Why I Love Albert Lea

Published 3:28 pm Monday, August 8, 2016

Guest Column by Rachel Nolander Poppel

Rachel Nolander Poppel is the owner and a dentist of Advanced Family Dental in Albert Lea.  She and her husband, Kevin, have two children, ages 3 and 1.


Albert Lea is not only where I live.  

Albert Lea is my home. I was born at Naeve Hospital, graduated from Albert Lea Senior High, moved away for college and the start of my career, but ultimately returned home to my roots. I love Albert Lea. I love the friendly people and the supportive close-knit community.  I love that my many extended family members are here. My cousins are some of my best friends. I love the fact that Albert Lea is a wonderful place to raise a family. Unlike many of my high school classmates, I did see myself coming back to Albert Lea. I knew I wanted to live near my family, among friends and have my future children have their grandparents close.

One of the locations in Albert Lea that holds a special place in my heart is Edgewater Park. Much of my life’s history includes events at this local gem.

My earliest memory of Edgewater Park is attending my dad’s annual work picnics at the small, lower pavilion in the early 1980s. I remember hot, sunny weather, playing with all the kids, coolers of ice-cold pop, hotdogs and water balloon tosses. I remember attending birthday parties for my elementary school friends at the large, upper pavilion and playing for hours on the play equipment.

When I was old enough to ride a bike around the lake, my best friend and I would pack picnic lunches — peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit roll-ups and cans of pop wrapped in tinfoil to keep cold — and ride to Edgewater Park to play and enjoy our picnic lunches. We were always afraid to use the bathrooms because we had convinced ourselves there was going to be an animal in there since they didn’t have any doors! The band shell made a great stage for pretend concerts and shows we would rehearse. The big, square stone water fountain was always fun, too!

As I grew older, Edgewater Park meant watching our friends perform on the Bayside Ski Team in Edgewater Bay. It also meant boat rides and fun summer days soaking up the sun on Fountain Lake. Edgewater Cottage became a popular spot to host high school graduation parties, many of which I attended. After my senior year of high school, I worked as a Parks and Recreation Department playpark leader. One of my assignments was to help teach a weeklong camp for school-aged kids at the cottage. More recently, I held my groom’s dinner at the Edgewater Cottage. My 15-year high school reunion was at the upper pavilion (let’s hope more classmates come to the 20 year!).

There are so many fond memories of events that occurred at Edgewater Park. The best is yet to come, however, as Edgewater Park is now my and my children’s favorite place to play. Many afternoons are spent swinging and sliding on the play equipment and feeding the ducks by the water’s edge. I love to see my kids’ faces light up when we turn into the park — they know we’re about to have some serious fun! It’s great so many families take advantage of the wonderful park. A day always comes to a wonderful close watching the sun set over Edgewater Bay. I love Edgewater Park!