Tag Archives: Photos

Pella Tulip Time 2016

The week after my birthday and the first weekend of May is really all about Pella’s Tulip Time Festival. For several years Wendy and I were regularly a part of a production that our community theatre, Union Street Players, produced for the thousands of visitors to our town. USP stopped doing Tulip Time productions a few years back and Wendy and I admittedly took a respite from volunteering for a few years. Guilt would set in as we wandered up to the square from our house, just a block away. We vowed that we needed to get in costume and volunteer. It takes a not-so-small army of volunteers to make this thing work, and at some point it would be time to play our parts once again. Ironic that we’re more involved now that we moved far away from our prime property just off the square.

Last year was the year to dive in. We volunteered to portray our town’s founders for the annual three day event, roles that we’ve played on stage multiple times. Last year we were in costume for 12-13 hours straight all three days, but discovered that it was a little much. The 1860s fashion was a little overwhelming to don all day. So, this year we vowed to do things a little differently.

Thursday morning of Tulip Time. Just knew it was going to be a good weekend.
Thursday morning of Tulip Time. Just knew it was going to be a good weekend.

Weather for the festival this year was pretty stellar. Thursday was sunny and relatively cool. Friday was the hot day with temps reaching near 90. Saturday was cooler, much more humid, and hazy. There was a brief sprinkle during the afternoon parade and an intermittent light rain during the evening parade, but the sun made regular appearances in between..

We spent our mornings outside the Scholte House Museum greeting visitors and talking a few confused passers-by into giving the museum a try. And, we got our pictures taken somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,344,682 times. The most fun were the wandering gaggles of foreign visitors who would, as a group, whip out roughly a dozen or six cameras at the same time. Then, various members of the group would take turns running up to stand with us while cameras, cell phones, and iPads were hoisted like paparazzi next to the red carpet. Wendy said her face hurt from all the smiling!😉

We took a brief break for lunch around noon and continued our duty outside the Scholte House until around 2:00 in the afternoon. We would then wander back across town in the early afternoon, stopping every 5.34 feet for another picture. I’m not sure how many international dialects I heard saying “One…Two…Three!”

By 2:30 we were in our places to be picked up for the afternoon parade. Our horse drawn carriage (refurbished this year and sporting a beautiful sign) was actually pulled by the Tulip Queen’s horse. So we would sit behind the Historical Village and wait for the Queen to make her pilgrimage through the parade. The horse would quickly be switched from the Queen’s luxurious ride to our humble little four seater. It was rather comical getting Wendy in her HUGE hooped skirt to squeeze into the back seat of a carriage that had been designed for much smaller people. I joked that there wasn’t enough room for Wendy, her dress, and me. We would then take back streets to the beginning of the parade route and pray that we made it on time. We actually made it five out of the six parades this year.

It was fascinating to watch the crowds at each parade. They shift and change. The Thursday afternoon crowd is filled with seasoned citizens who arrived on one of an army of buses from around the Midwest. Thursday is always the lightest day from the sheer number of humans, and the Thursday evening parade feels like mostly locals with their families and visitors. Friday is the hybrid crowd. There are still a number of bus tour visitors, but there’s a growing number of diverse visitors from all over. By Friday evening, the after-work, weekend crowd had fully descended for a picture perfect Iowa night. The parade route on Friday evening was packed. Saturday is the crowd crazy day. The sea of humanity is varied, colorful, and a ton of fun. The Saturday afternoon parade had people packed deep the entire length of the parade route.

After the afternoon parade it was time to get out of costume and enjoy being Tom and Wendy for a while. The difference between Tom & Wendy as Henry & Mareah Scholte and Tom & Wendy as Tom & Wendy Vander Well is quite a contrast, to be sure. On Thursday afternoon I had forgotten something in the Historical Society’s Curatorial Office where we’d changed back into our mild-mannered civilian selves. I returned to the office where a number of workers from the Historical Society were gathered in any number of official duties. One young woman who works for the Society thought I was a tourist and said to me, “I’m sorry sir, this house is not part of the tour!”

She was a big confused and taken aback when I simply smiled and said, “I know,” and walked right past her into the back room where we’d stored our belongings. When I returned she was still standing there looking confused and bit frustrated. As I passed by her I smiled and said, “You don’t recognize me out of my Dominie costume, do you?” It was then that it dawned on her who I was. I wish I had a picture of the shocked look on her face, before she began laughing and apologizing.

Our afternoons incognito began at the Heineken Loft in the Pella Opera House visiting with friends and relaxing in the air conditioned loft while we watched the festival pass by on the streets below. Then it was off to the food stands to try one of the many tempting options afforded by the food vendors at Tulip Time.

This year’s culinary surprises were the “Double Dutch” which Wendy had on Thursday night, and the Romanian Sausage sandwich I had on Saturday. The Double Dutch is a quarter pound hamburger topped with Gouda cheese, which then gets topped with a large slice of Pella bologna. Sounds a bit strange, I know. Wendy loved it. I only had a bit, but had to admit it was pretty delicious. Our friends from Pella’s Greek Orthodox Church sell a Romanian sausage sandwich. The recipe came from the the grandmother of one of the people in the parish and it had been highly recommended by our trustworthy City Council representative, Larry Peterson. Again, I was surprised at how good it was. Not something I would have ordered otherwise.

Of course, we also had to get our annual taste of the Tulip Time staples. Stroopwaffels, Poffertjes, Dutch Letters, corn dog, tenderloin…. You get the picture. Regular diet resumes sometime today (after we finish up a few of the leftovers!).

On Thursday night we took our supper from the food stands to the Cellar Peanut Pub’s courtyard. The Iowa Craft Beer truck was set up at the back of the Cellar’s garage and was serving a special wheat ale from Peace Tree Brewing in Knoxville that is made with wheat milled by Pella’s Vermeer Windmill. Everything the Cellar served on their 50+ taps during Tulip Time was from local Iowa breweries. It was a great addition to the Tulip Time offerings.

About 8:00 we were back at the Historical Village getting back into costume for the 8:30 parade. When the parade was over we would quick get to our car and try to navigate the back streets home before the parade was completely over.

It was good to see family and friends, as always. Taylor came to town late on Thursday and was supposed to join us again on Saturday until some kind of intestinal crud struck her. Madison and her boyfriend, Matt, arrived on Saturday morning for a cup of coffee together before Wendy and I headed into town. Madison had fun introducing Matt to everything Pella and we joined for some enjoyable conversation at the Heineken Loft in the late afternoon, then debriefed at home late into the night. Today was supposed to be kind of a 50th birthday celebration with the girls, but with Taylor down those plans got theoretically rained out just as my Cubs-centric birthday bash got rained out in both Chicago and Des Moines last weekend. I guess, once again, “there is no joy in Mudville.” C’est la vie.

Today is rest, recuperation, and reentry into routine. It’s been a fun week. Once again I shake my head in amazement at the unique community we’re blessed to call home.

Mom’s Valentine’s Day Present

We are blessed that the progression of my mother’s Alzheimer’s has been slowed by meds. We’re thankful for each day we’re able to continue to enjoy together. I’ve read that music and images are positive stimuli for those suffering with Alzheimer’s, triggering memories and hopefully lubricating the brain to continue remembering.

With that in mind, I put together a little video for mom (and dad) for Valentine’s Day this year. Some old family photos and music that hopefully gets the synapses firing in a positive way. The Dixieland jazz that accompanies photos of her as a little girl is from Bix Beiderbecke, an Iowa native. My mom’s dad loved Dixieland and attended the Bix festival in Davenport. My mom told me that when she was a teenager, the Crew-Cuts’ Sh-Boom was her favorite song. She repeatedly played it so much that it drove her father crazy (I remember having similar thoughts about N’Sync), so that’s what I chose for pictures of her as a teen. The Lord’s Prayer was sung at their wedding, and I can remember my mom listening to Whitney Huston’s CD a lot, especially after watching The Preacher’s Wife.

Our plan to take the folks out for Valentine’s dinner was scuttled by weather, but I had a chance to swing by their apartment this week and play them this video. It was fun to hear their memories, laughter, and to witness her tears as she watched. At the end of the video she wiped her tears and said, “God has been so good to us. We have been so blessed.

I hope she will enjoy watching this video over and over again. And, I hope it will continue to remind her of God’s faithfulness and blessings through the home stretch of her life journey.

My Photos: 2015

Last year I put together a slideshow of some of my favorite photos from 2014. I thought I would continue the tradition again this year. So, for Photo Friday, here is a compilation of some of my favorite photos from the year 2015. Some of them are favorites because I liked the shot from a photographic point-of-view, and others are favorites simply because of the moment and the memory.


Top Five Tuesday: Distractions


Speaking of distractions, here are the top five outlets feeding my appetite for distraction:

  1. Facebook: Who’s doing what, where, with whom right now?
  2. Twitter: #losingmyselfin140characters
  3. MLB At Bat: All things baseball and the Cubs at any moment.
  4. Photos: So many photos, so little time.
  5. PSVita: Inside the man is a boy who loves his games.

The Groom

Sam Keithley triptychWe were at our nephew’s wedding last weekend. I had my camera out and was snapping away. When the the processional music swelled I rose with the crowd and turned to see Sam’s bride, Lydia, walking the aisle with her father.

“Sam!” Wendy urgently whispered in my ear. “Take a picture of Sam!”

I turned and snapped a series of pictures of Sam as he watched his bride walking down the aisle toward him.

So glad Wendy prompted me.



TBT: Grandpa V and the Grill

Grandpa V and the Grill

I like going through old family photos. There’s a lot to wade through and a whole host of faces and events that have little relevance to me. Every once in a while, however, you come across a random photograph that strikes your fancy. For Throwback Thursday I’d like to share with you this little gem.

I have always loved this picture of my Grandpa Vander Well which was taken when he and my grandma drove my mother from Iowa out to Idaho where my folks were moving shortly after they got married. There was a whole series of photos that chronicle their multi-day journey including the retro travel motels where they stayed.

I laugh every time I see this photo. I have no idea why Grandpa wanted a photo of the grill in the park. He certainly does not look particularly excited about it. He’s not cooking lunch. With his pens clipped in his shirt pocket he looks like he could be the state grill inspector documenting that the camp stove meets the Iowa Code for proper grill standards and maintenance.

I imagine my Grandma V sharing their photos with friends: “Oh, and here’s a picture of Herman with a grill!

In a time when taking photos and having them developed cost money, why would you invest in a photograph of you with a charred park grill? Whatever the reason, I’m glad they took it. A half century later it continues to regularly make me smile.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6

I am publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which  took place June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.

It’s ART DAY! Wherever we go, Wendy and I love to take in a little art and culture. Taylor is studying Arts and Event Management, so its only natural that we devote at least a little time to see what artistic treasures Edinburgh had for us.

It was Saturday morning and Wendy and I grabbed the bus to Taylor’s flat. It was about a 20 minute bus ride from the top of Victoria Street to her stop on Pilton and she was there to meet us. Taylor has a hike of several blocks from the bus stop to her apartment building on Pilton Farm Crescent. She lived in the student residences of Queen Margaret University during the school year but moved to this three bedroom flat at the end of the semester where she lives with some lovely young ladies. We had a chance to see the place and meet one of her flat mates. It was a nice flat on the fourth floor with lots of light and Taylor has a gorgeous view of the area and the North Sea out her bedroom window.

We hiked another mile or so to a bus stop and grabbed a bus towards the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. There are actually two museums across the street from one another. We started at Two but there was only one gallery open with a collection of surrealist art. We enjoyed the exhibit but it didn’t take long to get through it. We then walked across the street to museum One which had an exhibition of Roy Lichtenstein along with their permanent collection, largely of contemporary Scottish artists. We enjoyed the museum and, afterwards, we grabbed a taxi to the City Art Centre which offered four more floors of Scottish artists, though the gallery on each floor was rather small and it didn’t take too long to get through it.

Our souls refreshed and our minds inspired, we began the short hike back to the hotel. All week long we had been passing a unique little eatery on Victoria Street called Oink. They roast an entire hog each day, stick it in the window for passers by to see, and then serve pork sandwiches until it’s all gone. The shop could close early or late depending on the hunger of Edinburgh. It looked and smelled so good all week that I was determined to try it before we left. So, I grabbed a pork sandwich (absolutely delicious!) and Taylor stopped at Hula for a snack bar before we journeyed on to our hotel room for a bite and a bit of rest.

We walked to The Jazz Bar after our rest. It’s a small, basement bar where Taylor spent many evenings this past year. When I asked Taylor how often she’d been to the Jazz Bar she laughed and dismissively admitted, “Oh, more times than I can count.” I was shocked to find the venue packed at 3:00 in the afternoon, and the average age of the crowd was older than I expected, but then again the talented trio playing was of a similar age. We eventually got a table and spent over three hours talking and drinking as we listened to the music. It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

The jazz trio gave way to a solo pianist and the crowd remained large though there was a constant coming and going. There were a lot of people avidly listening to the jazz, and I was surprised to see a number of people there by themselves sitting transfixed by the music. At one point, Taylor, Wendy and I were in a wonderful  and intense conversation that clearly annoyed an elderly old Scot sitting and a nearby table (I tend to be a loud talker, sorry). He turned while I was talking and chewed me out in his thick Scottish accent basically telling me to shut up and listen to the music. We all kind of laughed and chose to speak in quieter tones, but we were all a bit taken aback. “It’s a bar, not a concert hall,” Wendy grumbled.

It was about 6:30 by the time we left and we walked to Pizza Express. We had eaten there a couple of nights before and both Wendy and I loved it. Earlier in the week Taylor told us that two of her friends from high school were flying into Edinburgh for a week of sightseeing in Scotland, and wanted to see her. We were excited at the opportunity to visit with both Jon De Haan and Gabe Spencer. Jon had been a regular visitor to our home back when they were in high school and Taylor had gone to prom with Gabe one year. The lads had flown in earlier that day and agreed to meet us at Pizza Express for dinner. They were a bit jet lagged but arrived on time and we had a wonderful meal together, catching up on their lives since leaving Pella.

One of the items on my Scottish bucket list was a whiskey tasting, but I had to admit that I’d not looked forward to experiencing it on my own. I knew that neither Wendy nor Taylor would want to join me. Taylor had scheduled an appointment with Wendy for British high tea on Sunday afternoon and so I thought it fortuitous that Jon and Gabe had arrived just in time to save me from a lonely afternoon of Scotch sampling. I had simply uttered, “So, I was thinking about doing a whiskey tasting tomorrow…” when the lads cut in with an enthusiastic “Yes!” in unison. The date was set.

We figured the kids would want some time to themselves after dinner. Taylor cajoled a passer-by to take a group photo outside the restaurant and then they headed for The Queen’s Arms Pub. Wendy and I headed back to the hotel where we relaxed with a movie, did a little reading, and drifted off to sleep.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Days 1-2
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 3
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 4
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 5
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 7