ak airline jetSince you could count on one hand the days of decent weather since early May, we were all exceptionally happy to have an opportunity to fly south and defrost for a few days in late July.  Paul and Melissa’s niece Karlyn was getting married in the Willamette Valley of Oregon state.   Accommodations were made for traveling wedding guests in Silverton, Oregon at the Oregon Garden Resort.  What a gem that turned out to be.  The main lodge/restaurant is situated to afford sweeping views of The Oregon Garden and the Wilamette Valley beyond.  DSC_0685If you like botanic gardens which contain glorious flowers, soothing water and song birds, you would enjoy this place.   DSC_0678DSC_0667blue hydrangea oregonWaterfalls, quiet ponds, fountains and a Northwest garden with beautiful vistas and art were delightful to explore.DSC_0748Quinn was very excited to discover an in-ground Hobbit house in the children’s garden, although he still maintains that he will one day live in a castle.  The better to lock Laura in the tower.

hobbit houseoregon garden flowersDSC_0643The wedding was beautiful and the bride exquisite.740812_10151369605414743_563486186_oDSC_0285Guest’s agreed that the flower girls looked like cupcakes.  Their darling dresses were all sewn by the brides extremely talented mother, Christa.  290956_10151369595504743_738612691_oMr. and Mrs. Bryan Birkholz stand on the threshold of happily ever after…Karyly & Bryan in sunsetkarlyn and bryan in fieldA local winery provided a gorgeous natural setting for an outdoor reception.  DSC_0499wedding cookiesThis wee wedding guest waited anxiously for the bride and groom to cut the cake.little girl at weddingcake topGrandpa surveys the festivities.grandpa with sunbrellaGrandma Kay and Laura repose elegantly in the afternoon sun.DSC_0409In July a wealth of flowers are grown by local Oregon gardeners.flowers at DerochersBryan and Karlyn danced a waltz and soon Quinn and Abigail followed their lead, dancing to the melodies of the big band.karlyn and bryanDSC_0534Laura strikes a pose.Laura with sunbrella Karlyn's weddingFavorite traditions were observed as Bryan comically searched for his bride’s garter and Karlyn tossed her bouquet to a dozen or more youthful ladies.karlyn and garterThe end of a perfect day.karyln sunsetQuinn cleans up.  A certain song comes to mind…not one that’s in this family band repertoire!quinn on barrel karlyns weddingIMG_1352DSC_0664Next stop was Decorah, Iowa.  Population eight thousand one hundred eighteen, and home to a whole lot of Norwegians.  Decorah is Paul’s home town though, contrary to popular conclusion, he is not of scandinavian descent.  His blond hair and convincing accent, delivered when occasion dictates, often mislead.  The annual Nordic Fest was in full swing and the Alaska String Band was one of their featured performers.  The streets were closed to vehicle traffic and festival participants flooded the town.  Booths of scandinavian food, clothing and paraphernalia were everywhere.  Polka bands, beer and brats were abundant.  Returning to her Decorah roots, Molly B’s voice ignited her polka band with charm and talent, while she jammed along on trumpet, saxophone and keyboard.  And of course a town parade celebrated their cultural roots. DSC_0895DSC_0886


The nearby settlement of Burr Oak, Iowa hosts the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, one of the many residences of the historic pioneer Ingalls family.  DSC_0046_2DSC_0843

This little girl announces the famous Decorah Eagle’s Nest which can be viewed on live web cam at  http://www.decoraheaglecamalerts.com   A wild mating pair of bald eagles has set up house, the nest measuring approximately six feet long and six feet deep.  The live feed has been maintained by the Raptor Resource Project, a non profit organization for the preservation of falcons, eagles, ospreys, hawks and owls.  Thousands of curious people from around the globe have tuned in to witness the birth of the eagle young.  And many have traveled long distances to view the spectacle in person, creating quite a surge in tourism to this quiet Midwest town.  DSC_0841Soon we made our way north to the home of some dear friends in northern Minnesota.  A remarkable family of fourteen whom with we share a love of music and travel in common and have met them at various venues across the country.  You may enjoy learning more about them on their web site at http://durocherfamilymusic.com    A wedding gala was planned for Paul and Judy Durocher’s oldest daughter Susan.  Susan and her fiancé Nicholas anticipated their wedding ceremony to take place in Maine come September.  We were excited to attend the pre-wedding bash in July at the Durocher home.  They live in a rural setting and have built the quintessential American cottage abode.

watermelon w: derocher'sderocher pond

hambergur man at derocher's

A hamburger bar with all the trimmings was the perfect compliment to the day.derocher bashA wedding cheesecake prepared by the Durocher girls…….could anything be more esthetically delicious?derosher cheese cakederosher cakesThe kids take a leap into the Mississippi River which flows nearby the Durocher home. DSCF0793Maine looks good on Susan and Nicholas, now Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Budd.susan and nicholas buddsusan durocher brideSusan and her sisters.durocher girlsOur final stop was the Lake Itasca Family Music Festival in Bemidji, Minnesota.  http://www.familybluegrass.com   At Lake Itasca you can visit the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  itasca lakebridge over creekDSCF0724Ken and Becky Berge, founders of the Lake Itasca Family Music Festival and members of the Berge Bluegrass Gospel Band, welcomed us with amazing hospitality.  Their children, now grown with families of their own, once joined Ken and Becky touring internationally and are highly celebrated among gospel bluegrass fans.  They have been nominated for the SPBGMA award for Bluegrass Gospel Band of the Year.  And listening to their daughters sing on stage that weekend we could fully appreciate why.  The weekend festival is held on the grounds of the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers in north central Minnesota.  Family bands from across America meet and inspire one another as the weekend progresses.  itaska festivalzfamily itascagibson at itaskalaura and abby itasca536749_10151087345338944_698713219_nquinn lake itasca555473_10151087347738944_1654888387_nPhotographer Eric Vest thoughtfully gifted us with some wonderful keepsake scenes of the weekend.458571_437882416258613_2021065861_oThe end of a wonderful respite, it was time to pack up the bus and head back north to Alaska.  We still had some wonderful adventures ahead before summer’s end.  paul and bus at itasca