Willmar, Minnesota

Willmar is a city in, and the county seat of, Kandiyohi County, Minnesota, United States.[6] The population was 19,610 at the 2010 census.[7]

Kandiyohi County Courthouse in Willmar
Location of the city of Willmar
within Kandiyohi County
in the state of Minnesota
Coordinates: 45°7′11″N 95°2′53″W
CountryUnited States
  Total15.31 sq mi (39.65 km2)
  Land13.97 sq mi (36.18 km2)
  Water1.34 sq mi (3.47 km2)
1,142 ft (348 m)
  Density1,404.91/sq mi (542.45/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
  Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)320
FIPS code27-70420[4]
GNIS feature ID0654177[5]
WebsiteCity of Willmar

Willmar has been assigned ZIP code 56201 by the United States Postal Service.

U.S. Highways 12 and 71 and Minnesota State Highways 23 and 40 are four of the main routes in the city.


Agricultural expansion and the establishment of Willmar as a division point on the Great Northern Railway determined the growth of the community. The first settlers arrived during the 1850s, attracted to the fertile land and an abundance of timber and game. The Dakota War of 1862 left the township abandoned for several years. The advent of the railroad in Kandiyohi County in 1869 brought new settlers. Many were of Swedish and Norwegian origins; residents of Scandinavian heritage are still a majority. In 1870, Leon (Chadwick) Willmar, a Belgian acting as an agent for the European bondholder of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, purchased the title to Section 1 of Willmar Township.[8] Willmar was established as the county seat in 1871 and was incorporated as a village in 1874 and as a city in 1901.[9]

Willmar was the site of a bank robbery by the Machine Gun Kelly gang on July 15, 1930. They robbed the Bank of Willmar (later Bremer Bank) of about $70,000 and wounded three people.[10]

From 1977 to 1979, Willmar was the site of the Willmar 8, a famous strike of female workers confronting sexual discrimination at a local bank. The story of the strike was reported in mainstream media and made into a documentary.[11]

The music of Willmar native Bradley Joseph draws inspiration from his childhood there, and his company, Robbins Island Music, is named after a Willmar city park.[12]

Willmar was home to the annual Sonshine Festival, a Christian music festival, from 1982 to 2014.[13]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.95 square miles (41.31 km2), of which 14.15 square miles (36.65 km2) is land and 1.80 square miles (4.66 km2) is water.[14]

The 45° latitude line passes just south of Willmar, placing it approximately halfway between the equator and the North Pole.


Historical population
Est. 201819,673[3]0.3%
U.S. Decennial Census[15]
2015 Estimate[16]

2010 census

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 19,610 people, 7,677 households, and 4,538 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,385.9 inhabitants per square mile (535.1/km2). There were 8,123 housing units at an average density of 574.1 per square mile (221.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.9% White, 4.8% African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 5.4% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 20.9% of the population.

There were 7,677 households of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.6% were married couples living together, 12.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 40.9% were non-families. 32.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.10.

The median age in the city was 33.8 years. 25.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 12.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.1% were from 25 to 44; 22.2% were from 45 to 64; and 15.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.8% male and 51.2% female.

2000 census

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 18,351 people, 7,302 households, and 4,461 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,549.9 people per square mile (598.4/km²). There were 7,789 housing units at an average density of 657.8 per square mile (254.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 88.12% White, 0.90% African American, 0.46% Native American, 0.53% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 8.52% from other races, and 1.36% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.86% of the population.

There were 7,302 households out of which 31.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.3% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.9% were non-families. 31.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.08.

In the city, the population was spread out with 26.2% under the age of 18, 12.0% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 19.0% from 45 to 64, and 16.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,455, and the median income for a family was $45,415. Males had a median income of $31,575 versus $22,158 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,515. About 8.4% of families and 13.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.2% of those under the age of 18 and 8.0% of those 65 and older.


Since October 15, 1989, Willmar has experienced a large influx of immigrants from Latin America and Northeast Africa, mostly due to the demand for labor at the Jennie-O poultry plant. In 2001, the city was recognized as an "All America City" by the National Civic League, in part for its success as growing numbers of immigrants became part of the community.[17]

In 2005, the city received attention from national media after several Somali-American high school students gave Willmar High School its first Cross-Country State championship in 20 years. The team won the state tournament and attended the Nike Nationals consecutively in 2005 and 2006. Following the team's success, the city gained attention from Sports Illustrated. Subsequently, NBC Nightly News ran a story on Willmar's changing complexion and its acceptance of its new citizens.[18]

More national attention was received when an opinion piece about immigration and Willmar written by Thomas Friedman appeared in the New York Times on May 14, 2019.[19]


Willmar is home to Ridgewater College, a community and technical college. It has a sister college in Hutchinson. Ridgewater enrolls over 5,500 students[20] and provides a moderate range of programs, in addition to providing access to some four-year programs through relationships with universities in the MnSCU system.

Notable people




  • Seasons of Minnesota

Television stations


Channel Callsign Affiliation Branding Subchannels Owner
(Virtual) Channel Programming
4.1 K33OT-D
(WCCO Translator)
CBS WCCO 4 4.2 Start TV UHF Television, Inc.
9.9 K30FZ-D
(KMSP Translator)
FOX FOX 9 9.4
Light TV
UHF Television, Inc.
9.2 K36OL-D
(WFTC Translator)
Ind. FOX 9 Plus 9.3
UHF Television, Inc.
10.1 K22ND-D
(KWCM Translator)
PBS Pioneer Public TV 10.2
Minnesota Channel
PBS Kids
UHF Television, Inc.
11.1 K17FA-D
(KARE Translator)
NBC KARE 11 11.2
Court TV
Justice Network
UHF Television, Inc.
23.1 K14LF-D
(WUCW Translator)
CW CW 23 23.2
UHF Television, Inc.
28.1 K28IF-D TBN 28.2
Hillsong Channel
UHF Television, Inc.
34.1 K34HO-D Reelz 5.4
Antenna TV
This TV
Retro TV
UHF Television, Inc.
35.1 K35NR-D Heartland 35.2
Retro TV
UHF Television, Inc.
41.1 K26NU-D
(KPXM Translator)
ION ION 41.2
ION Life
ION Shop
UHF Television, Inc.
42.1 K19IH-D
(KSAX Translator)
ABC 5 Eyewitness News 42.2
UHF Television, Inc.
  • WRAC TV - Willmar Regional Access Channels 8/18/19 - City of Willmar -

Pay television services

Radio stations

AM radio stations
Frequency Call sign Name Format Owner
1340KWLMNews/TalkLakeland Broadcasting Company
1590KDJSClassic countryIowa City Broadcasting Company

FM radio stations
Frequency Call sign Name Format Owner
90.9KKLWK-LoveChristianEducational Media Foundation
91.9KBHZPraise LiveChristianNorth Central University
(KTIS-FM Translator)
Life 98.5Contemporary ChristianUniversity of Northwestern - St. Paul
94.1KKLN94.1 The LoonClassic rockHeadwaters Media, Inc.
95.3KDJSK-95.3CountryIowa City Broadcasting, Inc.
(KWLM-AM Translator)
News/TalkLakeland Broadcasting Company
100.1KOLVBig Country 100.1CountryBold Radio, Inc.
102.5KQICQ102Hot ACLakeland Broadcasting Company
(KTIS-AM Translator)
Faith 900Christian talk and teachingUniversity of Northwestern - St. Paul
(KDJS-AM Translator)
Classic countryIowa City Broadcasting Company
106.5KLFN106.5 The TrainClassic HitsLakeland Broadcasting Company


Team League Venue
Willmar Stingers Northwoods League, Baseball Bill Taunton Stadium
Willmar WarHawks NA3HL, Ice Hockey Willmar Civic Center

Sister cities

Willmar has two sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:


  1. "2017 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jan 3, 2019.
  2. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-13.
  3. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  4. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  6. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  7. "2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File". American FactFinder. U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
  8. Fedo, Michael (2002). Pocket Guide to Minnesota Place Names. Canada: Minnesota Historical Society Press. p. 97. ISBN 0-87351-424-6. Archived from the original on 2009-05-27.
  9. Upham, Warren (1920). Minnesota Geographic Names: Their Origin and Historic Significance. Minnesota Historical Society. p. 272.
  10. May, Allan. "George "Machine Gun" Kelly: The Bank Robber (ch. 5)". CrimeLibrary.com. Archived from the original on 2008-02-04. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
  11. The Wilmar 8 California Newsreel
  12. Polta, Anne (2007-02-08). "Continuing Journey: Bradley Joseph sustains music career with songwriting, recording". West Central Tribune. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  13. http://www.wctrib.com/content/sonshine-leaving-willmar-relocating-wis-2015
  14. "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2012-07-02. Retrieved 2012-11-13.
  15. United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved November 22, 2014.
  16. "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on October 19, 2016. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  17. Yuen, Laura (12 March 2012). "Willmar showing the way to a more diverse Minnesota". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  18. "NBC Nightly News - Willmar Immigration". YouTube.
  19. "New York Times - President Trump, Come to Willmar". New York Times.
  20. "About Ridgewater College". Ridgewater.

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