map showing location of Delavan Municipality City of Delavan
County Walworth
Year Incorporated 1897
Population and Growth
Population (2014 if available, otherwise 2010, indicate) 8,463 (2010)
WI Workforce Development Region 1
Young Adult Gaining Measure 23% (WI median is -22%)
Young Adult Maintaining Measure 29% (WI median is 24%)
Social/Demographic Data
Racial stats, 2010 Census 67.2% White (Non-Hispanic)
14.1% White (Hispanic)
1.7% African American
0.7% American Indian or Alaska Native
1% Asian
12.7% Other
2.6% Two or More Races
Mean Income $51,603 (2015)
Median Income $43,527 (2015)
Year of Latest Comprehensive Development Plan 2010
Year and Amount of Last Referendum Passed (2015) $2.5 million
Notes Delavan is served by the Delavan-Darien School District.
Type Name Grades Served Private/Public
Elementary Wileman Elementary School Pre-K – 5K Public
Turtle Creek Elementary School 1-3 Public
Darien Elementary School 4-5 Public
Delavan Christian School Pre-K – 8 Private
Our Redeemer Lutheran School Pre-K – 8 Private
St. Andrew Parish School K-8 Private
Wisconsin School for the Deaf Ages 3 – 21 Public
Middle Phoenix Middle School 6-8 Public
Delavan Christian School Pre-K – 8 Private
Our Redeemer Lutheran School Pre-K – 8 Private
St. Andrew Parish School K-8 Private
Wisconsin School for the Deaf Ages 3 – 21 Public
High Delavan Darien High School 9-12 Public
Wisconsin School for the Deaf Ages 3 – 21 Public

Conducting the Case Study In Delavan

Delavan was the last municipality contacted for the study. For the data collection we relied on connections through Extension and "cold-calling" people in typical leadership roles.

  1. Connect to University of Wisconsin-Extension:

    In early May 2017, we made initial contact with Chelsea Dertz from Extension. She provided an overview of Walworth county. Ms. Dertz described the number of schools, major industries, and provided some demographic information.

  2. Connect with Delavan Leaders:

    Chelsea Dertz connected us with a community member who suggested the team attend a meeting of the Delavan-Darien Community Alliance. This provided us with more information about the community and helped us recruit a core group member.

  3. Connections with Delavan Leaders:

    The city administrator assisted us in finding other community leaders, who identified a large number of people to contact. This list of people became the larger contact list and also the pool from which we recruited the core group. In addition to this group of people, we contacted a wide array of people across sectors with publicly available contact information to see if they were interested. Eleven people including our Extension contact formed the core group. During the interviews, we added one interviewee to the group after they asked to learn more about how the report ended up and how it would be further developed.

  4. Develop Interview Guide and Contact List:

    The core group met on July 21st. Not everyone was able to attend the core group meeting but those that showed interest continued to receive communications. The group reviewed the question bank and showed great interest in many of the questions, choosing the questions listed below. They noted that this type of question about young adults had not been on their radar, and they were surprised that they had a strong young adult population and wanted to learn more. We asked this group to provide further contacts and suggestions for people to be interviewed.

  5. Conduct Interviews:

    Interviews began the week after the Core Group meeting. We conducted 12 interviews in the month that followed. We asked each interviewee if they could share contact information of other potential participants.

  6. Present Results:

    We presented the initial draft report on August 30, 2017 to the core group, received their comments, and revised the report.

Delavan Interview Guide
  1. How old are you?
  2. How long have you lived here?
  3. Do you rent or own your home?
  4. Do members of your extended family live in this community or nearby?
  5. How does population growth affect you and your community?
  6. Tell me about people in your community.
  7. What would you say to a young adult (20-39) thinking of moving here?
  8. Who do people engage with more – people who have the same, or different job, income, or race?
  9. How do people here get around? Drive? Walk? Bike? Carpool? Public Transport?
  10. To what extent do young adults engage in local cultural life where you live?
  11. What do young people do for entertainment around here?
  12. Where do young adults who live here work? What about other people who live here?
  13. How would you want your town to grow? How would you want it to stay the same?
  14. How comfortable do you feel living here?
  15. Is your life here different than you thought it would be? Is it better? Worse?
  16. Where in your community are some places you have influence or would like to have influence?
    Follow up: What doyou want from groups in your community?
  17. What does community mean to you? What does community look like here?
  18. What stories does your town have to share?
  19. Who contributes to your community?
    Follow up: What community groups are influential to people around here? Which ones are helpful?
  20. What are the organized recreational opportunities around here? Are outdoor activities important here?
  21. What are recreational centers like here?
  22. Are gardens important here?
  23. What are the libraries like here?
  24. What do you think of shopping opportunities around here?
  25. How do you feel about your food options here?
  26. What do you think of farmers markets around here?
  27. What are the schools like here?
  28. What kinds of things do you leave the community for?

Results for Delavan

While the identities of interview participants remain confidential, a few key characteristics may prove useful to readers in their analysis of these findings.

A Comfortable Community and Family

Delavan is a place where people feel comfortable amidst community and family. Ten of our interview participants had extended family in Delavan. When asked how comfortable they feel living in Delavan, nine said "very comfortable" and three others said comfortable. Some of them said things like:

Even while feeling comfortable in Delavan, the newcomers among our interview participants felt the least connected. For example, one relatively new resident mentioned that his spouse, who was a long-time resident, could easily get support for her business efforts but that he would have to reach out and ask for help if he needed it.

Diversity in Delavan

Participants appreciated that Delavan is relatively diverse compared to surrounding communities. This mainly has to do with the large Hispanic population in the area and the Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delavan. Eight of the twelve participants mentioned diversity when asked about people in their community.

While residents generally noted a high level of diversity, five interview participants also noted that diversity brings with it the challenge of connecting people across differences. They appreciated the differences, and didn't know how to link across those differences.

Some other interview participants still believed there were ways for people to connect with each other across cultural differences. We spoke with two people who identified themselves as Hispanic, and felt comfortably connected with white non-Hispanic residents. But of course we recognize they may not be representative. Some participants saw the overall friendly culture of the community, and community events—such as those centered around the Phoenix Band Shell (mentioned by eight interviewees)—as bringing together people across the community.

Proximity to Urban Centers

Delavan interview participants noted that there are many people who work in town, but also a large number of residents commuting to other towns and cities for work. Overall, nine participants directly mentioned that Delavan is located near other urban centers that are convenient for employment opportunities, shopping, and entertainment options not available in Delavan. Overall, the trade-off of commuting to work outside the community may help to contribute to the sense of smaller and closer community ties as well.

Participants offered the following perspectives on Delavan's location:

Population Growth

In Delavan, we directly asked participants about how they think population growth affects them. Overall, eight participants indicated that population growth positively affects their lives through growth in businesses, opportunities, newer housing, and new ideas.

However, one participant had a markedly different view of population growth in Delavan and where growth in general should come from:


Four Delavan participants have some concerns about the local schools, though they also see them as working hard to innovate and improve. One resident who recently moved to Delavan heard from various sources that the schools had a bad reputation.

Other interview participants see an upswing in the schools, partly spurred on by new leadership.

Five participants mentioned the importance of the dual language program that the school system recently initiated. They saw the program as a positive asset, and their perceptions add to the sense of appreciation for diversity in the community.

Growth and Change in Delavan

While participants offered examples of what has made Delavan an attractive place for young adults to call home, community members also provided thoughts on changes that could make Delavan an even more attractive place.

Supporting and Growing Delavan Businesses

While participants noted that Delavan is the location with the chain retailers in the county, they often found themselves leaving Delavan for certain kinds of shopping. Participants also noted that they would like to have a coffee shop in town where residents can interact with each other, and perhaps grab a quick bite to eat. Five participants specifically noted a need for access to healthy options. Residents also wanted to see store fronts occupied and more diversified options in general.

Participants listed a few examples of what they think of businesses in Delavan:

Farmers Markets and Gardens

We asked participants in Delavan what they thought about farmers' markets and whether gardens were important there. They shared with us that Delavan used to have a farmers' market, but that it closed due to low attendance. Seven participants offered that they would like the option of a farmers' market, but that the hours should be more convenient.

They also shared that they think gardens are important, both in terms of personal gardens, but also the gardens around town maintained by the city.

How Delavan Compared to Other Municipalities

We completed interviews in eleven other municipalities across the state. Below are some examples of how Delavan compared to other communities using the common themes that emerged from our interviews.


Delavan was the only municipality where participants mentioned a dual language program (though there is an Ojibwe language immersion school in Hayward). Delavan was also one of the most diverse municipalities in our study, which helps to explain the mention of such a program. Other municipalities also had several parochial schools in their area as well.

Residents in other communities shared the dual perceptions of schools that we heard from Delavan residents; that they are generally pretty good, and that they experience hardships from time to time. Finding the right balance between the needs of the community and what the schools can offer is a fine line.

Proximity to Urban Centers

Close proximity to another town or city has been a common theme among the case studies we have conducted. In other places, this proximity was often at the forefront of resident’s minds. In Delavan, while a significant number of participants mentioned Delavan’s proximity to larger cities, it did not seem to dominate the conversation and perception of the place. This may be due to Delavan’s long history of being associated with traveling circuses (so a historical connection to other places may be more matter-of-fact here than other places), or that the area in general is connected to other places due to the influx of tourists during the summer season.

So What? Implications for Delavan

Some of the results from our study may not be surprising to you. Many of the themes brought up by participants are indicative of any healthy, thriving community. While you may not be surprised to hear that a strong school system and proximity to other urban areas for shopping and/or jobs are important to community members, it is important to remember that there are many communities that are struggling to retain their young adults due to a lack of these community amenities and attributes. We hope that the results of this case study affirm the good work being done in this community while aiding others who will greatly value the observations and results gathered here.

In analyzing the Delavan interviews, several themes have emerged that may have implications for Delavan in the future. These themes are described in greater detail here.


Delavan is a relatively rare community in Wisconsin in having two strong forms of cultural diversity. People are still trying to find out how to connect with the local deaf community and the local Hispanic community, and perhaps other communities. And the most important thing is that they seem interested in doing so. The dual language program seems to be the strongest step in bringing out the benefits of diversity. Could people organize programs with the same spirit across churches, or across schools? Another piece of diversity is the diversity of newcomers and those who grew up here. New residents bring new ideas and new interests, and sometimes have difficulty finding others who share those interests. Finding ways of making it easier for new people to find others with similar interests is another way of maximizing the benefits of diversity.

Community Events and Gatherings

Working from the diversity theme, our interview participants were enthusiastic about community events that bring everyone together and help foster a sense of collective community. The importance of these events cannot be underestimated. Delavan does several of these events well—the concert series at the band shell, other gatherings at the park, and the Cinco de Mayo parade, to name a few. Knowing that residents see these events as opportunities to bring people together across differences may allow organizers to think about ways to plan and structure such events to even better achieve that purpose.

One specific type of gathering that participants in our study asked for was a farmer’s market. They noted that there used to be one, but that the hours were not conducive to those working a day job, and that it maybe could have used some better advertising to attract residents and vendors. Considering Delavan’s strong track record with community events in general, a farmer’s market might help to fill a void in community gathering and diversified food options.

Local Economic Development

Developing local businesses is always a challenge. In the case of Delavan, the desire for sit-down coffee shops and restaurants is similar to many of the other communities we studied. But we also heard that restaurants can be a challenge in places where too many people are commuting out of the community for jobs. So there is a connection between creating the right kinds of local jobs and the right kinds of local businesses. UW-Extension maintains resources on small town main street development that Delavan could access for ideas. Interview participants also expressed that there seems to be a shortage of local entertainment. Half of the interviewees mentioned that one of the most common entertainment activities was going to the bar, but at least three interviewees didn't identify with the bar scene. Other individuals talked about informal groups that gathered around arts and music interests but expressed that such activities were difficult to learn about. It may be worth further discussion in Delavan to find ways to support such informal activities.