-By Laura Anderson-
Cultural enrichment and educational programming make for charming life in the City of Lindsborg
Often translated as “a coffee-and-cake break,” fika is a Swedish word that embodies the spirit of the City of Lindsborg, KS. More than an activity, fika is a daily ritual, a state of mind, a time to reconnect with friends and family and take a break from the hustle and bustle of our busy, modern lives. It’s not about what you eat or drink on your “coffee-and-cake break” but who you spend your time with.
Lindsborg was founded by Swedish immigrants in 1869. This rich heritage and residents’ connection to each other still permeates the community to this day. The City hosts weekly fika events that allow community members to mingle and enjoy an enriched cultural experience.
Lindsborg is a small City chocked full of culture and character. But that doesn’t mean it rests on its laurels. “The citizens of Lindsborg are committed to ensuring that the community is active, vibrant, and progressive,” said Lindsborg City Administrator Gregory A. DuMars. “There is also a commitment to excellence by the citizens. While many rural communities focus on how to survive, in Lindsborg the discussions and focus are on how do we get better?”
It’s no surprise that Lindsborg was recognized as a Finalist for the 2018 Voice of the People (VOP) Award for Transformation in Education and Enrichment. The VOP Awards are presented by National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) and International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and are the only national honors bestowed on local governments for high resident opinion. Award winners and finalists are chosen based on the results of The National Community Survey™ (The NCS™) (formerly known as The National Citizen Survey™). The 2018 VOP Award recipients received the highest or most improved ratings by residents compared to all other jurisdictions that conducted the survey in 2017.
Known as “Little Sweden USA,” Lindsborg is a thriving rural Midwestern City in Central Kansas with a vibrant heritage and a strong sense of community. “Välkommen!” the City’s website declares, “Lindsborg . . . where you want to be, to play, to live, to stay!” And residents agree. The vast majority of residents – 95 percent – report that Lindsborg is a good or excellent place to live, according to community survey results.
Cultural events are part of Lindsborg residents’ way of life. “The community of Lindsborg values education, arts, culture, public activities, and religious activities,” said DuMars. “These values translate into action through volunteerism and participation to ensure that they are reflected in the life of the community.”
The City’s Swedish history has persevered since its founding and has been passed down for generations. Scores of visitors join Lindsborg’s 3,300 residents to honor this legacy during the Svensk Hyllningsfest, a festival that showcases Swedish food, culture, entertainment, history, and arts and crafts. The City hosts Svensk Hyllningsfest during odd-numbered years.
Other cultural events draw crowds more frequently, including monthly Makers Street – The Lindsborg Art Walk, summer concert series, the Midsummer Festival, the Easter-centered Messiah Arts Festival, Smoky Valley Classic Car Show, and the ’60s-themed Lindsborg in Bloom celebration to name a few. Many other events occur throughout the year and are popular with residents – eight out of 10 report attending City-sponsored events.
Many of Lindsborg’s 2017 survey ratings for questions related to Education and Enrichment were exceptional, landing above the national benchmark for several items. These benchmarks, or average ratings, come from NRC’s database of survey responses collected in hundreds of jurisdictions across the country. This database is the largest of its kind, and rising above or falling below the national benchmark is designed to be difficult, in order to give local governments more meaningful context to their results. A rating above the benchmark is an achievement worth celebrating.
An engaged public with a strong sense of community is a city’s most vital asset, and Lindsborg is full of very active and engaged locals. “About eight in 10 residents described the sense of community in Lindsborg as excellent or good, which was higher than ratings given elsewhere and an increase since 2014,” observed NRC Survey Associate Jade Arocha. “Lindsborg residents were more likely than those who lived elsewhere to have participated in religious or spiritual activities, attended a City-sponsored event, volunteered, or participated in a club.”
Education is a part of Lindsborg’s foundational history and, for many residents, a life-long pursuit. Bethany College exemplifies this ideal. Bethany is a four-year Lutheran liberal arts school founded in Lindsborg nearly 150 years ago.
The Smoky Valley Middle School and High School are part of the Smoky Valley Unified School District that serves Lindsborg as well as the communities of Marquette, Roxbury, Smolan, Falun, and surrounding areas. The schools are very highly regarded in the community, with K-12 education receiving a positive rating from 91 percent of Lindsborg residents.
All high school students receive laptops as part of the district’s One-to-One initiative. And in 2002, Smoky Valley Virtual Charter School was founded to provide additional educational options for high school students throughout the district’s 395-square-mile service area. As a result, Smoky Valley High School has an impressive 98 percent graduation rate.
Smoky Valley Virtual Charter School also houses Vision Tek, a hands-on, project-based educational program that provides technological training to students. It not only trains high schoolers in Smoky Valley Unified School District but is also open to non-traditional adult learners who are seeking a high school diploma. Vision Tek students can attend classes at Vision Tek’s physical campus on Main Street, which is a satellite of Smoky Valley High School, or online, making a high school education accessible to everyone in the community.
The City is also home to the Anatoly Karpov International School of Chess, which teaches chess to students in Lindsborg and the world over through its online classroom and annual week-long summer camp. The school also hosts weekly chess nights for young students and adults.
Though Education and Enrichment programs in Lindsborg were well-regarded during previous surveys, comparisons show that services in these areas continue to improve.
And to ensure that Lindsborg continues to thrive and grow, a group of stakeholders from Bethany College, Smoky Valley Unified School District, local businesses, community churches, healthcare providers, and City officials formed the Strategic Alliance. This group’s goal is to generate fresh ideas and plan for the future through community input and collaboration.
“Just maintaining the status quo is not an acceptable value in Lindsborg,” said DuMars. “While the citizens take time to appreciate what the community offers today, those same citizens reflect on what we want the community to be tomorrow – not just for the current generation, but for future generations.”
Jurisdictions that conduct The National Community Survey™ (The NCS™) are eligible for the Voice of the People (VOP) Awards. Learn more about The NCS.