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Honoring the Flag in Siouxland, Ute

16 Jun

In most of the smaller communities I explore someone is flying the Star and Stripes somewhere in the community. Flag Day is set aside each year to honor America’s symbol. But in visiting various communities the flag is honored everyday. It is part of the American life. And no matter how vitriolic and mean spirited people can become about issues, most people stop and reflect and appreciate being able to live in a country where freedoms are not lip service. Land of the free, home of the brave. And while every effort is made to honor those who serve our country, there are so many others equally as brave who pursue their purpose in life in helping others and continuing to make America a country people can be proud.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

On a wind brisk day Old Glory snaps to attention in Ute, Iowa Friday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A wet Tulip Festival Celebration, Orange City

8 Jun

Of the number of years I have now lived in the Siouxland area I can not recall a more rainy day for the Tulip Festival in Orange City. Although I am certain others will easily recall that. One gentleman I talked with this year while attending the festival told me he remembers as a child playing an instrument in the marching band wearing his wooden shoes and trudging through a late snow. Mother Nature can be a bit capricious sometimes.

This time it drizzled and rained almost all of the time. Not heavy, but steady. And with expected storms to roll into the area in the late afternoon and evening, the normally two parade times were combined into one. I stayed around for most of it, but not all. Having never been to the parade in rainy weather I was a bit gamed to see what images I could come away with. The majority of them contained umbrellas. The darker than normal overcast skies helped create a mood but visitors seemed undaunted by the weather.

Sometimes people’s true feelings can show as this couple always enjoyed the festival but not the weather during the Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa Saturday, May 20, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The use of so many umbrellas gave me some natural framing devices, as well as the “shade” of the trees focusing a viewer’s eyes on what I want them to see in my images.

Umbrellas could be found everywhere during a wet Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa Saturday, May 20, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Lastly, I enjoyed being able to some extent single out some of the young dancers of which the girls seemed thrilled to perform and the boys reluctant participants. But the food I had tasted the same, and with so many umbrellas people offered a space while I shot in different locations.A sunny day would not have given me the same results and I didn’t mind a little drizzle and certainly didn’t mind the cooler weather.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


Returning to Solitude in Siouxland, Yankton

6 Jun

On many of my visits to the city of Yankton, SD in Siouxland, I like to stop by the Bishop Marty Memorial Chapel that is overseen by the Yankton Benedictine monastery. A beautiful small church that serves the community and specifically Mount Marty College. I take the time to just sit and listen. It’s generally quiet that I hear. And that is what I am looking for, time away from the outside white noise that one finds in everyday life. I always look for different images as well, trying to see something new with each visit. This time, with the lights off, I saw light coming into the ante room to the chapel and reflected on a display case that holds items from the former Bishop for whom the chapel is named. It was a nice image, not adequately captured, but sometimes the feeling and the immediacy also influences the images we take and enjoy, before re-entering the world outside.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland Historical Places, Grand Meadow Heritage Center

25 May

Wow scouting out some potential places in Siouxland to which I could take photo students I once again came across the Grand Meadow Heritage Center. I have visited it a couple of times previously. The site of a former school which houses a great deal of historical artifacts from the surrounding area. Three floors of the former school plus outlying buildings as well. Once a year generally in early autumn the center hosts an event. There is food, music, people portraying early settlers and a chance to go through the former school and see its contents. It really is worthwhile to get a sense of the area in another era and century.

But this day I was looking at what students in my class could see without getting inside any of the buildings. So it’s a challenge to visually see what might appeal and how they can put newly acquired skills to the test in capturing an image.

Shooting with a neutral density filter and slow shutter the windmill cranks it up at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When in school I always enjoyed history, but it is different outside of the academic setting and one is standing in a place the ages ago is so very different than what is see today in this 21st century. The old saying of knowing where you have been so you know where you are going is an apt saying, it just depends on whether anyone is listening at the moment. Places like Grand Meadow is a reminder. Harder times for certain, but in some ways, simpler, less chaotic and more centered.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Celebrating Dutch History in Siouxland, Orange City

19 May

This weekend is the annual Tulip Festival in Siouxland in Orange City. The small community celebrates its Dutch heritage with locals dressing in costume and performing traditional dancing, street cleaning and a parade of all things Dutch. It’s a three-day celebration. And it’s always fun, even if the weather doesn’t always cooperate. This year it is wet and cool, well maybe cold. Temperatures for some days are expected to be in the low 50’s. Chilly if you can’t wear a coat over your costume. However, for a photographer it gives one the chance to shoot a little differently.

Flowers are part of the parade of costumes exploring traditional Dutch dress of various regions at the annual Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa Thursday, May 18, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have been photographing the event for a few years now. And so with a little change in weather it gives me an opportunity to photograph the event a little differently.The overcast sky makes it easier to shoot without harsh shadows and colors seem to pop a bit more, although the tulips seem to be suffering a little with such a cold, wet spring.

A cold wet spring has left blooming tulips a little less spectacular than previous years although a good resting spot for a fly at the annual Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa Thursday, May 18, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are so many different facets of the festival that sometimes the choices can kind of keep a person from shooting at all, or not paying enough attention as you flit from scene to scene trying to capture it all.

Town youngsters perform one of several Dutch dances during the annual Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa Thursday, May 18, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And this year I spent some time chatting and having coffee inside with a former colleague out of the cool weather which means I need to go back one more day since I missed the parade. But what a nice way to spend a day. Seeing people enjoy themselves despite the inclement weather, and if it’s too cold or wet, there’s always another cup of coffee inside.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Cruising around Siouxland, Arthur

17 May

On a pleasant spring day I took a drive out into Siouxland and ended up in Arthur. It’s a small community with the last census citing the population around 200 people. Like a lot of small Iowa communities Arthur seems to be in a holding pattern with most people working outside its small town and in larger communities further away. As I have mentioned in other posts, the dominant business appears to be a grain elevator. Signifying that agriculture is a major player in the area, as it is in all of the state.

I did find it interesting though that the small community has its own Masonic Temple, a Ben Hur Lodge. Something that some larger communities don’t have and a testament to those former or founding residents who held sway in getting permission to start a lodge in their community.

A Ben Hur Masonic Lodge in Arthur, Iowa Friday, May 12, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)


Arthur was founded in 1885 and named for President Chester A. Arthur. Another part about Arthur that I found interesting is that a lot of its current homes have metal roofs. These kinds of roofs are becoming more popular, but to find 8-10 metal roofs while walking around are more than I’ve seen in larger communities. While my visit was during an afternoon, when most people are probably still at work, its a quiet and peaceful looking community with well-tended homes showing pride of its residents in their hometown.

As I tell students in my classes, one has to get out and explore a bit of their surrounding area, enjoying the moment and looking for interesting photos. A boarded up door on one building made me think of a mosaic design.

An older stone building in Arthur, Iowa with its own mosaic style of doorway Friday, May 12, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One never knows what one might find without exploring a bit. With summer on the horizon, I look forward to venturing out into Siouxland to see more of it and maybe revisit some places I have not been to in a while.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Seeing Color in Siouxland, Heritage Village in Sioux Center

9 May

On my most recent outing with students in my Lifelong Learning class of Photo Safari we spent a good portion of the class at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center. It was a brilliant spring day and colors just seemed to pop everywhere one looked. The Heritage Village is a historical montage of area history with a sod house similar to what early settlers may have lived in, as well other stores like a leather maker, general dry goods store and a blacksmith shop. It was just a nice day to be outside, enjoying the spring weather and taking photographs.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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