Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | Contact Us | Home RSS

Independence Day

From horseback riding to setting up fireworks, area residents find a variety of ways to celebrate

July 4, 2011
By HANS MADSEN, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

Brian Balm, of Fort Dodge, had to get out a little early this year to secure a camping space for his family at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park north of Fort Dodge.

"I came here a week ago Thursday to get the spot," he said.

People around the area found a variety of ways to spend the holiday weekend.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Megan Hodnefield, of Hubbard, got to spend part of her Fourth of July weekend riding the trails of Brushy Creek State Recreation Area with her family.

Balm said that for his family, going camping on the weekend of the Fourth of July is a tradition and that the last few years, they've been close to home, mostly to save on gas.

In the process, they've discovered that they really enjoy Kennedy Park.

"We still have our campfire and good food," he said.

The day in the park also offered Scott Bora, 7, a chance to practice a little bartering. He said he'd swapped a golf ball for a turtle with a group of players on the nearby course; but while he enjoyed showing it off, he said he did plan on releasing it back into the water.

Brushy Creek State Recreation Area near Lehigh was also enjoying some healthy visitor numbers.

Mary and Dan Ruhnke, of Boone, along with Toni Hodnefield and her daughter Megan, 11, of Hubbard, were getting in a good long day of riding the trails on their horses.

Mary Ruhnke said they've been coming to the park for 30 years and that while they enjoy it, they miss having trails with a few more challenges.

"We like rougher riding," she said. "The obstacles help to train our horses."

While they do camp in the park, Sunday was only a day trip for them.

It was also a chance to help Megan Hodnefield ready for some upcoming competition.

"We're getting some miles on our pony," Toni Hodnefield said, "She has the fair next week."

For Richard Gustafson, of Dayton, the weekend was being spent working on his ever-expanding backyard empire of 1/24-scale trains.

"Instead of getting in three hours a day, I'm putting in about eight or nine," he said.

The expansion triples the amount of track and he's adding some new features, including a UFO crash scene complete with tanks and jeeps, a pond, a small mountain with a tunnel and gold mine and a few other surprises that, like the goings-on with the UFO, remain classified.

He's also found a new way to light up the structures - he's wired the bulbs into solar collectors.

Like any other outdoor model railroader, Gustafson has to deal with the same bane they do - weeds.

"It's driving me crazy," he said.

While most get to spend the weekend working hard at doing nothing, Chris Wendell spends it working hard at something that many get to enjoy in the evening - fireworks.

Working with J & M Displays, of Yarmouth, he's going to be on the ground shooting off Fort Dodge's city display.

His workday consists of about six hours of setup, several hours before the show, then 20 to 25 minutes of firing, followed by several hours of cleanup.

It's not surprising that this is his busiest weekend.

"I did the Boone Speedway Friday, ABATE last night and Marian Home Thursday," he said, "In the month of July, I have at least one, if not two, every weekend."

In spite of the hard work and long hours, for the former Electrolux worker turned full-time student, there's a nice reward in store.

"I get paid to do something I enjoy," he said.

Contact Hans Madsen at (515) 573-2141 or



I am looking for: