In 1849, settlers began to barter at a log cabin in the area known as "Wich a wan"-Indian words meaning "where two rivers meet." Around the same time, Oliver H. Kelley carved out a plot of farmland near the trading post. In 1867, Kelley founded the first-ever Grange-an organization dedicated to improving social and economic conditions for farmers. The organization would eventually spread across the country, growing to include more than a million members. "Wich a wan," of course, became the City of Elk River, which was created in 1978 when the Village of Elk River and the Township of Elk River were consolidated.
Elk River residents today are afforded the luxuries associated with both rural and urban lifestyles. Neighborhoods are quiet and safe in this family-oriented community. Plans are in place to redevelop the city's downtown area while still preserving its historic areas. In addition, the community offers a wide range of services and programs to meet the needs of all its residents. For the city's youth, there is the Emporium Teen Center, while senior citizens can participate in outings and activities hosted by the Elk River Senior Center.
Recreational opportunities in and around Elk River are nearly endless, thanks to its location near two major rivers. There are public boat landings on both rivers, and tubing and canoeing are popular river activities. There are two public golf courses in town-- one nine-hole and one 18-hole executive course-- as well as a miniature golf course, tennis courts and an indoor swimming pool. City parks provide opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, cross-country skiing, playing softball, and much more.
Students in Elk River attend schools within the progressive Independent School District 728. The district serves more than 12,500 students from five different counties. The district's Community Education program is dedicated to providing continuing education for people of all ages, while the Early Childhood Family Education program provides learning opportunities for children ranging in age from infancy to pre-kindergarten. For post-secondary education, the University of Minnesota as well as numerous other universities and colleges are located just moments away in Minneapolis.
Further enhancing its small-town feel, Elk River hosts numerous community events each year. July brings the Sherburne County Fair, which offers several days of fun and entertainment for the whole family. Held each August is the Nowthen Threshing Show, hosted by the Nowthen Historical Power Association.
A number of community-oriented organizations within Elk River host their own special events and provide opportunities for cultural enrichment. The Elk River Area Arts Alliance organizes, sponsors and promotes events such as ArtSoup, a biannual community arts festival. The alliance also sponsors art exhibits and shows.
Just a few minutes from downtown, the Oliver H. Kelley Farm offers a glimpse into a working 1860s farm. The farm was originally the home of Oliver H. Kelley and his family, and the Kelleys owned it until 1901. It was purchased by the Grange in 1935 and donated to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1961. Visitors to the farm can pick their own vegetables from the garden, churn butter, make soap and much, much more. In addition, the farm hosts a number of events such as dances and children's days.
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