Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Memories shared, memories made at a rural Minnesota family reunion July 31, 2012

Old-fashioned games like a gunny sack race, a three-legged race, and running with eggs on a spoon have been popular activities at recent Kletscher family reunions.

MY COUSIN LYNN doesn’t realize it, I’m sure. But when she repeated to me several times at this past weekend’s Kletscher family reunion that we need to keep this going, that not all families are like ours, gathering every year, remaining connected, sharing memories of the past, I knew that she was absolutely right.

The reunion originated many, many years ago as an annual summer picnic for descendants of Rudolph and Mathilda Kletscher, my great grandparents. As their son Henry’s family grew, a reunion for the family of Henry and Ida, my grandparents, was established.

In my 55 years of life, I bet I’ve missed only a handful of Kletscher reunions. It’s that important to me to attend this yearly gathering  in my hometown of Vesta. These aunts and uncles and cousins (and my grandparents, long ago deceased) were very much a part of my life when I was growing up as we all lived in close proximity to one another.

Saturday evening, circled around a campfire in the Vesta City Park, we shared memories of the many, many times our family celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. While the uncles clustered around card tables to swig beer and play cards so many decades ago and the aunts visited, we cousins raced in the dark shadows of farm yards in raucous games of “Starlight, Moonlight.” And then, when the wooden crate of pop bottles was pulled out, we swarmed to grab the rare treat of bubbly beverages.

Such were our memories (some best kept within the family) shared as darkness settled upon the prairie. Campfire flames flared and sparked while conversation ebbed and flowed as only it can in the comfortable familiarity of family.

Despite the feelings of closeness evoked at a reunion, the reality is that we are connected now primarily by memories and blood, not by the intertwining of our lives today. For the most part, we’ve moved away from the prairie and see each other only at the reunion or at the funerals of family members.

Several years ago, my sister Lanae and I decided we needed to infuse new energy into the reunion if we were to keep the next generation interested in remaining connected. That meant offering activities which would create memories. And so we, and other family members, have planned games. This year was no exception.

The cupcake walk, a popular activity two years ago, was brought back.

Elle, one happy little girl with a cupcake. She’s also an excellent hula hooper.

Already we can see our hard work and efforts effecting a change. The younger generation wants to come to the reunion now as opposed to “having” to tag along with mom and dad and being bored to death because “there’s nothing to do.”

I need only see the excitement in the faces of my cousins’ kids and grandkids’ and the smiles on my cousins’ faces to realize we’re on to something with offering organized activities. These descendants of Henry and Ida Kletscher are bonding and building memories.

It didn’t take much persuading to get the young adults participating in the Tacky Tourist Relay, helping each other slip into Hawaiian garb and more during our Hawaiian Luau themed reunion.

Perhaps 15 – 20 years from now they will circle around a campfire in the Vesta park remembering those gunny sack races or the time they hula hooped or Audrey insisting they join in the Tacky Tourist Relay Race.

Teams compete in the Tacky Tourist Relay.

I hope they will smile at the memories and realize how very blessed they are to be part of a family that has loved one another for generations.

Even my generation (OK, they’re a wee bit younger than me) formed a Tacky Tourist Relay team.

My sister Lanae and cousin Kirt assist each other in the hula hoop competition. I’m pretty certain they did not win.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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14 Responses to “Memories shared, memories made at a rural Minnesota family reunion”

  1. Looks like you have a fun family. How nice to have a big reunion every year. I really like the last picture.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I do have a fun family. I have 35 cousins on the Kletscher side. So with all the aunts, uncles and cousins and their families, there’s never a shortage of fun or conversation. Oh, and I should mention that our reunion includes a noon potluck dinner and the Kletschers are fantastic cooks and bakers. This year I loved the baked beans my cousin LeAnn’s son Josh brought. I managed to finagle a recipe out of him, although it’s not too specific, so I doubt I can duplicate it.

  2. Lanae Says:

    Awesome picture of Kirt and I with the hula hoops. What a blast and it showed the younger family members you can have fun even when we are older!!! No we did not win a prize as it was cheating to not have it circle our waist, if you look you will see I have NO waist. I wish everyone could come to our family rebellion.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, Lanae, if you extend that invitation, you may have extras at next year’s reunion. But we don’t mind. I welcomed Kristin (sp?) Stage (not her real last name), whose former college roommate Dalton (a relative) persuaded me to hula hoop. I handed my camera over to Alison and discovered that I can, indeed, trust her with my camera, meaning she did not take any photos of me hula hooping. So glad you’re OK, sister, with that great shot of you and cousin Kirt.

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    Hehehe! Great pics!! Our family is small enough that we see each other on a regular basis! What a ‘blast’ you all had!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I wish I had taken even more pix. But it’s difficult to capture everything when you’re one of the people helping with the activities.

  4. Jackie Says:

    It really doesn’t take too much effort to make it fun for everyone, looks like you are all doing a good job in the “fun” department. Did you take a head count?, how many of you are there? Seems like a tradition your family will keep on doing for years to come. Enjoyed you photos :)

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I don’t know how many attended this year, but less than other years it seemed to me. We really need to do a group photo. I’ll need to start that next year. It does take some effort to organize games. One branch of the family is responsible each year, but we do help each other.

  5. Janelle Says:

    Always enjoy seeing everyone and catching up, but as usual, I ran out of time and didn’t chat with everyone! Fun luau theme and nice job with pulling the games together once again – lots of laughs had by all!

  6. Lori Says:

    Wow that is really cool that MPR picked up on your blog and especially when it was about our family! Can’t wait for next year…. I took lots of notes and we brainstormed some ideas. We will keep you posted!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, I felt quite honored that Bob Collins at News Cut singled out this family reunion post to highlight online at Minnesota Public Radio.

      You’re already considering themes for next year? So great. Can’t wait to see what your family comes up with for the 2013 reunion. If you need any info, be sure to ask.


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