Friday, July 31, 2009

Iowa State Fair coverage

Its time to get our corn dogs and lemonade diets ready for IPTV's coverage of the Iowa State Fair.

We got our assignments of fair stories for this year. We've got some fan favorites again. For me, most everything is new to me. There's so much to the fair that I don't see or have seen before.

You can spend 6 hours at the same event and be focused on that same event and have no idea there's anything else going on at the fair. Last year I was at the Monster Arm Wrestling event inside a show arena. You have no idea the fair is going on because there's no windows to the outside and you are focused on that one event.

This year I'll be covering the marble shoot, bears, tall corn, polka plus my features already shot on the Jacobson Exhibition and the corn dog kick off.

Iowa Public Televisions coverage of the Iowa State Fair is usually some of our most watched programming of the network. That's exciting to be part of something that special to Iowans. Here's a look at our coverage from the past and plans for this year. We begin airing nightly highlight shows on August 17 at 9 P.M.

Check out page for past coverage like the husband calling and mom calling contest.

Here's my rubber chicken toss story.

Right now I'm finishing writing about the Corn Dog Kick Off and soon time for the Jacobson story.

What's your favorite event of the Iowa State Fair?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

ELCA Youth Gathering Time Again

This week 37,000 Lutherans have invaded New Orleans.

I don't know if you call it locusts, but its an invasion nonetheless.

This is the every-three-year youth gathering held by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Its a chance for high school kids and their chaperones to experience their faith with others in a way they probably haven't done before. Some kids are getting a second chance at the gathering, but for many, this is it.

I don't know how to best describe a youth gathering. Its not full of chants or prayer, but it is about exploration of ones faith and experiencing something with thousands of your new best friends. Plus you meet all sorts of people from around the country and learn some music that stays with you forever.

For the record I did find some pictures from my 1994 journey. Are you ready? This is John Bergman, Scott Schaefer, my self and Jeremy Anhalt. We had been walking back in the rain and needed to stay dry. We had the bright yellow hats so our chaperone's could see us while we were walking in the crowd. I also found pictures of the same group of adults asleep during the great speakers. I guess that was tradition for them.

I remember Randy and Iva Ruehs, and Merritt and Connie Jones telling me how cool it was and that I needed to attend this event about 20 years ago. The Ruehs' and Jones' were our Luther League sponsors and served American Lutheran Church in Jesup in that capacity for a long time.

They were planting a seed for my first opportunity in 1991. I did not go then but did in 1994 to Atlanta for the "2 Be Alive" event held at the Georgia Dome and the convention center. We raised money through pizza sales, car washes, bake sales, and other dinners to get the money. I think we took a couple of vans to Atlanta on a straight through driving experience.

There were many firsts on that trip, including the all-night driving, communing with 25,000 others in a football stadium, singing songs I'd never heard and doing a conga line across the Georgia Dome.

We learned the best seats were on the floor, but you had to be there EXTREMELY early to get that prime real estate. A lot of pressure was there, too. You had to dance for others, get the crowd going by what you were doing on the floor. You were close to the stage and could rush it if required.

Jay Beech was the band that played for many of those youth gatherings. I always remember Randy saying how good they were and how they could entertain a crowd. That was true.

The theme "2 Be Alive" was put into song that you sang each night and heard the theme several times through the day on shirts, posters and the convention hall. That's another animal in itself where you could experience rock climbing, team building and buy plenty of Lutheran-themed attire.

I thought at the conclusion of that week in Atlanta was it for me and youth gatherings. But that fall at Wartburg College, I found I was not the only one who had attended the event. Several others had our clay necklaces. We would sing some of those same songs in chapel and Sunday services at Wartburg.

In 1997 I was called at the last minute to be a chaperone for the ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans. My youngest sister Kris was on the trip, so that was special to be with her as she experienced her first youth gathering. Our sister Alane went to a national youth gathering in Denver in probably 1985.

I remember seeing Hurricane Katrina coverage and seeing sites I had been through just a few years before, seeing them under water or damaged or used as a shelter of hell, like the New Orleans Convention Center was in 2005. We all knew the city was hurting, but when you'd walked many of those streets, you knew the damage that was done was serious.

Then in 2006 I got to chaperone again, this time for All Saints Lutheran in Davenport. Kristen Reece and I were on the trip to San Antonio. Amy did all the work in organizing, but I got to go have the fun. She stayed home with 3-month old Noah. We paired up with a couple of other churches in the Quad Cities and then Cedar Rapids as we chartered two buses. That was a lot different than the all-nighters of driving straight through.

My thanks to Sarah Stadie for the photo. Even if she goes to Luther.

This week begins Jesus, Justice and Jazz in New Orleans. The site was picked in 2006 and announced in Texas. It was the ELCA's way of saying, we are going to take these young locusts and them use their energy to help that city. Hurricane Katrina had barely been gone from town when the ELCA decided to take the NYG back to NO. The youth this year are doing service projects to help the community.

You can follow several people in New Orleans this week by looking for the Twitter hashtag #jjj09

Our current church, Holy Trinity Lutheran in Ankeny sent 55 people this week. Think of them and think about your past experiences on this trip.

I remember each trip well and hope you do too.

Thanks to Kevin Secoy for use of the opening Wednesday night. You can follow him at

I'm amazed at how many paths do cross in life. The ELCA trip would be one of those. After I posted this, I heard from many people about their experiences. So, I thought I would share some of them.

Mike Peasley is so old, he remembers going to Dallas. That was like 1991. He even noted that the process of tearing down Reunion Arena is underway, so he's a bit reflective on his trip.

Eric Kurtz remembers the 1991 "Called to Freedom." Eric reminds of big names who addressed the crowd, Tony Campolo and Maya Angelou. Campolo would address the crowd again in later years.

My co-worker Joe Bustad was a youth leader when he took kids to St. Louis. I hear that city is in the running for the next gathering in 3 years. Joe left his experience in just a few short words. "It was awesome!!"

Even new generations of my family are going. My second cousin Thea is planning a trip in 2011 and first cousin Kirk was there this year.

Amy Wood Rahe says "I feel so lucky that I got to go to Dallas and Atlanta! I had a blast! Good times and great memories!"

I mentioned how small this world really is. Anne Williams is our youth leader at Holy Trinity Lutheran in Ankeny. I rode down to San Antonio with her parents on the same bus. Anne took kids this year and has a few thoughts and reflections posted here on her blog.

Also another friend and Wartburg grad, Erik Ullestad guided kids from Windsor Heights Lutheran to New Orleans. Here's a look at what they've been up to on their journey.

I did find some fun old photos. Here's one and its blurry, so what a shame, you can see how young some of us used to be. Here's John Bergman, Scott Schaefer, me and Jeremy Anhalt. Enjoy. We were walking back from the Georgia Dome when the rain hit and we took our plastic bags for our bodies and tucked them under the great yellow hats. We wore those so we would be seen while walking in the crowd. Good times.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Polka Party

My job with Iowa Public Television allows me an opportunity to travel across the state and cover all sorts of topics. Last week it was baseball and the wine industry. This week, its the polka.

I will try to post pictures of those adventures here on this site as I usually do as they happen on Twitter which also feeds my Facebook page. So, you may have seen some of these pics before, sorry about that. But its also a chance to keep track of what I've been up to if the bosses get curious.

Tuesday night Steve Carns and I were on another pre-fair story. This time we were hanging out with the Polka Club of Iowa during a performance in Clive, IA. They will be performing at the Iowa State Fair on August 20th in Pioneer Hall at 9a. Check them out if you get a chance. Currently there's about 600 people statewide who take part in a dancing polka group like this one.

The Tuesday event was a senior community center and gave a chance to do something different for the evening. The polka group was having fun with the crowd even getting them to do everyone's favorite, the chicken dance.

If you want to learn more about the Polka Club of Iowa, check out their website. Magically, you can find it here.

The Polka Club of Iowa was part of last year's Oktoberfest in downtown Des Moines through the Hessen Haus and Principal Park. There's a little bit more to the story for this year according to Tim Westemeyer. He's got a blog that has his story of why they won't be polka-ing at this year's Oktoberfest that's been renamed to Rocktoberfest.

He's looking to do a story if anyone's interested.

Back to the polka story. We'll follow up with the Polka Club of Iowa at the Fair on August 20th and will air during our Iowa State Fair coverage on IPTV beginning the second week of the fair.

If you want to see polka in person before the fair, the Polka Club of Iowa will be in the Iowa State Fair parade the day before the fair begins.

By the way, who likes to see the chicken dance in action? Everybody.

The first 30 seconds

I love baseball. Many of you already know that about me.

I love going to the ballpark for many reasons, the sights, sounds and I guess the game.

My 3-year-old, seen here with his new ICubs hat, likes to go as well and he knows the between inning promotions, almost to an obsession. He knows when he misses something, like the race around the gloves promotion in the 1st inning.

I also like to hear fun music. I don't need to hear the same songs every night. I'm guessing I'm not the only one.

The Iowa Cubs have favorites, but I'm hoping we can mount a campaign to hear some new music, or a different shuffle of tunes. Don't get me wrong, I love, "Buttercup", so that one can stay.

Now the ICubs do a sing along to Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline." We don't usually make it that late most nights, but its fun when we do.

Ballclubs are looking for extra income at every opportunity.

Here's how you do it.

You already have a text to win contest with shuffling cell phones. But what about using the cell phones to pick a song. You get a cell company to sponsor, make a few cents and you've got a new revenue stream.

They already allow fans to participate in St. Louis and Kansas City where fans can pick a song by texting their pick from 4 songs that are displayed on the big scoreboard.

You find a cell company, get them to get a bunch of texts for requests and you have a new promotion. Or, if picking by cell is too expensive, then just ask the crowd to pick by cheering for a song selection.

But the song has to have a great first 30 seconds. GNR's "Welcome to the Jungle" has a great first 30. Because of time limits, you usually don't hear the whole song, so you need something to spark the crowd. Even "Hey Ya" by Outkast is great.

Noah likes music and dances when the song is good, so then we have a good time when he's having a good time.

What's your request?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Getting Ready for the Iowa State Fair

We are getting closer to Iowa State Fair mode around here and that's a lot of fun. My fellow producers here at Iowa Public Television are out shooting stories and some have even edited them for air. Judy Blank went to my hometown of Jesup on Thursday for a look at the Schwennen family farm and their dairy goat operation.

Fair preview pieces are being shot all over the state as well. I've been to the Corn Dog Kick Off which is a fundraiser for the Blue Ribbon Foundation. They are the fundraising arm of the fair that's raised nearly $80 million since inception. The BRF has done work on nearly every building on the fairgrounds from the Grandstand to the Ag Building (which will NOT have a Michael Jackson butter sculpture afterall) and now the new Jacobson Exhibition Pavilion.

Here's few pictures of the fun at the fair.

The first is a look at the Jacobson from the east looking west. This is a massive 110,000 square foot building. It won't replace, but rather compliment the original livestock building nearby that was recently air conditioned, so its not going anywhere soon.

There's also a look from the far southwest of the fairgrounds looking east. You can see the Jacobson on the right and the 4-H building on the right. You will no longer be able to see the grandstand from the front of the 4-H building, so that will be a little different.
Our Fair coverage begins soon. We'll let you know when it airs.

During our shoot I asked where we were standing on one particular shoot.
Here's the picture. It was photographer Steve Carns on the far east side of the fairgrounds. We were in what is called the VIP campgrounds. Its right above a new livestock prep and show area. We were looking west and you can see the Des Moines skyline in the background.

Thanks for playing to my Twitter friends:
and our first winner, @ScottKirstein

Thanks for playing The Iowa Journal Travel Quiz or TIJTQ.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Do we need a change on The Iowa Journal?

The Iowa Journal is still in production, but you just aren't seeing much of our work, at least not right now.

We are in the middle of a transition. Our executive producer, Sid, retired at the end of the fiscal year. He's in the hills of retirement and reading. But now, we need to figure out what's next for our show.

We are seeing if there's anything different we want to do with the program.

Seriously, I want to hear from you.

Here's a few ideas that we've been kicking down the road.

Set: Do we want to go back to the couch and comfy chair for interviews? Stay on the stools that were exclusively used for analysis of the news? Two analysts? No analysts?

Do we start to look more like a magazine show? This would mean 3 or 4 stories a program on various topics. Do we have the staff to do that to our quality standards?

Or do we look at staying on a central theme through the show?

We've talked about doing more interviews of interesting people to use as a 5 minute segment or 10 or even the whole show if it makes a good show. Before we have stayed away from newsmakers or just random interviews except in rare situations.

What are you thoughts on commentary segments? Maybe from authors or writers of letters to the editor? We tried this with Neal Harl early in the show, but haven't used it much since.

What do you like about what the Iowa Journal does?
What can the Iowa Journal improve?
What will get you to keep watching the program?
How do we get you to tell your friends to watch?

I appreciate your input.
Drop me a line here in the comments or privately at

Thanks for the time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kent's surgery update Wednesday 230p

Just got the off the phone with Alane. She's back in Des Moines now after coming back late this morning.

Dad's blood pressure was low yesterday following the surgery, but that was by design to not blow out the artery after surgery. His heart rate is normal now.

His spirit is good, his mind is good.

His cough is still a concern and he did have another nebulizer last night and maybe this morning. The cough can do some damage if its not treated.

He was still in intensive care this morning, as the surgeon had not been by yet to check on him. He will hopefully be sent to a regular room to have some visitors. Larry Schmidt stopped by this morning and maybe two of the 3 John Bergman's will stop by yet today.

----3p update---

Kent is now in a regular room. He's in 505 if you are planning a visit to Covenant. He still hasn't seen the surgeon, but the surgeon gave the verbal okay to move Kent from the ICU to 505.

Kent is still not feeling any pain and is feeling good. He's just sitting their doing crossword puzzles. He's still on Tuesday's. He said he didn't get a chance to do that one before they went in for the surgery.

I did actually talk to Kent on the phone and he sounded normally, a little different, but that could have been the cell phone to cell phone quality.

He said he's just a bit tender in a couple of spots and this numbness is likely to fade like a slow leak. He's bitten his mouth while eating, but it feels like he did a dental visit. Kind of like when the novocaine wears off, it takes awhile.

Mom thinks they'll be discharged from the hospital on Thursday.