

The plethora of artists, writers, musicians, actors, gardeners, builders, returning residents, entrepreneurs, farmers and businesspeople are eager to sustain the past and the future They are near to bursting with ideas to draw outsiders, townies, country folk and passersby into the orbit of a town rightfully proud of its beauty and its past and hoping to make these years a past to be proud of.

There is new art on rooftops and fresh murals on the sides of buildings. There is poetry in the alleys and a piano on the square. There are ideas afoot for artists-in-residence, hopes for new businesses both exotic and everyday practical.

What little town do you know that has two newspapers, a movie theater, a skating rink, a bowling alley, a famous bike trail, a library, a municipal swimming pool, a golf course, tennis courts, historic buildings of well-kept architectural integrity and purpose, a Chinese restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, a donut shop, an ice cream shop . . . really, folks, we’re doing fine and are on the way to finer.

To all who’ve made it shine, Jefferson, Iowa itself in this moment in its history sparkles with gratitude at the chance for renewed prosperity in a safe place. For those who get to live here, be proud, relieved, happier than you are impatient. Things are moving right along.

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