The City of Lamoni (population 2,444), the largest of 10 communities in Decatur County (population 8,689), is the home of Graceland University, a hub for livestock sales, a center to support area farms by providing needed elevators and a community that supports the rich artistic talents of those who live in Lamoni and the area.
Lamoni is a mixture of many diverse groups with varied social and economic interests. It has a long history in agriculture and livestock, in higher education (as home to Graceland University), in the arts, in light manufacturing, in services, and has long been the cultural center throughout Southern Iowa. It has been home to many who commute to other towns. Lamoni is also an important center for the Community of Christ Church worldwide. Every day buggies dot Lamoni streets. The Amish culture lends a very real difference to the Lamoni community - and its economy - as many small Amish businesses have sprouted up throughout greater Lamoni. Lamoni is truly a town of contrasts blending rural roots with a university mixed in among manufacturing opportunities.
Situated just west of Interstate 35, the city limits extend along the U.S. Highway 69 corridor to Exit 4 of the Interstate in Decatur County. Lamoni's geographical location places it three miles from the Missouri border, 79 miles south of Des Moines, 110 miles north of Kansas City, and 145 miles east of Omaha. Within 1 ¼ hours of Lamoni live over half a million Iowans and approximately 150,000 Missourians. (Information gathered from Lamoni five Year Plan.)
Graceland University, a private liberal-arts institution founded in 1895, is situated in the southeastern part of Lamoni. The college, with nearly 1,000 resident students from more than 39 states and 40 nations, offers more than 35 undergraduate majors, plus graduate programs and some select certification programs, 19 varsity sports, and a full program of intramurals and campus-wide activities.
The college strongly encourages physical health and development of its students.
The Graceland Performing Arts Series brings international performances of dance and music to the Lamoni area. Monthly events include a Russian Ballet or a traveling Broadway play coupled with outstanding student shows.
Graceland University offers recreation as well as cultural activities to students and area residents. The Eugene E. and Julia Travis Closson Center boasts an indoor track and swimming pool that is open to the Lamoni community as are the outdoor McKain Tennis courts and the newly renovated Leland D. Ackerley Outdoor Track and Field Facility.
Opened in the fall 2012, the Fitzgerald Fitness Center (The Fitz) offers exercising with a nature-filled backdrop. An aerobic area includes elliptical machines, bikes, climbers, and treadmills, most of which face long, open windows overlooking the campus and nature. Some of the machines are placed together, allowing for socialization. Circuit training machines are away from the windows, behind the aerobic equipment. Then, there is the small equipment, items like medicine balls, kettle bells and free weights.
Lamoni Recreation Trail
The Lamoni Recreational trail features six miles of paved biking and hiking trails through beautiful tree-lined vegetation. The former railroad bed provides a gentle and relaxing day outdoors for bikers, walkers, or runners.
The trail conveniently takes origin from the Iowa Gateway Welcome Center at Exit 4 off Interstate 35 and courses over an earthen dam to enter an abandoned rail bed with its scenic canopy of oak and hickory. Each segment of the trail has a distinct personality. From the trailhead at the Lamoni Welcome Center, the east trail passes through a leafy green tunnel of mature forest. After passing through town, it weaves around ponds, ending at Historic Liberty Hall. Because the railroad on which the trail was built has very little grade, this part of the trail is suitable for all ages and levels of physical activity. In spring, blossoming red bud trees turn the trail into a lavender wonderland. Throughout the summer, a great variety of wildflowers take turns in the spotlight.
The Graceland University Loop circles the beautifully groomed college campus with its athletic fields, brick buildings, lake, and sculptures. The west part of the trail begins at the high school and follows the railroad route to the north edge of town. From there it crosses a trestles and curves past gentle hills and open fields. The trail winds over six earthen dams to highlight several ponds. The trail ends in the parking lot of Liberty Hall, a Victorian-era house which was built by Joseph Smith III and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Liberty Hall is open for public viewing.