Monday, Facebook lit up with the idea that throughout Highway 9, the signs show how many miles of road remain to Estherville, even from over 200 miles away. Actor Andy Kelleher of Houston originally posted a picture of the sign from the east end of Highway 9, near Lansing, Iowa.
"What makes Estherville so important?" Kelleher wondered.
He investigated with the Iowa Department of Transportation. After a series of emails, the answer emerged. It's a state regulation.
On primary intra-state routes: Line 1 is the next city on or adjacent to the route, regardless of population. Line 2 is the next county seat or city of 5,000 or more on or adjacent to the route. Line 3 is the next county seat or city of 5,000 or more on or adjacent to the route.
From end to end, past Decorah, there is no other town on Highway 9 with 5,000 or more people. Forest City has 4,002. Cresco has 3,868 followed closely by Osage with 3,619.
"Just remember," Kelleher adds, "you're driving through the middle of nowhere, and they don't have much else to offer."
We wondered if Kelleher was giving the people of Estherville a challenge:?to live up to the title of urban center. To belong at the center of the middle of nowhere. To be a destination for someone, somewhere.
Many say our collective goal should be to make things as good as we can make them for the people who are here, that Estherville will never be anyone else's destination.
We aren't so sure.
Even with the disagreements that happen over certain projects, we're proud to have a city government, economic development board, chamber of commerce, educational system, and private ventures who are trying new things, working to engage citizens, and making Estherville a great place to live.
For anyone with an idea to bring tourism to Estherville, and the ambition to make it happen, there is a fund to help with such an event.
Our town is waking up, just in recent months and years, as we are developing new ways to sustain Estherville into the future.
The effort is more than some small towns are making, and if we don't try something, we could become one of those towns that simply fades away.
We think Estherville signs belong on all roads that lead to here.