Our Town Strawberry Point: More than just the strawberry

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STRAWBERRY POINT, Iowa The 15-foot fiberglass strawberry welcomes any traveler on Highway 13 into Strawberry Point.

Strawberry Point, on the southern edge of Clayton County, is home to about 1,200 people and the world's largest fiberglass strawberry.

The Best Place to Grow.

That’s what Jeff Bente, the city’s mayor, as well as a firefighter and EMT, said that when alluding to the motto in this Clayton County town of about 1,200. Strawberry Days is all weekend until Sunday, June 11. The time to show off the city.

“Strawberry Days is really important for us,” said Bente. “We take a lot of pride and the town support we have to make it a big weekend. A big splash in the town. Tourism comes in and it’s very important to us.”

With a name like Strawberry Point, the city has always stuck out. Yet a juicy name can only go so far. Smaller cities and towns in Iowa, that are somewhat remote (Manchester is 20 miles away), still need to offer the features and amenities to attract families to live there for the long term.

“We have great little town here, a beautiful library and I talk with a lot of other towns around here and they’re jealous of Strawberry (Point),” said Bente. “We have a grocery store, a hardware store, a new aquatic center, the pool, the library, fire department and ambulance service. Strawberry is a good town.”

Bente acknowledged the aquatic center is a major endeavor in Strawberry Point. Plans call for the new pool to open right next to the long-time pool on the town’s southwest edge. The mayor said city leaders have been raising money for years to put in the center, complete with a splash pad, and a goal to break ground next spring.

The mayor has also experienced some of the town’s more challenging moments.

Seventeen months ago, in January 2016, one of Strawberry Point’s signature eateries, Back Home Country Cooking, caught fire. Bente got the call on a brutally cold morning.

“We got called in, just after midnight, about 20 below zero that night,” Bente recalled. “The fire station was next door and we had flames coming out of the top of the building. We were here for more than 6 hours.”

Brenda Landis also got the call that night. It’s her restaurant.

“It was devastating,” Landis said. “I actually didn’t believe it when they called and told me the restaurant was on fire. One of those things that never happens to me. The process of coming back had a lot of bittersweet things going on. Without the community, we would not be here today.”

Landis praised the people of Strawberry Point for the work on the cleanup, for clearing the land, for the benefits and for the trust and the love to help her re-open five months later. Brenda’s “pie count” of pies baked is now more than 21,000. Strawberry Days 2017 also marks exactly one year since she re-opened her restaurant.

“Strawberry Days, from when I was a kid, to this coming weekend, has always been a special time for somebody who lives in Strawberry Point. The joy, the carnivals and the little things that they do.”

Taking it all in is Alvin Scott, who, at age 96 has been plenty of Strawberry Days, sips his coffee at Back Home while thinking about why he has called this town his home since 1952.

“It’s a clean town and right now there’s not too many houses being built,” said Scott. “It’s the hometown for me. A good farming community, too.”