Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota faces: Vesta resident and promoter August 28, 2015

Portrait #37: My former neighbor, Dorothy

Dorothy. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

Dorothy. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

HER NAME IS DOROTHY. She was my next farm to the north neighbor when I was growing up near Vesta on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. Her eldest daughter, Mary Lee, and I were classmates from grade school through high school.

Dorothy was different than the others moms. She worked in town. At the bank. Back then in the 1960s and early 1970s, few women worked off the farm in rural Minnesota. So they were a bit of an oddity, at least through my girlhood eyes. Today Dorothy’s off-the-farm job would be the norm.

As I recall, my former neighbor was always active in the community. In 2012, when Todd Bol, co-founder of the Little Free Library, donated a library to my hometown of Vesta, Dorothy was key in finding a spot for it outside the Vesta Cafe. That’s when she posed for this photo as a representative of the Vesta Commercial Club.

She’s holding a book, Minnesota State Fair, An Illustrated History by Kathryn Strand Koutsky and Linda Koutsky, donated to the LFL by Coffee House Press. It’s a fitting photo to publish now. The Minnesota State Fair opened yesterday and runs through Labor Day.

You won’t find me there elbowing my way into the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ historic log building or lining up for a glass of $2 milk or watching an artist carve a dairy princess portrait in a butter block or sailing down a large slide or meandering around Machinery Hill. I suppose it’s almost traitorous to admit this, but I have not attended the Minnesota State Fair in nearly 40 years. I simply have no desire to fight the crowds.

But for those of you who wouldn’t miss the Great Minnesota Get Together, tell me why you go to the fair and what you must-see/must-do/must-eat there. In other words, what draws you to the fair?

Minnesota Faces is featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Community Pride: Showcasing the Tilt-A-Whirl, a Faribault icon August 27, 2015

RED WING IS NOTED for its pottery and shoes. Darwin has the world’s largest ball of twine. And in northern Minnesota, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox draw tourists for lakeside photo ops in Bemidji.

Now my community, too, has an iconic attraction—the Tilt-A-Whirl. It’s been a long-time coming, this recognition that the iconic American carnival ride deserves a place of honor in Faribault. Herbert W. Sellner built his first Tilt-A-Whirl here in 1926 and production continued locally into early 2011 when Sellner Manufacturing was sold to a Texas company.

Herb Sellner invented the Tilt-A-Whirl, made in Faribault beginning in 1926.

Herb Sellner invented the Tilt-A-Whirl, made in Faribault beginning in 1926.

Until I moved into Faribault 31 years ago, just blocks from where the Tilt-A-Whirl was manufactured, I had no idea it was made here. I expect many remain unaware of its roots in this southeastern Minnesota community.

Tami Schluter on "Boy Meets Whirl."

Tami Schluter on “Boy Meets Whirl,” an episode on American Restorations featuring work done on the 1950s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl. A year ago a party was held in Faribault to view the show and unveil the amusement car. Earlier this summer, the car was installed in downtown Faribault.

But thanks to two local businesswomen who took the advice of a consultant following a 2011 Faribault Main Street market study, a restored 1950s Tilt-A-Whirl prototype now sits on a downtown Faribault street corner. And it’s getting the attention Tami Schluter and Peggy Keilen expected, first via the restoration itself, done by Rick’s Restoration of Las Vegas and featured on The History Channel’s American Restoration reality TV show.

The restored 1950s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl has been permanently installed by Burkhartzmeyer Shoes in historic downtown Faribault.

The restored 1950s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl has been permanently installed next to Burkhartzmeyer Shoes in historic downtown Faribault.

And now, with the vintage Tilt-A-Whirl permanently in place at 128 Central Avenue in front of the third-generation family-owned shoe store, Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, locals and visitors alike are sliding into the Tilt-A-Whirl car and posing for photos or taking selfies.

The restored Tilt-A-Whirl sits in downtown Faribault, just two blocks from Buckham Memorial Library.

The restored Tilt-A-Whirl sits in downtown Faribault, just two blocks from Buckham Memorial Library and the Faribault Community Center.

Faribault is claiming an identity as the home of the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Words imprinted upon the table in the Tilt-A-Whirl car honor those involved with the project:

Words imprinted upon the table in the Tilt-A-Whirl car recognize those involved with the project: the Faribault community, the Hutchinson House Bed & Breakfast, Harley’s Auto Salvage, Faribo Air Conditioning & Heating and the Sellner family.

Says Schluter:

“I believe the Tilt brings a feeling of community pride to Faribault. It is certainly a legacy to the 80 years of the ingenuity and creativity of Herb Sellner, members of the Sellner family, its employees and talented local artisans. Besides that, it’s a really fun and whimsical story that brings a smile to just about everyone when reminiscing about past rides.”

The Tilt-A-Whirl car before restoration was rescued from a junkyard.

The 1950s Tilt-A-Whirl car before restoration. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

Not ones to finish a project and then just sit, Schluter and Keilen are now on a mission to restore a second car gifted to Faribault Main Street by Harley’s Auto Salvage. Schluter originally convinced the owners at Harley’s to pull three Tilt-A-Whirl cars from storage for possible refurbishing.

Monies are now being raised to restore this 1940s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl car. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

Monies are now being raised to restore this 1940s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl car. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

Recently, the second Tilt-A-Whirl project was awarded a $500 Community Pride Grant from the Faribault Foundation for restoration of a 1940s vintage car that will rest by the State Bank of Faribault, several blocks to the north of the 1950s car. This time, though, the car will be restored locally by former Sellner employees.

Karen Bussert creates Tilt-A-Whirl themed t-shirts like this one modeled by Faribault native Janet Timmers.

Karen Bussert creates Tilt-A-Whirl themed t-shirts (and sweatshirts) like this one modeled by Faribault native Janet Timmers at a recent Faribault Car Cruise Night. When I spotted the t-shirt, I inquired and Janet directed me to Karen. Janet grew up near Sellner Manufacturing and today lives even closer to the former business. She’s an enthusiastic Tilt-A-Whirl backer, having donated monies toward the first car restoration. I’d love to see this Tilt-A-Whirl apparel sold perhaps at Burkhartzmeyer Shoes and/or other downtown businesses and at the Faribault Chamber office. For now, those interested should contact Karen Bussert at Design Specialties, 19557 Roberds Lake Boulevard, Faribault.

Among those planning to be involved in that restoration is Karen Bussert, a seven-year Sellner employee and now owner of Faribault-based Design Specialties. Bussert created the vinyl lettering and graphics for the first restored car (sending them to Rick’s Restorations) and will do so with the second, too. After Sellner Manufacturing closed, she purchased the screen printing, embroidery and vinyl graphics part of the business, claiming rights to the amusement ride decals. She has templates of the original graphics and still produces them for Larson International, Inc., which manufactures the Tilt-A-Whirl today in Texas along with other formerly made in Faribault spin rides like Dizzy Dragons and Berry Go Round. Bussert also sells Tilt-A-Whirl t-shirts and sweatshirts currently available only at her business.

Signage and seating inside the restored amusement car.

Signage and seating inside the restored amusement car.

With the $500 Community Pride Grant, $2,800 of the $6,500 goal have now been raised toward restoring the second Tilt-A-Whirl. Schluter and Keilen aim to have all of the funds needed for restoration by the end of the year. Tax-deductible donations are accepted at Reliance Bank, 2300 30th St. N.W., Faribault, MN. 55021. Checks should be made payable to the Faribault Foundation and noted for the Tilt-A-Whirl restoration.

The Tilt-A-Whirl faces north toward Central Avenue.

The Tilt-A-Whirl faces north toward Central Avenue and Faribault’s historic downtown.

Like, Schluter, Keilen and the owners and employees of Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, I’ve seen folks gathered at the Tilt-A-Whirl car. It has, indeed, become a Faribault icon and a source of community pride. I expect that interest to grow as word spreads and Faribault markets itself as home of the Tilt-A-Whirl. The possibilities (perhaps a museum and/or an operating Tilt-A-Whirl) exist to make this an even bigger draw.

The Mural Society of Faribault created and placed the Tilt-A-Whirl mural on the side of Jim's Auto & Tire this past fall.

The Mural Society of Faribault created and placed the Tilt-A-Whirl mural on the side of a downtown building in 2010.

FYI: The Tilt-A-Whirl is featured on one of several murals that grace Faribault’s downtown. The mural is displayed on a building along Fourth Street/Minnesota Highway 60, just a block west of Central Avenue.

Tilt-A-Whirl art

Art and lettering on the Tilt-A-Whirl car were created by Karen Bussert of Design Specialties from templates of original Sellner Manufacturing graphics.

If you wish to share your memories and photos of the Tilt-A-Whirl go to facebook.com/tiltawhirlfaribault.

Click here to read a previous post I wrote about another Faribault Foundation Community Pride Grant recipient.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Refuse to remain silent August 26, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:00 PM
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I AM SO TIRED of it. The headlines. Another woman murdered. The court records. Another man charged with domestic assault. The close-up personal experiences that twist my gut.

An edited snipped of a Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women banner.

An edited snippet of a Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women banner photographed during a recent The Clothesline Project display in Owatonna.

Earlier today my heart raced when I heard the raised voices, the “let me go,” watched the young woman pull away from the young man’s grasp.

I hesitated for a moment. And then I was at the front door in a flash, yelling across my busy street, “Hey!” Her head pivoted toward me. “Are you alright?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

Her response seemed genuine.

Yet, I continued to watch as she crossed the street and headed up the hill, barefoot, shoes in hand.

I’ll likely never know her story. But the behavior and words were enough to concern me, to pull me into action, to speak up.

It’s not the first time I’ve refused to remain silent. Twice before I’ve phoned the police when women were being abused. In my neighborhood, in the open, along a busy busy street. Once I should have called 911, but didn’t. I won’t make that mistake again.

It’s been an interesting day, one which started with a “pop” that sounded like gunfire, followed by a second pop around 8 a.m. That got my attention. It is unnerving to look out your window to see police vehicles parked across the street and two policemen standing in a neighbor’s yard. Turns out they had been dispatched to shoot a sick raccoon.

Shooting. A TV reporter and cameraman in Virginia are dead today. Shot while doing a live broadcast. Just doing their jobs.

I am tired of it all. The violence. The craziness. I don’t blame the media for reporting these stories. It is their job to report the news. They don’t make the news. But sometimes they do.

On days like this—when shots are fired in your neighborhood and at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia—it is easy to feel unsettled and to despair.

But then the opportunity arises to speak up, to yell across the street and ask, “Are you alright?” And you feel the power in your voice, in perhaps making a difference because you chose not to remain silent.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Community pride: A vision & two gardens, all because she cares about Faribault

Behind several of these buildings in downtown Faribault, two gardens have been created.

Behind several of these buildings in downtown Faribault, two gardens have been created.

WITHIN MY COMMUNITY, there’s a new sense of optimism rising, a positivity that shouts “community pride.”

Rather than whine and complain about what Faribault lacks, locals are taking action. They are finding solutions and digging in to make this city an even better place.

Several months ago, the Faribault Daily News began publishing good news snippets on the editorial page every Saturday, citing examples of local community pride. This came after editor Jaci Smith called Faribault residents out on their negative attitudes about our community. A group, Citizens in Action, has formed locally to assist with clean-up and other public and private projects in the Faribault area. And recently the Faribault Foundation awarded its first ever Community Pride grants of $500 each to four projects that reflect exactly that—community pride.

The Second Street Garden, started last year and still in development.

The Second Street Garden, started last year and still in development.

Businesswoman, crafter and all-around optimistic long-time Faribault resident Dee Bjork received one of those grants for the Second Street Garden, a mini garden she began developing last year on a once blighted space in the heart of downtown. It’s a work in progress and a spin-off of a garden she created six years ago behind her sister and brother-in-law’s flooring store next to The Crafty Maven, the business she and another sister run.

Dee is a go-getter, a woman who cares deeply for her community and those who live here. She is always smiling and helping and encouraging.

That is how this all started, when Dee noticed a mom sitting on a bath towel on a curb downtown watching her kids play. She remembered her own childhood. Her mom lounged in a lawn chair, sipping iced tea while watching Dee and her siblings play ball in their yard.

Dee and Michelle

Dee and Michelle. Photo courtesy of Dee Bjork at The Crafty Maven.

Dee wanted the same for families living downtown. So she created Michelle’s Garden, named after a young girl she had begun mentoring. Michelle, now a teen, still lives downtown Faribault with her family and remains near and dear.

A street side view of the space now occupied by the Second Street Garden.

A street side view of the space now occupied by the Second Street Garden.

A lovely sign defines the garden.

A lovely sign defines the garden.

Beautiful flowers and plants spill from containers at Dufour's Cleaners next to the garden.

Beautiful flowers and plants spill from containers at Dufour’s Cleaners next to the garden.

With the success of Michelle’s Garden, the focus shifted recently to another spot, a vacant area between a dry cleaner and a hair salon. Dee wanted, she said, “to create a beautiful space outside in a space that was neglected but had potential.”

Flowers spill from a raised bed in the Second Street Garden.

Flowers spill from a raised bed in the Second Street Garden.

She wants the Second Street Garden to become a multi-purpose green space for those who live, work and shop downtown.

A side view of the Second Street Garden.

A side view of the Second Street Garden.

Already the lot, once filled with rock and debris and generally neglected, is shaping into an oasis of flowers and vegetables. Neighbors, gardeners, church members, youth and more—70 people, according to the list Dee’s kept—have worked together to create the two downtown gardens. There have been cash and plant donations, too, and a community planting day.

Plans call for latticework to eventually hide these utility boxes.

Plans call for latticework to eventually hide these utility boxes.

A splash of flowers in the garden.

A splash of flowers pop color into the garden.

Potted tomatoes will eventually be planted in yet to be built raised beds.

Tomatoes will eventually be planted in yet to be built raised beds rather than in pots.

And now Dee has that $500 Community Pride grant, and is seeking additional funding to continue with her vision for the Second Street Garden. A concrete pad will be poured for the dumpster and garbage containers that sit on a side of the lot, a necessity for those who occupy the adjoining building. The dumpster will also be fenced. She plans, too, to have a concrete pad installed for seating under a pergola. The city has promised a picnic table for seasonal placement. Latticework on the pergola will hide utility boxes. More raised beds are planned for the tomatoes that now grow in pots along a wall.

Gorgeous petunias add color to the garden.

Gorgeous petunias add color to the garden.

A dog waits on stairs overlooking the garden.

A dog waits on stairs overlooking the garden.

Veggies to give away.

Garden veggies.

Already the two gardens are lush with growing vegetables—tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, broccoli and zucchini—to be distributed among those downtown and also shared with customers at The Crafty Maven.

Encouraging words posted at the garden.

Encouraging words posted at the garden.

Dee saw a problem and solved it. And because of that, Faribault’s downtown is a better place.

FYI: Check back tomorrow to learn about another project that has been funded by the Faribault Foundation’s Community Pride Grant program.

If you wish to help Dee with the Second Street Garden, consider a cash, labor or materials donation. Contact her at The Crafty Maven.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part II: A close-up look at the International Festival Faribault August 25, 2015

Attendees watch the flag ceremony staged in the Central Park Bandshell.

Attendees watch the flag ceremony staged in the Central Park Bandshell.

THE FLAGS OF AMERICA, Sudan, Honduras, Ireland, Norway and 13 other countries, plus the United Nations, whipped in the wind Saturday afternoon at Faribault’s Central Park as folks gathered to celebrate my community’s cultural diversity.

A Cambodian

Cambodian refugee Sam Ouk, right, holds his country’s flag.

It was a day of connecting cultures through the International Festival Faribault.

Cambodian dancers.

Cambodian dancers.

An Aztec dancer

An Ollin Ayacaxtly Aztec Dancer.

An Aztec drummer.

An Aztec drummer.

Connecting through music and dance,

KIds (and some adults) created flags.

Kids (and some adults) created flags.

Attendees marked a world map with their countries of origin.

Attendees marked a world map with their countries of origin.

River Bend Nature Center showed up with several critters, including a snake and turtle.

River Bend Nature Center showed up with several critters, including a snake and turtle.

hands-on activities,

One of many vendors offering ethnic foods.

One of many vendors offering ethnic foods.

One of my favorite foods, a spicy wrapped Somali

One of my favorite foods, a spicy Somalian Samosa.

Vendors of Cambodian food.

Vendors of Cambodian food.

sampling of ethnic foods,

Cambodian art.

Cambodian art.

Supplies for face painting.

Supplies for face painting.

Lots of kids got their faces painted.

Lots of kids got their faces painted.

Cambodian art.

Cambodian art.

art,

The bouncy house, a popular place for kids.

The bouncy house, a popular place for kids.

The bouncy house was a popular spot for the youngsters.

Inside the bouncy house.

An impromptu dance.

An impromptu dance.

play

Author Joseph L. Mbele

Joseph L. Mbele, author and Associate Professor of English at St. Olaf College in Northfield, marketed his books and represented Tanzania at the festival.

and more.

Months-old Santiago was there with his family.

Months-old Santiago was there with his family.

This teen represented Somalia.

This teen represented Somalia.

Five-month-old Audrianna was at the fest with her parents and siblings.

Five-month-old Audrianna was at the fest with her parents and siblings.

From babes only months old to elders, this event drew all ages interested in meeting those people who call my southeastern Minnesota community home.

Kids run, adults mingle and all learn about each other.

Kids run, adults mingle and all learn about each other.

We are no longer mostly just the descendants of European immigrants. But rather, we are a mix of peoples—some from war-torn lands—who have settled here. Saturday’s festival offered the opportunity to learn more about one another.

Kids could color graphics on a map of Minnesota that highlights points of interest.

Kids could color graphics on a map of Minnesota that highlights points of interest.

And that is good. For when we learn, we begin to understand each other. We begin to see each other as neighbors living in this place called Faribault, Minnesota.

A steady flow of attendees

A steady flow of attendees browsed the merchandise, sampled food and more.

FYI: Please click here to read my first post about the 10th annual International Festival Faribault.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How Faribault celebrated its cultural diversity on one day in August August 22, 2015

The flag ceremony featured national anthems and information about the countries from which Faribault residents have originated.

The flag ceremony featured national anthems and information about the countries from which Faribault residents have originated.

FRIENDS, FLAGS, FOOD, FUN…all melded in Faribault Saturday for the 10th annual International Festival Faribault.

Representing the country of Sudan.

Representing the country of Sudan.

Despite a fierce wind that ripped tent poles from the ground and hastened events along under a forecast of stormy weather, nothing could quell the enthusiasm for this gathering.

Friends

Friends

Friends

Friends

Festival, friends 3

Friends

Smiles abounded. Everywhere.

The festival was truly a family event for all cultures.

The festival was truly a family event for all cultures.

It was a feel-good family event,

Pork and plenty of cilantro.

Pork and plenty of cilantro.

an opportunity to try ethnic foods,

An Aztec dancer

A dancer from Ollin Ayacaxtly Aztec Dancers.

An Aztec dancer's costume details.

An Aztec dancer’s costume details.

Aztec dancers

Aztec dancers

a place to be entertained by skillful dancers,

Kids used markers to create flags from their native countries.

Kids used markers to create flags from their native countries.

an educational day,

Flags representing Faribault residents lined the sidewalk.

Flags representing Faribault residents lined the sidewalk.

Henna art

Henna art

Attendees watch the flag ceremony.

On stage and off, cultures mingled.

a mingling of the many cultures that call Faribault home.

A candid moment: just two boys on bikes.

A candid moment: just two boys on bikes.

I am grateful for festivals like this in my southeastern Minnesota community. When I see the togetherness, especially among the children, I have hope.

Beautiful henna art.

Beautiful henna art.

Hope that we can see beyond the color of our skin,

Just a kid having fun.

Just a kid having fun.

beyond the differences in language and dress and food to that which unites us—the fact that we are all people, just people.

FYI: Please check back for more photos from the International Festival Faribault.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: Faribault friends August 21, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Portrait #36: Friends, Shukri and Khadra

Friends and then Faribault High School seniors Shukri Aden, left, and Khadra Muhumed photographed at the International Festival Faribault 2012.

Friends and then Faribault High School seniors Shukri, left, and Khadra photographed at the International Festival Faribault 2012.

These young women represent the relatively new faces of my community. Beyond French and German and Irish and the blood of other long ago immigrants, we are now also Somali, Sudanese, Hispanic, Cambodian and more. So much more.

Faribault is a diverse southern Minnesota city. We are richer for our differences, although that is not always recognized or appreciated.

Rather than focus on that which separates, let us bridge that which divides.

FYI: Faribault celebrates its cultural diversity this Saturday, August 22, at International Festival Faribault scheduled from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. in Central Park. Click here for more information.

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Minnesota Faces is featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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