Tag Archives: Rendezvous

Old Man River Mississippi

Old Man River attracts fur traders

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

On this longest day of the year, I am writing about my Mississippi River adventures. I could use more than one long day that the summer solstice gives us.

Like Pere Marquette, Joliette and McGregor we landed in Prairie du Chien on a hot Friday afternoon to discover the Old Man River. The last time we were here was five years ago.

Annually the city hosts the largest fur trade re-enactment in the Midwest. The river was high after recent rains but did not flood the St. Feriole Island.

On our way to Prairie we bet that nothing has changed in the area for the last 100 years.

Rediscovering treasures on the Mississippi River
Rediscovering treasures on the Mississippi River

Well, we were right except for road construction in the downtown area. And a local businessman completed the remodel of a furniture store.

We crossed the Mississippi to Iowa’s McGregor to stay at Uncle Sam’s Saloon built in 1857 on the landing. The building has been remodeled and updated, but it does have this formidable steep staircase like into a chicken coop.

The view of the town from the porch was marvelous. McGregor is known as “Pocket City” reminiscent of a pocket in the bluffs surrounding the river.

Ludek lived in this Pocket City from 2007 to 2009 and changed living quarters three times as the owner kept selling the houses. The last month he even lived in the nearby Marquette.

Coming back to this place felt like we never left.

The big river is wide here as the Wisconsin River flows into it. Houseboats and boatels were floating on the water, and crews were putting more in. The river gives livelihood to many just like hundreds of years ago.

The 39th annual Rendezvous set-up on St. Feriole Island featured teepees and tents of all sorts. The tents line up the streets on the island. Vendors offered food such as fresh Mississippi fried catfish and turtle soup, Indian fry bread and tacos, fried pickles, frog legs and chips.

Curiosities included steins made from wood and tusks, hundreds of furs and fur hats, rocks and minerals, necklaces and peace pipes.

Competitions featured a black powder rifle shoot, hawk and knife throw, cooking and games for children and adults.

Demonstrations such as blacksmithing, pottery, storytelling took place at individual camps.

Most campers were dressed up in period attire that was also for sale at many outfits.

 

To be continued

 

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

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Happy Father’s Day

Father, the founder of immigration

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- As we ready to head out west for the Rendezvous in Prairie du Chien, I can’t help but think about my father Vaclav Konecny. Mom Ella calls him the founder of immigration.

“Without him we’d be back home,” she said.

I never know if mom is sarcastic when she says this.

Once my father sets his mind on something, he goes and pursues it until he gets it. It doesn’t matter what it is. It can be a math problem, a new shower or toilet.

“He’s a perfectionist,” mom says about dad.

Dad explains triple integrals to FSU students
Dad explains triple integrals to FSU students

Dad, former math professor at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, still calculates math problems for journals. He will be 80 this July. He has always been fascinated by Fermat’s Last Theorem and sought to solve it. Originally, a physicist, dad loves Einstein’s relativity theory and makes endless jokes about it.

He has proposed many math problems himself.

“That can sometimes be harder than solving them,” dad says.

Math is still the anchor of his life to which he turns when times are good or bad.

“In my mind, I can travel anywhere,” he said.

His co-anchors are languages. At 60, he learned Spanish motivated by a trip to Mexico and Spain. At 75, dad started studying French motivated by my daughter Emma’s wedding in France.

Dad now reads novels in Spanish and French.

He relentlessly pursues perfection in all its forms, whether intellectual or physical. Dad has always been on a strict diet, never gaining an extra pound.

“He gets his discipline from the seminary,” Ella says.

Both dad and his brother Tony went to the seminary in Kromeriz.

But, paternal grandpa and grandma too requested 100 percent obedience. I found that out the hard way when we went back to Czechoslovakia in 1973 from the USA. We lived in their house under strict rules.

The ruling nature of grandparents has never transferred on my dad.

“He never yells,” says mom, “he’s forever patient.”

Dad can patiently wait for hours at the airport for a delayed plane. His quest for perfection has rubbed off to a certain point on me; that is in my creative work. But, I lack both his discipline and obedience.

Only once, dad yelled at mom, when he was teaching her how to drive in Africa.

Dad taught me how to drive in 1990 in Big Rapids.

“The car is a weapon,” he said, “be careful with it.”

Unlike my mom, dad has always been encouraging and positive about everything.

“You have to pursue things,” he says.

A great educator and a lifelong student, dad continues to pursue things with the same energy he had, when he emigrated some 50 years ago.

Happy Father’s Day, dad

Emma

Copyright (c) 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

Rendezvous in Prairie II

Rendezvous in Prairie II

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- I still have souvenirs from those 19 months of life from 2007 to 2009 when I lived alone in our house, while husband Ludek was working in Prairie.

These include trapper’s fur sacs, collector metal signs and the transporter bag for food and snacks.

But, what I find precious about the time on the Mississippi is that we made good friends. Brian and Sheryl Groen took us for a ride on the river that I will never forget.

Rendezvous treasures
Rendezvous treasures

We discovered a sunken ship that we called the Mississippi Titanic, and went under a bridge that was fixed with clamps.

Even though Prairie is isolated, the area around the river is hauntingly beautiful especially at night. It’s a wildlife paradise with eagles nesting and turtles in the river.

Ludek changed his lodgings quite a bit as he moved across the river to McGregor in Iowa.

I like McGregor a lot as it reminds me of European spa towns. There were some great finds in McGregor as well. I discovered a store with costumes owned by a gentleman who makes costumes for Hollywood.

He also built a Bed & Bath complete with a salon downstairs.

The Rendezvous, one of its kind in North America, takes place on the Feriole Island in Prairie on Father’s Day weekend.

I find it very authentic with trappers in teepees and real Indian food. There are plenty of treasures to purchase.

“It was a consolation for what happened to us,” I always say.

To be continued

 

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

Rendezvous in Prairie

Rendezvous in Prairie du Chien

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI – One of the most difficult times in my life came in the summer of 2007.

My husband Ludek lost his mold making job in the nearby Grand Rapids. After months of searching, he couldn’t find a job in our area.

He finally landed a job at Zeman’s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The firm was opening a new mold making shop in Prairie du Chien located on the Mississippi River right on the border with Iowa.

The town is approximately eight hours away from where we live.

Ludek left on Aug.19 of 2007 before the last concert of the season got rained out. I have great photos of the storm moving in with scary funnel dark clouds.

Summer of 2007
Summer of 2007

I had to stay back in Michigan because of my reporting job and our house. I would be alone for the next two winters.

Looking back I don’t know what was the hardest whether the loneliness, the harsh winters or a combination of everything.

The dog got sick, I got sick, the car broke down and the snow kept falling.

At first Ludek was driving every weekend home, but it got to be too much.

I dreaded every Sunday afternoon when he left for the eight hour drive through Chicago. I got him a transporter bag for snacks and food.

Sometimes he took the boat from Muskegon across Lake Michigan. I joined him a few times for a wild ride on rough waters.

I’ve never liked Sundays, but I started hating them. Even today seven years later, I still can recall the desperation of those moments.

Twice I took the Amtrak train to LaCrosse to visit with Ludek. I wrote on the train.

I was even more desperate when I arrived in Prairie because of its isolation from the world.

We stayed in an apartment in downtown on Main Street near an Irish pub Mulligan’s. They had awesome pork right from Iowa. Ludek liked going to Sawmill bar after he arrived at night in Prairie.

We tried to find good things about the whole situation, and one of them is the Rendezvous, a trapper re-enactment one of a kind in the USA.

The Rendezvous is always held on Father’s Day weekend.

…..to be continued

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova