Winter in Iowa

We have had a fairly mild winter here in N.W. Iowa, but today it is proving to be much more like winter. We started out with really cold temps in the low single digits and around 11:00 am the snow was lightly starting to fall here. At 1:30 pm the snowflakes had grown in size and the wind had come up. I saw our mailman arrive and so I got myself bundled up and walked out to the mailbox. I had to walk into the wind and snow. I went and started my car in the garage and let it run for 15 minutes until it was warmed up. It was only a high yesterday of lower single digits and so I wanted to make sure when I need it in a couple of days it will start for me. When I walked back to the house from the garage it had snowed in my foot prints. It is really blowing hard now and the snow is mounting. I took some photos of my view out my office window and have included them here. It is difficult to see the flying snow, but it is bad enough we cannot see the neighbors that live half a mile from us here. Winter 1 2015

Winter 2 2015

Winter 3 2015

Winter 4 2015


Iowa Great Lakes – N.W. Iowa’s Resort

I have great memories of visits to our Iowa Great Lakes area as a kid and as an adult. There are many things to do while there and this small town comes alive in the spring and summer months. I thought I would share about this area, as on the 4th of July they have a spectacular fireworks display and if you can catch it from a boat on the water that is an even more fulfilling experience!

Okoboji is a city in Dickinson County in Northwest Iowa and in 2010 their population was 807. It is located along the eastern shore of West Okoboji Lake. Pikes Point State Park is located within the city limits. It is a major tourism area for the whole family to find something to enjoy while vacationing here or visiting. Surrounding cities are Milford, Arnolds Park, Lake Park, and Spirit Lake, Iowa. Driving from Milford to Spirit Lake or Milford to Lake Park gives you the feeling that you have never left the city limits, as there are quaint shops and business all along the way to Spirit Lake and Lake Park.

I recall spending some summers in this location enjoying their amusement park, small though it be, there is something there for everyone. Arnolds Park Amusement Park is home of “The Legend” – the 13th oldest wooden roller coaster ride in America that is still in operation. They celebrated their 80th anniversary in 2007. They have many rides to choose from, miniature golf, Go-Kart racing, and so much more to enjoy within the Parks walls. If you are not into amusement parks there is entertainment most evenings on the weekends in the way of various bands and music artists, there is “The Queen II” a steamer boat that was commissioned and built in 1986 after “The Queen I was retired finally in 1973 after 89 years of service. This new steamer was designated as the “Flagship of the Iowa Navy.” You can take a ride on this steamer boat around West Okoboji Lake and learn all about the history of the area while you enjoy an hour long trip. There is summer theater productions, camping areas and bike/walking trails throughout the area, fishing, boating, miniature golf/golf, art centers to visit, activities during the summer where you can learn a new art, and so much more! There are a variety of places you can stay to roughing it or renting something much more luxurious. There is shopping and places you can get souvenirs to take home from your trip. You can rent boats and water sport equipment to enjoy the water. There is something for everyone at the Iowa Great Lakes! Here is a link to the Arnolds Park Amusement and other things available to do at the Iowa Great Lakes:

Okoboji refers to several lakes and then the town that is named after it in the Iowa Great Lakes region. There is also an East Okoboji Lake that people boat and fish on and Spirit Lake, Iowa is located along the north tip of the East Okoboji lake. Spirit Lake also has a large lake called Spirit Lake and on the northern side of this lake there is a road that runs east and west. Cross to the north side of the road and you are in Jackson County, Minnesota and cross back south on that roads center line and you are back in Dickinson County, Iowa. Good place to throw your line in for fishing I have heard.
Spirit Lake and Okoboji became notable after the Spirit Lake Massacre of 1857 when a renegade band of the Sioux tribe attacked the frontier settlements, in part for food, as they were starving due to a severe winter with heavy snows. It was the last Native American attack against settlers in Iowa. Here is a link to learn more about the area:

When I was in my late 20’s I was involved with a singles group up near the Lakes area and one 4th of July we rented a pontoon boat and took it out and boated for a few hours before the fireworks display. We had so much fun and from the water the fireworks display was very beautiful! There are various places to rent boats and other water craft and if you are interested in learning how to scuba dive – they have a place on the waterfront where you can do that as well. All these small towns come alive in the summer months and their population rises considerably, but there is so many places to visit there and things to do, that you do not note that it seems overcrowded, unless you are ever there in the winter when things are quiet!

In the winter months they hold their Okoboji University Winter Games and so if you love winter sport and activities outside this is something you might want to make a trip to this area! The name Okoboji University is fictitious, it was created back in the early 1970’s but three brothers (The Three Sons) who printed t-shirts with that name and a school crest and it started the joke and craze for this fictitious school, but they do good and hold many fundraisers throughout the year for charities, bike rides, a marathon, and their winter Olympics. Even a local radio station KUOO is in on the joke and they call themselves the campus radio station. They offer all kinds of fun activities including: Broomball, Flag Football, Softball, Bag Tournament, Chili Cook Off, Chocolate Classic, Ice Hockey, Snowmobile Fun & Radar Runs, Polar Plunge, Fireworks, and Burning of the Greens. For more information on their winter activities and schedule – check out this website: http://

In early August each year they hold the Okoboji Lakes Bible and Missionary Conference or Browns Conference. This is a great event to check out. They have various speakers, musicians, and performers this year from August 2 through August 10, 2014 this year. It came into existence for the soul purpose of glorifying God and developing within individuals a growing love for God and others. There are missionaries who come and share about what they have been doing in the areas of the world that they serve, some are from Iowa. It is a beautiful opportunity to fellowship with others of like mind and a place that will help you to grow and aid you as you head back to where you live and serve in your own communities. There is wonderful entertainment and lots of opportunities to grow spiritually. I have been there a couple of times and always leave inspired, empowered, and stronger in my faith. There is something for the whole family to enjoy at this conference. Truly a blessing you will receive while attending this 9 day conference! To check out more about this conference, please check out this link for their schedule of events and a history of how it got started back in the 1930’s.

Wishing you all a Happy and Safe 4th of July – may God watch over and protect you as you enjoy this day celebrating our independence and may you know how blessed you are to live in America!

Watermelon Days and RAGBRAI – Iowa happenings

Watermelon Days happens in the small town of Quimby, Iowa located about 8 miles from Cherokee, Iowa in Cherokee County. It took place this past weekend and it happens every year the last Friday and Saturday of the month of June. The typically quiet main street comes alive on those two evenings with carnival rides, bingo table, cake walk, city wide garage sales (some years), the fire station serves a meal one evening of grilled burgers and the fixings and my brother-in-law usually works the grill. There are concession stands and the area churches have held meals in the small community center building on main street. There have been quilt shows, car shows, craft shows, a dance held in the street, a kiddie parade, they hold raffles for some really nice things and also hold drawings for merchandise they have picked out and purchased for those two nights, a golf tournament at the fairly new golf course, and new this year was the “Watermelon Crawl 5k run/walk. The biggest attraction is the over 3,000 lbs of watermelon that is served on the second night of the event where they bring in a large Hy-Vee grocery semi-truck loaded with cooled watermelon that gets cut up by a number of guys who hand out pieces to the crowd. People will bring plates, forks, and salt shakers to enjoy a juicy slice of this favorite summer fruit! This year they had their 70th year and were selling T-shirts to celebrate. Here are two links to learn a little more about this little town in N.W. Iowa and information on the T-shirts being sold.


Also soon around the corner is RAGBRAI – an annual bike ride across the state of Iowa that happens the middle of July every year and this year it is July 20 – 26th, 2014. Typically in the past they have dipped their front tires in the Missouri River and dipped their back tires in the Mississippi River at the end of the ride, but I am not sure that is possible this year from where it is starting in Rock Valley, Iowa up in the upper N.W. corner of the state, as the Missouri River is a few miles west from there. Rock Valley has had some major flooding this year and residents in Emmetsburg, Iowa were volunteering to come and help them get cleaned up before this event takes place this year.

Cherokee has been a host town many times in the past – we did it 2 years ago and our town grows substantially in population during that overnight stay. Each town they go through there are host families who will open their homes for a cool place to shower up and rest before their next day trek or some like to rough it and sleep in tents and shower where they can – it is all up to the riders and those who follow along in vehicles.

Many people think Iowa is flat, but those who have come from all over the world to bike here find out that Iowa is anything but flat. We have a lot of rolling hills and some are quite a challenge on a bike. There are areas where we have flat land, but I would say there are more hills than flat areas. When you volunteer to help out at these over night stops you meet a lot of people from all walks of life and many of them are grateful for the hospitality and welcome they receive from these towns and cities across our state. Each town has entertainment for everyone, food stands, product stands where they can get things to help them with their week long bike ride, and many just want a clean towel or rag to wipe the sweat from their face and neck and a cold drink of water.

For those who seek a good workout biking hills and valleys this is the event for you! Many people say they love the scenery in Iowa and many come back year after year to bike across this Midwest state. Happy pedaling RAGBRAI riders!

Here is a link to the main page for RAGBRAI so you can read for yourself if you are interested.



48th Annual Cherokee PRCA Rodeo

For the last 48 years the Barnes Rodeo Circuit, of Peterson, Iowa, have been putting on a rodeo at our fair grounds at the end of May. It is a 3 day event with something for the whole family. They hold a Family, Ladies, and Full Fun Day each year. It is held on a Thursday through Saturday evening. Family night is for the whole family with free pony rides, free kids games, free petting zoo, and a kid’s rodeo. Ladies night is for the ladies with the first 500 ladies receiving a gift and coupons of savings at local Cherokee businesses. For the Fun All Day event they hold a western BBQ at the local train Depot, a train robbery at the Depot and a parade at 4:00 pm. Each night they have western vendors who have booths set up so people can look and buy their wares before the rodeo starts. Each year they also pick a rodeo queen and is also in the parade on the last day of the rodeo.

Each evening there are new riders for bareback riding, saddle bronc, bull riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, team roping, and tie down roping.

Bob Barnes and his sister Marjorie became interested in 1950 with rodeos and began putting on their own rodeos. In 1958 Bob married Donita Ducommun from Larrabee, Iowa. Bob had already begun to build Barnes Rodeo Company and they both remained active in the rodeo business the rest of their lives. They had 3 children to their union and all three children now carry on the Barnes Rodeo Company and a rodeo company by the name of MJM, the first initials in their names, Mitzi, Marty, and John that started in 1984.

Donita passed away in August of 2011 and Bob followed her the following year in November 2012. Bob was a member and served on many Rodeo committees all across the US and was active in his church and served on boards there as well. Bob was born and raised in Cherokee, Iowa and Donita was raised in Cherokee County, Iowa near Larrabee, a small farming community just north of Cherokee a few miles. They traveled all over the US to put on rodeos and their stock is known to be the best. Bob is one of only two stock contractors to have sent stock to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo every year.

Bob also started the Midwest Christian Children’s Home near Peterson, Iowa, a home for children who are in need of physical, spiritual, and emotional healing in 1963 and served on the board until his death.

They put on a good show and always entertaining for the whole family!

For more information about the Barnes Rodeo Company and MJM Rodeo check out this link:


Bob and Donita Barnes entering the arena on a horse drawn cart.

Bob and Donita Barnes entering the arena on a horse drawn cart.

Beginning ceremonies of Cherokee PRCA Rodeo each year:
Cherokee Rodeo photo 1

Orange City, Iowa Tulip Festival

Every year on the third weekend in May the Tulip Festival is held in a small town called Orange City, Iowa. This year will be their 74th year! It is fun to go see them in their parades wearing the authentic Dutch clothing and wooden Dutch shoes. They have multiple events going on for 3 days starting on Thursday May 15th and running until Saturday evening on May 17th this year. There is music and dancing in full Dutch attire, a theater production called “The Music Man” this year, the picking of the Dutch Queen who reigns over festivities, many windmills on display – including their Chamber of Commerce housed in a large windmill, Dutch delicacies to eat – lots of good food vendors, exhibits of people’s art, street scrubbing each day, a carnival midway, and so many other events are slated to take place. And not to mention the hundreds of tulips you can see in a variety of colors each year – they are just beautiful! You can also stop and have a pair of wooden shoes made in your size while you are enjoying other events – beautifully handcrafted! There are little stores that feature a lot of Dutch made products for sale that one can take home souvenirs of their visit. Always a lot to see and do and a great time for the whole family.

A little history about the town of Orange City, Iowa. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 6,004 people – this could be due in part to Northwestern College, a Christian liberal arts college with a little over 1200 students in attendance. The town was first called “Holland,” but was later changed in honor of Dutch royalty named after William of Orange. It is best known for its Dutch heritage and their celebration of the Tulip Festival every May. It is the county seat of Sioux County in N.W. Iowa. Many of the cities buildings are faced with Dutch architectural fronts and their courthouse is on the National Register of Historic places. Courthouse photo: Sioux_county_ia_courthouse

The town was founded in 1870 by some people from Pella, Iowa – who also hold a Tulip festival each year. The settlers were looking for cheaper and better land. Northwest Iowa has some of the richest black dirt excellent for growing!

Orange City is a nice little town to visit and the town comes alive during the Tulip Festival every year. To see all they have to offer this year for events, please check out the link below for photos and what is planned for this years celebration.

Orange City, Iowa Tulip Festival – schedule of events

Things to check out in Iowa…

These first pictures are of 2 water towers in Stanton, Iowa, a community of 700 pop located in the S.W. part of Iowa about 7 miles east of Redoak, Iowa. Stanton is known for its Swedish Heritage with their Swedish themed water towers and the home of the Swedish Heritage and Cultural Center, and is the birthplace of Virginia Christine, who played Mrs. Olsen in the Folgers Coffee commercials. Four miles from Stanton is the popular Viking Lake State Park, a 137-acre lake with camping, fishing, boating, swimming, trail walks, playground for kids, and 3 shelters that can be rented by reservation.

There are two water towers in the town of Stanton – one is of the coffee pot and the other of a coffee cup. The third photo is of the Swedish Heritage and Cultural Center located in Stanton, Iowa.

Stanton, Iowa Swedish Coffeepot Water tower

Stanton, Iowa Swedish Coffee Cup water tower

Stanton, Iowa Swedish Heritage and Cultural Center

And here are some Viking Lake State Park photos to check out.

Viking State Park 1

Viking Lake State Park 2

Viking Lake State Park 3

Viking Lake State Park restaurant

Another great attraction in Iowa is the Boone And Scenic Valley Railroad and Museum located in Boone, Iowa in about the center of the state. They have a population of about 26,000. The railroad was started in 1983 primarily by a group of volunteers who wanted to preserve a scenic section of the Fort Dodge, Des Moines, and Southern Railroad. The stretch of track through the Des Moines River valley includes a beautiful high bridge and it runs approximately twelve miles from Boone through the small town of Fraser and then ends at the site of the former town of Wolf. The railroad owns numerous locomotives and dozens of cars. The railroad also runs a short Trolley ride. They have a basic excursion with no air-conditioning that travels from Boone to Iowa’s coal mining town of Fraser and return in a 1920’s era coach cars, a caboose, or an open-air car. The trip is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes in length. You can choose their Dinner Train where you can experience elegant dining on the rails with a full-course meal and 2 hours and 15 minutes of time spent on the train. They also have a Dessert Train where you will be treated to dessert and 2 hours of time on the train and their picnic train where you provide your own meal and you ride in the same cars that they Dinner and Dessert trains take.

I have heard this is a beautiful excursion in the fall when the leaves are turning, but I have seen photos of anytime from May until October when there are beautiful views from these train cars and from the high bridge you cross. Something the whole family can enjoy doing and experiencing what it was like to ride the rails!
Please enjoy these photos:

Boone Scenic Valley Railroad

Boone Scenic Valley Railroad 2

For more information and making a reservation please check out the site below:
Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad and Museum link…

Ledges State Park is also an attraction in Boone, Iowa. Have included 2 photos of this area:
Ledges State Park, Iowa

Ledges State Park, Boone, Iowa

A Haunting in Washta – the coldest spot in Iowa…

Well, I had never heard this story, but my sister’s mother-in-law posted this on her Facebook page since she is from this area as well as my mother’s side of the family and we had no idea there was a scandal with a family name from our past. This was kind of a shock, but some information about a place in Iowa only known for The Coldest Spot in Iowa!

The Montagne name is my mother’s, mother’s maiden name. My mother did not know of George Montagne, Jr’s name being the same as his father, but George Montagne, Jr would have been one of her mother’s uncles. I do wonder now if my grandmother ever knew about this murder/scandal on her side of the family. The graveyard was only a mile or so from where my mother grew up. My mother never knew of this either – when I read this article to her, she was surprised to learn of this and the connection it had to her family. She states, “no one ever shared that and probably for a good reason!” It just goes to prove that no one knows what skeletons are hanging around in those lives of past relatives long before you came along. Here is that article:
A Haunting in Washta…

Washta is only a few miles from where I live. As I stated above, it is said to be the “coldest spot in Iowa,” as back in 1912 in January the temp reached -47. Here is a video of some of the people in Washta who were interviewed by the Des Moines Register this past January on that very topic:
Washta…The Coldest Spot in Iowa…

Washta - The Coldest Spot in Iowa