What are you doing this weekend?

This common question among colleagues and friends took an interesting twist for me during the past year when I welcomed a foreign exchange student into my world.

See, it’s my job and my passion to know the skinny on what’s cool around Greater Des Moines. To appreciate construction and public art and fresh flowers on Fleur Drive. To brag about Broadway shows and public playhouses. To beat a path to the door of any new eatery in town.

But I think my view was becoming filtered, like an Instagram picture. My elevator speech about life in Greater Des Moines was a little stale. In my role as manager of dsm, ia and Catch Des Moines (which I affectionately refer to as love letters to our community, state and tourism), and as a board member with the Des Moines Downtown Chamber of Commerce, I had become the Stepford wife of what to see and what to do. 

That changed when I welcomed my German daughter to Central Iowa. She lives near Munich. Munich has a lot of beer halls and castles and lederhosen. Still, even before she landed, my mind became a whirling dervish of what must be done while she was here. The List was forming. Just driving home that first day, I was all “see the flowers on this street, oooh, there’s Gray’s Lake, look at the winery back there, oh, oh, this market makes fresh hummus, guess what – at night you can see right through the library, oh, and we will eat at this restaurant and shop here and hold profound conversations over coffee there!

Within the first hour of seeing my everyday life through fresh eyes, I was elated and exhausted. I was peacock-proud of my little corner of the world. I stopped using my filters.

We work here. We live here. But look around. Do you have filters on? Or can you see Greater Des Moines with fresh eyes?

Resources abound to help us be better cheerleaders. The Greater Des Moines Partnership and its Carpe Diem website, affiliate chambers, the Downtown Community Alliance, the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau and many other organizations all have tools to share the best stories. 

But nothing beats a firsthand experience. Go where you’ve not gone. Feel the energy. Feel the niceness. Feel the culture. Then tell others. To paraphrase a leader’s words spoken during a recent business event, “We’ve created a buzz; now it’s time for them to hear us roar.” 

So, seven months later, did we manage to check off all the items we had compiled on The List before my German daughter flew home? 

Nein. But, oh my, did we enjoy every single experience while trying. As we explored the nooks and crannies of our city, I realized I will forever see the rich offerings it provides more clearly now. Sometimes, you just need a reason to look harder. 

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Kris Maggard
Magazines and Custom Publishing Manager, dsm Magazine