Tag Archives: travel

Depicting History in Siouxland, Courage Park in Omaha, NE

7 Apr
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. According to a website by First National Bank, “Installed in 2005 and 2009, Sculptors Blair Buswell of Highland, Utah, and Ed Fraughton of South Jordan, Utah, created Pioneer Courage with four pioneer families and their covered wagons departing westward from Omaha.” (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While visiting in Omaha, NE just south of Siouxland I came across a park I had not seen before. Friends and I were exploring parts of the city we had not previously walked about and so it was a pleasant surprise to find this homage paid to those settlers that set out for the “new frontier” and a life apart from what they had known. Because this sculpture garden was created a few years ago it does not take into account current perceptions of events as “white immigrants” flooded the western plains obtained through the Louisiana Purchase and after the exploratory visit by Lewis and Clark’s expedition to map the newly obtained land.

A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While the westward expansion opened up new territories to current United States residents and immigrants, it also began a long history of a not so good relationship with Native American residents who had inhabited the land for many generations and millennia. Whether or not another downtown park will address that issue for future generations is for current and future residents of the Omaha community to address. The park though is a nice break within all of the cement buildings that surround this island oasis which probably looks more inviting for lunch time breaks during spring, summer and fall lunch times for surrounding employees working in the area.

A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A passerby checks out statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Still, for a photo expedition exploring a community it was a nice find on a rather pleasant early spring day. I always enjoy history, and realize that most times the history presented comes from a single source with possibly a single point of view. The park shows the fortitude and gumption of those early settlers who went west to find a new life and beginning for themselves, much like today’s modern immigrants and residents who can more easily, at times, travel the many miles to find a new life. Each era has its own obstacles and problems, which sadly never seems to have an easy solution. And it seems that those searching for a better life for themselves and their families, away from starvation (Irish), persecution (Quakers) and other life strifes such as war ( any number of countries) the desires, needs and wants have not changed, only perspective and “characters” of those now in need. Travel today is almost instantaneous when compared to that of a couple centuries ago. And these days there seems to be more NIMBY’s than those willing to offer a hand. I sometimes muse what might have happened and how my own and others futures looked much different had Native Americans then rebuffed the Quakers and other European settlers and conquerors who first set foot on this land. Rather than sharing a first Thanksgiving, there might not have been any history written about those lost souls who traveled the sea to seek a better life. No word ever returning to those distant shores. The strife, famine and others ills of centuries past have never ceased, nor likely seem to, and until as it’s said, the root of those evils or calamities are addressed, people will leave their homeland in search of a better life somewhere else where they think it might be safe. But the chance of those underlying problems being addressed seem of little concern to those making important decisions.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Statues in Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021 depict settlers moving westward during the westward expansion in the 1800’s after the Louisiana Purchase. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A number of statues showing pioneering families headed to a new frontier as white settlers westward expansion begins appear in the Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning History in Siouxland, Queen Bee Mill, Sioux Falls, SD

20 Mar
The history of the Queen Bee Mill, located in Falls Park, is on display in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a visit to the Old County Courthouse Museum in Sioux Falls, SD there was a small exhibit telling about early Sioux Falls history involving various businesses. One of those businesses involved a flour mill at a small waterfall area now known as Falls Park. The mill provided jobs and a necessary industry for food processing which everyone needed as grocery stores or general stores didn’t always stock such “packaged” items. The Queen Bee Mill stood alongside the falls, construction began in 1879 and was completed in 1881.

A flour mill used to stand where the ruins are seen in the background at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD Saturday Sept. 23, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The former turbine house for the Queen Bee Flour Mill at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A plaque commemorating the Queen Bee Flour Mill on its former site, now the Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The mill operated until 1883 when owners found the water power wasn’t sufficient enough to power the mill and enable it to reach capacity. Its operation began again in 1911 and ran intermittently until 1929. From that time it served as a warehouse until a fire in 1956 destroyed most of the mill and surrounding structures.

The history of the Queen Bee Mill, located in Falls Park, is on display in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The history of the Queen Bee Mill, located in Falls Park, is on display in the Old Courthouse Museum downtown Sioux Falls, SD, Friday, January 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The area is now popular as a park which people visit it and see the falls of the Big Sioux River throughout various seasons, often a destination for people shooting portraits.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Big Sioux River runs fast over the rocks at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A 21st century “Ansel Adams” creates images at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, SD Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Wishing a Merry Christmas to all in Siouxland.

24 Dec
Decorated with lights, the Christmas Village at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds in Le Mars, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2015. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga ©)

An interesting year in Siouxland will come to a close in a few days. A new year will soon offer other opportunities and possibilities that may not yet be known. But anticipation and expectation can make dreams more palpable and exciting when they do come to fruition.

Like the opening of Christmas presents one has seen under a tree that have been there a few hours or days, creating a bit of excitement of what lays inside. And hopefully fulfilling a wish some has had.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Christmas at the Durham Museum in Omaha NE Friday, Dec. 18, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Light and Shade in Siouxland, Le Mars and Omaha, NE

8 Dec
Light and shade at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I will sometimes have students in class through the Lifelong Learning program at Western Iowa Tech tell me that they couldn’t find subjects to photograph or that the weather was not cooperating. Photography is a perfect example of the adage of making lemonade out of lemons.

Even in Siouxland one sometimes has to shift gears and think differently about subject matter to photograph. I find reverting back to shooting black and images helpful because seeing becomes more fundamental, reduced to lights and darks, lines, shapes and angles. Color or lack or too much of it doesn’t matter. Weather though can have an impact if one is looking to create certain images. Strong light is a must, but a person must take the time to see a bit differently and maybe more abstractly than when shooting in color.

Light and shade in Le Mars, Iowa Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Light and shade at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When photographing in black and white it’s all about shades of grey. For me it’s less grey and more strident blacks and whites. But one does what one can with what’s available. And even in today’s digital age there are the tools available to create decent black and white images. I believe it’s more in the seeing, of possibilities, than what is before you. I began my career photographing for newspapers shooting Kodak’s famous Tri-X film. In the vernacular of the day it was “f/8 and be there” which I heard from more than one newspaper photographer. At an ISO of 400, Tri-X was a moderately fast film and shooting outdoors in daylight one generally was at f/8 at 1/2000 on a sunny day. Shadows were a major concern because in the day fill flash didn’t have hypersync capabilities and the old Nikon F camera’s only flash synced at 1/60th of a second or slower.

Light and shade in Le Mars, Iowa Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Light and shade at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So one became very conscious of how light and shade affected subjects be they people, buildings, landscapes or whatever. I still really enjoy black and white, but am happy to shoot color. Each has its place. Photographing fall foliage and Christmas lights is so much nicer, as are fireworks. But black and white can still be very effective and rewarding. One just needs to look for it and see it in this world of color.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Light and shade at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Growing up with the Muppets in Siouxland, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

2 Dec
A current show in progress traces the history of the Muppets at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s most likely a generational thing that different people, even in Siouxland, remember becoming aware of different Muppet characters. I was surprised to learn that Jim Henson began his great Muppet caper in 1958. And entertained people of all ages for decades with the antics of these lovable characters.

Many people are aware the Muppets through a decades long appearance on public television, with many people growing up with these characters. And it was fascinating to read and see how Henson and his crew brought these lovable characters to life and pays tribute to his forward thinking and innovation in creating movie spectaculars that seem so real. And currently an exhibit about Jim Henson and Muppets is at the Durham Museumand organized by the Museum of the Moving Image.

Kermit the Frog takes center place in a part of the exhibit currently in progress traces the history of the Muppets at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Bert and Ernie still chatting away. A current show in progress traces the history of the Muppets at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
One can only show a candy wrapper or cookie at their own risk walking by the Cookie Monster’s display. A current show in progress traces the history of the Muppets at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Not to mention the ever ongoing love affair between Kermit and Miss Piggy, even if it was only Miss Piggy who knew this and the hapless suitor, Kermit, who could never quite figure out what was going on. The Muppets have been in 10’s if not hundreds of shows. A stop by Durham Museum is well worth the time, and an early timed arrival during the week beats a crowd.

TV was not the only medium where the Muppets came to fame. A current show in progress traces the history of the Muppets at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A visual feast of Jim Henson’s Muppet activity over the years seen during a current show in progress which traces the history of the Muppets at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Henson and his collaborators and crew spent the time to perfect the Muppets movements to make them as lifelike as possible. Behind the scenes footage show this taking place and leaves one marveling at what was involved and the energy and spirit folk put into creating this productions.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A couple watch part of a film created by Jim Henson and his collaborators showing the virtuosity of the films that were made during an exhibit about Jim Henson and the Muppets currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Rowl, left, performed by Henson and Frank Oz, was a sidekick to Jimmy Dean on his show. An early Jim Henson creation. A current show in progress traces the history of the Muppets at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A current show in progress traces the history of the Muppets at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A current show in progress traces the history of the Muppets at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Angles, Lines and Fall Color in Siouxland, Linn Grove

20 Nov
An old unused bridge frames fall colors in Linn Grove, Iowa Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving around Siouxland like many places presents opportunities to photograph a variety of subjects. And those depend on the taste of a photographer. My background as a newspaper photographer for a few small dailies gave me the opportunity to cover a wide variety of subjects.

From vehicle accidents, house fires, wildfires, storms, blizzards, county fairs, high school and college sports, politics and first baby of the year, I enjoyed the variety. And these days while not needing to cover such events anymore, I like driving around the backroads aimlessly wandering and looking for subjects that I find interesting. Living mostly in agricultural areas while working for newspapers reinforced my desire to look around this broad swath of land called Siouxland. And finding little gems, to my eye, is the reward for the time spent.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An old unused bridge frames fall colors in Linn Grove, Iowa Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Choosing an Image in Siouxland, Omaha, NE

14 Nov

When out photographing in and around Siouxland I am conscious most times of making images I think will work best for the subject. And more often I photograph in color.

The students I teach photograph in color and it’s how they see. But I do make them think about taking photos in B&W and choosing what works well for the subject and image they want. And sometimes choosing becomes a no-brainer. Some images just stand out in one medium, and then get lost in the translation when choosing another.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A train bell on display at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A train bell on display at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Stepping Out in Siouxland, Ida Grove

8 Nov
A little used stairwell at a little used building downtown in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Taking the first step or two for any adventure or any venture requires a forward motion. Looking for same in Siouxland requires effort and an open mind that one never knows what a person may see once something comes into view. Ever hopeful that something wonderful is just over the horizon and willing to take that step to see what it might be.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Waiting for Halloween in Siouxland, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

29 Oct
The Durham Museum decked out for Halloween in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Halloween in Siouxland like many holidays has taken on a life of its own and gives people a chance to enjoy a day guilt free. Visiting the Durham Museum recently which is located in Omaha, NE, the museum was decked out in anticipation of the yearly event.

The Durham Museum decked out with various scary scenarios for Halloween in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Durham Museum decked out for Halloween in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ghouls, ghosts and skeletons were found in various places throughout. And on occasion some guests added to the atmosphere for a spook festival that occurs Oct. 31. It’s always fun to see how places celebrate holidays and the Durham didn’t disappoint.

The Durham Museum decked out for Halloween in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A visitor makes a nice apparition while checking out an exhibit at the Durham Museum which is decked out for Halloween in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And while the adults didn’t get to indulge, there were goody bags for the kids, always in my humble opinion one of the best aspects of Halloween as a child. Candy may not settle the stomach after a good scare, but it doesn’t hurt either.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Shadows of strangers seen during a visit to the Durham Museum which is decked out for Halloween in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Finding Changes in Siouxland, Linn Grove

19 Oct
Water is no longer running over a dam in Linn Grove, Iowa Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes in revisiting places one can find changes that are surprising. ON a recent trip to Linn Grove where a small dam was fairly active a couple years ago, the water has stopped running. Partially due to a drought for the area and also because of spring storms a year ago where the small river the dam was situated on cut itself a new channel because of the intense spring storms and rainfall. Feast and famine.

Spring storms cut a new channel diverting water running over a dam in Linn Grove, Iowa Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Water is no longer running over a dam in Linn Grove, Iowa Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

You can no longer even drive down to an area where people would fish along the dam and the drought has shrunken the small pond where I guess a variety of fish would hang out, unsuspectedly becoming someone’s meal at a later time.

Mother Nature can be awesome in her fury. It must have been a sight seeing the water rushing during the spring storms, but sad where you realized there would be extensive damage done. Talking to a local person while there they mentioned local officials were trying to determine how to finance the damage, which in this day and age the local person said could amount to millions of dollars.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Water is no longer running over a dam in Linn Grove, Iowa Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
%d bloggers like this: