Hawkeye Point plays host to 'Fall Gathering' event
SIBLEY, Iowa -- For an event billed as an "Old Fashioned Fall Gathering," Saturday's family-oriented festivities at Hawkeye Point couldn't have taken place on a much more ideal fall day.
While the morning began with cool temperatures and fog, temperatures rose and the sun made its presence known by early afternoon, resulting in a pleasant environment for the many who attended the four-hour event. Coordinated for the first time by the Hawkeye Point Committee, the hope among organizers is that the gathering becomes an annual affair and works to promote both Hawkeye Point and other Osceola County attractions.
Mike Earll, chairman of the committee, is also the FFA advisor at Sibley-Ocheyedan High School. His connection to both makes sense, considering the S-O FFA chapter's connection to the land recognized as Iowa's highest point.
About four years ago, property owner Donna Sterler made it known she was interested in donating Hawkeye Point land "with the idea of keeping it open to the public," Earll recalled. Eventually -- "we made a mistake FFA-wise," Earll added with a laugh" -- the S-O chapter ended up with seven acres to shape into what its advisor envisions as an eventual Iowa welcome center.
"The kids pulled out old foundations ... seeded grass, put up a high point marker and more," Earll said.
Students usually spend considerable time during the May term at the site, and their labor -- not to mention that of many residents from around the county -- is strictly on a volunteer basis.
FFA students gave a presentation at one point to Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds about the virtues of Hawkeye Point, with Reynolds making an in-person visit to the site. Still, additional development of the seven acres will almost certainly remain a grassroots effort.
"The wheels of government turn very slowly, but we're happy to work on turning this into a welcome center," Earll said. "Minnesota did such a good job with theirs right along Highway 60 ... and this is such a gateway.
"The Department of Transportation said 6.2 million vehicles came through here last year. If we can get even a fraction of those to stop, we can present Hawkeye Point as an attraction as well as promote the communities around us."
One additional improvement that took place last year may well encourage some to stop, as camping -- along with 16 electrical hookups -- is now available at the site. Not much camping may have been taking place Saturday, but there were still plenty of people on hand to partake in such activities as viewing an antique tractor display, face and pumpkin painting, an apple cider press demonstration, live music, a beanbag toss and more. Another feature, Earll noted, was a community tractor ride.
"We had a county supervisor from Ocheyedan bring people here from there on a tractor, and then he'll bring them back," Earll said shortly after noon.
The fall gathering festivities at Hawkeye Point came roughly two years after a Fourth of July event at the site celebrating the region's veterans.
"This event is more about a community gathering," Earll said. "We'll try to develop it and make it work from here."
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