Can the 4th of July get any more traditional than a parade down "Main Street" Mid-America, U.S.A.? Well, I think not! Then, when you throw in a Parade Float that you are riding on in that parade (and) trying to get some canned goods food and money donated to a local food pantry, the excitement becomes palatable. At least, that was the experience that Mrs. LZ and I had this Fourth of July. In fact, the only thing that might make it more exciting is if you are going to be doing it with some of your internet blogging buddies that you in fact may have never even met before today!
Let me tell you how this exciting day progressed for Mrs. LZ and me. First as we pulled into town via Hi-way 75 through charming little towns like Fort Calhoun, Blair and Herman, we noticed that Tekamah had a very large billboard style sign just at the edge of the city stating simply; “Welcome to Tekamah, Nebraska” this in and of itself seemed like a GOOD start to me. I let Mrs. LZ know that “we are HERE!” Just getting there sometimes can be half of the battle ya know? But, she just gave me one of those… (“Why am I still married to you after all of these years?”) looks!
When we arrived, a little earlier than we had expected to, we noticed that the BlogStock ’08 Float (that we had expected to find SOMEWHERE) was not visible to us. We did however; manage to find the booth that was set-up for the parade participants. As we pulled up to that little set-up area table, and even after asking several people in the parade prep area. They would say things like… “BlogStock? Oh… that’s Cliff’s group, we haven’t seen him yet today!” And even though that was a little concerning to us, we drove around in the set-up area for a while until I finally saw him pulling up with the BlogStock float in tow. I recognized him right away and I asked him if he “had room on the float for a couple more”. He said; “You bet!”
As for these bloggers, most of them where exactly what I had expected them to be (after reading their posts for years). Bloggers for the most part seem to have a tendency to gravitate to other bloggers with either the same interests, or often, at least similar values. The theme of our float “BlogStock Salutes Disney”, but its “purpose” was actually to collect food and money for the local Tekamah, Nebraska food pantry.
My blogging buddy of a couple of years now Cliff Morrow was exactly as I had expected. Just as humorous and down to earth in real life as he is on his blog. Even the funny little off-hand comments that Cliff made around us, were exactly what I would have expected he would say in any given situation (or as a response he might post on a blog). He was just a real funny and uplifting kind of guy. His humor is very subtle and dry, but also very quick and witty. Cliff‘s buddy Ralph (who was also the other BlogStock organizer along with Cliff) is a longtime personal friend of Cliff’s and you could see just how the two of them could actually pull this whole thing off together. Their skills and talents just seemed to augment each others.
Their wives Marilyn and Char have been friends since they were little girls in Colorado together. I think I heard one of them say that they can’t remember NOT knowing each other. They are the real brains and beauty behind those two guys though! But at the very least… there was a certain synergy in this “fabulous four” that pulled this whole thing off with almost seamless precision.
One of the female Bloggers that I have really enjoyed reading for a couple of years now (Jamie Dawn) was just as sweet as I thought she would be and Mrs. LZ just loved her. Her husband Keith is a pastor of a non-denominational church in Northern California, but I never before heard of the city in which it was located, and I still can’t even remember its name now. It seems like it was somewhere between the bay area and the San Joaquin Valley somewhere. Keith was a very nice and laid back guy. Jamie Dawn and Keith also brought their college age daughter (Courtney) with them. Courtney loves to take photo shots of everything, (so she and I are on the same page here). They also have a son who was not there, because he was doing some sort of music recording. Both Courtney and her brother Taylor are frequent post subjects on Jamie Dawn’s Blog.
There were people from, Colorado, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky there too and maybe a couple of states I have forgotten about too. When the parade was over, we all went to Silver Hills (a local winery) for a nice buffet lunch. This was also a nice chance to get to know some of the other folks. And several from Cliff’s family were also there, his sons, daughter and grandkids too. Cliff and Marilyn’s sons (Tom and Dan and their wives and kids) were there from Lincoln, NE. Julie (their daughter and her son and daughter) live very close to Cliff and Marilyn’s place.
Most of the activities of the day (after the Tekamah Parade) happened out on Cliff and Marilyn’s farm. So, after the time we spent at the winery, we all took off caravan style to meet up again at Cliff and Marilyn’s place. They had a big tent set up outside with tables and chairs for everyone to be able to sit down and talk and have a few snacks while many of the guests helped get everything set up for the hamburger and hotdog dinner that Ralph got busy grilling the hot dogs and burgers for.
These folks really know how to put on some eating events, if you ask me! I would imagine that all in all, there were about 50 people there for BlogStock ’08 (including the kids and grandkids). After supper was completed there were both horse rides and 4 wheel ATV rides around the farm. Mrs. LZ really surprised me once again, by wanting to actually ride a horse. She did it and she just loved it. It is helpful to know that the last time Mrs. LZ road a horse was when we were on Grand Bahamas Island. That particular time, the horse tried to run her into a tree. But even though that was some years ago, (and I figured she had forgotten all about it) but she still wanted to ride again. But, she did admit that she had remembered the Grand Bahamas ride and in spite of that, she still wanted to get back in the saddle again.
The farmhouse itself was out in the middle of acres, acres and acres of fields planted with corn. If I had not been following someone, I doubt if I would have found it without a police escort. I am pretty sure a GPS here, would have been fruitless. The good thing was that the farmhouse was the last thing on the road, so I didn’t really have to worry about how I would get out of there and back to the highway.
The food was great and the people were at least as nice as I expected (if not more so). The Morrow’s farm had a couple of big old cherry trees with actual cherries on them. Both Mrs. LZ and I had really never even seen a cherry tree before. So we were thrilled by this particular discovery on the farm.
Mrs. LZ and I stayed at the farm until almost 10:00 P.M until other commitments for the weekend took us away and on our return trip back home again. But when Cliff found out that we were leaving and not coming back, to BlogStock that weekend, they decided to have a little ceremony that they had planned on doing the last night of BlogStock, so that Mrs. LZ and I could be part of it too. So he asked us if we could stay around just a while longer, so that he could do a little something. We said; “sure!”
Then, Cliff sort of did a little speech about how the whole concept of BlogStock was Ralph’s brainchild and he explained how without Ralph’s effort and the help of their wives (Marilyn and Char) it would NOT have happened. After the speech and the applause for all of the help, Cliff and Ralph then passed out bags to each BlogStock participant that contained a BlockStock ’08 Book (that was a spiral bound collection of the blogger's posts). This book contained at least two blog posts from each of us bloggers, as well as bios from each of us. On the front of the book was a picture of Ralph & Cliff with just their heads sticking out of rows of corn and on the back was a collage made with all of the BlogStock participants very own pictures.
In addition to the book, there was also a local paper that just happened to have an article about BlogStock ’08 and the parade and the Bloggers participation in the parade to gather food and money for the Tekamah food pantry. The bag also contained a jar of honey from the farm as well as a jar of jelly made from the cherries off of those trees outside of the Morrow farmhouse. It also contained a couple of ball point pens from Cliff’s latest run (and won) for Burke County Supervisor. It also contained a glass proudly emblazoned with the name of the kennels that Cliff’s wife Marilyn runs (with the help of their grown daughter Julie). All in all, just a very fun day for us and the weather could not have been any nicer for a GREAT 4th of July!
I will post some pictures from the parade with this post and then ones from the Silver Hills Winery and the Morrow Farm on later posts. To Cliff, Marilyn, Ralph and Char… Thanks for a wonderful visit and a great BlogStock event! You guys should be very proud of your planning and execution that made BlogStock ’08 a wonderful event filled with the spirit of what the celebration of America’s "Independence Day" is all about.
To all of you bloggers that I just met there, if I wasn’t reading you before, I will be now, to those of you that I already read and post on your blogs… It was truly a pleasure and an honor to get to know you even better through this visit. I hope that we can all do it again sometime! It was truly a memorable event and an absolutely wonderful Fourth of July for Mrs. LZ and me. As the old Bob Hope theme song used to say… “Thanks For The Memories!” strong>
“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” ~ Erma Bombeck