Tag Archives: Lost in Siouxland

Faces in Siouxland, Tulip Festival, Orange City

23 May

As many times as I return to the Tulip Festival in Orange City I am always seeing new and more faces. The entire community is involved in a effort to keep the town’s Dutch Heritage alive  and join in the celebration whether dancing traditional folk pieces, performing in various productions or parading through the streets. One always gets a Midwest welcome from smiling faces and people who genuinely seem to enjoy their 3-day holiday.

Faces of the annual Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa Thursday, May 18, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And most of the time entire families are involved in the celebration. I have met and chatted with people that are now adults who remember their childhood participating in children’s activities associated with the parade. And the adults’s parents recall their participation. And now it’s the adult’s children who participate while the adults have moved on to adult enterprises associated with the festival.

Faces of the annual Tulip Festival in Orange City, Iowa Thursday, May 18, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The costumes worn by the residents representing various cultures within the Dutch heritage whether fisherman, cheese makers, farmers, it gives the visitor a glimpse into the past and a little bit of knowledge of where the ancestors of these people hail from. Plus, the food is not bad. And sweets. Did I mention coffee? It’s just a nice day to enjoy a celebration.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


Revisiting Places in Siouxland, Vermillion, SD

21 May

As I travel about the Siouxland area I am constantly returning to places that I have previously visited. And when I do so with classes it becomes a challenge to not see the same things either physically or visually. Although it’s hard not too. Vermillion, SD is a small college community. Its college buildings on the University of South Dakota campus there were built in the late 1800’s and then more recently in the 1950’s as it expanded. There are also newer buildings, but sometimes they are not as interesting as the older ones. The same is true in the town itself.

I took my class to a section of town I had been to maybe a month or more previously. The light was different on my return visit with my class. Sunny, a little cool, but pleasant. So I tried to shoot a little differently. I was aiming for darker images than I got. Even after a couple of years working with my Fuji mirrorless cameras I am still trying to get some images I see or “pre-see”. But I was happy with the results. And I saw opportunity in a building shot I did on the university’s campus that I will need to return and explore, probably earlier so I have more of the directional light to work with. Familiarity can help inform one’s shooting and give you a perspective when trying a different approach. Plus, every day is a new day photographically.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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

Exploring Siouxland not for the Faint of Heart, Smithland

16 May

When I find places I like to use for my Lifelong Learning Photo Safari class I teach at Western Iowa Tech I like to explore the places in Siouxland prior to bringing students there. And exploring places to photograph to me is have the fun. I generally try to find places that as a class we can walk around and explore for a couple hours. On a last outing recently in Vermillion, SD, one of my students mentioned that we had walked quite a bit this particular day. I did say that the class description does mention having comfortable shoes to wear in signing up for the class. He laughed.

When photographing and getting to know a place I find it difficult to see things if I am just driving about. Now I do that when cruising back roads in the country, but in a lot of small communities I find a place to walk and then explore. I don’t exercise as much as I used to when my knees were a little better, but walking out, unless it’s a tornado or blizzard, is doable in any type of weather. And again, what’s a better way to spend a day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Looking for the Unexpected in Siouxland, Sioux Center

14 May

When I previously worked for newspapers as a staff photographer, I was always on the look out for the unexpected. Big and little things in life that seem out of the ordinary for the context in which you find it. While visiting Dordt College a bit ago with a class, we walked over to the small campus and was looking at the spring blossoming trees and sculpted art work that graces the campus grounds. And then, unexpectedly, I see a young woman “dumpster diving” a large trash bin. Dumpster diving has been around a few decades, as those less affluent in some parts of the country look for items that might be valuable to them while not valuable to the person who tossed the item into the trash.

It seemed a little out of place at this small Christian college, but then again, one man’s/woman’s trash is another’s treasure. The young woman explained she was looking for salvageable items she could use for next year’s term and unlike going through the trash in places like New York City or Los Angeles, these items were probably in a little better shape.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Weighing Options in Siouxland, Woodbury County

12 May

I try to impress on those folk taking my photo classes through Western Iowa Tech Community College that when taking photographs it’s always a decision. A decision of what to leave in the photo and what to exclude. Painters start with a blank canvas as many others have stated, and add to the canvas what they want the viewer to see. Photographers start with a frame and need to exclude information to compose a better photograph to help inform the viewer what exactly it is they as the photographer want the viewer to see. An oft bantered phrase, “Less is More” is at times appropriate. Don’t include too much information in your photo if you want a viewer to see details.

On a drive back home from an outing with a class I came across this barn in Siouxland in rural Woodbury County. I just liked its appearance. But then I thought maybe I should isolate some various aspects of the bar to force the viewer to see what I was looking at that day. A viewer may or may not agree with me about what and how I photographed something, but c’est la vie.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Hints of color on a barn off of County Road D-54 near Danbury, Iowa Saturday, April 29, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The door of a barn off of County Road D-54 near Danbury, Iowa Saturday, April 29, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The door of a barn off of County Road D-54 near Danbury, Iowa Saturday, April 29, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

%d bloggers like this: