The Midwest farm state of Iowa is so proud of its string of blue-water lakes -- the Okoboji Lakes -- that it calls them Iowa's Great Lakes. They're ringed by resorts, marinas, and fishing cabins. And they're very real. We point that out because not everything IS real in these parts.
Most notably, the renowned, but quite mythical, University of Okoboji. All over the world, you bump into people wearing University of Okoboji caps and sweatshirts. In fact, a U. of O. pennant -- with its impressive crest showing the Iowa Great Lakes -- was once planted at the South Pole.
The legendary University of Okoboji football team, the Phantoms, plays three powerhouses, including Notre Dame, on a single day -- September 31st. That's right, September 31st. And the Phantoms have won every game.
The make-believe University of Okoboji was conceived 30 years ago by two brothers who own a clothing store in the town of Milford, Iowa. As a lark, they printed U. of O. T-shirts, and people snapped them up. Today, you can also get University of Okoboji mugs and sweatshirts that are every bit as impressive as those from Stanford or Yale. President Bush was even presented with the university's cap and gown -- a golf hat and a beach towel.
The University of Okoboji may not have halls of ivy or a student body, but it does have a genuine foundation, which has raised tens of thousands of dollars for civic projects like hiking trails and community theaters. It also has an actual homecoming marathon in July, an Oktoberfest bike rally, and winter games in January -- with ski races, snowshoe hikes, and something called a freeze your fanny bike ride. People who've been there swear they saw Jack Frost and Santa Claus throwing snowballs by the lake.