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Le Mars is a city in and the county seat of Plymouth Countymarker, Iowamarker, United Statesmarker. The population was 9,237 at the 2000 census. Le Mars is the home of Wells Dairy, the world's largest producer of ice cream novelties in one location and is the self-proclaimed "Ice Cream Capital of the World". Wells is most well known for its Blue Bunny products. Le Mars, located on the Floyd River, is northeast of Sioux Citymarker. Le Mars is the former home of Westmar Universitymarker, which closed in 1997.


Le Mars is located at (42.788799, -96.165944) .

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.8 square miles (17.7 km²), of which, 6.8 square miles (17.6 km²) of it is land and 0.15% is water.


Le Mars was platted in 1869 but no lots were sold until the Chicago and Northwestern Railway arrived in 1879. According to town legend CNW investor John I. Blair and a group of ladies arrived at the town which was then referred to as St. Paul Junction. The ladies were asked to name the town and they submitted their own first name initials for Lucy Underhill, Elizabeth Parson, Mary Weare, Anna Blair, Rebecca Smith and Sarah Reynolds.

In 1913 Fred H. Wells opened a milk route in Le Mars. By 1925 he and his sons opened an ice cream manufacturing plant in Le Mars. It (and the Wells name) was purchased by Fairmount Ice Cream in 1928. In 1935 Fred and his sons wanted to begin selling ice cream again but couldn't use their name. They sponsored a “Name That Ice Cream” contest in the Sioux Citymarker Journal. The winner of the $25 prize suggested Blue Bunny because his son had enjoyed seeing blue bunnies in department store windows at Easter.

The Wells were eventually to get back their name after Blue Bunny became popular. However it remained largely a regional ice cream until 1992 when it began an aggressive program to expand nationally.

The centerpiece of the expansion is a plant with a 12-story tall refrigeration plant called the "South Ice Cream Plant" because it is on the south side of town (on 1 Blue Bunny Drive). The plant employs 1,000 and produces 75 million gallons of frozen treats with the milk coming mainly coming from three large dairy farms in Iowa.

The plant has led to the claims the company is the world's largest family owned and managed dairy processor and the world's largest manufacturer of ice cream in one location, and with Le Mars claiming to be the "Ice Cream Capital of the World."

Wells also produces ice brands marketed by Häagen-Dazs, Baskin-Robbins, General Mills and General Foods in Le Mars. Wells Dairy was to throw Haagen-Daz into a crisis in 1999 when the South Plant, which was the primary producer for Häagen-Dazs, had an explosion at the beginning of the summer ice cream season. Häagen-Dazs has subsequently added other dairies as its producers.


As of the census of 2000, there were 9,237 people, 3,640 households, and 2,453 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,356.9 people per square mile (523.7/km²). There were 3,818 housing units at an average density of 560.9/sq mi (216.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.24% White, 0.45% African American, 0.16% Native American, 0.30% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 0.94% from other races, and 0.81% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.44% of the population.

There were 3,640 households out of which 34.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.0% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.6% were non-families. 28.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.2% under the age of 18, 8.3% from 18 to 24, 27.6% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 16.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 92.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $38,892, and the median income for a family was $47,409. Males had a median income of $35,936 versus $21,757 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,598. About 4.5% of families and 6.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.0% of those under age 18 and 6.7% of those age 65 or over.

Notable natives

Recent events

  • Le Mars was home to a first-ever visit from a sitting president on November 3, 2006. President George W. Bush came to Le Mars to campaign for Jim Nussle for Iowa Governor. He spoke at Le Mars Community High School to a crowd of a couple thousand.


  1. The big chill: Wells' Dairy's South Ice Cream Plant dominates the world of frozen dessert production - - January 1, 2005
  2. Wells Dairy Ice Cream Production Facility, St George, Utah, USA
  3. International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 36. St. James Press, 2001 (via

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