Celebrating Summertime

Usually by now I have at least one summer travel adventure to write about, but not this year.  One of these days I plan to mount my camper on my pickup truck again and head out for who-knows-where, but not just yet.  For now I will leave the national and state parks to families who deserve time in the out of doors before schools are back in session. This summer I have been preoccupied with planning some home renovation projects and just enjoying family get-togethers as well as community events and activities.  

Herman, Nebraska fireworks show

Summer is party time, and Independence Day community celebrations are the most spectacular parties of them all. I have fond memories of sitting on blankets with family in Fontenelle Park in Omaha waiting in eager anticipation for the fire work show to begin. I remember thinking that this surely must be the greatest show anywhere, and it’s just a short walk from where I live. I remember the huge party at my uncle’s house after the show and eating slice after slice of ice cold watermelon and competing with my cousins to see who could spit the seeds the farthest.  

I’m no longer a kid but I still get a thrill when I attend our local fireworks celebrations in Blair, Arlington and Herman. I enjoy the fun and sense of community and finding just the right spot  to set up my camera to capture the show. Photographing fireworks is painting with light – anticipation, artistry and some luck. I photograph the shows for the newspaper, but also for my own delight too.

Summertime is filled with family celebrations as well.  My wife Kris and I were married on Independence Day followed by an outdoor bash with lots of fireworks. My birthday and my dad and brother’s birthdays are in mid-July, and we celebrate my wife’s birthday and daughter Sarah’s birthday during the first week of August.  

My special birthday present this year was being first in line to try out the big new water slide at the Blair city pool.  I showed up at the pool on the  morning that the State inspectors inspected and approved the slide, so of course I had to try it out. The water attraction is a great addition and lots of fun. 

Swimmers wait in line to try out the new water slides Friday afternoon.

I have always been an enthusiastic advocate for all of the parks and city pool. The water slide is a nice addition for kids of all ages. A lifeguard is stationed in the water in the safety zone to make sure each swimmer has a good experience. I am all in favor of adding a splash pad to the future park in Deerfield, but that could never replace the need for the city pool.

Zathan Prime shoots out of the spiral tube and splashes into the water under the watchful eye of lifeguard Angel Nelsen at the Blair City Pool Sunday afternoon.

I have also stayed close to home this summer because of the many photo projects I have been involved in. Yes, I am retired, but I still do what I call, “custom work,”  which pretty much means just about anything that might make a good photo series. As an example, after working along-side managing editor Leeanna Ellis since 2014 to report on and photograph the Washington County Justice Center project, I could not pass up the opportunity to photograph the ribbon cutting and open house events. 

A tour group checks out the maximum security control room in the new jail.

Another favorite project that I just could not miss is the annual Wolfe Family Country Quilt Show and Garden Walk. The show is a labor of love for Terri and Doug Wolfe and family and community members who show quilts, help with parking and directing traffic, provide refreshments and help out in numerous other ways. 

Hollyhocks in the foreground and oversize quilts mounted on the barn in the background create visual feast.

My biggest problem with retirement is that there still is not enough time to do all of the things I want to do. Taking on a newspaper project or self-assigned photo project adds structure to my life. And goodness knows, I need structure. 

While I have journaled off and on for years, my journals, like my interests, are all over the place. In another ongoing attempt to find structure and organize thoughts, I am attempting to keep a bullet journal. The key to the method is keeping an index so that I can go back and find that great idea or incite that I might have had a week or longer ago. 

Another bullet journal suggestion that I am trying to adopt is to log three things for which I am grateful every day. Near the top of my long list is the continuing opportunity to make photos that capture the beauty and the experience of living in Washington County.

Published by Joe Burns

Educator and freelance photographer living and working in Washington County.

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