This week, more than 80 communities across Iowa are making it known -- they want to be blue. The Blue Zones Project is choosing ten locations over the next five years to transform into healthier, happier places to live.
Waterloo city, business, and school leaders want to be one of the Blue Zones Communities. Early Wednesday morning, they traveled to Cedar Rapids to make their pitch to the organizers.
"This is an exciting project. It's an exciting opportunity for the city of Waterloo," said Mayor Pro Tem Quentin Hart.
Many other cities think it's an exciting opportunity for their residents as well. In fact, more than 100 towns are racking up support through online pledges.
"We're trying to find a blend of cities that represents Iowa. That other cities can relate to. So, a mixture of small, medium and large that can really inspire communities of like size and like type," said Blue Zones Project Co-Director Justin Smith.
To "win", communities need to show they can garner support and participation, and right now, Oelwein is leading the pack. Mayor Larry Murphy said, it was easier for them to rally the community together because they're used to working as one unit. In the 1990s, the small town opened a community wellness center, and is in the process of developing sidewalks, bike lanes, and recreation activities. Murphy said, this program fits perfectly in their overall mission.
"Being designated as a healthy community, Blue Zone, for Iowa lets us do two things -- we can take, we're a pretty modest community, so we can create more access to our wellness centers and programming where fees and stuff are a barrier for a number of our kids. And more importantly, we're a model for rural Iowa," he said.
But this is only the beginning of the process, and other towns still have time to catch up.
"It's wide open. A wide open game," said Smith.
Waterloo leaders believe, the Blue Zones Project could have a tremendous impact on the health and well being in their community. Now, they just have to convince others of the benefits of being blue.
"It's going to take a joint effort to make the type of impact, and show that we are excited about the Blue Zone," Hart added.
We're making it easy to vote for your community to become a Blue Zones Community: just click here for more information.