In 2020, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Awarded $1 Million in Iowa Great Places Grants, including Madison County.

January 16, 2020: The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs has awarded $1 million for five Iowa Great Places projects in Adel and Redfield, Clinton, Guttenberg, Marion, and Winterset.

The funding supports the development of new and existing community-based infrastructure projects that cultivate the unique and authentic qualities of neighborhoods, communities and regions in Iowa. The Iowa Great Places Citizen Advisory Board approved the grants during its meeting last month in Des Moines. Statewide, five grants totaling $1 million were awarded in response to 11 eligible applicants requesting nearly $2.9 million.

“Each of these projects plays a role in helping Iowans create culturally vibrant communities that attract and retain globally minded workers who put quality of life at the top of their priority list when they’re deciding where to live and work,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “We are proud to invest in Iowans and their communities through this program, and we’re especially pleased to help them make their visions for the future a reality.”

Created in 2005, the Iowa Great Places program provides designated communities with access to funding opportunities, professional development training, technical assistance opportunities, a network of vibrant communities and passionate leaders, and other state and local resources. Currently, the program includes 40 Iowa Great Places designated communities. Funding for the grant program is provided by the Iowa Legislature through the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund and requires a 1:1 match.

Funding of $310,000 will support the construction of a 12,000-square-foot environmental learning center to meet the needs of environmental and outdoor recreation programming in Madison County. The center will include interactive exhibits, a classroom for applied STEM-based programming and creative environmental learning, and a multi-purpose event and conference room to connect visitors to their natural surroundings.

Madison County was designated as an Iowa Great Place in 2014.

Madison County’s vision captures what makes it truly unique – its history, beauty and culture – and attempts to tie together existing and new amenities surrounding the past, present and future of film. This vision capitalizes upon two of Madison County’s most significant features, the world-famous covered bridges and the birthplace of one of America’s most beloved movie icons, John Wayne.

Community leaders have worked hard to build a brand for Madison County as a cultural and tourism destination, and numerous new attractions over the past ten years have been a result of those efforts.


Madison County’s proposal included projects to improve quality of life and attract thousands to the county. The projects will be long-term assets that improve quality of life for existing residents and provide ongoing education, historic preservation, and entertainment value to central and south central Iowa. Specifically, the projects will enhance a strong base of cultural attractions that make Madison County a Great Place.

Iowa Great Places awarded $97,500 in 2014 for two projects in Madison County:

  • John Wayne Birthplace Museum Exhibits
  • John Wayne Birthplace Trail

“The Iowa Great Places designation is an exciting step in our community’s vision to establish Madison County as a destination. The Great Places funding for the John Wayne Birthplace Museum and John Wayne Birthplace Trail will help to realize a decades-long dream of many community leaders to construct a memorial and lasting tribute worthy of one of the world’s most famous actors whose roots began right here in Madison County. Funding for this project and designation as an Iowa Great Place will certainly help Madison County to promote our heritage and our cultural significance, while drawing additional visitors to Madison County to explore our roots and unique place in film history. Madison County is absolutely an Iowa great place, and the stamp of approval from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is icing on the cake.”Heather Riley, Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director, 515-462-1185

Read more about the Iowa Great Places program and see a full list of Iowa Great Places designees.