Tag Archives: rural america

Exploring Eastern Siouxland, Whittemore

22 Jun

During my recent Memorial Day drive I stopped by the small Siouxland community of Whittemore, Iowa. The town began in the late 1870’s and is named for a railroad engineer named Don Whittemore. It’s a pleasant town that was especially quiet on Memorial Day as people celebrate the holiday attending services in the morning and then enjoying the holiday like many others getting together with family and friends. Like many smaller communities I have visited it is anchored by a grain elevator business, but also has a  nice downtown. One of the stores is a hardware store, and in the window are four names denoting different generations of that family’s ownership.

A business that has been in the family for generations in Whittemore, Iowa Friday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The downtown area has a little “park” or seating place to get in out of the sun on especially hot days and many of the homes were of the grander type dating from the late 1800’s of early 1900’s showing off the community’s well being as was much the case in the early settlement days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


Exploring Areas in Southern Siouxland, Monona County

12 Jun

Recently as I was headed to an area in southern Siouxland to photograph a building I came upon a couple of barns sitting on the side of the road. As I drove by the little voice in my head said, “You’re here, so stop.” And I did. Sometimes when pressed for time I don’t consciously think I need to stop. I always tell myself you can come back. But the light, the look and whatever it was that caught your attention will never be the same the next time. It could be better, but then again…..


Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A barn in a field off of Hwy 141in rural Monona County, Iowa Friday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A barn in a field off of Hwy 141 in rural Monona County, Iowa Friday June 9, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing Near and Far in Siouxland, Quimby

2 Jun

Sometimes when I visit small communities in Siouxland I take the time to walk about and see what may be on the side streets as well as the downtown area. Like in Quimby I spent a hour getting a little exercise and just looking.  I found something in a doorway and then walking along a street I saw a larger view incorporating the water tower. Something near and something far. I find that when I am looking at something I don’t always “see” it. But it becomes clear, and when I am home editing, even more clear.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A decorated business door in Quimby Iowa Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The water tower looms over neighboring homes in Quimby, Iowa Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting new/old places in Siouxland, Washta

27 May

It seems I am always out for a drive in the Siouxland area. But I think it’s better than sitting at home, except maybe on a cold, blustery and snowy day. This particular day took me the small community of Washta.

Like many of the small communities I have visited Washta has a grain elevator business anchoring part of its downtown. And it seemed a busy place the day I was there as a number of large trucks were passing through heading to a variety of road construction projects nearby. Midwestern winters and heavy grain trucks during harvest can take a toll on county roads.

But the community is a small quiet place. A few individuals out and about while I was there. I happened to meet the mayor who was at the city hall having returned from a golf outing. Now retired, he was staying active, although it sounded like he would not be participating in any of the majors golfing events. He sounded like he still enjoyed himself.

I always find the chance to meet people and get to know the area something that I never tire of as I explore Siouxland. Everyday can be a new day and another story to hear.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland Historical Places, Grand Meadow Heritage Center

25 May

Wow scouting out some potential places in Siouxland to which I could take photo students I once again came across the Grand Meadow Heritage Center. I have visited it a couple of times previously. The site of a former school which houses a great deal of historical artifacts from the surrounding area. Three floors of the former school plus outlying buildings as well. Once a year generally in early autumn the center hosts an event. There is food, music, people portraying early settlers and a chance to go through the former school and see its contents. It really is worthwhile to get a sense of the area in another era and century.

But this day I was looking at what students in my class could see without getting inside any of the buildings. So it’s a challenge to visually see what might appeal and how they can put newly acquired skills to the test in capturing an image.

Shooting with a neutral density filter and slow shutter the windmill cranks it up at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When in school I always enjoyed history, but it is different outside of the academic setting and one is standing in a place the ages ago is so very different than what is see today in this 21st century. The old saying of knowing where you have been so you know where you are going is an apt saying, it just depends on whether anyone is listening at the moment. Places like Grand Meadow is a reminder. Harder times for certain, but in some ways, simpler, less chaotic and more centered.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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


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

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