5 Towns Under 500

Though there are hundreds of tiny towns to fit this bill, we narrowed our list down to 5 fabulous communities that each offer up their own unique tastes of small-town life. One thing's for sure: it's never as dull as you might expect.

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There are the overnight horseback trail rides and steak dinners served up by the volunteer firefighters, and the Rae Valley Heritage Association’s dazzling tractor show, which kicks off with a caravan of tractors parading down Main Street after a 50-mile trek west from Creston.

“If you’re ever bored in this town it’s your own fault during the summer,” said Angie Simons, who along with her husband, Ben, help barbecue at one of the tasty summer fests, Bash in the Burg, which this year included home-brew beer and heavy metal tribute bands.

The Simons graduated here as high school sweethearts in 1994 and raise their three young children in the town they love. Ben is one of the owners of a Petersburg concrete company, and Angie works at one of the town’s greatest resources, the 92-year-old Petersburg State Bank.

The bank’s president, Ross Knott, has gotten a wave of local projects rolling, but the most unique contribution is a golf course that gives a new meaning to miniature golf. It’s a par-3 course in Petersburg Park and it has just four holes, each with artificial-turf putting greens. Golfers reverse course to play eight holes, and then hit a drive to “The Ninth Hole” at the Knotty Pine tavern.

Petersburg residents are loyal to their small town, and that loyalty has been growing for generations. Just ask 75-year-old Walt Klein, who for the past nine years has been chairman of the Rae Valley Heritage Association, which sponsors the annual Nebraska State Antique Tractor & Horse Plowing Bee.

Being the town’s Mr. Fix-it utility superintendent as well as a volunteer firefighter and leader of the community’s economic development team, Doug Koch wears a lot of hats, but he always finds time to share a few laughs with his dad at Marv Koch’s sporting goods store.“I wouldn’t know where else I’d like to live,” Klein said. “People get along here. Oh, they argue once in a while, but when the chips are down it seems like they all pull together.”

Since his great-grandfather Heinrich Wilhelm arrived here in the mid-1870s, Jeff Temme’s family has pulled together. He and his wife, Jan, now live on the farm Heinrich bought in 1916. This Christmas season, as a tribute to the family matriarch – Jeff’s mother, Joyce – the Temme relatives will return to the village for their annual scavenger hunt, testing their knowledge of Petersburg trivia. Jeff also pays tribute to a message hammered away by his late father, Joe, that he values much more now than he did as a restless teenager: Support Petersburg.

But the words of the late motivational speaker Stephen Covey are what Jeff Temme says best describe the journey of many in Petersburg. Covey talked of our constant striving in search of our place in life – and then there is that great discovery.

“We arrive where we began, and know the place for the first time,” Temme said.


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