Get to Know: Pella
The town of Pella is a Dutch city here in the Midwest. Each year in May, Pella welcomes thousands of visitors and returning residents to Tulip Time, an annual celebration that features more than 300,000 blooming tulips. Vermeer Corporation, a manufacturing company located in Pella, specializes in industrial and agricultural equipment and employs more than 3,500 people around the world. And Pella Corporation, a window and door manufacturer, is another global company headquartered here, with 4,500 employees located in Iowa. Pella Community School District offers a unique educational opportunity for students with its Career Academy of Pella, where work-based learning through registered apprenticeships and certification programs offer hands-on experience. Iowa’s largest lake, Lake Red Rock, is just 10 minutes from Pella, providing hiking, camping and beaches for some fun in the sun. Local sights include Klokkenspel, a courtyard clock in downtown, Molengracht Plaza and its working drawbridge, the Vermeer Windmill and eateries like Jaarsma’s and Vander Ploeg Bakery, where the famous pastry, the Dutch letter, awaits.
Pella at a Glance
- Population: 10,554 (2021, U.S. Census Bureau)
- Location within Greater Des Moines: East
- Distance from Des Moines: 44 miles
- Type of Community: Town
- School District: Pella Community School District
- County: Marion
Pella in one sentence: A Dutch-inspired community right here in Central Iowa, Pella is a historical gem with tulips galore each May and community spirit all year long.
The top five best things about Pella: Number one on the list is — of course, how could it not be? — the Tulip Time Festival, where 45 varieties of tulips await visitors each year in May. This college community boasts Central College, too, which brings a vibrancy to the community. A focus on family, the bustling Downtown Pella District and proximity of major corporations like Vermeer and Pella Corporation that offer career opportunities for those in the city round out the best of Pella.
Hidden gems and unexpected finds in Pella: Visit the Klokkenspel for musical performances. In the Pella Historical Village sits the boyhood home of Wyatt Earp, an Old West figure who spent time with his family in Pella. The Ulrich Meat Market will ship local meat gift boxes to your friends and family, which make it an awesome way to show off all that your new home has to offer to those you love.
Community traditions and annual events: Tulip Time is the most well-known community event, but there are others you won’t want to miss like the Tree Lighting and Carriage Rides and the Lake Red Rock Balloonfest.
Best ways to get connected: Check out PACE (Pella Area Community & Economic Alliance) where you can meet local business owners or join Young Professionals of Pella. The City of Pella is often looks for volunteers to support the public library, youth recreation and sports programs, the art center — even tulip planting in the fall! Additionally, it takes hundreds of volunteers to produce the annual Tulip Time festival including traditional roles like scrubbing the streets and Dutch dancers, and the Pella Historical Museum seeks volunteers for year-round attractions as well. There are also several churches and clubs for both children and adults to get involved and get to know the people of the community.
Big things on the horizon for Pella: Pella is building a large indoor recreation center, set to include four gyms, walking track, workout spaces, two swimming pools, rock climbing and more, with an expected opening date of summer 2025. The Pella Community School District has broken ground on a new Early Childhood Center, with an anticipated completion date in late 2023. Additionally, a renovation is planned for the Pella Community Center, originally built in 1916, and further expansion and reconstruction of University Street is underway — one of the busiest roads in the community.
If you’re coming to check out the community, be sure to spend your day ... by first grabbing something sweet at Van Veen Chocolates (Did you know you can purchase a chocolate shaped like Klompen — Dutch shoes?) or trying some Gouda at Frisian Farms off Highway 163. Visit the Pella Opera House to see a local show in a historic building. While you’re downtown, stop by Sunken Gardens Park, featuring a pond in the shape of a wooden shoe —an Insta-worthy destination! Be sure to grab a cold drink and a handful of its namesake, salted peanuts in a shell, from the Cellar Peanut Pub where there are more than 50 craft beers on tap. And don’t leave town without trying a Dutch letter from one of the local bakeries!
Some of the ways Pella advances diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI): Newsweek named Pella Corporation one of America’s Greatest Workplaces for Diversity in 2023. Central College also touts a culture of inclusion with Welcoming Week initiatives and activities.