In its 92nd year, Ingham-Okoboji goes Beyond, offers pie

They piled the table with pies of strawberry-rhubarb, sour cream-raisin, blueberry, lemon cream, chocolate silk, cherry, three-berry, and a strawberry with cream that the baker said could usher in world peace. There were jars of handcrafted jam, Scandinavian lefse, and the nordic baked treat called Kringla. This was no bake sale of $5-10 per pan. Don Jensen, auctioneer, stepped to the front and bidding started at $50.00.

He drove up the price of one pie to $350, though most winners achieved the $100 range. All of the carbs and cash served to help fund Ingham Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp‘s Beyond campaign.

According to the American Camping Association,  fees to attend a week of overnight camp range from $150 per week to $1,500 per week or more. IOLBC fits at the affordable end with fees for an individual camper around $400, and generous scholarships available. Summer camp is a $41 billion dollar industry. Like many camps, IOLBC has in recent years added music camp, adventure camp, and other themed camps to its selection. For decades, the camp has offered family sessions, and with each succeeding year they grow in popularity.

In its 92nd continuous year of summer camp, with one location on West Lake Okoboji and the other on Ingham Lake, a half hour apart in Northwest Iowa, the camp leadership and participants knew they needed to do more than what they now could. Two main concerns centered on reaching those not already reached by the life-uplifting message of the camp.

The camp, according to executive director Rod Quanbeck, does a terrific job of serving the same people year after year. Everyone has a mountaintop-experience of a great time, but it falls short of reaching people who have never been to camp.

That’s where Beyond comes in. Already at $1.37 million of its $2 million dollar goal, the campaign will reduce debt, build infrastructure, and has hired a new leader, Kyle Fever, who will develop and oversee new efforts to reach beyond the current constituency of the camp.

“We have a chance to reach kids and families not now connected with a church,” Director of Programs Dan Antoine said. “That’s a powerful opportunity.”

With the first week of summer camp kicking off with Elderversity, the camp reaches toward its second century seeking to be more than camp — something Beyond.

Pearson Lakes Art Center marks 50 years with 50 works

The first half of 2015 has been one of upheaval for Pearson Lakes Art Center. The executive director, visual arts director and tech director have all changed this Spring, and the art center marks its half century mark this year. Traditionally anniversaries with zeroes in them create opportunities for very public events. The PLAC staff set a goal of developing meaningful works of community engagement.

One of these initiatives is 50 Works for 50 years, with works by N.C. Wyeth, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Henri Matisse and others, all from PLAC’s collection built over the past century.

During visual arts director Britney Hansen’s gallery talk, two board members reminisced about the early years of PLAC. The Center was housed in a small, red cabin, commemorated in one of the exhibit’s included paintings. A tree grew up through the cabin, which presented challenges in curation, exhibition and showing. In the beginning, Pearson Lakes Art Center was meant to showcase world and local visual art work. Since its move to the current location, the exhibit and education spaces have expanded, and the center also includes the Lauridsen Performing Art Center which, until recently, housed the Lakes Community Theatre, and has been home to numerous touring groups as well as a regular stop for opera singer Simon Estes and cabaret singer Marilyn Maye.

The 50 Works for 50 Years exhibit also features a floating chalkboard post where viewers can share their ideas and thoughts about the paintings to share with others.  “I wanted space for everyone to participate in the exhibit,” Hansen said. “I hope the public will come in and use all of this space. Sprawl on the benches and stare at a piece of art for hours! Bring a notebook or sketch pad. I’m here every day and most of the time Saturdays, too. Tell me what you think of the artwork here.”

The other exhibit was Lakeside Lab: Tonic of the Wilderness.  In the summer of 2014, seven artists converged on the University of Iowa’s Lakeside Lab, on West Lake Okoboji, to create art in the natural environment of the Iowa “wilderness.” One of the artists, photographer Cathleen Faubert, took photographs of her process of creating bottled scents from elements of our environment, so observers could experience the sight and smell of Iowa.

Photographer Allen Morris, a recent MFA graduate of University of Nebraska who hails from Oregon, described his search for a discovery of truth through taking and processing photographs of the Iowa natural environment. He was particularly struck by the challenge of developing photographs in a way that did not disrupt the natural environment, as well as the discovery of new things in a place he had never been.

Executive Director Tim Hoheisel provided context and summary for both exhibits. In his two months leading the art center, Hoheisel says he has felt thrown into an organization just beginning to reach its potential. As summer visitors converge on the Okoboji area beginning this weekend, the opportunity to show the reach of the art center excites Hoheisel, and his hope is that everyone will experience all the art at Pearson Lakes.



Arnolds Park: Iowa’s Coney Island for 125 Years and Counting

A century plus a quarter

Arnolds Park, located on West Lake Okoboji in the northwest corner of Iowa, kicked off its 125th summer, opening Friday, May 16 for regional senior class trips, DARE parties, and the public.

The roots of Arnolds Park go back to the earliest years of Civil War reconstruction, when Wesley Arnold claimed the land where the park now sits. He built his home and opened the lakefront for fishing and tent camping parties.

A pavilion, boathouse, and waterslide follow, and after Wesley died, his daughters expanded on the amusement park concept with the first wooden roller coaster built west of the Mississippi River.

For the ensuing six decades, the Pavilion was host to up and coming bands from the ragtime to swing to rock and roll eras.

A 2011 Gallup Poll showed consumer spending in the $15 billion amusement park industry was on an upward trend. This is reflected at Arnolds Park, where officials throughout the Okoboji lakes tourism industry are bracing for a record year.

In 1965, drunk college students started a riot at Arnolds Park. Twenty-five were arrested following looting, vandalism, and shooting firecrackers in a barrel. When the national guard arrived, the situation was under control. This marked the increase of Okoboji’s reputation as a drunk fest for teens and twenty-and-thirty somethings, and no longer a haven for families.

Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, Arnolds Park fell out of favor as the lake cruise steamboats left, and the simplicity of a lakefront vacation was rejected in favor of ocean cruises, Disney, and other postmodern thrills.

With the increase in working mothers, the need of the well-to-do for  vacation homes to send the family to for summer fun, with father joining on the weekends, declined.

At the century mark of Arnolds Park’s founding, a group of investors purchased the park, then philanthropist and founder of Long Lines Wireless, the regional AT&T hub, Chuck Long, purchased and refurbished the park.

Longer working hours, less vacation time, and a still sluggish economic situation for many Americans means stay-cations and vacations closer to home are the norm. Arnolds Park remains an option for upper Midwesterners seeking a shorter drive.


Women in Science create tech for social justice

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conceived the Clean Energy Prize, the nation’s largest student business plan competition in its eighth year.

The twenty-one student teams of innovators who create technology and the business plans to distribute it, set up displays like a hopped up version of the school science fair.

The Clean Energy prize has a mission to educate the new generation of energy entrepreneurs. The creators have developed collaborative relationships between the academic community, industry, and government organizations, all working to meet the world’s energy challenges.

The goal is tangible results. The dozens of companies that have resulted from the prize have raised over $250 million in venture capital and government funding.


The majority of India’s milk spoils before it can be consumed. The team behind Vorpal invented a high-voltage power supply to directly kill bacteria without heating the liquid. This halves energy cost in pasteurization. The process inactivates bacteria instead of having to heat an entire volume of milk.


Having a drone today is like having a car in 1910. When Reebeez founders Ankita and Prianka got tired of having their camera drone fly only ten minutes as they attempted to shoot a film, they went to the lab to create a micro engine to replace the heavy, expensive lithium polymer batteries. They applied thermoelectric and thermo-photovoltaic technology to create an engine that will run on butane or hydrogen.


At each station, competitors displayed a code and a number voters could text to vote for the innovation they liked best. American Idol may be going off the air, but clean energy innovations may be going to Hollywood.

Shut down the reservations, end social deprivation to make native life better, Jeremiah says

Jeremiah Whitehall is convinced that reservations for natives never worked, and conditions there will only get worse.

According to statistics from Pine Ridge Reservation, where Jeremiah and Rico live, the home of the Oglala Sioux was the poorest county in the nation from 1980 to 2000, at which point it became the third poorest.

This is not because conditions at Pine Ridge became better, but because conditions at Rosebud and another reservation grew worse.

Unemployment is more common than employment, and as the reservations are at the mercy of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, there is little the community can do to better itself. Hence, within the middle of the United States is something like a yet-to-develop nation where overcrowded homes often do not have running water or power.

Few Americans have seen the real life of a native reservation, and it is this “social deprivation,” Jeremiah, a student of speech and English, that drives the poverty.

It was the federal government that solved the native problem by creating reservations on some  of the nation’s worst land. Similarly to what we can possibly do now about the enslavement of black people 150 years ago and more, the problem of the native tribes faces us now.

Jeremiah hopes native/white conflict does not erupt in our century the way it has between blacks and whites living in the same communities.