Friday, July 6, 2007

July 4th in Clear Lake

Clear Lake is known to have the biggest July 4th celebration in north Iowa, and this year was no different. The big parade kicked off at 10am and went down Main Ave. all the way to the lakefront. As usual, the police were in the lead blaring their sirens to signify the parade was underway. They were followed by the Clear Lake VFW honor guard carrying the flags, and then the Boy Scouts carrying many more flags. After the scouts went thru, we had a nice LONGGGGGGGGGGG wait for the next entry-- Bill and Hill! Yep, the Clintons were going so slow (visiting and campaigning) that the parade was held up for at least 15 minutes so they could catch up. After their entourage passed, we were finally able to enjoy the parade. Also walking in this year's parade was Mitt Romney, and volunteers from most of the other presidential candidates. I personally would rather see a parade with floats, bands and fire trucks, and leave all the politics out of it. The best parade "entry" was the Iowa Air National Guard, which did a fly-over with 3 F-16's. I was a little slow with the camera, but I did catch a blurry shot of them in the distance after they passed us.

It was interesting to note that one of the early entries, the Mason City VFW, was NOT in attendance this year. Their tradition is to march in uniform carrying their "blank shooting" rifles, which they will fire off periodically during the parade. This year, they were told by the Secret Service that firearms would not be allowed, so the group elected to back out of the parade. One of their officers was quoted in the local paper as saying: “There’s too much political stuff. They’re making us change 50 years of tradition because of two people, and one of them is a draft dodger who turned the White House into a whorehouse.” Needless to say, there are MANY in North Iowa fired up about this quote.

I would be remiss in not mentioning our parade hosts. Again this year we watched from the front yard of Ivan and Brenda Good, who own a home right on Main Ave. Many from our church family gathered on their lawn and enjoyed the good food and fellowship before the parade.

After the parade, we went back home and got ready to host a picnic. The Cox's and Nichols' along with Nick Oliver came over and we grilled up some yummy grub. The backyard was full of kids on the swings and playing volleyball.

The weather was perfect, sunny and about 90 degrees. Doreen Nichols fried up a batch of her onion rings, which are about the best I've ever tasted. We enjoyed a great time of fellowship and then at about 7:30, we headed to the church. We parked in the church's lot and walked about 4 blocks south to the lakefront where we spread our chairs and blankets out right on Lakefront Ave, which was closed. We then walked the kids down to the carnival to occupy some time before the 10pm fireworks. Everyone had a great time.

When the fireworks finally began, we were amazed. The city, with the help of corporate and individual donations, put on a $50,000 fireworks display out over the lake. The launchers were set up on 4 barges in the lake, and once they started shooting, they didn't stop for 30 minutes. It was non-stop, 3 or 4 starbursts at a time for the whole 30 min. Without a doubt, the best fireworks show I've ever seen.

Hope you all had as great a 4th of July as we did! John

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Monday, July 2, 2007

Our first summer vacation

We got to enjoy our first vacation of the summer last week, and I only had to use 1 day of vacation time to do it! I happen to work in a hospital pharmacy that is open 24/7, and one of the overnight pharmacists took time off the weekend of June 22-24. I volunteered to work those 3 nights, which gave me 4 days off the following week. Add in a day of vacation on Friday and voila, a whole week off to go camping with the family. I got home from work at 7:30 am on Monday, took a nap until about noon, then hooked up the camper and off we went to MacNider campground in Mason City. This is a nice campground run by the city's Parks & Rec dept, right next door to the city's pool facility. The Winnebago river runs just adjacent to the campground, and on the other side of the river is Mason City's largest park, East Park.

Monday and Tuesday were HOT, and the whole family enjoyed the pool both days. It was great to watch Sarabeth, Nathan and Juliana romping in the water. They all loved going underwater, time after time---no fear (which is dangerous). We had to keep a close eye on them. I think swimming lessons are in the near future! Sarabeth had never been swimming in China, so this was her first time. I think she's hooked.

On Wednesday the weather cooled off a little and we went crawdad hunting in the river. We caught quite a few along with some minnows. There was a huge flock of geese on the riverbank which Mary and the kids were feeding bread to. The geese would eat right out of their hands. On Thursday, we celebrated Caitlin's 15th birthday! We took her out to breakfast at McD's and then took all the kids to the HUGE playground at East Park. That evening we went out for Chinese and played a round of Putt-putt at a local golf facility. All the kids had a great time. The weather was fantastic and we sat around the campfire until well past dark. The little ones enjoyed catching fireflies and watching the bats flutter overhead as they began their nightly search for bugs. We also sang Happy Birthday to Caitlin as she blew out the candles on some birthday cookies.

On Friday morning, it was time to pack up and go home. Caitlin needed to do laundry and pack up to go to camp at IRBC on Saturday. She is working in the dishroom all week this week during Family Camp 2. It was a short week, but an enjoyable time away from home. We were only about 10 miles from the house, but with no computers, TVs, phone etc., we were able to relax and enjoy family time together.

The weekend was spent doing things around the house, mowing the grass etc. We are hosting our church's July 4 picnic on Wednesday afternoon, so the yard needed some work.