In Search of…an Identity

Mike Draper’s column in Juice tripped my trigger on something that I’ve put off writing about.

I’ve been a Des Moines resident for 15 years. I didn’t grow up here, left the state, and came back, like Draper did. I’m from Waterloo, went to Wartburg College, and came here after college. And yet, I’m still an outsider to some of the locals, because I’m not a native of Des Moines.

Mike noted in his column that no one who visited his store during the Division I wrestling tournament was there for the tournament. Is it me or do I think that the customers Mike polled were local folks that didn’t care much for the wrestling tournament?

No wonder why I feel like an outsider. I was happy as hell to have the tournament here.

If there is one thing that sticks out to me about living here and that is how much a sizable number of locals are indifferent about things and events that people outside of Des Moines are interested in.

This is how a good number of people who live in Des Moines view the Iowa State Fair, high school tournaments, and other events that take place in their city…with a healthy dose of apathy. (pickthebrain.com)

The majority of people who attend the Iowa State Fair, the high school state tournaments, and the Drake Relays, to name a few, are not from Des Moines. A good number of DSM residents do not care for these events, much less be bothered by them. The longer I’ve lived here, the more accurate it is, at least in my mind.

There’s so many other things to do here, which is great and healthy. But let’s not get in the habit of dismissing things that help bring recognition and respect for our city. The wrestling tournament was a good thing for Des Moines. To say that it’s not, is delusional at best.

I was put off by Draper’s comment towards the CVB, the Partnership, and the business community, in the way they are trying to attract people to Des Moines, with his veiled shot by calling the wrestling tournament a useless folly that Des Moines didn’t need.

I think he’s wrong to assert that Des Moines doesn’t deserve to host the wrestling tournament again.

St. Louis and Philadelphia are larger than Des Moines. Secondly, their arenas are built for professional teams and leagues.The Scottrade Center holds 19,260. The Philly Wells Fargo Center holds 19,500.  Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena holds 16,980. Just because Des Moines didn’t get over 100,000 (96,000) fans during all six sessions of the wrestling tournament, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Des Moines blew their one and only chance. Hell, 96,000 is better than zero.

For years, the Iowa State Fair couldn’t crack 1 million in attendance. I don’t see no one calling for the State Fair to pack up and leave.

Yes, Mike, people come for the experience. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s why they are “visitors” for a reason. To experience Des Moines. You shouldn’t be offended by that.

Now, let’s get to the heart of Draper’s column.

Draper is correct when he says that Des Moines needs to utilize its natural strengths. The question is: what are these strengths besides financial services and agriculture? Are we not trying to break out of the stereotypical mold of insurance and corn?

I have attested in the past that Des Moines is searching for an identity to cultivate and grow.

Just like humans, a city in search of an identity have to go through a lot of shifting and shuffling before it finds what they are good at. (searchingforgrace.com)

It’s getting tiresome trying to be the next Omaha, Kansas City, Twin Cities, and Chicago. They have their own identities. They have went through the growing pains of finding what works for them.

There is no quick, painless way to naturally develop an identity. It’ll take a many face plants, mistakes, hits and misses, and a few good things to build an identity. Unfortunately, that isn’t good enough for some folks, who think Des Moines should be a midwestern cosmopolitan that would rival Minneapolis and Chicago.

I think we’re doing just fine…as long as we continue to evolve, tweak, poke and prod.

Des Moines is a work in progress. It’s identity will change throughout time, so will these natural strengths that Mike Draper touts.

Des Moines is the city that fits me. Not Chicago, New York, or Dallas. Not too small and not too big. It’s just right.

I like my art and my RAYGUN shirt as much as I like my wrestling.

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