‘A community that still thrives,’ Elkader to celebrate 175th year

Elkader Founders’ Day 175th Anniversary — Saturday, June 19

A full slate of events is planned for Elkader Founders’ Day 175th Anniversary on Saturday, June 19. Below are three notable events, but offerings will be held throughout the day. A full list and more information can be found at https://elkader175th.com/.

Scavenger Hunt Walk/Run

When: 8 to 11 a.m.

Tales of Elkader’s Past

When: 10 a.m. to noon, 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Picnic in the Park and Rhythm on the River

When: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

ELKADER, Iowa — Elkader marks its 175th year as a city this month and will have a full day of events to celebrate.

While the city has evolved to have more of a tourism atmosphere, Elkader resident David Beck said the element of community remains strong.

“When you come to Elkader, you’ll get about a mile away and notice people start waving,” he said.

Beck grew up in Elkader. He moved away for years but found his way back to his hometown.

“There’s nothing like my backyard,” he said.

A city of a little more than 1,300, Elkader attracts visitors and residents with its various boutiques, the Keystone Bridge, a new Motor Mill Trail and more.

Ann Gibney, a lifelong Elkader resident and Elkader Area Chamber of Commerce coordinator, describes the community as a “hidden gem.”

“We’re very friendly and community-minded,” she said. “Just the unique places to shop, it’s all pretty close together, and it’s just a beautiful location with the (Turkey) river and hills.”

A staple of Elkader is Pedretti’s Bakery, which is owned by Christopher Reimer. The bakery has been in the family for three generations now — since 1968.

“We get a lot of people on the weekends that just wanted to take a drive,” Reimer said. “There’s always somebody from an hour and a half away.”

Being 175 years old, the history of Elkader has been of interest to Beck. He compiled facts and photos for the Elkader’s 175th Anniversary Facebook page and is organizing the “Tales of Elkader’s Past” for the Elkader Founders’ Day celebration.

The historic tales tour will include presenters dressed up at historic Elkader sites — such as the clock tower and courthouse — to share the story behind each location.

“There’s a history to this community, and there’s a lot of old structures maintained,” Beck said. “This is a community that still thrives.”

Connections to Elkader run deep for Marge Costigan, 101, who was born in the town. Her grandfather arrived in Elkader in the 1890s to work as a mortician. Her father also became a mortician and a pharmacist.

While in high school, Costigan met her husband, who attended junior college in Elkader. She went off to University of Iowa to become a teacher, and her husband started a construction business in Elkader, prior to serving in World War II.

Family ties and the desire to restart the construction business brought the couple back to Elkader, where they raised their four children.

“I think of it as progressive,” Costigan said of Elkader. “We have a lot of art, several big parks, and it’s a good business town.”

Costigan continues to live in Elkader and works at Carter House Museum, one of the three museums in the city.

“The kids grew up here and love to come back,” she said. “It’s … an old town. And it’s a good town.”