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The phrase “salad days” describes a season when the taste of life, like the spring garden harvest, is fresh and sweet.

My first years of teaching were salad days. I was young and enjoying the moment, living the life and learning my craft. There was the reality of hard work and some heartache and frustration, but I had few cares or responsibilities other than myself. Life was good — or at least fresh and fun.

Shakespeare coined the phrase “salad days” in the tragedy "Cleopatra" to mean “green in judgement,” and certainly that could be said of me at that time. More broadly, the term evokes the light heartedness, vitality and optimism of youth. I think of late spring like that — an idyllic time of freshness, novelty and fun — and I have tried to capture that spirit in my photos.

Memorial Day is one of those salad days. From my youth, I associate the holiday with blue skies and sunny days. My memories are of pleasant walks with family along cemetery lawns filled with colorful displays of flags and fragrant flowers. The cemetery visits were a significant family ritual and history lesson.

This year, I attended and photographed ceremonies in Herman, Fort Calhoun and Kennard as well as visited and placed flowers on graves of my own relatives in Omaha. I still prefer and often use the old term “Decoration Day.”

The last weekend in May now has added significance because my daughter, Erin, is now "Erin McElroy." She and her husband, Declan, were married on the Saturday before Memorial Day in a beautiful ceremony in the Fontenelle Park Pavilion in Omaha. While I had absolutely nothing to do with selecting the venue, I grew up on Ames Avenue in Omaha, and the park brings back many childhood memories.

Nothing evokes images of youth and summer more than swimming at outdoor pools. No matter the temperature, kids dive, splash and play. The weather and the water temp was near perfect the week that the Blair pool opened. Unfortunately, a few days later, the pool was shut down while a maintenance crew removed shattered glass particles embedded in paint at the bottom of the pool.

Gateway to the West Days events and similar summer festivals bring out the kid in many of us. Otte Blair Middle School was the new venue for Taste of Blair and the Blair Area Community Band summer concert. Holding the concert in the Otte commons area seemed to be an excellent fit, and everyone enjoyed the performance.

While June Jam was again held at the depot in Lions Park, the revamped park layout is a significant improvement. Kids swarmed the new and relocated playground. Concert goers could see and hear the band while families picnicked and watched their kids swing, slide and climb on the new playground equipment. The park will be even more family friendly when the modern all-season restrooms are completed.

Despite the toasty weather, families filled the sidewalks along the Gateway to the West parade route. Fire trucks spraying water, and parade participants throwing frozen treats to parade watchers proved to be particularly popular for the kids. After the parade, I stopped at the Blair Volunteer Fire Department beer garden for a refreshing beer and bratwurst before watching the kids and firefighters water fight contests.

I can think of no better example of youthful vitality and celebration than the Kids Tri, which took place Saturday.

I have no interest in stats — I have no idea who won or even how many kids took part. I do know that for more than an hour, I watched kids ages 5 to 15 of all ability levels take part in the challenge and have a great time doing it. I watched a host of volunteers organize, monitor and keep kids safe while family members cheered the kids on.

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I also applaud Kids Tri organizers for instituting the "Do Moore, Be Moore" award, which was presented to Blair High School graduates Alec and Evan Wick. The two outstanding and record-setting cross-country and track athletes have assisted with the triathlon each year since the event was first organized.

“Do Moore, Be Moore” honors recently retired physical education teacher and Kids Tri co-founder Sandy Moore.

Physical education teacher Kim Leggott said, “The award is based on all things ‘Sandy" — hard work, kindness, compassion and dedication.”

Spring is at an end, and summer officially begins at 11: 24 p.m. today. I am looking forward to the vacations and summer activities ahead, but I will miss the soft green salad days of spring.

JOE BURNS is the primary news photographer for the Pilot-Tribune, Enterprise and Arlington Citizen. He may be reached at 402-426-2121 or

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