If you're looking for the essence of sporting Americana, forget the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The Little Rose Bowl is where it's at.
The Little Rose Bowl is the nickname that has been given to Oliphant Street Field, in West Branch, Iowa, a locale of just 2,322 and the hometown of former President Herbert Hoover. The field is home to West Branch High, among the state's proudest and most successful Class A programs, it's smallest classification.
The Bears have only won three state titles in the past 30 years, but at one point they held a 62-game home winning streak.
The stadium earned the Little Rose Bowl nickname because of the way it was built; legend has it that the stadium was dredged out by teams of horses and mules just after the turn of the century. Since then, the field has emerged as the epicenter of the West Branch community, with fans staking out spots on one of the banked sides of the stadium with lawn chairs days before a big game.
You can see what the "larger" stand looks like on one such game in the picture above.
What's even more American than the field itself is the lead up to game day on any given Friday in the fall. The team marches the half mile from the school to the Little Rose Bowl, holding hands the entire way as people line the streets to cheer on the team.
Incredibly, the school has actually built a new field with far better field conditions on campus, yet it refuses to use it because the perceived home field advantage at the Little Rose Bowl is so great.
Regardless of game results, it's hard to argue that any other site would embody the full essence of middle America prep football pageantry as the Little Rose Bowl does.