In the last week of May, you can begin to see the town of Hayward perk up its ears at the word “summer” and start pacing by the front door, ready to be let out. The streets are being painted, flower baskets are being hung, and everyone is preparing for the wonderful onslaught that is tourist season. This is something that Hayward knows and loves. Locals can smell it in the wind (or see it on the highway) when the tourists start flocking to our small town. But Hayward doesn’t run or hide; it opens its arms and is ready for the people that have traveled near and far to come to our town. Even if they’re Minnesota Viking fans.
My first call on Thursday morning was from a woman eloping to Hayward, who was wondering where she could get married. My coworker, Bart, said that was the second call in the three years. My coworkers told me on my first day that “Everyday will be different and everyday will be something new.” I had no clue that would entail hunting down the judge’s info and suggesting wedding venues. As an information specialist at the Hayward Visitor Center, I receive countless questions from tourists, ranging from directions to the Big Fish to where they should park the RV for the night. The small town of Hayward is such a popular spot, even though I didn’t realize why until I moved for college and came back for the summer.
Hayward isn’t like every small town. Sure, my graduating class was 120 people and I can’t go to the grocery store without running into nine people that I know, but that’s part of the charm of a Pop. 2,000 town. That isn’t what makes Hayward special. It’s the fact that when I went to the movies on Tuesday and their register wasn’t working, they told me to go on in and trusted that I would pay after. It’s the fact that when my car battery died off of Main Street, I had three people stop and ask if they could help before I could pull out my cellphone. If moving away for college has taught me anything, it’s that the kindness that this town offers isn’t everywhere. No wonder people want to come to Hayward, Wisconsin.