‘Salad Days’ are the sweetest

Do Moore Be  Moore

Sandy Moore stands between “Do Moore, Be Moore recipients Alec and Evan Wick.

The phrase “salad days” describes a season when the taste of life, like the spring garden harvest, is fresh and sweet.   My first years of teaching were salad days.  I was young and enjoying the moment, living the life and learning my craft. There was the reality of hard work and some heartache and frustration, but I had few cares or responsibilities other than myself. Life was good – or at least fresh and fun.

Shakespeare coined the phrase “salad days” in the tragedy Cleopatra to mean “green in judgement,” and certainly that could be said of me at that time.  More broadly the term evokes the light heartedness, vitality and optimism of youth.   I think of late spring like that –  an idyllic time of freshness, novelty and fun – and I have tried to capture that spirit in my photos.

Memorial Day is one of those salad days.  From my youth, I associate the holiday with blue skies and sunny days.  My memories are of pleasant walks with family along cemetery lawns filled with colorful displays of flags and fragrant flowers. The cemetery visits were a significant family ritual and history lesson.  This year I attended and photographed ceremonies in Herman, Fort Calhoun and Kennard as well as visited and placed flowers on graves of my own relatives in Omaha.  I still prefer and often use the old term “Decoration Day.”

The last weekend in May now has added significance because my daughter Erin is now Erin McElroy.  She and her husband Declan were married on the Saturday before Memorial Day in a beautiful ceremony in the Fontenelle Park Pavillion in Omaha. While I had absolutely nothing to do with selecting the venue, I grew up on Ames Avenue in Omaha, and the park brings back many childhood memories.

Nothing evokes images of youth and summer more than swimming at outdoor pools.  No matter the temperature, kids dive, splash and play. The weather and the water temp was near perfect the week that the Blair pool opened. Unfortunately, a few days later the pool was shut down while a maintenance crew removed shattered glass particles imbedded in paint at the bottom of the pool.

Gateway to The West events and similar summer festivals bring out the kid in many of us.  Blair Otte Middle School was the new venue for Taste of Blair and the Blair Area Community Band Summer Concert. Holding the concert in the Otte commons area seemed to be an excellent fit and everyone enjoyed the performance.

While June Jam was again held at The Depot in Lions Park, the revamped park layout is a significant improvement. Kids swarmed the new and relocated playground.  Concert goers could see and hear the band while families picnicked and watched their kids swing, slide and climb on the new playground equipment.  The park will be even more family friendly when the modern all-season restrooms are completed.

Despite the toasty weather, families filled the sidewalks along the Gateway to the West parade route.  Fire trucks spraying water, and parade participants throwing frozen treats to parade watchers proved to be particularly popular for the kids.  After the parade, I stopped at the Blair Volunteer Fire Department beer garden for a refreshing beer and bratwurst before watching the kids and fire fighters water fight contests.

I can think of no better example of youthful vitality and celebration than the Kids Triathlon which took place this past Saturday.   I have no interest in stats – I have no idea who won or even how many kids took part.  I do know that for over an hour I watched kids ages 5 to 15 of all ability levels take part in the challenge and have a great time doing it.  I watched a host of volunteers organize, monitor and keep kids safe while family members cheered the kids on.

I also applaud Kids Triathlon organizers for instituting the “Do Moore, Be Moore” award.   which was presented to BHS graduates Alec and Evan Wick.  The two outstanding and record setting  cross country and track athletes have assisted with the triathlon each year since the event was first organized.

“Do Moore, Be Moore” honors recently retired PE teacher and Kids Tri co-founder Sandy Moore.  Physical education teacher Kim Leggott said, “The award is based on all things ‘Sandy’, – hard work, kindness, compassion and dedication!”

Spring is at an end, and summer officially begins this Tuesday at 11: 24 PM.  I am looking forward to the vacations and summer activities ahead, but I will miss the soft green salad days of spring.

 

Making Portraits

Arbor Park faculty in tee shirts

Arbor Park Intermediate School Faculty and staff stand in the shape of a heart in the school’s gym. The educators are wearing T-shirts in honor of reading teacher Kris Burns who died suddenly of heart failure in September. The teachers purchased the T-shirts or made donations which will be given to the American Heart Association in Burn’s name.

If you picked up a copy of the  Citizen or Enterprise newspaper last week you found it wrapped around our annual Washington County Progress edition. This slick covered publication is packed with 100 or so photos, not counting the advertising and nearly as many articles about the people and history of our county.  Progress always reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner – all that planning and preparation for a feast that it is placed before us and then consumed in one sitting with plenty of leftovers to return to later.

The planning for this 80 plus page section begins in October and much of the interviewing, writing and photography is completed before the new year begins.  I have the easy part, and I think the fun part which is making the portraits and producing images that matches and hopefully enhance the fine writing by my colleagues.  I enjoy accompanying my co-workers or going out on my own to meet these interesting and accomplished people and to find unique visual ways to tell their stories.

Last week the P-T and Citizen newspapers were also packed with stories and images chronicling performances by Washington County Athletes at the State wrestling tournament at Century Link in Omaha.  I was pleased to assist sports editor Grant Egger in capturing images that helped to tell the stories of our wrestlers’ performances at the state meet.  I can totally relate to Grant’s comments that sports writers attempt to capture, “The powerful moments that, unfortunately, not everyone can see up close.”  I try to do the same thing in pictures.

For the past 13 years I have covered state wrestling, first in Lincoln when the tournament was held at the Bob Devaney, and now at Century Link in Omaha. In my opinion, there is no other sports event quite like it. I am addicted to the energy and to the intense rollercoaster ride of emotion that erupts from the mats that fill the arena.

Another fun activity that I usually photograph in February each year is the K-2 Jump Rope for Heart.  Photographs of the kids jumping rope will be featured in the Classroom of the Week in the Enterprise.  The “Pie the Teacher” assemblies celebrate the efforts by students to collect money for the American Heart Association.  Some of the pictures of smiling students and their pie-in-the-face teachers are in the paper today. This year the combined total for the K-2 effort approached $17,000.  That is no small piece of change!

I get online comments once-in-awhile from people who think it is terrible that kids hit their teachers with pies, but the pies are more placed and smooshed than thrown, and always with TLC.  Teachers and celebrity staff members happily volunteer and literally stand in line to get pied.

And finally, I want to comment on the Arbor Park and Blair Community Schools fundraiser in honor of my wife Kris Burns. Arbor Park physical education teacher Sandy Moore contacted me weeks ago to tell me about the T- shirt fund raiser they had planned. Sandy knew Kris well, and told me that the tee shirt they were designing would be simple and a design that Kris might wear. And she was right.  On Wednesday, wearing my ‘Forever a Piece of our Hearts’ tee shirt I was in the Arbor Park gymnasium before school with assistant editor Leeanna Ellis to do my job and take the picture of the Arbor Park teachers standing in the shape of a heart.  The picture and the accompanying story are something I will always treasure.

There is an intimacy to my job that is incredible.  Whether I am working on my own or with co-workers I try to make portraits that capture the qualities and character of the people in Washington County.

 

Arbor Park students make tracks in annual Trot

Megan McKeon in foreground and Madison McGill run neck and neck as they sprint toward the finish.

Megan McKeon in foreground and Madison McGill run neck and neck as they sprint toward the finish.

Turkey Trot, Turkey Trot, Run Run Run! For years this chant has started each heat of the annual Arbor Park Turkey Trot, and this year was no exception.  The students trained by running a mile after school each week for six weeks.The event is a fun run, not a race.  The students help each other when needed, and cheer each other on. The event not only encourages students to learn the many benefits of running, but also serves as as community service project. One student from each class will be selected to join physical education teacher Sandy Moore in delivering five turkeys to Joseph’s Coat for families in need.

Fourth Grade girls run in the annual Turkey Trot at Arobr Park.   Over 200 students participated.

Fourth Grade girls run in the annual Turkey Trot at Arbor Park. Over 200 students participated.

Classmates greet fourth grader Connor Mahaffey as he runs toward the finish.

Classmates greet fourth grader Connor Mahaffey as he runs toward the finish.

Samantha Murry keeps up a nice pace as she runt toward the finish during the fifth grade girls race.

Samantha Murry keeps up a nice pace as she runs toward the finish during the fifth grade girls race.

Giving it a ‘tri’

Amy Rogers greets triathletes at the finish line with congratulations and medal.

Amy Rogers greets triathletes at the finish line with congratulations and medal.

Youths from ages 5 to 15 swam, rode their bikes, and ran in Blair’s first youth triathlon on Saturday, June 14. Organizers Vickie Brummer, Denise Ray, and Sandy Moore could not have been more pleased with the nearly 100 participants and the 50 or so volunteers who made the event an success.

The participants were grouped by age into waves that first swam, and then transitioned to bicycle riding, and then running.

“I am very proud of our community,” Brummer said. “From the volunteers, to sponsor, to the City for cooperating, and of course the Y…what a great event for our youth.

During the race, Brummer said she received a text that one of the athlete’s bike chain had come offend needed help.  Another text followed.

“Oh Lillian (another competitor) stopped to help Chase put it back on.” she said. What a great act of Sportsmanship.”

“It really was a great morning,” Ray said. Next year we would like to time the event for at least the older two divisions, add more athletes, and make it even more of a family event.”

Ray said 95 percent of the participants were first time triathletes!

Zeke Prohaska swims the first part of the triathlon at the Blair pool.

Zeke Prohaska swims the first part of the triathlon at the Blair pool.

Lani  Michaelis and Silas Bush 196_192

Sam Lueders was the first to finish the triathlon in 24 minutes. The competitors were not officially timed.

Sam Lueders was the first to finish the triathlon in 24 minutes. The competitors were not officially timed.

Race organizer Denise Ray gives Olivia Parsons a high five following the triathlon.

Race organizer Denise Ray gives Olivia Parsons a high five following the triathlon.