The Charm of Appleton

Kim, Doris

This year, the Morgan Quitno Press’s 11th Annual “America’s Safest (and Most Dangerous) Cities” ranked Appleton as the safest metropolitan area in the United States. Parents applauded. Students sighed. While this is a very impressive award, the label made it nationally official that Appleton is, well, quiet. Appleton may not be considered a cosmopolitan destination among college towns, but the area is unique and Lawrence students reluctantly become attached to its endearing qualities.
Appleton is a blend of Midwest charm and suburban blas. The local Outagamie Museum is a perfect example of Appleton’s wholesome yet strange quirkiness. The museum exhibits the famous idiosyncrasies of their city and their citizens. Harry Houdini, who immigrated to Appleton from Hungary, is featured in a year-round exhibit. Other famous residents include writer Edna Ferber and Senator Joseph McCarthy. Along the street there are several banks, a bookstore, quaint coffee shops, cheap restaurants, a thrift store, small boutiques, and a pharmacy – everything a college student needs within walking distance. Copper Rock, Conkeys, and Brewed Awakenings are popular local businesses that students frequent.
But what came first: the chicken or the egg? Or more relevantly, Appleton or Lawrence? The school has become such a central point in the city that it becomes messy delineating the relationship between the two entities. Appleton is more than a town for college students, and one sometimes feels a territorial grudge with the townies. There are well-known and unflattering stereotypes of Lawrence students around town.
“People immediately think that all students from Lawrence are rich, stuck up, and band geeks,” said Lawrence student Olia Shapel.
Unfortunately, the unappealing typecasts exist for the townies as well. Appleton residents and Lawrence students are able to put their differences aside. The most popular and most abundant interaction between townies and students are at the many bars enumerating College Avenue, are filled with students and locals every night of the week. Many of the bars have live music and dancing. Many establishments serve food and soft drinks and allow under-age patrons, such as Tom’s Garage. Voted as the number-one music venue in the Fox Valley, it may be the most underrated establishment around. The only places that rival the quantity of bars are the churches that dominate Appleton’s street corners. Some students do attend these services, but the mean age of a congregation is often around 50.
Appleton is a conservative, safe, and welcoming community. It is the type of pleasantly predictable area to raise a family, and everyone you come across on College Avenue will greet you with a smile. Dear freshmen: Appleton is your new hometown. Somewhere between the churches and the bars, the quirky, friendly appeal will grow on you.