Willmar, Minnesota, is located 95 miles west of Minneapolis/St. Paul and is the county seat for Kandiyohi County. With a population of 19,694, Willmar offers many of the amenities of a larger city, while still providing the benefits of a small town.
Willmar is a diverse community surrounded by rich farm lands, scenic lakes and rolling hills. The economy is diverse and growing with vibrant agricultural, medical and technology sectors.
The residential neighborhoods of Willmar offer a diversity of housing with older restored homes, modern construction and newer town homes and apartment buildings. The City has 37 parks, including the Dorothy Olson Aquatic Center and Robbins Island, a 55 acre wooded island between Willmar and Foot Lakes. Robbins Island features hiking and biking trails, a swimming beach and public boat access. The City’s trail network includes a connection to the Glacial Lakes State Trail. The City offers ample opportunity and access to recreation for all ages.
Festivities and supporting the arts are part of Willmar’s social events. Willmar Fests is a summer celebration that combines three festivals, Aqua Fest, International Fest and Kaffee Fest, into one great opportunity for the whole family. The fall offers Celebrate Art! Celebrate Coffee! as another special event for all ages.  Willmar was home to the annual Sonshine Festival, a Christian music festival, from 1982 to 2014. Robbins Island is also now home to the popular Rockin’ Robbins free summer concert series held in late July and through early August. With crowds averaging between 3,000-5,000 each week and continued strong support from the Willmar business community, the Willmar Rotary Club raised over $82,000 during the 2018 concert series!
Willmar was established as the county seat of Kandiyohi County in 1871 and was incorporated as a village in 1874 and as a city in 1901.
Source: Willmar Lakes Area
The former Minnesota state hospital campus (pictured right) is one of several of the city’s listings on the National Register of Historic Places. Now the site of the MinnWest Technology Campus, currently home to 31 companies in the areas of agribusiness, bio-science, and technology. Among them are national and global leaders in their industries.
Bradley Joseph; composer, arranger, and producer of contemporary instrumental music, drew inspiration from his childhood in Willmar. Joseph’s company and music label, Robbins Island Music, is named after the Willmar city park (pictured left). Active since 1983, Joseph has performed in front of millions of people around the world, notably with composer Yanni through six major tours,
Willmar is the county seat of Kandiyohi County, so it is unsurprising that the city is equipped with a monument to their patron, a native american represented as a fisherman wielding a peavey. This monument is represented as a statue named “Chief Kandiyohi”, a moniker that the symbol received, although there wasn’t ever a real Native-American chief by that name that anyone’s aware of. The image first became part of Willmar in 1915 when it appeared as the Kandiyohi County Bank symbol. That same year artist Eben E. Lawson was commissioned by the bank to create “Kandiyohi,” a smaller sculpture which was the basis for this larger statue.
In 1929 “Kandiyohi” found a home with the Bank of Willmar following several bank mergers. In 1956 Bank of Willmar President, Norman Tallakson, contracted to have a golden 17-foot statue created of the symbol. It was then mounted on the bank overlooking Litchfield Avenue for 27 years.
On July 25, 1983, the statue was moved to it’s current home on Becker Avenue, after it was donated to the City of Willmar and Kandiyohi County by First American Bank and Trust of Willmar.
The statue of Chief Kandiyohi is holding a buffalo fish. Legend has it that when the first explorers arrived in this region, they asked the Native-Americans what this area was called. The natives misunderstood, and thought the men were asking what kind of fish were in a local lake. “Kandiyohi” is Dakota for “where the buffalo fish come,” or, loosely translated, “there are buffalo fish.”
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