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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

History in Siouxland, the Pettigrew House and Museum, Sioux Falls, SD

19 Apr

On a trip in Siouxland to Sioux Falls, SD, I stopped by a historical house and museum of one R.F. Pettigrew. This gentleman was the first sitting U.S. Senator from the state of South Dakota. He also sounded like a bit of a rough and tumble character, actually involved in a brawl with another politician, beating someone with his cane. Evidently gentleman were not synonymous with genteel. Pettigrew however did much for the city of Sioux Falls in its early days and was also a world traveler. There is a small collection of items in the museum from Egypt and the Orient from his travels.

It’s fun to learn about local history, even if it is next door and to find out how places were shaped through the actions of its citizens.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


Learning Tolerance in Siouxland, Vermillion, SD

9 Apr

This past week I visited the campus of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD. I wanted to hear a child Holocaust survivor speaking there about her experience in a centration camp and get an impression of what life must have been like in the 1930’s and ’40’s for Jews. It was overwhelming. Inge Auerbacher survived the Terezin concentration camp in Czechoslovakia where she and her immediate family were sent. Other members of her family, like her grandparents were not so lucky, or other people the family met at the camp. It’s hard to understand the meanness in people’s hearts that force other people into terrible situations or cause them to suffer. And recent world events bring those horrors into focus in current history.

Auerbacher was involved in a short film of her return to where she lived as a young child from birth to maybe 6 years old before being forced into hiding and then to a concentration camp. This piece is only an introduction to the 25 minute one she showed the university students and others who attended. As she stated, she is 82 this year, and soon those affected by the Nazis who killed them and did such harm will soon be dead, and that immediate telling of history will be lost.

The sad thing is the hate that supports such behavior appears to still be alive and well and will probably continue to exist in the current history and foreseeable history until somehow it and the souls who insist on being haters are both eradicated from the world.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Changing Siouxland, Ingemann Danish Church, Moorehead

3 Apr

While visiting the Loess Hills area of Siouxland recently I came across the Ingemann Danish Church which is located near Moorehead, Iowa. I was somewhat saddened to see some additions to the church grounds which was founded in the late 1800’s. The past few years evidently people have been vandalizing the church which holds a service once a year on Memorial Day.

I always enjoyed the serenity while visiting the place. One could even walk into the church, say a prayer, feel the history around you. But some individual’s never seem satisfied with visiting someplace without doing damage. Now one can look, but not enjoy it the same way.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland’s Double Decker Walking Bridge, Yankton, SD

21 Mar

I have made a few trips to the small community of Yankton, SD. It originally was  the gateway to the Dakota Territory in the late 1800’s. The first territorial Capital of the Dakota Territory when North and South Dakota was one large land mass. On every trip to Yankton I always take a walk on the Meridian Bridge, which is a double decker bridge built in 1924. According to the National Park System the bridge’s lower deck was designed to carry a rail line which never materialized. Eventually the bridge was sold to the city of Yankton in 1946 and from there the ownership came to the state of South Dakota. Just upriver is a newer vehicle bridge the double decker is now a walker’s paradise connecting South Dakota and Nebraska that give an individual a “bird’s eye” view.

I am never disappointed when I walk it, always finding something new to view and enjoy. The different seasons present different images a person can photograph. One of these days I will need to make an early trip to see what the bridge looks like during sun rise. For now, I think I will sleep in and get there to enjoy the late morning, have lunch downtown and again enjoy it late afternoon, maybe catching a sunset.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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