Exploring Siouxland, Woodbine

20 Jul

Earlier this summer I drive to a small community in southern Siouxland called Woodbine. A quaint little town with a very vibrant looking downtown. A resident told me the town was part of Main Street America program which helps downtown areas in smaller communities regain their vibrancy and utilize their past historical essence and spur economic growth.

The buildings downtown sparkled with fresh paint and sidewalk art.

Downtown Woodbine, Iowa with restored buildings Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sculpted pieces dot the “landscape” downtown in Woodbine, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The community also sits on the historic Lincoln Hwy. or Route 30 that crossed the nation and was traveled by thousands before the advent of the interstate highway system. It is a nice community to stop and check out and enjoy the ambience of small town America. Seeing so many of Iowa’s smaller communities looking a bit sadder in parts of Iowa it was pleasant to find a community with support within to build a comeback and make their presence know.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Prairie Chapel in Siouxland, Harris Grove Memorial Chapel, Harrison County

18 Jul

Driving around southern Siouxland I came upon a small memorial chapel in Harrison County. Sitting on a hill top overlooking its parishioners possibly, the chapel surveys the surrounding countryside. Unlike the Danish Ingemann Lutheran Church near Soldier that has suffered vandalism in recent years and is now fenced off, the Harris Grove Memorial Chapel has flourished and is open to visitors.

The Harris Grove Memorial Chapel in rural Harrison County, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

According to local media the church was first built in 1890, as a Methodist Church. It closed as a church in the 1930’s and a group of community residents purchased it from the Methodist Conference and restored it. Another media outlet reported that in 2015 the chapel was undergoing repair to its clock tower for preparation for a 125th anniversary in 2015.

The Harris Grove Chapel and others like it are a nice place for a visitor to see local history and find a place quiet and away from the daily outside noise to just sit quietly and contemplate the good fortunes in one’s life and to ask for help in overcoming those misfortunes that appear as well.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


Creating images in Siouxland, Sioux City

16 Jul

The other day it was a not, muggy, miserable type of midwestern summer day in July that is probably best spent indoors if possible. But this was a continuation of a few days of hot, muggy and miserable days in Iowa and I needed to get outside and breathe some fresh air even if it was a bit unbearable. I visited Bacon Creek Park and walked its three mile loop. Thankfully there was a breeze and most of the loop passes through a forested area.

Because I chose mid-day to take my walk, not a bright idea on a hot, muggy and miserable kind of midwestern summer day, the light was vary garish. And so I started looking for scenes that would best use this type of light. I tell students you can photograph any time and anywhere. It’s just a matter of being observant. That doesn’t mean mid-day photos are more successful than a nice sunset or evening shot during the golden hour, but the possibilities are still there. And if you’re taking a walk on such a day, it pretty much reflects the experience, maybe.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Summer Time Fairs in Siouxland, Sioux Center

14 Jul

With the middle of summer approaching and the temperatures heading north, it is county fair time in Siouxland. The Sioux County Youth Fair is underway this week with other area fairs beginning as well. The fairs generally run a week with a large emphasis on the 4-H kids and their livestock or smaller animal exhibits as well as crafts and other skills learned.

Young 4-H’ers show their animal projects competing for blue ribbons and best of show at the Sioux County Youth Fair at the fairgrounds in Sioux Center, Iowa, Wednesday July 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As a youngster who grew up on a farm, my brothers and I participated in 4-H projects. Those times have changed as there are now fewer small farms and in some respects less “farm kids” who participate. 4-H shifted its perspective a number of years ago and began to seek “city kids” more actively to participate. It is a good organization much like Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts teaching youth to follow through on projects and participating in character building activities.

Those who exhibit animals have to keep substantial records of the care given as well as demonstrate knowledge about that particular animal breed. It can be time consuming but one learns so much from doing. I like to see the kids exhibits and watch them show their animals, which brings back memories of my own participation. Some of which I can laugh about today, but then, not so much. And it’s nice to see the continuation of 4-H and the kids enjoyment in participating.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Enjoying the Lake in Siouxland, Arnolds Park

12 Jul

Recently I took a drive up to West Lake Okoboji at Arnolds Park and spent the day walking about enjoying a cooler day. Temps were in the 60’s with a pretty good gusts coming off the lake.

Choppy waters in West Lake Okoboji at Arnolds Park, Iowa Friday, June 23, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I enjoy cooler days than hotter ones personally, although some younger people bemoaned the fact they couldn’t soak up any sun, of which there was little that day. The water on the lake was also pretty choppy which figured into my plans for taking a tour on the Queen II, an excursion boat that spends about 1.5 hours on the lake giving the riders a bit of history. And the Queen in one of its iterations has been providing this service for decades.

The Queen II dock side in Arnolds Park, Iowa Friday, June 23, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I stopped by the office to buy a ticket and heard a couple employees talking about the choppy water and the possibility the ship may not go out. I took that as more probability than not, so found myself a coffee shop for a cup and a snack. And while enjoying myself with a book I had brought along, The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux, I heard the Queen’s whistle blow and knew I had miscalculated. But, with an entertaining read, coffee and a scone I sacrificed. I later found a small art gallery, Summerwind Gallery, and had a nice chat with the proprietor, Roberta, who also paints and explained she is currently working with pastel as her medium of choice.

So I felt my day was still spent well. Not too hot, a bit of a walk, and some really nice artwork to check out. Some days go as planned and some days one makes up as the day progresses. Both types of days are good and I hope to enjoy a few more of them.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Celebrating the 4th of July in Siouxland, Logan

10 Jul

This 4th of July I visited the community of Logan, Iowa.

This year the residents will be celebrating the 150th anniversary or sesquicentennial of their community which was incorporated in July of 1867. For a small town a number of people arrived early for spots along the parade route. I have photographed a number of July 4 parades having worked for various newspapers for over 25 years. I have always been struck by the fact that a number of people feel compelled to “dress up” to celebrate the 4th of July.

I always found it curious. Americans turn out for parades, in small towns or large. We are proud of our heritage and the sacrifices made to achieve the success of the nation we live in.

The Stars and Stripes leads the 4th of July parade during the celebration in Logan, Iowa Tuesday, July 04, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I attended college in the 1970’s, and the Vietnam War or Police Action was winding down but still emotions were running high concerning America’s involvement and depending on which side of the fence one was seated on, viewpoints differed about what occurred. A particular story I remember hearing is that people were upset with others literally wrapping themselves in the flag, sitting on it, burning it and other acts many felt were seditious. People were serious about respecting the flag and giving it its due honor. Fly it high and proudly. That was it.

Now however, it’s okay for the patriotic consumerism. Olympic athletes wrap themselves in the flag, people sit on it if it happens to be a piece of clothing. It seems it is as patriotic to make a buck from the symbol of the American flag as it is to just run it up a flag pole and enjoy it there.

Young parade goers dressed in patriotic outfits at the 4th of July parade and celebration in Logan, Iowa Tuesday, July 04, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A couple prepare to leave after the 4th of July parade and celebration in Logan, Iowa Tuesday, July 04, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A woman in patriotic dress watches chilldren collect candy during the 4th of July parade and celebration in Logan, Iowa Tuesday, July 04, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It is not for me to judge others about anything. Some may even misconstrue my stated observations here. It just seems that people are more comfortable about wearing their patriotism on their sleeve as it were than just celebrating its significance in a more revered manner. One finds flags large and small displayed in a variety of places which doesn’t necessarily disparage their reverence for our nation’s symbol.

Maybe this is the 21st century way of honoring our nation, but maybe I am old school and not quite so convinced that simply flying the flag high and paying it that respect is enough.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Making Decisions while photographing Siouxland, Woodbury County

8 Jul

Many times while out photographing a scene whether in the country or a small community, I sometimes struggle with how I want to frame the image I see and if I want to shoot it “full frame” or use the square crop that my Fuji mirrorless cameras allow me. For some subjects the square crop just works better in my opinion. Many times I feel strongly enough that I only shoot the scene one way or another. But other times I may shoot it both ways. I try to cut down on the number of images I have to edit but some days when I am indecisive, I spend more time in front of the computer rather than out in nature.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Clouds form as a change in weather takes place in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Saturday, June 24, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Clouds form as a change in weather takes place in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Saturday, June 24, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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