Tag Archives: rural 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

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

Tough Decision in Siouxland, Plymouth County

26 Apr

Sometimes when one is out looking for images it can be hard to decide how to shoot a scene. Too tight, too loose, bracket your exposure, try different angles. Some of these may not be negotiable, especially if you see it from a roadway and are a locked into a position. Time of day and weather helps one make other decisions. But I find it often better to make a few exposures and I can decide later about cropping or not and shooting a scene both tight and loose.

This is a decision I came too one day while driving around Plymouth County. I saw the scene from a county road and the sky was nice with some clouds floating through. I personally like expansive scenics but will sometimes shoot a little tighter because of what the scene presents me. If there are other items about that to my eye just don’t work, I will crop in camera to leave them out. Or possible adjust my position if that seems better. But as one shoots more and gravitates to what you like and how you see, these decisions can most times become easier, but not always easy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Clouds rolling through rural Plymouth County, Iowa Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A rustic barn in rural Plymouth County, Iowa Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Country in Siouxland, Plymouth County

13 Apr

With the return of sunshine and changing temperatures that don’t fluctuate wildly, as in from 25 degrees to 60 degrees and back again, it’s been nice to get outside and explore again. I grew up on a farm and so enjoy driving back roads around the Siouxland area. Western Iowa is mostly agricultural as per its main industry. I enjoy the scenics and places I find in rural Plymouth County and other similar places. I enjoy going to cities from time to time, but after living near San Francisco and in Los Angeles County, I prefer smaller venues. In those places it takes so long to reach a destination and it seems even longer to get outside the city limits to see a horizon line and no cement.

There is no one place is better than another. I may be just realizing that growing up on a farm was just a little more deeply embedded than I thought.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Siouxland Small Community and its famous author, Doon, Iowa

11 Apr

On a nice day I headed in the northern area of Siouxland with a specific destination in mind and to revisit and see what was new. But along the way I got sidetracked. Too many side and back roads, too little time? I came across a sign for Doon, Iowa. A small community with a population of roughly 590 residents. Like most small, rural communities, Doon’s downtown was anchored on side by a grain elevator. It had some nice features and a memorial to those who served there country. It was a pleasant place to hang out for a while as I was making my way further north in Lyon County.

The community of Doon, Iowa Friday March 31, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)


It was a pleasant day to be out and about finding new places. I talked to a young lady as she was returning home after fetching her mail downtown from the post office. I asked her a few questions about the community and she told me there was an author who was born in Doon, now buried in the cemetery outside of town in the country. Frederick Manfred wrote an number of novels and according to his site, coined the term “Siouxland”. The New York Times also wrote an obituary about the author after his passing. Even famous people remembered by a national newspaper came from someplace. And it is fun to explore one’s region and find such nuggets of history. I searched a bit through Hillside Cemetery that day but was not able to find his headstone.

As the days get longer and warmer, I am looking forward to more exploration with the hopes of being surprised by other such gems. One never knows what one might find over the next horizon, but it is always to fun to find out.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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