Thursday, August 6, 2009

Junebug about positive music

Nick Wosika wasn’t too keen on joining Junebug at first.

“It’s not the best rock band name,” he said.

Due to his love of music, however, the bass player eventually got over his complex.

“Now it’s for better or for worse,” Wosika said.

Drawing on many influences from numerous genres including psychedelic, funk, grunge, classic rock, reggae and country, high school friends Anthony Bergman, Tony Kollman and Dustin Marks formed Junebug 12 years ago in Jamestown, ND.

How the band settled on its name is a little more interesting, though.

“We were just kids, tinking around in a basement trying to think of a band name,” Kollman said. “We couldn’t come up with much — just silly names high school kids might think up.”

Bergman thought of an episode of “Full House” he had seen, where a gangster was named Junebug.

Kollman and Marks weren’t quite sure. They thought it was kind of “puff” sounding.

“About a half hour later, I said, ‘Junebug is kind of growing on me,’” Kollman said. “Anthony said, ‘On second thought, I don’t like it.’”

But, at the end of the night, the three decided to go with the name until they thought of something better.

They never did.

While Junebug was just playing for fun in Jamestown, the three later moved to Aberdeen, SD.

“Four years ago, we decided to see what we could do with it if we actually tried,” Kollman said. “So, we started putting shows together in South Dakota and just had fun with it.”

But, the trio decided they wanted to take it a step further and move to a city with a stronger music scene.

After making the move to Minneapolis, Wosika joined the band, and there has been no looking back.

Now, the four-piece band will be showcasing their love for music at Murphy’s in Arnolds Park on Friday, Aug. 14 and Saturday, Aug. 15.

“Expect high energy and expect to have a good time,” Kollman said. “We are all about having fun and being positive. People will have a great time. It should be a pretty high energy show.”

The Isles:
Joining Junebug at Murphy’s Aug. 14-15 will be fellow Minneapolis-based band The Isles.

Drawing on a group of individuals that all come from different musical backgrounds and experiences, The Isles was formed on a jam session whim and has skyrocketed into a Midwest success story.

“It’s been a blast,” said band member Todd Douglas.

While Douglas said each of The Isles’ songs has a different feel — from G Love to Dave Matthews to Incubus — the band’s overall sound could be classified as a cross between alternative rock and hip hop.

So, what should patrons of Murphy’s expect from The Isles?

“Something a little different in each song,” Douglas said. “Some might be reggae, some might be funk, some might be rock and some might be hip hop.”

And, Douglas expects all in attendance to be ready to have a very enjoyable outing.

“Be ready to dance and party,” he said. “We’re definitely a party band.”

The Bands:
Anthony Bergman, guitar; lead vocals
Tony Kollman, drums; backing vocals
Dustin Marks, guitar; backing vocals
Nick Wosika, bass

The Isles:
Chris Butts, rhyme and motion
Todd Douglas, guitar and vocals
Anna Wosika, vocals
Travis Lorentson, bass
Nimo the Hooligan, turn tables and samples
DJ Rickerd, drums

At a Glance:
What: Junebug and The Isles
Where: Murphy’s, 129 W. Broadway St., Arnolds Park
When: 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14 and Saturday, Aug. 15
Contact: (712) 332-6111
Online: or

This article appeared in the August 8, 2009 edition of DISCOVER! Magazine.

Busy band heads back home

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Pictures of Then.

Nearly two years ago, the self-described classic British rock band infused with a touch of indie flair, was formed by Joe Gamble, Joe Call and Casey Call, all natives of the Iowa Great Lakes.

A year ago, the three moved to Minneapolis, added keyboardist Tim Greenwood, and began heavily promoting their unique sound.

“Once we got up here, we really came to fruition,” Gamble said. “It’s been no looking back since.”

Originally, the Lakes natives thought it would be easy to occasionally make the three-and-a-half hour jaunt back home. But, Pictures of Then’s popularity has made that a little difficult.

“We’ve been doing over 100 shows a year, so whenever we do go home, we don’t want to go anywhere,” Gamble said. “We end up just hanging out in Minneapolis a lot.”

But, the band will be making a repeat appearance at the Green Wave Music Festival on Sunday, Aug. 16, at Kenue Park in Okoboji.

“It’s cool, because it’s kind of like a homecoming for us,” Gamble said. “It gives us a great excuse to go home, hang around Okoboji and visit our families for a few days.”

What’s more, the members of Pictures of Then are very supportive of the Green Wave message.

“What’s neat about Green Wave is that it’s clearly about the music, but at the same time, it’s promoting something larger than that. And, what’s really neat is that it’s not happening in Minneapolis, Madison or Chicago, it’s happening in Okoboji. I don’t think people really understand how neat that is. There are a lot of progressive cities that carry the green message, yet Okoboji is a small town, and it’s doing one of the coolest activist activities I’ve seen as far as getting the word out. That’s really neat.”

The Band:
Casey Call, vocals and guitar
Joe Call, drums
Joe Gamble, guitar
Tim Greenwood, keyboard and background vocals

Wicked Sea:
Check out Picture of Then’s latest album, “And the Wicked Sea,” before the band’s performance at the Green Wave Music Festival.
The album, which dropped on Tuesday, is available for purchase on iTunes or on

Minneapolis based Pictures of Then may have just released their latest album, but that isn’t the only thing the band is excited about.
“Recently, we’ve just been licensed on five or six different MTV shows,” said guitarist Joe Gamble.
Gamble expects the songs to be played this fall once the new television line-up is aired.

1-2:30 p.m. Damon Dotson
3-4:30 p.m. Driftwood Fire
5-6:30 p.m. Lonesome Traveler
7-8:30 p.m. Pictures of Then

At a Glance:
What: Green Wave Music Festival
Where: Kenue Park, 2251 County Home Rd., Okoboji
When: Noon-8:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16
Cost: Tickets, $5; parking, $10
Contact: (712) 331-1493

This article appeared in the August 8, 2009 edition of DISCOVER! Magazine.

Sioux Speedway welcomes legend

Ken Schrader has made a living out of driving in circles.

That doesn’t mean the 54-year-old gets dizzy, though.

No, for Schrader, going ’round in circles is basically second nature.

Especially considering his 20 years of successes in the NASCAR elite series.

Schrader got his start burning rubber at the young age of 3, when his father, Bill, tied a cable from his go-kart to a post in the backyard of their Missouri home. Schrader would drive around and around in circles until his go-kart would run out of gas and he would ask his dad to fill it back up so he could continue.

“I guess you could say that I’ve been dizzy ever since,” Schrader said. “I really don’t think it is an exaggeration when I say that racing is all I’ve ever known. I’ve been racing since I could walk, and it is really all I have ever wanted to do. To be honest, I would race everyday if I had the opportunity.”

After numerous top place finishes in the Nextel Cup Series, the Craftsman Truck Series, the NASCAR Grand National West Division, the NASCAR Auto Zone Elite Southwest Series and the ARCA Series, racing everyday is almost exactly what Schrader has continued to do — especially at small race tracks around the United States.

And, on Thursday, Aug. 13, the racer will be showcasing his talent in his No. 9 Modified at Sioux Speedway in Sioux Center.

Deemed Ken Schrader Night, the semi-retired NASCAR legend will start off the evening with a meet and greet.

“Fans will be able to come down and get an autograph from Ken,” said Sioux Speedway race director Darlo Mulder. “It will be open to the first 350 people that buy a ticket.”

Schrader will then race in the Modified division, but Mulder said the night will still feature Hobby Stock, B-Modified and Stock Car races.

Following the races, Mulder said those fans who weren’t present at the meet and greet can mingle with the racer in the pits — an opportunity Mulder himself will no doubt be taking advantage of.

“I’ve always been a big Kenny Schrader fan, and I’m really excited to meet him,” Mulder said. “I’m just excited to have someone that big in Sioux Center. Hopefully it will draw a big crowd and everyone else will appreciate the opportunity, too.”

“I want to spend my time racing. It’s not only my job, but it’s also my hobby. I love the time that I get to spend behind the wheel, and as long as I can, I’m going to race whenever I get the chance.”
Ken Schrader

Unique Races:
As Sioux Speedway only holds four races each season, race director Darlo Mulder tries to make each event original.
“We try to find something unique to make every night different,” he said.
Although the speedway has never featured a NASCAR legend like Ken Schrader, Mulder is quite excited for the opportunity to host such a distinguished racer.
“Usually, when tracks have a big event like this, the ticket price is pretty high, but we’re not doing that,” Mulder said. “We’re charging the normal ticket price, and that’s quite a good deal to watch someone like him race.”
What’s more, all of the proceeds from the night go towards the Sioux County Fair.

Sioux Speedway is located on the Sioux County Fairgrounds, one mile east of Hwy. 75 on Seventh Street N.E. in Sioux Center.

At a Glance:
What: Ken Schrader Night
Where: Sioux Speedway, one mile east of Hwy. 75 on Seventh Street N.E., Sioux Center
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13
Cost: $9 for adults; $5 for ages 9-12; ages 8 and under are free; $25 pit pass
Contact: (712) 441-1705
Online: or

This article appeared in the August 8, 2009 edition of DISCOVER! Magazine

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jobless rate in region below state average

REGIONAL—Despite the statewide unemployment rate pushing above 6 percent, N’West Iowa is sitting much lower than the June average.

According to figures released by Iowa Workforce Development on July 17, the state’s unemployment rate climbed to 6.2 percent in June from a revised 5.7 percent in May and 5.1 percent in April. June 2007 saw an unemployment rate of just 3.7 percent.

June’s rate is a 22-year high.

Worsening economic conditions have pushed the number of unemployed workers in Iowa to 104,100 — the highest it has been since February 1986.

N’West Iowa, on the other hand, is sitting much better, although the four-county area still saw slight increases.

For the month of June, Lyon County saw an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent, an increase from 3.6 in both May and April. O’Brien County was at 5.1 percent for June, while it saw rates of 4.6 in May and 4.2 in April. Osceola County was at 5.7 percent for June, an increase from 4.9 in May and 4.8 in April. Sioux County was at 4.5 percent for June, while it was at 3.7 for both May and April.

In June 2007, Lyon County was at 2.5 percent, O’Brien County was at 3.1, Osceola County was at 3.5 and Sioux County was at 2.9.

“Traditionally, northwest Iowa has always had a strong economic base, so the unemployment rate tends to run lower than the rest of the state,” said Kerry Koonce, a spokeswoman for Iowa Workforce Development. “That’s very positive for the area.”

She said the increase is primarily due to two instances: The combined effects of continuing layoffs and recent high school and college graduates entering the job market.

“During May and June, we always see an influx in new job seekers in the labor force,” Koonce said.

Still, the national economic situation is not helping matters.

“The June labor market numbers depict the effects of a severe and lingering recession on the Iowa economy,” said Elisabeth Buck, director of Iowa Workforce Development. “Iowa followed the national trend in June with its steepest job cuts occurring in construction, manufacturing and professional and business services.”

Koonce said it does not look like the state will be rebounding anytime soon.

State officials estimate that about 16,000 Iowans have lost the unemployment safety net since May. Most unemployed workers in Iowa receive 46 weeks of benefits — 26 weeks of standard benefits plus two federal extensions of 10 weeks each.

Koonce said on average, Iowans typically use 12 weeks of unemployment.

No matter, the statewide figures still remain lower than the national average.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 9.5 percent in June, up from 9.4 percent in May and 5.6 percent a year ago.

“Iowa is always lower than the national average because of the size of the workforce compared to the overall population,” Koonce said.

According to Iowa Workforce Development data, the nation has lost 6.5 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) this week applauded Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis for traveling to Iowa to see innovative workforce training initiatives and announce two National Emergency Grant awards to Iowa communities suffering from recent layoffs.
Harkin chairs the appropriations subcommittee that funds labor initiatives and worked to secure additional resources in the Economic Recovery Package to assist out of work Americans.
“Rising unemployment is a growing concern for families across the U.S., but particularly here in Iowa,” Harkin said in a statement. “There is no quick fix to the economy, but we can take meaningful steps to increase resources that will help dislocated workers and give them the skills they need to re-enter the workforce. With Iowa’s unemployment once again on the rise, this funding comes in the nick of time.”
The National Emergency Grants will be awarded to the following:
Iowa Workforce Development, $664,074: To assist workers affected by layoffs resulting from the closure of RR Donnelley in Spencer. This project will provide employment-related services to dislocated workers in Buena Vista, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Kossuth, O’Brien and Palo Alto counties.
Iowa Workforce Development, $335,853: This project will provide access to “wrap-around” services like career counseling, assessment and job search assistance. Supportive services also will be available as needed. The project will benefit Allamakee, Bremer, Buchanan, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties.

This article appeared in the July 25, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Chalk Talk: Story time includes illustration when artist Hansen is involved

HARTLEY—Picture a cool autumn day in the country.

A red barn sits near a corn field soon to be harvested.

There are no people but rather two birds flying over the horizon of the picturesque scene.

It could be anywhere — Maine, Nebraska, Oregon, even N’West Iowa.

But it’s not.

The artfully crafted landscape is a piece of LaVonne Hansen’s imagination, and the two birds are her signature.

The 80-year-old from Hartley has been honing her artistic talent since she was only 7.

“I kind of let it get away from me in high school,” she said.

But, while enrolled at Drake University in Des Moines, Hansen took an art class and re-discovered her gift.

Not for long, though, as she moved to Vermillion, SD, after graduation to work at a bank.

“After awhile, I was itching to do something, to create,” Hansen said.

She began creating small chalk drawings for the Order of the Eastern Star, the largest fraternal organization in the world to which men and women may belong, and matched her drawings to a short story she imagined about a rock and a lighthouse.

“It just developed into something fun,” Hansen said.

Before long, she was traveling to different organizations, groups, fairs, conventions, reunions, showers, churches and libraries, presenting what came to be known as “chalk talks.”

For each 20-minute presentation, Hansen comes prepared with a large metal easel, a wooden board, a large piece of newsprint and a set of soft chalk pastels. The presentation usually will have a theme, so Hansen will have time to develop a story and idea of an image.

While Hansen tells the story, she gradually draws on the newsprint.

“I always try to leave one space out while I’m drawing and fill it in later,” she said. “It’s an element of surprise.”

Hansen times her story with her chalk drawing, so they are both completed at the same time.

“You’ll know I’m done when I draw the two birds,” she said.

What results is a simple, colorful masterpiece.

“I draw very quickly,” Hansen said. “It’s very, very messy.”

After each piece is complete, she usually sprays it and takes a photograph so she can remember each drawing, then either lets the group keep the drawing or takes it home and stores it in her basement.

“I try to make each one not like the last,” she said.

This has not proven easy, as Hansen has done hundreds of chalk talks around the country and even some in Canada.

“It’s just a fun hobby I’ve gotten myself into and can’t seem to get out of,” she said.

But, Hansen’s chalk talks are not her true passion.

“I love painting and doing pen and ink drawings. I also recently took up woodcarving,” Hansen said. “As long as God lets me keep my eyesight and my right hand, I’ll be OK.”

Name: LaVonne Hansen
Age: 80
Residence: Hartley
Family: Husband, Don; two children; four grandchildren
Hobbies: Drawing, fishing, hiking in Arizona

LaVonne Hansen and her husband, Don, recently got back from a book launching party in Canada for Irvin Goodon’s autobiographical memoir “Climbing: One Pole at a Time.”
Hansen, who became acquainted with Goodon in Arizona, has more than 60 pen and ink illustrations in the book.
“We would sit by the hour together, and he would tell me stories, and I would draw what he was seeing,” she said. “I would definitely do it again if I had the opportunity.”
Hansen also has pen and ink drawings in “Walking Beans Wasn’t Something You Did with Your Dog,” an anthology of stories about growing up in and around small towns in the Midwest, published by Jean Tennant, owner of Shapato Publishing in Everly.

This article appeared in the July 25, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Church's closing brings tears to its membership

INWOOD—Bethel United Methodist Church in Inwood may soon close its doors for good, but the eternal flame is still burning.

Members voted to discontinue services at the 125-year-old church during a congregational meeting on July 15.

“It’s very sad,” said Evelyn Brown, who has been attending Bethel United for 65 years.

For Brown, the building holds a special place in her heart, as both of her parents were members and her grandfather served as pastor during the 1930s.

“I finally just burst down and cried,” said Jan Hamann, who’s husband, the late Kenneth Hamann, served as pastor for five years.

“It’s such a shame, it’s such a beautiful little church,” said Karen Johnson, whose extended family has been attending the Inwood church most likely since its inception in 1884.

The three long-time members are not the only ones who have been disgruntled by the closure.

“Some local people who don’t even belong feel bad, but they realize it has to be done,” Brown said.

The church’s congregation, which has been comprised primarily of older community members for some time, has been facing a steady decline as members have passed on.

Coupled with a not-so-great administration a few years back, the building has reached a point of disrepair, with water leaks, ruined floors and outdated fixtures.

When current pastor Steve Swenson arrived in 2006, Hamann said Bethel United only had 10 members.

To keep the church open, congregation members held benefits, bake sales, waffle breakfasts and banquets to even pay for Swenson’s salary.

“It just reached a point where attendance was not enough to carry on or finance anything,” Hamann said. “Something had to be done.”

Which is why, although Hamann, Brown and Johnson may be saddened by the decision, they agree that the church needs to be closed.

“We don’t even have enough members to pay a minister’s salary,” Johnson said.

Hamann said only four people attended Bethel United’s final Sunday service on July 19. She, Brown and Johnson have all begun attending Doon United Methodist Church, where they will be formally welcomed into the congregation during a ceremony in August.

Besides attending the Doon church, they said members also have the option of transferring to Seeds of Faith, the United Methodist affiliated church in Lester.

To honor members and former pastors and community members who have remained dedicated to Bethel United, or simply want to say goodbye, Swenson will hold a special celebration and service at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16, at the church, located at 311 S. Oak St. in Inwood.

“Everyone is invited,” Brown said.

The Iowa United Methodist Conference Board of Ordained Ministry will take ownership of the church and surrounding property on Aug. 1. The board has no plans for the church yet, and Johnson said it probably will not make any decision until at least September, due to the final celebration.

Brown said that Bethel United is not the only United Methodist church the board has to worry about.

At the board’s annual conference June 4-7, it voted to close five other Methodist churches in the state — Pleasant Prairie United Methodist Church in Chariton, Morrow Memorial Heights United Methodist Church in Marshall County, Capitol Heights United Methodist Church in Des Moines, Jefferson Center United Methodist Church in Stuart and South Bethel United Methodist Church in Manly.

Although the decision was expected, members still are sad to see the church, especially the intricate stained-glass windows, go.

“The town has said it’s the prettiest church in our area because of its age and its stained glass windows,” Brown said. “It would be a great historical place, but to raise money to keep it open would be too much.”

Following the Sunday celebration on Aug. 16, with the exception of the numerous memorials donated to the church by families in the congregation, all if its belongings will be turned over to the Iowa United Methodist Church, and the eternal flame will burn no more.

This article appeared in the July 25, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

Bottle or breast feeding? New mothers weigh option

REGIONAL—The newfound joy of having a baby can be quite overwhelming for some parents.

With constant decisions having to be made, how do you know if you’re making the right one?

One major decision that will need to be made as soon as the baby is born is whether to use formula or breast feed.

Cheryl Tracy, a registered nurse and international board certified lactation consultant at Orange City Area Health System, recommends the latter.

“I encourage all expectant moms to breast feed. It’s definitely a baby’s best start, and it’s a parenting style that is a special one,” Tracy said. “There is a bond between mom and baby that can’t be replicated by any other process.”

Tracy would know, she speaks from experience.

After having four children, each of whom she breast fed, Tracy said she has formed a special bond with each that would not have happened otherwise.

“It was that part of being a mom that I so thoroughly enjoyed that I decided to become a lactation consultant — to help other moms enjoy it the way I did, to educate them on the benefits of breast feeding and to be there to help them with the bumps in the road that come along during the process,” Tracy said.

Here’s a closer look at how breast feeding compares to formula:

Q: What are the benefits to breast feeding?
A: There are a lot of them, but a big thing that comes to mind are the health benefits for babies. Research says that babies who are breast fed tend to have less ear infections, less GI (gastrointestinal) infections and their immune system is boosted from breast feeding.

Q: Does breast milk contain anything formula does not?
A: Breast milk as 200-plus ingredients that formula cannot match. The white blood cells, which are the living cells in breast milk, help with immune responses.

Q: If a baby was strictly fed on formula as opposed to breast milk, would they see different effects?
A: I definitely think so. You cannot manufacture those immune properties and living cells that come in breast milk, so they would definitely be missing out on that aspect. The neat thing about breast milk is that it is specifically geared toward that baby the mom is feeding. Breast milk of a prematurely delivered baby is different than breast milk for a baby born at full term. It changes as the baby grows, and formula pretty much stays the same and doesn’t change with the needs of the baby.

Q: As the baby gets older, does breast milk provide more nutrients to aid in the growth process?
A: As the weaning process ensues as the baby gets close to a year or older, the nutrients are concentrated. So, as a baby is breast fed less frequently, it will still get those benefits.

Q: How long should a baby be breast fed?
A: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a baby is breast fed for the first year of life, but the World Health Organization recommends breast feeding a baby until their second year of life.

Q: Does breast milk taste differently than formula?
A: I’m sure babies would tell you that it does. A baby will prefer their mom’s milk and often don’t tolerate formula as well.

Q: Are there any benefits for mothers who are breast feeding? A: A mom tends to lose weight she gains during the pregnancy more quickly if she breast feeds, because it uses calories to make breast milk. There is also research out there that says moms who breast feed face a reduced risk of breast cancer and other reproductive organ cancers. Research also shows that moms who breast feed face a reduced risk of osteoporosis.

Q: Are there any specific diets a mother who is breast feeding should follow? A: There are no specific things to include or avoid. I always tell moms to eat what they want in moderation, just like all of us need to do.

Q: What about smoking or drinking alcohol while breast feeding? A: The benefits of breast milk still outweigh the exposure to nicotine, but I always counsel moms not to expose their baby to secondhand smoke and to not smoke around babies. You can time the breast feeding, where the baby is breast fed and then the mom has a cigarette, and by the time the next feeding occurs, you’re at your lowest level of nicotine. But, I always encourage moms that anytime is a great time to quit smoking, whether that’s during their pregnancy or while they are breast feeding. As for alcohol, it is present in breast milk as well as in the blood stream. Alcohol is metabolized out of breast milk as it is out of the blood stream. It is recommended for every drink a mom consumes, she wait two hours to breast feed.

This article appeared in the July 25, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.