Sunday, July 18, 2010

VenFest, Fireworks

One of the lighted boats docked right by us (D, C, R, & I) making a nice foreground for our fireworks shots. :-) It was a lovely hot summer night in St Joe! The chocolate brownie sundae we got from Coldstone Creamery at the festival was just the thing to help cool us down. What fun!

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

VenFest, Lighted Boat Parade

This is the one likely to win. Beautiful!

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VenFest Sunset

Blogging to you live from VenFest. Sun is setting and the lighted boat parade will be starting soon.

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2010 Venetian Festival in St Joseph

It's that time again! The biggest festival of the year is being held in St Joseph this weekend. And what a weekend it is! The weather is just wonderful... hot and sunny, perfect for a beach town. There's no rain in the forecast except for a chance of a shower Sunday afternoon or evening. So if you're thinking about coming to the VenFest, do it, and don't give a second thought to the weather!

D, C, R, and I walked around the festival grounds last evening and had a great time. Lots of music, food, rides, and games! There were plenty of vendors around hawking their wares. This guy was selling, among other things, hand held bubble makers.

Just a ways down the road to Silver Beach, the folks under this tent were racing remote control cars.

The lovely new Silver Beach Carousel was doing a brisk business and the Shadowland Pavillion was open and serving beer and soft drinks to those over 21.

There was plenty of junk food to be had and folks seemed to be buying and enjoying it.

Security folks were all around the grounds making sure there was no rowdiness.

There weren't a lot of rides, compared to an amusement park, but there was a nice variety. From sedate rides like the Fun Slide...

And kiddie rides...

To rides that swing, spin, and drop, for the big kids!

And of course there were lots of games of chance.

Not everyone is lucky enough to win at the games of chance but some do. Here's a good but weird example of one of the prizes you can win... your own alien!

And Mother Nature contributed to the fun atmosphere with a another lovely Lake Michigan sunset.

I'm looking forward to visiting the Venetian Fest again Saturday and Sunday. Will I see you there?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Krasl Art Fair 2010

Today was the first of the two days of the 2010 Krasl Art Fair in St. Joseph. While it was a pleasant pool and beach day, it was uncomfortably warm up on the bluff where the art fair was held. However, that didn't diminish the crowds!

D, L, Jo & I had breakfast at Thornton's, which had a line out the door waiting for a table, and then we made our way over to the Krasl about 10:30 am. We purchased "Krasl Bucks" this year which allowed us to take advantage of preferred parking at the Krasl. Saweet! The Krasl Bucks package also included a ticket to breakfast at Port 412 but my understanding was that it was a "Continental Breakfast". We were looking for something more substantial hence breakfast at Thorntons. We were given a "goodie bag" (part of the Krasl Bucks package) which consisted of an art fair poster, a pencil and pen, a key ring, a writing journal, hand sanitizer, and a printed piece about the permanent sculptures that belong to the Krasl. We also got passes for "refreshments" at the Boulevard Inn. All in all, it was a very nice package! We got all of this for buying $100 worth of gift certificates to be used at the art fair. Such a deal!

We started walking the art fair at the south end of Lake Bluff Park. It was very warm but the art was beautiful. We didn't walk long before we came across this gentleman, Lawrence Packard, who was drawing some really intricate pictures of old ships on replica old maps. I'm always amazed at those who have the talent for precision drawing. I considered buying one of his pieces and may go back tomorrow to do so.

By the time we made our way as far as the Boulevard Inn (over an hour later) we were really hot, and tired, and thirsty. So, we went inside and took advantage of our "refreshment passes". It was nice to get a break from the heat and spend some time in the lovely air conditioned hotel. The refreshments consisted of cream of mushroom soup, Caesar salad, a warm chicken/pasta dish, and pitchers of ice water. We were joined by one of the artists who was exhibiting at the fair and we had a delightful conversation with her about the St Joseph area and the Krasl Art Fair.

After our light repast, we went back outside and resumed our meandering among the art booths. In just a short time we came upon the art of Gregg Billman and were drawn in by the subject matter (dogs) and the bold colors of his work.

The vibrant Doberman immediately caught our eye. The size was bigger than I would have liked and the price, well, fine art is never cheap. Lucky for us, there was a smaller proof size piece available for purchase. We just had to have it! Gregg showed us his selection of frames and we agreed to have the print mounted. He took care of that for us while we made our way further along the line of booths. When we got to the half way point, where Broad St. meets Lake Blvd, we turned back.

We returned to Gregg's booth and picked up our artwork before calling it a day. L and Jo also bought a piece of art, a kitten air brushed on silk, but I don't remember the name of the artist. We were all happy with our purchases and ready to make our way back to the condo. Three hours of walking the art fair was enough for us!

It was a wonderful day in St Joseph!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

At the Beach

Another glorious beach day! The sand is very hot on the feet so bring your thongs. The sky is cloudless so don't forget the sunscreen. The water is cool and refreshing... what are you waiting for? Come on down!

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wicked Summer Storm!

Wow! We had a wicked summer storm last evening! It had been hot (90F) and humid all day yesterday so evening thunderstorms were no surprise. And since the National Weather Service and local media had kept the public abreast of the possibility of severe weather all day the fact that we got a monster storm was no surprise either. But boy, I was still amazed at the ferocity of this particular storm!

D and I enjoy storm chasing.  For us, it's all about the photo op. We seek out good opportunities to photograph storms. Which is kinda funny really because as a kid I was terrified of thunderstorms and tornado warnings. And now I find it a fun challenge to capture Mother Nature's fury with my camera.

Anyway, I kept an eye on the local radar throughout the day. When it looked like the storm was imminent, we headed down to Silver Beach. Unfortunately, the beach was closed and everyone had been asked to evacuate. So we went on to Lion's Beach where we found ourselves among a handful of others with cameras in their hands.

You could tell from the cloud formation that it was going to be a whopper of a storm.


It looked ominous and it felt ominous.


These "before" pictures are pretty amazing. But there was no way for me to capture the hurricane force winds that came up in an instant. I've never experienced wind like that before. I don't know what the exact wind speed was but according to the local media it was between 70-90 mph. The force was so strong it felt like a heavy wave crashing against me. And I have a big bruise on my arm where it flung me against the car to prove it. Awesome!

And then it rained.


Then after the storm it cleared up enough to catch another wonderful Lake Michigan sunset.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend, Part 2

[Continued from Memorial Day Weekend, Summer is Here!]

Sunday
The sun was shining when we woke up on Sunday but the weather forecasters were suggesting that the sky would cloud up in a few hours. So we made a bee line for our photo destination of Michigan City, IN bright and early. We've been to Michigan City before but this time we made the trip specifically to photograph the lighthouse. I've seen the lighthouse in several publications and it looks identical to St Joseph's inner lighthouse to me. I'm guessing it was the same designer who is responsible for both.

It was sunny when we left St Joe, cloudy most of the drive down to Michigan City, and sunny again when we got there. :-) We had a bit of trouble finding Washington Park. We should have used our GPS, the map we had wasn't detailed enough to get us there from I-94. But we did get there! It took us approximately 35 minutes from St Joe.

Washington Park is a pretty park with lots of grass and trees and places to picnic. The beach is lovely with a nice long stretch of white sand. D and I were surprised to find the beach almost empty when we got there but then we remembered about the time change. Indiana is an hour behind Michigan's EDT. Guess it was a little early for all the Saturday night revelers ;-)

We walked along the pier out to the the lighthouse. Sure enough, it looks just like St Joe's lighthouse up close too. But sadly, it's in need of a paint job. It looks a little sad and neglected to me.

There weren't many boats leaving the marina yet but there were a few. We got a big kick out of this boat named "Breaking Wind"... the name just cracked us up! (D and I find bathroom humor hilarious ;-)

When the temperature started to really heat up we headed back to the car and made our way out of the park. We decided to grab some lunch and then make a quick stop at the outlet mall (is there such a thing as a quick stop at an outlet mall?). We passed this place, Matey's, that looked interesting.

I'll admit I was a bit fearful that it would be just a "hamburger joint" but that was not the case. The inside was tastefully decorated with nautical decor and the food we ordered was yummy!

I ordered a chicken salad that had no description on the menu. This is what I got.

It not only had a good portion of tasty grilled chicken but it also had tomatoes, mushrooms, red onions, black olives, a chili pepper, and cucumbers on a nice bed of fresh lettuce. It was very good!

D ordered the steak sandwich. He really enjoyed his too!

Then it was off to the Lighthouse Outlet Mall. The mall was having a sidewalk sale and the place was packed with people. We were lucky and got a close parking space :-) There were only a handful of stores we wanted to stop in so we really weren't there very long. D and I each bought a watch at the Fossil store (the plastic kind to wear in the pool), I found just the hat I wanted at the Eddie Bauer store, and I picked up a few (OK, 4!) pair of shoes at the Crocs store. Hey, they were having a terrific sale!!!

With our shopping done, we headed back to St Joe. We arrived in plenty of time to take a quick dip in the pool and make dinner to enjoy out on the deck. After dinner we made our way over to Silver Beach for yet a third night in a row of lovely sunsets. The beach was more crowded than I've ever seen it. And if I must say, it wasn't the nicest crowd either. But we were able to find a nice less-crowded area to watch the sunset and once again appreciate the beauty of Lake Michigan in the evening.

Monday
The weather forecasters said it would rain on Monday and boy did it! I watched the weather radar throughout the morning on TV hoping to catch some shots of lightning over the lake. About noon it started to look promising so we headed on down to Silver Beach. It was raining but we were prepared to shoot pics from inside the truck where we could stay dry and away from lightning bolts ;-) Unfortunately, the line of storms coming across the lake sort of lost its gusto (and lightning) by the time it got to St Joe. We didn't get any lightning shots in spite of the fact that there was a good deal of lightning over the city from a separate line of storms coming up from the south :-( We did watch a bunch of really foolish people cavorting in the lake in the middle of the storm though.

And there were plenty of others hanging out on the beach too...

So what did we do the rest of the day? We stayed inside and bowled on our Wii game!

All in all it was a terrific Memorial Day weekend and I think we had more hot, sunny weather in one weekend than we did all last summer!

I'm sure hoping this very hot beginning of summer is a harbinger of things to come. I'd love to have a summer of hot weather to enjoy Michigan's great Southwest!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend, Summer is Here!

Summer came to Southwest Michigan with gusto the past couple of weeks. The weather was sunny and in the mid to upper 80s much of the time. Woo Hoo! (I love it hot!) I worried that the heat wave would be over by the time the weekend got here but that was not the case.  :-)

Friday
D and I arrived in St Joe at dinner time on Friday and since the weather was soooo beautiful we decided to head over to the Bistro on the Boulevard where we could dine out on the patio overlooking the lake.

It was much cooler in St Joe than I expected (64F) due to a north breeze off Lake Michigan. I was glad I'd thought to bring a light jacket (always a good idea to have a sweater or light jacket handy when you're in a beachtown ;-). I ordered filet mignon and D ordered a spicy tomato-pasta-shrimp dish. Both were excellent, but as usual when I dine at the Bistro, everything was not as expected. This time the Yukon Gold mashed potatoes were cold, not luke warm mind you, but cold. Every time we dine there something is not quite right. But we keep going back for the view, because that is ALWAYS right!

After dinner, we went down to the south pier to watch the sunset. It was lovely, as always. The pier was crowded with people and the lighthouses were looking majestic. It's so calming to the soul to witness nature's quiet beauty.

Saturday
Saturday dawned clear and warm. We did some grocery shopping and then headed for the swimming pool in the afternoon when the weather got hot. Oh what a treat! It was our first time in the pool this year and it was every bit as nice as I remembered from last year. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we stayed in a bit too long and I have the sunburn to prove it! :-(

After dinner we headed to Warren Dunes State Park. We'd been there once before, last November. At that time the trees were barren and the wind blowing off the lake was biting cold! Still, you couldn't help but appreciate the awesome dunes.
This time around the dunes were just as awesome but the beach was much more inviting! Here's a picture of D with K near the top of one of the dunes.
What do you mean you can't see 'em? They are right there near the top. ;-) D is the one in a bright yellow shirt with the big brown dog. And speaking of dogs, yes they are allowed at Warren Dunes State Park. And I believe they are the only place in the area that actually allows dogs on the beach! They aren't allowed on the whole length of the beach though, just the section to the right of the third bathhouse. But that's a plenty long stretch for doggie swimming and sunning.
Yep, that's D in the yellow shirt above trying to coax K into the water. As a rule, Dobermans aren't water dogs in the way that say a Labrador Retriever is. We thought we'd give K a chance to try swimming but he wasn't having any of it, LOL! The water was pretty cold though. I think we'll try again in another month or so and see if we can get him to give it a try.

We left Warren Dunes about an hour before sunset and headed back to St Joseph. When we got to Lake Bluff Park it was obvious that others had the same idea. Here you can see a crowd of people lined up along the bluff watching the Lake Michigan sunset.
And others strolling along along the promenade...

And oh it was a lovely sunset! That evening I chose to photograph the view looking across the new Compass fountain and out to the lake...
The wonderful thing about watching Lake Michigan sunsets is they are different every day depending on the atmospheric conditions. Some days the sky has clouds, some not. Some times the lake has big waves from high winds, sometimes it's placid. Sometimes the sky is more golden and sometimes more pink. Regardless, it's always a good show!

And here is my patriotic Memorial Day weekend photo...
This beautiful sunset brought Saturday to a close. If you'd like to know what we did on Sunday and Monday of the holiday weekend, come back soon for Part 2!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Barrage!

Friday, May 7th, was a special night in St. Joseph. It was the night that Barrage came to town. D and I were fortunate enough to get tickets to the performance at St Joseph High School. Oh what a treat it was!

If you're not familiar with Barrage I'll give you the synopsis and refer you to their web site. In short, it is an 8-member musical group consisting of 5 violinists, 2 guitarists, and a drummer. But they are so much more than that! They sing and dance while playing amazing music... it's a very theatrical performance!


I'd like to tell you more about it but it's one of those things that you just have to experience in person to truly appreciate. I understand this was the third time this group has played in St. Joseph and if they should make a return visit I'd strongly encourage you to see them. They play a wide variety of music including, country, rock, Russian folk tunes, jazz, and classics... and some music that just can't be classified ;-)

Here's a picture of them on stage playing with members of St Joseph HS's string orchestra.


They put on a high energy performance so there's no danger of you falling asleep, LOL!

One of the truly nice things about St Joseph is the cultural entertainment you find here. Barrage is just one example, and it was a terrific one!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Blossomtime Festival, Grand Floral Parade

Well, we've been busy finishing up our condo remodeling and redecorating projects for the year. Thankfully, they are now all done! :-) One bedroom painted, one bathroom gutted and redone, a few doors replaced, and all the wood moldings on the first floor painted. Yeah!

Now, about the Grand Floral Parade in St. Joseph on May 1st,... It was charming! I've been to my share of parades (plenty) in and around the Motor City, including the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but I've never seen such a wonderful down-home, true Americana parade. There were several differences I noticed from the parades I'm used to. The primary difference was the lack of politicians, LOL! There were no politicos riding in convertibles waving to the crowds with phony smiles plastered on their faces while their family members and campaign volunteers walk along side wearing tacky banners and throwing pieces of hard candy to the crowds lining the streets. Nope, not a one! :-D

This parade was all about the young people of Southwest Michigan. I think just about every community must have been represented with a lovely float filled with beautiful young ladies and gentlemen. Of course there were a good number of marching bands too, and a few firetrucks, clowns, and horses thrown in for variety's sake. The weather was delightful for sitting out with temps in the low 70s to begin with and dropping to the upper 60s by the end of the parade.

We arrived about noon and had no trouble getting a parking spot just a short walk from Main Street. We sat in front of the BP Gas Station just across the street from Stooges Bar. Shortly before the 1pm start time we were treated to a terrific show by the Indianapolis Precision Motorcycle Team.

We enjoyed all the marching bands and parade floats. The ladies on the floats all looked lovely and the gentlemen very handsome...
Miss Blossomtime, Kyra Heit and Mr. Blossomtime, Michael Semenic

I was impressed with how large the St. Joseph HS marching band was!



I loved the flags of the Lakeshore Lancers!



A band of a different sort... the Circle City Sidewalk Stompers :-)

We saw horses...
Tom Mix and "Tony" the Wonder Horse... I wonder makes Tony the Wonder Horse?

And clowns...





And some "Wow! That's cool!"...



And some mighty fine tractors...



Congratulations on a job well done to all who planned and participated in this event. It was wonderful :-)

That evening, D and I went to Tabor Hill Winery for dinner. We celebrated our wedding anniversary with great food and wine. Afterwards we took in yet another beautiful Lake Michigan sunset from Lake Bluff Park. They had the Compass Fountain turned on for the first time this season. We never tire of watching Mother Nature's show...