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Celebrating Christmas in Siouxland, Plymouth County Museum

12 Dec

During the Christmas holiday, it is hard to escape the celebration. In the Midwest, Iowa and Siouxland people celebrate Christmas. Lights are up most places and Christmas music fills the air. Every year at the Plymouth County Museum it hosts a Nativity set display and a number of community members lend their displays for others to view. It is pretty amazing how many different examples of nativity sets there are.

A variety of nativity scenes are on display at the Plymouth County Historical Museum in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

A variety of nativity scenes are on display at the Plymouth County Historical Museum in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

These nativity scenes are made out of a variety of material and hail from a plethora of locations all honoring the birth of Jesus. The craftmanship used to create some of these scenes are pretty amazing.

A variety of nativity scenes are on display at the Plymouth County Historical Museum in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

A variety of nativity scenes are on display at the Plymouth County Historical Museum in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday Nov. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

The display takes up the most of the top floor of the museum, formerly a local high school. So it is a large space. I always find museums are fun places to visit. One can learn about the past, the present and people’s state of mind by viewing exhibits. And it’s a nice place to divert one’s attention on a blustery day reveling in the moment of a momentous holiday to some.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Learning History around Siouxland, the Dodge House, Council Bluffs

10 Dec

On a recent outing I traveled south to the city of Council Bluffs which is probably outside the Siouxland perimeter but still is situated within the Loess Hills defined area. I wanted to visit a historic house, the Dodge House, a residence of the youngest Civil War general, Grenville M. Dodge and later a builder of the railroad network that traversed early America. Like all well maintained historical residences the home contains the essence of the era plus artifacts of the man’s life.

The Dodge House was the residence of one Gen. Grenville M. Dodge, a Civil War Veteran and railroad builder who settled in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A portrait of Gen. Grenville M. Dodge, a Civil War Veteran and railroad builder who settled in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The General lived quite an eventful life and at the time settled in Council Bluffs on what then was a frontier of America. On the Council Bluff’s website this bit of history of General Dodge is recorded: “In 1853, Grenville M. Dodge took charge of a crew surveying central Iowa to find a terminus for the Rock Island Railroad on the Missouri River.  Dodge chose Council Bluffs, and later he settled his growing young family there in 1855. Dodge and his brother created a banking house which merged into the Pacific National Bank and ultimately became the longest continuously chartered bank in Iowa’s history.  In 1858 Dodge made the acquaintance of an Illinois railroad lawyer named Abraham Lincoln, who had been hired by railroad financier Thomas Durant to do work in Iowa where Dodge was engaged in surveying.”

The General and his family lived in style as he pursued his military and later engineering career.

Docent Connie Spencer, right, leads a tour through the Dodge House in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A study for Gen. Grenville M. Dodge, a Civil War Veteran and railroad builder who settled in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A bedroom in the Dodge House in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Looking down the stairwell from the top floor of the Dodge House in Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday Oct. 4, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always enjoy learning a little more history about places I live in and near. For some it might be useless information but knowing how life was previously lived is never a bad thing. Some just lived life a little better than others.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Singing Christmas Carols in Siouxland, Nora SD

8 Dec

Around Thanksgiving I attended a Christmas carol sing-a-long in a small community in South Dakota in Siouxland. In Nora, SD music enthusiast and Christmas lover Mike Pederson invites people to come to a former general store and share in the spirit of Christmas.

Mike performs on a pipe organ in the store which he has been doing for 28 years, and is accompanied by a violinist and the voices of people who travel near and far to join in song and celebration of Christmas. The last sing-a-longs will be occurring soon and a real treat, it’s worth a drive.

Mike Pederson plays a pipe organ that sits in the store during the Christmas sing-a-long at Nora, SD Sunday Nov. 26, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

The Nora General Store in Nora, SD, sits along a state highway and is listed on the National Register of Historic, which occurred in 2007. A Christmas sing-a-long has taken place for 28 years at the Nora store, Sunday Nov. 26, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

It is fun to meet people and sing with them, even if your voice sounds better in your head than in real life, like my own. Christmas is a season for rejoicing and sharing and the comradery with happy faces and voices is amazing. Mike would love to have you stop by and join in the fun. However, get there very early, otherwise you might find yourself listening in through the open front doors on a pleasant day, and through the doors on a day with temps in the teens and snow on the ground.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

With the seating and standing room full inside the store, others stand around the front door for the Christmas sing-a-long to sing carols at Nora, SD Sunday Nov. 26, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

 

In Remembrance in Siouxland, West Lake Okoboji

14 Nov

I find that history appears in all sorts of ways when I travel about Siouxland. I may not always grasp what it is behind the meaning, but sometimes one doesn’t really need to. Driving a number of backroads one will always find memorials to people who most probably died in a traffic accident along that stretch of highway. Off to the side of the road, in a ditch, or up a hillside is a small cross. It is a sad reminder of an event, but also dangerous in a way in that it could very well distract other drivers looking at it. And generally, there is no place to pull over to really look and spend some time.

I came across another memorial recently at West Lake Okobji in the community of Wahpeton.

A bench in honor of Beverly Zahrt Jeppeson gives visitors a view of West Lake Okoboji from Wahpeton, Iowa Wednesday Oct.11, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This person may not have died under as tragic a circumstance as a road side remembrance. I don’t really know. But I found that the remembrance itself was carefully thought out and sharing something of this person who probably enjoyed this spot an entire lifetime.

A bench in honor of Beverly Zahrt Jeppeson gives visitors a view of West Lake Okoboji from Wahpeton, Iowa Wednesday Oct.11, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A simple bench with a rather spectacular view probably encapsulates this woman’s lifetime and her love of the outdoors. It reminds of a scene in a movie called Notting Hill with the actors Julia Roberts and  Hugh Grant. A rather unlikely love story with a scene of a park bench honoring the love of two people in a lovely spot hoping that other passersby might find the same peace and contentment as those whose memory is honored.

So I took advantage of the day, spent some time enjoying the view, listening to nature and watching time pass and contemplating if my life is as content as the woman honored with this memorial. It was a nice way to spend a day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A view of West Lake Okoboji from Wahpeton, Iowa Wednesday Oct.11, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A boater makes his out into West Lake Okoboji seen from a bench in honor of Beverly Zahrt Jeppeson that gives visitors a view of what she must have witnessed over the years in Wahpeton, Iowa Wednesday Oct.11, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating Fall Harvest in Siouxland at the Heritage Village, Sioux Center

7 Oct

An annual event in Sioux Center is the Heritage Village Harvest Festival that celebrates early pioneer life in Siouxland. The Friday of that particular weekend local schools generally bring some of their school children to visit to see what life was like one or even two centuries ago without the modern convenience of grocery stores or indoor plumbing.

School children try their hand at pumping water during the Heritage Village Harvest Festival in Sioux Center, Iowa Friday Sept. 15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Heritage Village volunteer Dave Schelhaas gets a young volunteer to help dig potatoes in the garden during Harvest Festival in Sioux Center, Iowa Friday Sept. 15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Volunteers dress up in period outfits and help to explain to the children and visitors alike the types of life and “appliances” previously used by settlers who first arrived in the immediate area in which the children live and the kind of life they encountered.

Visitors wait their turn to look inside a small sod house which was a normal dwelling during early pioneer days during the Heritage Village Harvest Festival in Sioux Center, Iowa Friday Sept. 15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Heritage Village volunteer Gloria Hoekstra shows young students from a local school how butter is made during Harvest Festival in Sioux Center, Iowa Friday Sept. 15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Children are rightfully amazed at how people lived decades ago and how much progress has been made. So many, even living within an agricultural area such as Iowa, have never been to a farm and their parents probably don’t have a garden. So a little dose of history and the understanding of so many things we take for granted today is beneficial to them and other visitors too. When I hear of people talking about “simpler” times I must consciously keep from rolling my eyes and asking which times? Before air conditioning or after it. And for whom. Not all people enjoyed the benefits of progress as they were first introduced and so I wonder how much simpler times were then.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Community of History in Siouxland, Granite

27 Sep

While visiting the Gitchie Manitou State Preserve earlier this summer I also stopped in the community of Granite.

A sign pokes a little at itself as a community that has more residents previously in Granite, Iowa Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s remaining residents have a sense of humor and have created a small town square to remember its local history, a community created with the coming of the railroad. And it seems the community is best known for its annual threshing bee held in July.

A sign outside of town advertises the THreshing Bee that takes place every summer in July at Granite, Iowa Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I brieftly talked with one resident, inquiring about his metal roof since I was looking at having my house’s roof replaced. He gave me a little overview of the community and its history.

Resident and contractor Gregg Beldin, left, speaks to another resident about a project she needs done in Granite, Iowa Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. Traffic congestion is not a problem and neither is standing in the roadway talking. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The pace is slow but the residents seem to enjoy that and the space they have surrounding them in this northernly portion of Iowa. The community erected a plaque detailing the history of community, its prominence during the early boom railroad days, which have tapered off like a lot of smaller communities that thrived when the railroads touched more rural lives.

A plaque which sits on a town square detail the history of Granite, Iowa, Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A plaque which sits on a town square detail the history of Granite, Iowa, Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It will be fun to revisit the small community during its two-day festival and see how difficult it will be to find parking and to see the place bustle with activity like it did in its early days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Celebrating History in Siouxland, Yankton, SD

17 Sep

As I mentioned previously a number of communities have community celebrations toward the end of summer which then leads them into the fall season. Yankton, SD recently celebrated its Riverboat Days with a parade and art fair.

Color guard at the Riverboat Days parade in Yankton, South Dakota, August 19, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like most parades everything was patriotic. Flags were flying everywhere and for this particular parade I focused my photography on that aspect of it.

Antique cars drive through the Riverboat Days parade in Yankton, South Dakota, August 19, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There is nothing wrong in showing one’s allegiance through flying your country’s flag. I found it interesting how some parade participants accomplished that. It challenges one to carry a theme through a shoot sometimes, although I may have broken that theme by including a band’s cheer squad’s flags, but sometimes a little contrast is needed.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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