Is Dubuque, Iowa, Chicago’s Westernmost Suburb?
Frequently during travels and work around the United States, my being from Iowa becomes a topic of conversation. Often, I have to clarify the difference between Ohio, Idaho, and Iowa. But for fun, I'll share that I got my degree from the University of Idaho in Ohio City, Iowa.
More than once, a person might know someone from Iowa and ask if I know them too. This often leads me to share that, despite its predominately rural status, Iowa ranks 30th in population with over three million people. And Iowa is 23rd in land area, so the odds of my knowing their second cousin twice removed in Red Oak was a longshot but not out of the realm of possibilities. I add that if they're from Dubuque County, I may know them or even be related
There are also complimentary comments about Iowa Hawkeye sports teams. And frequently, depending on the person's political awareness, perhaps the Iowa Caucuses would come up. Or, more often, the Iowa State Fair might become a conversation topic.
Regarding the State Fair, the annual butter cow sculpture is well known worldwide.
The Long Road from Dubuque to Des Moines.
However, I often qualify my thoughts and opinions on the State Fair and its cultural impact on Iowa because, despite being a fifth-generation Iowan, I have never attended the annual summer shindig held in Des Moines. Furthermore, I still don't know many other Dubuquers who trek down I-80 to attend the world-famous event.
I conducted a short poll of longtime Dubuque friends to see if anyone had ever been to the State Fair. Only 1 out of 10 had gone, but it was for a work-related event. Everyone said they've thought about it, though, so that may count for something. To add some perspective, they've all been to Wrigley Field on multiple occasions.
I must confess that time the Pope came to Des Moines got every Dubuque catholic's attention.
But, except for the Des Moines Register newspaper, a significant event at the Capitol, or a high school team vying for a state championship, I recall hearing little discussion in Dubuque about Des Moines.
I might add that Des Moines is a beautiful vibrant city offering the entire state much to be proud of and to enjoy, including hosting the State Fair. However, it's just that for generations, the State of Dubuque, I mean City, has stood on the edge of Iowa, mostly looking eastward.
While state government plays a predominant role in the lives of Dubuquers, not much else of cultural significance in Iowa's Capitol City gets a mention in the City where Iowa started.
Dubuque connects to the country via the longest road in America - U.S. Highway 20, which links it directly to Chicago. Dubuque's nearest Interstate highway is an hour away.
More often than not, these conversations I have with folks from around the U.S. turn into a brief tutorial on Iowa and midwest geography. For example, I share that Dubuque sits along the Mississippi River in the eastern part of the state where Iowa-Wisconsin and Illinois meet. This response often elicits a quizzical look and something like they may have crossed the Mississippi once in Davenport on a cross-country trip some years back. So I would share that Dubuque is just a short 65-mile drive up the river.
I also add that Dubuquers are typically more likely to identify with Chicago than Des Moines. The professional sports teams and players are household names in Dubuque, with team memorabilia lining the walls of basement bars, man caves, garages, and tv rooms.
Many Dubuquers will likely have met and shook hands with Mike Ditka than an Iowa Governor.
Dubuque to Chicago
The City of Dubuque was also early to the cable television game in the 1950s. A technological wonder brought daily Chicago news, WGN entertainment, and sports to Dubuquers.
Growing up in Dubuque, you knew Dan Ryan Expressway's rush hour traffic versus the Des Moines daily commute. Today, you will still hear the Chicago Cubs games broadcast on the radio at 1490 AM - WDBQ.
So my standard line is that Dubuque should be considered Chicago's westernmost suburb.
Dubuque has a longtime history and direct connections to Illinois and the Windy City via commerce, manufacturing, railroads, sports and entertainment, the Julien Dubuque Bridge, and U.S. Highway 20.
Until the early 1980s, there was a daily Amtrak train service, and practically everyone I know is a Bears, Bulls, Cubs, or Sox fan. Additionally, many family and friends moved to and lived in Chicago. Still, hardly anyone I know from Dubuque considered making Des Moines their home.
So, there's a solid case for naming Dubuque as Chicago's westernmost suburb.
While these observations and opinions are slightly subjective, I'm curious about other people's perspectives. So feel free to comment if you share similar experiences or differing opinions.
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