Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Raising awareness of MS via snow art, plus an idea for Faribault March 11, 2014

IF KURT KLETT CAN CONVINCE city councilors, my community could host an annual snow carving competition in Central Park.

Faribault resident Kurt Klett and his latest snow sculpture, a leprechaun with a pot of gold.

Faribault resident Kurt Klett and his latest snow sculpture, a leprechaun with a pot of gold. Warm temps had partially melted the snow, fading the colors, when I photographed the art late Sunday morning.

That’s the plan, according to this 42-year-old Faribault resident who, for the past five winters, has created snow sculptures in his front yard and this year also entered the St. Paul Winter Carnival snow sculpting contest.

Photographed from Second Street.

Photographed from Second Street.

Given Klett’s enthusiasm and talent and the admiration of locals, his idea certainly could fly. I absolutely support his proposal as a way to bring visitors into Faribault, add a fun, diversionary aspect to an oftentimes long Minnesota winter and promote awareness of Multiple Sclerosis.

Entry fees for the proposed snow sculpting contest would go toward MS, says Klett, diagnosed with the disease of the central nervous system in 1999. The single father of three, ages 6 – 13, suffers from vision and other issues and is currently on disability. He once worked in construction and sales and now works at the Shattuck-St. Mary’s School hockey arena.

His body embraces cold temperatures, Klett says, so he needs to take care not to become overheated while sculpting.

Multiple rubber duckies not sit atop the giant duck graced with a heart and a colored bill.

Klett’s first sculpture of this winter, photographed in late February.

This winter he’s already crafted two snow sculptures in Faribault. The first, a duck, stood completed until two days of 40-degree temps caused the beak to partially fall off.

Klett showed me these photos he took of the two sculptures showing the especially vibrant colors before temps warmed.

Klett showed me these photos he took of the two sculptures with especially vibrant colors before temps warmed.

Undaunted, Klett and a neighbor then “sawed” the remainder of the beak off with a 10-foot chain so he could reshape the duck into a leprechaun holding a pot of gold.

As I’ve observed and as Klett notes, his sculptures are constantly changing, just like the effects of MS. His art, he says, is an ode to MS, a way to raise awareness of the disease.

FIGHT MS is barely visible now on the pot of gold after warm temps began melting the sculpture.

FIGHT MS is barely visible now on the pot of gold after warm temps began melting the sculpture.

FIGHT MS marks the front of the leprechaun’s pot of gold. Klett carved a bull for the St. Paul Winter Carnival snow sculpting contest, dubbing the bull as “Bully the MS Goalie.” Last year he created a stop sign with hockey sticks in his yard, honoring Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding who also has MS.

The leprechaun's pipe is crafted from a crowbar and a raisin container wrapped in hockey tape.

The leprechaun’s pipe is crafted from a crowbar and a raisin container wrapped in hockey tape. This sculpture reaches 12 feet to the top of the hat.

What he crafts from the snow gathered into a huge mound from his and sometimes a neighbor’s yards and even from the roof of his house at 417 Second St. N.W. “depends on what the pile looks like,” this sculptor says.

He’s previously also created a leprechaun on a shamrock, a komodo dragon surrounded by a skyscraper with two hearts, and a T-Rex. Sometimes his kids help choose the art.

This photo montage by Klett shows the process of creating the duck sculpture.

A photo montage by Klett of his 10-foot high duck sculpture.

The process of sculpting this year’s duck and leprechaun took him 14-16 hours each. Depending on the weather, the leprechaun may eventually evolve into a third sculpture. Already warm temps are eroding his leprechaun, fading the colors.

The artist shines a spotlight on his sculptures.

The artist shines a spotlight,left, on his sculptures.

His art draws admiring fans, so much that Klett shines a spotlight on his sculpture at night. As I photographed his leprechaun and chatted with the artist Sunday morning, an older couple stopped. The driver rolled down his car window. “That’s remarkable,” enthused the man. “It’s beautiful.”

I agree. Now imagine Central Park in Faribault graced next winter with such remarkable and beautiful snow art.

FYI: Kurt Klett has not yet approached the Faribault City Council with his request for a snow sculpture contest in Central Park. He is currently raising awareness and gathering support for this project.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Shopping local: My beautiful vintage floral art find March 10, 2014

Crewel embroidery floral art, looking up

IT’S SIMPLY A STUNNING piece. Stitched flowers, artfully arranged, springing from a blue vase.

I was beyond tempted to keep the crewel embroidered floral art for myself.

But, instead, I would present it to my eldest who, for her 28th birthday, requested thrift art. She knows my knack for finding great original art at thrift shops, garage sales and elsewhere. I’d been searching for awhile for her gift, to no avail.

So I conceded that, until I found the perfect piece, she’d need to settle for a bouquet of real flowers. Fresh flowers are always welcome and would be a great way for my husband and I to thank our daughter and her husband for inviting us to lunch at their St. Paul apartment.

Remember to shop local as noted in this mat at the entrance to The Nook & Cranny. Edited photo.

Remember to shop small local stores as noted in this entry mat at The Nook & Cranny. Edited photo.

The day before the lunch date, Randy and I stopped downtown Faribault for St. Pete’s Select blue cheese from the Cheese Cave. Our son-in-law loves this locally-made cheese. And while we were on Central Avenue, I would pop into a floral shop for flowers.

Crewel embroidery floral art, front

But, before I even exited the car, I noticed that stunning floral art in the front window of  The Nook & Cranny, a gift shop which features vintage, collectible and handcrafted merchandise.

The Nook & Cranny, 412 Central Avenue, Faribault, Minnesota.

The Nook & Cranny, 412 Central Avenue, Faribault, Minnesota.

I beelined for the store, my husband trailing. When he read the price tag on the artwork, my excitement diminished. It was priced way higher than I expected or wanted to pay. Art, but not exactly thrift art. As is typical of me, I debated whether I should spend that kind of money. I circled the store, fingering other merchandise, my thoughts never far from that floral art in the window.

Crewel embroidery floral art, side view

To make the potential purchase even more enticing, the shopkeeper shared its history. The floral art was created as a wedding gift some 75 years ago by a mother-in-law. Now no one in the family wanted the long ago gift nor two other crewel embroidered pieces, also for sale in The Nook & Cranny.

That history, combined with a comment by my spouse that real flowers would last perhaps a week, made the decision final. Our daughter would have this art forever.

The Nook & Cranny is among numerous one-of-a-kind locally-owned specialty shops in historic downtown Faribault.

The Nook & Cranny is among numerous one-of-a-kind locally-owned specialty shops in historic downtown Faribault.

So I meandered to the back room and, in an atypical move, asked the shopkeeper whether she would consider dropping the price. She did, by 10 percent. That was just enough. I knew, too, if I didn’t buy this vintage art with its wonderful history, I would regret my decision.

This crewel embroidery art, crafted by the same woman who created the floral I purchased, now hangs in the front window of the Nook & Cranny.

This 1970s vintage crewel embroidery art, crafted by the same woman who created the floral I purchased, now hangs in the front window of The Nook & Cranny. I photographed this through the window when the shop was closed, thus the glare on the glass. If you buy this art, tell them I sent you.

Truly, this art was meant to be purchased by me and gifted to my eldest. I am convinced of that. I know she will treasure it. When she saw the art for the first time, her enthusiasm was genuine.

Table setting

Besides that, when we arrived at her and her husband’s apartment for Sunday lunch, a bouquet of fresh flowers already adorned the dining room table.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

We want spring March 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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ON A MORNING when we are poised to possibly break a 141-year-old record low temperature of minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit for this day in Minnesota, I bring you these messages from the State Bank of Faribault:

Sign, Dear Mother Nature

Sign, We want spring afar

Sign, We want spring

And this is why we want spring:

Faribault, Fourth Avenue NW

Faribault, Fourth Avenue & Division St.

Faribault, Fourth Avenue sign

With the coldest winter in 35 years and endless snow, WE WANT SPRING!

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault’s connection to Sochi February 23, 2014

NO MATTER THE SEASON, no matter how many times I’ve viewed Shattuck-St. Mary’s School through its arched entry, I remain impressed by the incredible beauty and strength of this place.

An arch frames Shattuck-St. Mary's School in Faribault, Minnesota.

An arch frames Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minnesota.

Tucked into Faribault’s east side, Shattuck’s campus seems more Ivy League college or an American version of Hogworts than an historic private boarding school in Minnesota.

But it is here from whence eight 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics hockey players graduated: Brianna Decker, Amanda Kessel and Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux playing for Team USA; Zach Parise and Derek Stepan on the men’s Team USA roster; and Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews competing for Team Canada.

Right here, in southeastern Minnesota, many a hockey great has skated…

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

No smelling the lilies today February 22, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 2:48 PM
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TODAY MY HUSBAND AND I had these wonderful plans for a one-day respite from winter.

We intended to drive to St. Paul, tour the Como Park Conservatory and then have lunch with our eldest daughter and son-in-law at their Lowertown apartment.

But that all changed after we decided to heed the Minnesota State Patrol’s advice to avoid unnecessary travel this weekend.

In the aftermath of Thursday/Friday’s blizzard, roads remain treacherous. Rain followed by snow caused a layer of ice to form under the now snow-packed roadways. Yesterday’s traffic situation in the Twin Cities metro was awful with thousands of spin-outs, nearly 700 crashes, almost 1,000 stalls and over 50 jackknifed/stuck semis, according to numerous news reports. The situation in areas of outstate Minnesota has been equally as challenging.

Conditions have been termed the worst in 25 years.

Minnesota Highway 60 just outside of Faribault Saturday morning shows a mostly snow-packed highway with a few patches of pavement showing.

Minnesota Highway 60 just east of Faribault Saturday morning shows a mostly snow-packed and icy highway with a few patches of pavement showing.

In the cold that followed the storm, salt and chemicals are not melting the snow and ice. Roads will improve only with time and we’re told that could be days. A short drive east of Faribault along Minnesota Highway 60 this morning showed us just how bad roads are.

We did not want to be part of the metro mess, thus the decision to postpone the St. Paul outing until another weekend.

And, as our eldest daughter reminded us, we did not want to be the second Helbling to go in the ditch this week.

Monday morning our second daughter’s vehicle hit an icy patch on a rural Wisconsin roadway, spun around twice into the oncoming lane and landed in the opposite ditch facing the opposite direction from which she’d been traveling.

Thankfully, she was not injured nor her Chevy damaged. There was no oncoming traffic. Her car did not roll (as she suspected it would) and it landed in the opposite ditch away from telephone phones.

She did, however, have to crawl out the window as snow was banked against the door.

Yes, this has been quite the winter here in the Midwest.

Preparing to shovel snow from the garage roof. Trees in my neighborhood are still laden with ice and snow.

Preparing to shovel snow from the garage roof. Trees in my neighborhood are still laden with ice and snow.

So, today instead of meandering among fragrant lilies, beautiful pansies and more in the balmy warmth of the Como Conservatory and then lunching with our daughter and her husband, we’ve been dealing with snow. My spouse has been shoveling snow from the house and garage roofs and from ours and the neighbor’s driveways.

Ravine Street in Faribault this morning.

Ravine Street in Faribault this morning.

We may head downtown again later. But we’re not leaving town.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Digging out in Faribault from our latest winter storm February 21, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:18 PM
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THERE’S NO DENYING the beauty of Minnesota’s latest snowstorm blizzard, which dumped perhaps eight inches of snow on Faribault. I’m never good at judging snow totals.

Trees are iced with snow.

Trees iced with snow.

Heavy, wet snow layers upon trees and power lines, creating a surreal world of incredible beauty contrasted against a cobalt sky.

The  snow-coated woods behind my house are beautiful this morning.

The snow-coated woods behind my house are beautiful this morning.

But beauty will take winter only so far.

From my fenced backyard, I photographed my neighbor, Bob, blowing snow this morning.

From my fenced backyard, I photographed my neighbor, Bob, blowing snow this morning.

Faced with snow removal, I find that beauty quickly fades.

As much as I appreciate the hard-working snowplow drivers, I don't like digging out the snow they plow onto the ends of sidewalks (shown here) and driveways.

As much as I appreciate the hard-working snowplow drivers, I don’t like digging out the snow they plow onto the ends of sidewalks (shown here) and driveways. Sometimes it can be blown out, oftentimes not.

This storm, my husband and I took a two-step approach to getting the snow off our and a neighbor’s driveways and sidewalks. I initiated the plan Thursday afternoon when I realized Randy would never get the car through the snow at the end of the driveway upon his return home from work. The snowplow had gone by, creating a wall of ice and snow chunks.

Miracle of miracles, Randy actually arrived home at 5 p.m., 45 minutes earlier than usual. The boss said if he had to leave early, he could. He commutes to Northfield, 22 minutes distant, on a good day.

Randy opened the garage door this morning to begin the task of snow removal, phase II.

Randy opened the garage door this morning to continue the task of snow removal, phase II.

I had been shoveling for 30 minutes already when my spouse pulled out the snowblower. Our goal was to keep ahead of the storm somewhat. Shovel and blow Thursday and then again Friday morning.

Nearly done clearing our driveway Friday morning.

Nearly done clearing our driveway Friday morning.

And so here it is, nearing noon on Friday. The driveway and sidewalks at our home and our neighbor’s place are cleared, were cleared, by 9 a.m.

A scoop shovel worked best for removing this snow. I shovel where the snowblower can't go.

A scoop shovel worked best for removing this snow. I shovel where the snowblower can’t go or can’t handle.

My back, leg and arm muscles feel it. I’ve shoveled way too much snow this winter.

Snow flies as Randy works the snowblower down the driveway. Fortunately we are not without power, although the lights flickered numerous times Thursday evening.

Snow flies as Randy works the snowblower down the driveway. Fortunately we are not without power, although the lights flickered numerous times Thursday evening.

How about you?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A ginormous Frosty at an historic home

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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Snowman, really up close

FORGET CREATING a mini-sized version of Frosty the Snowman.

Snowman, looking up at

This oversized snowman stands in the Hoisington family’s yard at 18 Third Avenue Northwest in Faribault. My friend John directed me to the snow art last Sunday.

Snowman, from front of house

As impressed as I was by the snowman, I was even more impressed with the house. I love everything about this historic home’s exterior from the front brick pillars topped by lion statues to the sturdy entry columns to the graceful curves to the signature windows. I can only imagine the beautiful interior.

This reminds me of the stately home along Lake Harriet in south Minneapolis.

John, when trying to direct me to the location, referenced the house as Dr. Mc I-can’t-recall-his-name’s home, which meant nothing to me, not being a native of Faribault. I find that historical reference typical of my community. My husband and I, after all, live in “the Swanson house,” even though we’ve owned our home for 30 years.

FYI: This was photographed prior to our two-day thaw of 40 degrees and prior to our Thursday/Friday blizzard.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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