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A Christmas Memory in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE

21 Jan
Childhood memories for some people in remembering putting together model trains with their fathers seen at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas time is a time of joy and a story of birth or new beginning for people. Families share the season and the one day and make memories to last a lifetime if they are lucky. One memory some folk have told me is “building” model train sets with their fathers and running the tracks around the living room making folk a little cautious so they wouldn’t step wrong and end of run over by a slow going locomotive.

The Lauritzen Gardens is a place that seems to like trains. Another exhibit they have on the grounds is a joy in itself to see. And a small train set up in an indoor garden area was a delight to see how it traveled through the area.

Slow motion emphasizes a train passing by a walkway at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A train passes by a walkway at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always like the unexpected little surprises one finds when visiting places. And I’m certain the folk their enjoy giving them as they dream up something different each year to make it special and to keep patrons and guests returning.

Christmas time is special, and these little delights add to that memory of another year in which to remember.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A train passes by a walkway at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A trolley car makes its way in a floral exhibit at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Small Town Christmas Celebration in Siouxland, Little Sioux

13 Jan
A lit community Christmas Tree in a city park’s gazebo in Little Sioux, Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas has passed. Celebrations are done. But it was nice while driving around during the holiday season to find small communities celebrating the holiday. Most have Christmas ornaments hanging from light posts in the downtown area. But for some small communities, a long tree, decorated, in a central park allows all who visit a moment to enjoy the shared experience by themselves or with others. Until next year.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Looking for the Christmas Star in Siouxland, Murray Hill Scenic Overlook

5 Jan
People patiently wait on a hilltop at the Murray Hill Scenic Overlook in rural Harrison County near Little Sioux, Iowa as the sun sets during the Winter Solstice Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. People came out in hopes of seeing the Christmas Star, the alignment of the planets Saturn and Jupiter. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This Christmas an astrological event took place that those in the know said had not occurred since 1200 AD, when the planets Saturn and Jupiter came within spitting distance of one another to create what folk called the Christmas Star. Some also postulate that this is the phenomena that took place when the Three Wise Men went searching for Jesus during his birth.

Like many others, I went in search of seeing the Christmas Star and also to enjoy the Winter Solstice which also occurred that same evening, Dec. 21.

The sun sets during the Winter Solstice seen from the Murray Hill Scenic Overlook in rural Harrison County near Little Sioux, Iowa Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. People came out in hopes of seeing the Christmas Star, the alignment of the planets Saturn and Jupiter. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A jet trail lights the sky reflecting the setting sun as people wait on a hilltop at the Murray Hill Scenic Overlook in rural Harrison County near Little Sioux, Iowa during the Winter Solstice Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. People came out in hopes of seeing the Christmas Star, the alignment of the planets Saturn and Jupiter. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I believed I saw the glimmer of light reflecting off of the planets that evening along with some others, although I did not have the means to photograph the occurrence itself. Still it was exciting, and the sky also provided a nice light show as the sun set with just a few clouds. I had driven a ways to a place I knew which would have an unobstructed view but didn’t stay until after dark as the trail leading to this hilltop is difficult enough to traverse during daylight hours. A friend later that evening sent me a photo he had taken of the two planets, from his backyard after also being somewhat unsuccessful in photographing the planets earlier. One just never knows when one will get lucky.

But so many centuries ago everyone got lucky with the birth of Christ, I so wish though that people would think about that luck before they act and behave in a manner that on its face seems so heinous. And as many mothers would tell their sons and daughter, “You really know better!”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

People patiently wait on a hilltop at the Murray Hill Scenic Overlook in rural Harrison County near Little Sioux, Iowa as the sun sets during the Winter Solstice Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. People came out in hopes of seeing the Christmas Star, the alignment of the planets Saturn and Jupiter. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The sun sets during the Winter Solstice seen from the Murray Hill Scenic Overlook in rural Harrison County near Little Sioux, Iowa Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. People came out in hopes of seeing the Christmas Star, the alignment of the planets Saturn and Jupiter. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Little Sioux River reflects the setting sun’s light during the Winter Solstice seen from the Murray Hill Scenic Overlook in rural Harrison County near Little Sioux, Iowa Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. People came out in hopes of seeing the Christmas Star, the alignment of the planets Saturn and Jupiter. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Wishing a Merry Christmas to all in Siouxland.

24 Dec
Decorated with lights, the Christmas Village at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds in Le Mars, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2015. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga ©)

An interesting year in Siouxland will come to a close in a few days. A new year will soon offer other opportunities and possibilities that may not yet be known. But anticipation and expectation can make dreams more palpable and exciting when they do come to fruition.

Like the opening of Christmas presents one has seen under a tree that have been there a few hours or days, creating a bit of excitement of what lays inside. And hopefully fulfilling a wish some has had.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Christmas at the Durham Museum in Omaha NE Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Lighting up the Holidays in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

18 Dec
A lighted Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a chilly evening when I would prefer to be at home having coffee in a warm house, the lure and allure of seeing Christmas lights in Siouxland is always a strong pull for me to get outside, bundle up and enjoy.

This year because of the coronavirus pandemic the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve put up Christmas lights on walking paths instead of hosting its annual event where historical buildings on the property are opened up and children can visit Santa in its welcome center. And I always try my hand at capturing the lights. But sometimes it’s also fun to play with the light and just see shapes and designs.

Christmas lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday evening, Dec. 10, 2020 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday evening, Dec. 10, 2020 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I tried making a couple of exposures, one focused and the other slightly out handholding and guesstimating as best as I could my camera position. Basically making one exposure then racking the focus and making the second exposure. While maybe not totally successful, it was fun to see the results. Which I achieved through post processing by layering the two images and then blending them. Nothing ventured…..

Christmas lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday evening, Dec. 10, 2020 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday evening, Dec. 10, 2020 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I will be going out again to Adams Homestead to “hang out” with some fellow camera club photographers and will look to see what else I might find to experiment with and what kind of twist I can make on photographing these lights. One constant is that I go out 30-40 minutes earlier than my last trip as the sun keeps setting earlier which in my mind makes it easier to “brave the cold” while still enjoying the Christmas holiday.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Christmas lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday evening, Dec. 10, 2020 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A lighted Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Festive Lights in Siouxland, Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs

14 Dec
Holiday Christmas lights at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving around Siouxland is always fun during the Christmas holiday because of the many festive displays of lights that people and communities put up. Some are extensive, some very simple with only a few figures or lamp post decorations.

Holiday Christmas lights at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Holiday Christmas lights at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs always seems to have such a nice display with most trees and its fountain lit this opinion informed from photos I have seen of previous years. The park was a nice display, although something was amiss with some lights as they came on, and went, off, with no apparent reason or “timed” response/reaction, as though it might be a planned lighting scheme.

Holiday Christmas lights at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But with everything, there are challenges. I am sure city crews are not checking out the park at night unless someone lets them know something is amiss. But it was a thing of beauty to hang out until dark to see the trees aglow, and watch a few planes overhead beginning their descent for a nearby airport, adding their own lights to a festive scene.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Holiday Christmas lights at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Holly, Jolly Christmas in Siouxland, Adams Homestead, North Sioux City, SD

6 Dec
A snowman greets visitors checking out the lighted Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The sun has already set as a lighted Christmas display comes on at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas celebrations in Siouxland as elsewhere takes on a different atmosphere this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Normally the Homestead would open its buildings up and upwards of a few thousand folk would pass through to visit and see Santa in the welcome center.

But Ranger Jody Moats this year decided it might be too risky for some folk and so with the help of volunteers strung a lot lights around the grounds allowing people to visit, outdoors and enjoy a Christmas light show.

Park Ranger Jody Moats poses by an angel as she becomes turning on Christmas light displays at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A lighted Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Well, Ranger Moats and the volunteers put up a lot of lights and it makes for a festive walk through which will change once a little snow settles onto the ground casting back some reflective white surfaces for the lights to shine above. The walk will be a destination for people wanting to enjoy the Christmas spirit and a chance to forget about current affairs as they cautiously enjoy the lighted scenes at Adams Homestead.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


The schoolhouse is lit for a Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A lighted Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A lighted Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A lighted Christmas display will greet visitors to the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some Holiday Cheer in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

26 Nov
Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As holiday events adjust because of the coronavirus pandemic many local places in Siouxland are working to still give local residents a chance to get out and enjoy some holiday cheer, if it’s just a little different than previous years. The Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve isn’t opening up its buildings this year for people to view history but instead has decorated the homestead area with lights and Christmas decorations to give folk a magical respite and a reason to get outside.

Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Homestead will be lit every weekend in December from 5-9 pm every Thursday-Sunday evenings. The logistics of which appear a bit daunting since the area is more a historical look back at history of the area than a haven for modern tech. But led lights and solar devices make some decorations more possible these days than not when needed power outlets are not always available.

Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So for the month of December area residents will at least have an opportunity to walk beneath the “lighted stars” at the Homestead if not a chance to visit with Santa in the welcome center this year because of crowding and mixing people from various walks in life.

A new reality for the present, but still some Christmas cheer and maybe an opportunity to reflect and remember what Christmas is really about.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas decorations adorn the area inside the welcome center at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas decorations adorn the area inside the welcome center at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas decorations adorn the fireplace inside the welcome center at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Changing Holiday Celebration in Siouxland, Le Mars

22 Nov
Workers put up Christmas decorations in preparation for a hometown Christmas celebration the weekend after Thanksgiving at the outdoor Olson Cultural Event Center near downtown Le Mars, Iowa Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. The City of Le Mars facebook website states: “DonÕt toss your save-the-date just yet! While we were hoping to start a new tradition this year, the COVID-19 pandemic had different plans. We may not be able to gather in person, but weÕre still planning to bring joy this holiday season.” The city still plans a drive-in screening of the movie “Elf” and a video broadcast of originally scheduled main stage events to be viewed online from residents’ homes. Recently Iowa’s governor reversed course about masking and social distancing as coronavirus cases spike in Iowa after attending pre-election Trump campaign rallies while not wearing a mask or encouraging attendees to social distance. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas celebrations in Siouxland communities are changing this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many holiday celebrations are being cancelled. Le Mars was going to start a new tradition in addition to its usual Lighted parade that passed through downtown. The Christmas Village celebration hosted at the county fair gounds has been cancelled.

Workers put up Christmas decorations in preparation for a hometown Christmas celebration the weekend after Thanksgiving at the outdoor Olson Cultural Event Center near downtown Le Mars, Iowa Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A recently announced proclamation for voluntary masking and social/physical distancing by the state’s governor who previously dismissed such precautions seems to be more urgent as illness and deaths related to the virus continues to rise endangering the area hospitals with patients and COVID-19 related symptoms.

Decorations are being put up around the community but planned performances at a downtown cultural center stage and other activities scheduled for the end of the month have been postponed or will be live streamed virtually to keep people from congregating and thus perpetuating the virus transmission among different groups of people wanting to see the town’s lighting of its Christmas tree or hear performances by local groups.

Workers put up Christmas decorations in preparation for a hometown Christmas celebration the weekend after Thanksgiving at the outdoor Olson Cultural Event Center near downtown Le Mars, Iowa Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This year is certainly been a departure with previous years and decades of what have for many become traditions for many families and communities alike. One only hopes that people realize how much these traditions mean to one another and will help to combat this disease by working together and thinking of their extended family members and friends and other community residents until life regains some sense of a former normalcy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Christmas decorations are seen in preparation for a hometown Christmas celebration the weekend after Thanksgiving in downtown Le Mars, Iowa Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Remembering in Siouxland on Memorial Day, Sioux City

25 May

Flags flutter in the breeze at city owned Graceland Park Cemetery Friday, May 22, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. Because of COVID-19 an annual Memorial Day celebration has changed to a drive by Honor Guard to be held at Memorial Park Cemetery. Stormy weather is expected for the area Monday. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Memorial Day is an annual event of remembrance in Siouxland and elsewhere in the U.S. A time to reflect and honor our loved ones and those who have served in the armed forces of this nation. This year’s day like other days going forward will be a new experience for many.

A wife watches her husband clean his parents’ grave site at Memorial Park Cemetery Friday, May 22, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. Because of COVID-19 an annual Memorial Day celebration has changed to a drive by Honor Guard to be held at Memorial Park Cemetery. Stormy weather is expected for the area Monday. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Helping her grandmother, a young woman looks for grave sites of those who served in the military to place a flag at Memorial Park Cemetery Friday, May 22, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. Her grandfather is a member of the American Legion. Because of COVID-19 an annual Memorial Day celebration has changed to a drive by Honor Guard to be held at Memorial Park Cemetery. Stormy weather is expected for the area Monday. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The coronavirus pandemic has given all people a moment of pause. Creating a variety of stress for some and only adding to stress others already felt because of life’s circumstances. And going forward this year’s remembrance may cause people to reflect more deeply as the official start of summer. But maybe I am too optimistic in that respect  that people will actually take stock and be thankful for those who have come before and continue to protect this nation and give it a sense of honor where others who should do not.

Families decorate grave sites of loved ones at Graceland Park Cemetery Friday, May 22, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. Because of COVID-19 an annual Memorial Day celebration has changed to a drive by Honor Guard to be held at Memorial Park Cemetery. Stormy weather is expected for the area Monday. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A grounds keeper trims grave sites at Memorial Park Cemetery Friday, May 22, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. Because of COVID-19 an annual Memorial Day celebration has changed to a drive by Honor Guard to be held at Memorial Park Cemetery. Stormy weather is expected for the area Monday. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And in a year’s time, will folk look back and be thankful for such a pause in routine, or still curse and not think of it at all but for being a disruption they should have done without. Human beings are a fickled lot. While many are thankful, I sometimes wonder if most are just expectant of what they deserve, some more than others. Life’s circumstances have benefited some more than others, sometimes unfairly. But that is for someone else to judge, and sometimes I kind of hope, harshly.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A grounds keeper puts up a tent for a Honor Guard at Memorial Park Cemetery Friday, May 22, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. Because of COVID-19 an annual Memorial Day celebration has changed to a drive by Honor Guard to be held at Memorial Park Cemetery. Stormy weather is expected for the area Monday. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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