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Venturing over Siouxland’s Border, Steen, MN

22 Aug

I spent part of a recent day visiting an Iowa State Preserve in Siouxland near the South Dakota border which is also not far from the Minnesota border. While heading  home I saw a sign that said, Steen, MN, six miles. I made a detour. After living in Iowa for a number of years I have not ventured into Minnesota. No particular reason, I just never got there. When I hit the outskirts of the small community I had not even realized I had crossed a state border.

A sign at a park welcomes visitors to Steen, Minnesota Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Steen is a tidy little community. Originally settled by one Ole P. Steen who fought for the North during the Civil War as a calvaryman. Like many of Iowa’s early communities, Steen was created, 1888, because the Illinois Central Railroad needed a railroad station. Today it’s population is a little over 170 people according to the 2014 census. Many communities that start as a railway hub eventually hit a peek as that hub moves to another community. After having spent a bit photographing various aspects of the community, a pick-up stopped next to me and a man popped out introducing himself as mayor. He was quick, and handed me a little booklet about the community’s centennial which occurred in 1988. A man proud of his hometown and a place he calls home.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Bike Adventure Starts in Siouxland, Orange City

20 Aug

Every year RAGBRAI ( Des Moines- Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) begins somewhere in western Iowa and most times begins somewhere is Siouxland. The ride has been going on since the 1970’s and continues to grow each year drawing riders from across the U.S. and even from some other countries.

John Potter, left, and dad Dale Potter of Knoxville, TN, will ride their 4th RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) event which begins in Orange City, Iowa, Saturday July 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Participants line up to sign in for the kickoff and the ride for RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) event which begins in Orange City, Iowa, Saturday July 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A convivial recreational bike ride that stops each night in communities along the way and where people celebrate summer with food, music, and an opportunity for even smaller communities to highlight themselves and entertain a genial crowd while boosting their economy.

Instead of Tulip Festival and Dutch history associated items, biking gear and accessories are found on the main drag for the kickoff of RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) event which begins in Orange City, Iowa, Saturday July 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Normally Orange City, which hosted the start of the ride, is known for its celebration of its Dutch heritage and its annual Tulip Festival that draws thousands each May to enjoy in the community celebration. This year it was decked out in all things bike. And visitors and residents alike got into the spirit of it.

Brother and sister Chloe and Sam Nonhof hope some bike riders stop by to buy lemonade from them as the kickoff for the RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) event which begins in Orange City, Iowa, Saturday July 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Residents spruce up their yards fand reflect a little of their Dutch roots or the kickoff for the RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) event which begins in Orange City, Iowa, Saturday July 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A rider participant wears a tee shirt in an ode to Iowa that the pretty much sums up the RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) event which begins in Orange City, Iowa, Saturday July 12, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Personally I like to bike, but not in crowds, but the atmosphere of the day before the start of the ride was of a celebration with people enjoying summer time and all that the week ahead would provide. And this year participants were lucky because a heat wave with high humidity was passing and cooler weather was flowing into Iowa making the days with some 50-60 miles of riding more bearable.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

Surprises in Siouxland, Lake View

16 Aug

One Sunday driving around southern Siouxland I stopped by the community of Lake View and was pleasantly surprised when I found a carnival and small annual festival the town holds every year. It was a day I couldn’t spend a lot of time since I was headed to another destination, but am always happy when I find something unexpected of a pleasant nature popping up when one leasts expects it.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Spending Time at the Lakes in Siouxland, Arnolds Park

14 Aug

As summer winds down in Siouxland the area up around the lakes near Arnolds Park and Okoboji and others will begin to take on their fall demeanor. The trees turn color and it becomes very pretty, but the life begins to slow much like sap running through a tree. The lakes are a summer “thing” and people will begin to pursue other avenues of entertainment away from the lakes, except those who live there and others who like the fall.

The recent day I visited I had the chance to ride the Queen II and enjoy a cruise around West Lake Okoboji and learn more about its history. This was during the week. And while there were people about, the morning was pretty quiet as I made some photos and enjoyed a walk about.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Former Railroad Days in Siouxland, Wall Lake

10 Aug

I have found driving around Siouxland that many small communities sprung up in the state’s early days, the late 1800’s and early 1900’s primarily founded on the railroad passing through the community as others continued their trek west and the country expanded. One of those communities is Wall Lake, with a population roughly around 800 people that was tallied in 2014.

With most small communities the railroad was a lifeline in and out. Fostering more growth, but inevitably taking away that growth once the railroad ceased its operation.

The former Chicago Northwestern railroad depot in Wall Lake Iowa Iowa Friday, May 12, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Esther Bielema, a local historian, explained that the railroad functioned in the Wall Lake area up until the 2000’s when after a flood and train tracks were damaged that the current ownerUnion Pacific did not do any repairs. Later local residents got together and refurbished the depot and turned it into a history outpost for the community informing visitors the railroad’s past presence locally.

Older photos displayed on a wall in the former Chicago Northwestern railroad depot in Wall Lake, Iowa, Sunday July 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A photograph on a wall shows patrons of the later 1800’s in the now refurbished former Chicago Northwestern railroad depot in Wall Lake, Iowa, Sunday July 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Brian Bielema formerly worked for the railroad for 37 years and recounted a wealth of history and information about the depot and events a bygone era.

Former railroad man Brian Bielema sits in the now refurbished Chicago Northwestern depot in Wall Lake, Iowa, Sunday July 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The sad thing though is that small communities in Iowa will one day lose these historians and the history that accompanies the communities may be lost as others do not learn about the place they live and the history of its coming into existence. A dilemma faced by many smaller communities as younger people move away and the towns shrink.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Cruising Siouxland on the Queen II, Okoboji

2 Aug

On a recent visit to the lake region of Iowa in Siouxland which includes the communities of Arnolds Park, Okoboji and Spirit Lake, I finally was able to take a cruise on West Lake Okoboji on the Queen II. When the lakes region around Arnolds Park and Okoboji became a resort area, a boat named the Queen brought visitors out onto the lake and showed off the region. The Queen II continues that history.

The Queen II prior to leaving for a cruise around West Lake Okoboji in Arnolds Park, Iowa, Monday July 24, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A passenger gets a better view of West Lake Okoboji from the Queen II during a cruise at Arnolds Park, Iowa, Monday July 24, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The cruise gives a nice background history to the immediate lakes region and for those wanting to know more they can visit the Maritine Museum in Arnolds Park.

Capable of holding about 200 passengers, the skipper this day, Lance Freed, gave some general introductions then played some canned information that was informative and effective.

Lance Freed skippers the Queen II during a cruise around West Lake Okoboji in Arnolds Park, Iowa, Monday July 24, 2017, something he has been doing for 17 years. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Originally owned by farmers, the non-tillable area was sold off to various individuals who began selling plots of land to those who wanted a place on a lake. The then cottages, although still called that, were modest and small. Now some of them are multi-million dollar vacation homes, one is estimated to be worth $12 million. And the land itself around the lake, depending on which side, east or west, can run from $10,000 a square foot to $17,000 a square foot. Not your granddaddy’s little summer getaway.

Passengers taking a cruise on the Queen II around West Lake Okoboji in Arnolds Park, Iowa, Monday July 24, 2017 can see mutli-million dollar homes, euphemistically referred to as cottages, which line the lake shore. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But for the average Joe and his family, people can bring their boats, fish, waterski and pursue other summertime activities on or around the water and still enjoy a nice day out. I personally like being near the water but am not exactly a water person and not one to get in it and splash about. But on a warmish day with a breeze, it is hard to beat and just fun to learn a little more history about the area.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City,

Nothing Exotic in Siouxland, Persia

30 Jul

It’s always fun coming across communities with names that is associated with a different visual landscape. I visited Vail, Iowa a year or so ago, and as expected it didn’t look anything like its more famous Coloradan counterpart.

Recently I came upon the town of Persia, Iowa and seeing its name was curious if there were any similarities to 1001 Nights fairytale.

An early Iowa settlement is Persia, Iowa Friday, June 16, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The community has about 300 residents and like most Iowan communities was founded in the the 1880’s when railroads were making a push through the area headed west. Some online searching didn’t help me find the reason for the community’s name, although I stumbled upon another gentleman’s query into the small community sometime in the late 1990’s. He was from Iran and driving cross country and stopped in to ask about the community’s name and its beginning.

A small compact place, I found a few people out and about while in the downtown area before I left and continued my sojourn to Highway 30 and another community I wanted to visit before heading home. So many places and so much history, but sometimes finding it is not always easy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

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