Waukee: Then and Now

September 19, 2019

In the city that was once called Shirley, Waukee is now home to over 20,000 people. Behind this growing community is a wonderful history that makes Waukee what it is today. When Waukee was first founded, its name was Shirley. Shirley changed to Waukee after General Reid said that the city should have a Native American name. What Waukee means, nobody knows, but what is known is that Waukee has quite the history.
Back in the early 1900s and late 1800s, Iowa was full of mines and railroads. Waukee was especially known for coal mining. Coal mining brought one of Waukee’s most popular restaurants in history.
Alice Nizzi was a first-generation American in her family. Coming from Italy, her family came to look for a job at the coal mines. Nizzi was the oldest of five and worked in the kitchen at a restaurant. With her love for cooking, Nizzi eventually took over and later bought 40 acres of land to build a larger restaurant on the property called Alice’s Spaghettiland. The restaurant became an instant hit, and anyone who stopped in Waukee always made sure to stop by Nizzi’s restaurant. Nizzi passed away at the age of 91 in 1997, but her nephew held on to the restaurant until its final day in 2004. During its 50 years of business, Alice’s Spaghettiland provided a warm and welcoming place to eat food and enjoy time with others or alone, if they preferred. Although it is no longer in business, it remains in the hearts of many Waukee citizens. With the closing of one door, comes the opening of many others, as Waukee has opened many other attractions to bring joy to many hearts.
Food is good for the heart, as they say, and Waukee is full of delicious food to fill the stomachs of even some of the pickiest of eaters. “My favorite place to eat at in Waukee is the Hy-Vee Chinese because you can never go wrong with sesame chicken,” senior Lauren Kim expressed.
Waukee is a very diverse community, welcoming people from all over the world. With the diverse community, comes many choices for delicious food to try. From samosas to masalas and various spices and flavors, Indian Tadka has a variety of Indian food. Pho Shobu, a pan-Asian restaurant has food for the most spice tolerant or intolerant. A Waukee favorite for many when craving Chinese food is Shanghai. For healthier options, Fresh Mediterranean Express has healthy and tasty options to suit almost everyone.
Waukee has restaurants to suit almost everyone’s tastes. For a more “at-home” feel, Kue’d Smokehouse serves fresh barbeque, presented with sauces of choice and homemade sides, this restaurant gives a warm welcoming. For burgers, Central Standard has some juicy burgers and tasty milkshakes.
For the people who have a sweet tooth and a craving for sugar, Miss Nini’s Desserterie serves delectable cakes, bread, brownies, etc, with style. For something a little colder, the Waukee Ice Cream Shoppe has unique flavors, more than just ice cream and has satisfied many Waukee customers. “The Waukee Ice Cream Shoppe is great, it’s really good,” noted Waukee senior, Architha Bommena. Besides the delicious food, Waukee also has many things to help keep someone busy.
Waukee has an abundant amount of things to do, events to attend, and amazing cuisine to indulge in. Most people that live here might not even realize how many things this city has to offer. It seems like just about every week Waukee has tons of events for all ages to attend. Not only does Waukee have many fun events, but they also have fun places to hang out with friends, grab a bite to eat, and overall have a great time. One place in the heart of Waukee is Centennial Park. This park has so much to offer like volleyball and basketball courts, softball and baseball fields and space for concerts and events. Coming up on September 20th, Centennial Park will be hosting a movie, Hidden Figures, at 7:15 PM. Another outdoor area in Waukee is the Heart of Warrior trail. This trail starts northeast of Centennial Park, runs east to west and now runs through Alice’s Road to connect to the Greenbelt Park in Clive and Lion’s Park.
Unlike the park and the trail that has been a part of Waukee for many years, The Palms Theatre and IMAX are a new addition to the city. The theatre offers many amenities like heated seats, reclining chairs and unforgettable dining experiences while watching a movie. Another fun activity for any age is Warrior Lanes. The bowling alley not only offers bowling, but they also have an arcade and great food.
This city is unlike any other in the metro, and it is hard to be bored with so many activities and places to go. There are events and activities for all types of people, so it is fairly easy to find something fun to do.
Waukee is constantly hosting numerous events, but more specifically, Waukee High School has many exciting things coming up. On September 27th, the Warriors will be going up against Mason City in the Homecoming game at 7:00 PM. If looking for something to do on a Friday night, “I’d say, go to the football games because they’re a lot of fun if you are with friends,” Kim advised. The next day will be a car show and the heavily anticipated Homecoming dance. The car show runs from 10 AM to 2 PM, with a twenty dollar admission fee. Later that night, the Homecoming dance will be held in the west gym at Waukee High School. Be prepared for a wild night in the jungle! Another fun event that will be held on October 14th, in the Waukee Field House, is the Harlem Wizards v. Waukee staff, and many students will come out to support their favorite teachers and staff as they go against the Wizards. “I’m definitely excited for the LEAD event, you know, the leadership workshop in October,” added Bommena. The high school is always hosting events and it is always a good time when students come together as a community.
The city of Waukee has so much to offer for everyone. From the great food to the unforgettable events, there is a multitude of things to explore. “I want to go explore more of the Waukee area…exploring more into Waukee, more than just into school, more than just in West Des Moines. There’s so much to do in Waukee… It feels like home everywhere you go, compared to other places I’ve lived, where I didn’t feel as close with everybody like I do here” Bommena said. The small town once named Shirley has grown to one of the largest cities in the state of Iowa. Although the city has become so modern, the history remains throughout the names of various roads and schools such as Alice’s Road, Grant Ragan Elementary, and Shuler Elementary. The roots of the once small town have remained for many years, and it seems like its history will stay for the years to come.
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