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Variations on a Theme in Siouxland, Sheldon

13 Oct

When I visited a community in Siouxland a couple of years ago I came across a farm homestead on the outskirts of Sheldon. I don’t know if it was still an active farm or if the land it once cultivated had been sold off for housing and the homestead was all that remains.

A farm homestead still within the city limits of Sheldon, Iowa, Thursday, August 6, 2015. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Having grown up on a farm I am always fascinated with the outbuildings or barns. Once I moved away from home on return visits I always did some photography of the buildings. They change over time and in my estimation gain a little character from the elements of the weather.

This homestead had nice buildings and provided a glimpse of what a farm earlier in the decade looked like. These days, metal buildings are more the norm probably because of cost effectiveness. But the large metal structures take away the charm of a farm.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

Taking a Drive in Siouxland, Cherokee County

11 Oct

Whenever I can I just like driving around the Siouxland area exploring and crisscrossing places I have previously been. And on those days following a storm I find it all the more fascinating as the light play can sometimes become incredible to see and photograph.

A summer scenic in rural Cherokee County, Iowa, Wednesday, August 19, 2015. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©

I like strong light filtering through clouds or lighting objects with a darker, stormy sky behind them. It has intensity and creates a bit of drama.

A summer scenic in rural Cherokee County, Iowa, Wednesday, August 19, 2015. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©

 

A stormy day scenic in rural Cherokee County, Iowa, Wednesday, August 19, 2015. Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©

And as I tell people that attend my photo classes through a Lifelong Learning program at the local community college, what’s a better way to spend a day than taking photographs.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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

Small town Siouxland fairs, Marcus

21 Sep

In August I spent part of a day at a small community fair in Marcus, Iowa. The community has about 1,000 residents give or take. But it prides itself on providing this summer time venue along with a parade that runs through the downtown area of the community.

A bright sunny day for the Marcus Community Fair in Marcus, Iowa Saturday Aug. 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Emergency vehicles and local school students are part of the Marcus Community Fair parade in Marcus, Iowa Saturday Aug. 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Residents, present and former come out to enjoy the day and spend time with family and friends. I missed the earlier activities involving 4-H and the showing and exhibiting of animals and crafts. Fairs in small towns these days seem a lot smaller to me now that I am older than when I was a kid. Remembering trying not to get lost at the fairgrounds my parents took us and during the 4-H events that were held there.

It’s just time nicely spent. No hurry and enjoying the memories from my youth and seeing others enjoy their day and making memories as well.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

Enjoying a Day in Siouxland, Dunlap

28 Aug

The more I travel about Siouxland the more I keep encountering small communities such as Dunlap. With a population slightly under 1,000 residents and sitting on the edge of the Loess Hills in southern part of Siouxland it is a community looking to revitalize itself and make it an enjoyable place to live and raise a family.

The surrounding countryside can be seen from downtown Dunlap, Iowa Sunday, June 25, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like so many small Siouxland communities it is sustained by an agricultural economy but seems to be breathing new life into itself with a downtown that is small but “smartly dressed” and welcoming to visitors. On days like the one I visited Dunlap there may not be a lot of activity to do other than to walk around and wonder about its residents who created the town in 1871. The prairie land then and naturally a railroad played a part in its creation. And it’s nice to see community still thriving. So many small towns never reach a potential original founders might have dreamed about, and many succumb to loss of inhabitants and continue a long, slow decay of decline, while others come together and thrive and enjoy the benefits of what they have and continue to create.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Small Towns in Siouxland, West Bend

26 Aug

A recent stop in the small community of West Bend in Siouxland yielded a pleasant surprise. The town has roughly 750 residents and is home to a local Sioux City Diocese shrine, The Grotto of the Redemption.

A woman views the Stations of the Cross along a walkway at the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa Friday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like most other small Iowa communities it has agriculture as an economic anchor among other small town businesses.

Like a lot of small rural Iowa communities, a grain elevator anchors part of the downtown area in West Bend, Iowa Friday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)But mostly its draw and claim to fame is the Grotto of which many people visit yearly, looking for inspiration and a sense of spiritual well being, something that lately seems to be in short supply from watching world and national events.

People enter the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa Friday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Stations of the Cross at the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa Friday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Inside the church of Sts. Peter and Paul’s Catholic church which stands next to the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa Friday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A place to drop in and “tune out” the outside world even if only for a couple of hours does a world of good for an individual. And after walking through the structures photographs do not really do justice to this creation of one man’s dream as a way station in life for those looking for a refuge even if only momentarily.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

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