Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Summertime in Minnesota: A boy & his lemonade stand July 29, 2015

Cooper Soderberg opened his lemonade stand in Faribault last week.

Cooper Soderberg opened his lemonade stand/snack bar in Faribault last week.

THERE’S SOMETHING INEXPLICABLY grassroots wonderful about a kid and a lemonade stand.

Lemonade stand details, misspelling and all.

Lemonade stand details, misspelling and all, and likely intentionally.

Last week, 11-year-old Cooper Soderberg decided he wanted to earn a little money for a new computer and also contribute to the Wounded Warrior Project. Half of his profits are going to help soldiers’ families.

Cooper is selling chips, candy and lemonade.

Cooper is selling chips, candy and lemonade.

So he and his grandma dug a handcrafted Kool-Aid stand—the one his mom used 37 years ago—out of her basement, spruced it up and set up a snack shop. His first day open on Division Street near the Faribault Senior Center, Cooper made $30. He got lots of tips.

Cooper tends his business while the Lakelanders Barbershop Chorus performs in the Central Park Bandshell.

Cooper tends his business while the Lakelanders Barbershop Chorus performs in the Central Park Bandshell. His grandma assists.

Thursday evening he parked his stand at Central Park for the weekly Concerts in the Park performance. Business didn’t appear especially brisk. But that didn’t seem to phase this young entrepreneur vending lemonade, chips and candy.

Preparing for customers.

Preparing lemonade for customers. You can find Cooper’s business along Division Street by the Faribault Senior Center.

I interviewed him and photographed him. Then, after I shot my last frame, Cooper strode over and shook my hand, a sure sign of a confident businessman destined for success.

BONUS PHOTOS from the concert:

This year's concerts also feature en plein air artists. These are Pat Johnson's brushes.

This year’s concerts also feature en plein air artists. These are Pat Johnson’s brushes.

Irina Mikhaylova created this pastel of a concert going couple.

Irina Mikhaylova created this pastel of a couple at the concert.

In the casual atmosphere of the park, some concert goers bring their dogs.

In the casual atmosphere of the park, some concert goers bring their dogs.

Dana Hanson's oil paints.

Dana Hanson’s oil paints.

A concert goer poses with a caricature created by Irina Mikhaylova.

A concert goer poses with a caricature created by Irina Mikhaylova, right.

FYI: Click here to read an earlier post about the artists who were part of the July 23 Concerts in the Park evening.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Melding music & art at Faribault’s Central Park July 28, 2015

The Lakelanders Barbershop Chorus performs in the Central Park bandshell on July 23.

The Lakelanders Barbershop Chorus performs in the Central Park bandshell on July 23.

WHILE BARBERSHOPPERS CROON, artists create. Music and art. Art and music. It seems the perfect mix for the annual summertime Concerts in the Park series held each Thursday in Faribault’s Central Park.

Pat Johnson has been at the concerts every week with her easel and paints.

Pat Johnson has been at the concerts every week with her easel and paints.

Last week I attended a concert for the first time this season and delighted in the en plein air artists scattered around the park with their easels and art supplies. They are new to the concert evenings, an idea of Jeff Jarvis, Faribault Park & Rec Enrichment & Communications Coordinator.

Pat Johnson paints en plein air.

Pat Johnson paints en plein air.

Jeff tells me the addition this year of artists injects even more spirit into the evening, provides an educational experience for concert goers and assists artists in developing en plein air painting skills in an openly musical and public setting. To keep the selected artists focused in the moment, they’re required to create music-themed artwork.

A vintage enamelware tray holds Pat Johnson's oil paints.

A vintage enamelware tray holds Pat Johnson’s oil paints.

Pat Johnson of Morristown was dipping brushes into oil on a vintage enamelware tray when I paused to watch her create a portrait of a young woman she’d previously seen at a concert. An artist for sixty years, she says painting is her passion. She’s happy to sit at the park, listening to the music and visiting. “I have been blessed with the people I’ve met,” she smiled.

Artist Tami Ochs

Artist Tami Resler

Tami's tools lie at her feet. Years ago, Tami designed the greyhound tatoo inked onto her leg in Vegas.

Tami’s tools lie at her feet. Years ago, Tami designed and got the greyhound tattoo in Kanub, Utah, after attending the Greyhound Gathering there. The Gathering raises monies for greyhound rescue.

Barbershopper details in Tami's art.

Barbershopper details in Tami’s art.

To the side of the bandshell, Faribault artist Tami Resler was surrounded by her “fan club,” a cluster of family and friends there to support her and enjoy an evening together. She was drawing with Sharpies and pencils—snippet details of a park sign, a trash barrel. Later I returned to see the faces of the Lakelanders Barbershop Chorus flared into the corner of her art piece.

Irina Mikhaylova works on a portrait of the couple in the background.

Irina Mikhaylova works on a portrait of the couple in the background.

Irina at work with her pastels.

Irina at work with her pastels.

Irina's pastels.

Irina’s pastels.

Nearby, Irina Mikhaylova used pastels to color the sketch she’d done of two elderly concert goers settled into lawn chairs. It was sweet, a lovely capture of older folks who primarily comprise this audience. There is something sweet, too, about Irina, about the thick accent that traces to her native St. Petersburg, Russia. She now lives in Morristown. Because she cannot work in the U.S. as a mechanical engineer—her former profession—she has thrown herself into her art.

Shadows and light play on Barb Bruns as she works.

Shadows and light play on Barb Bruns as she works.

Some of Barb's corralled pastels.

Some of Barb’s corralled pastels.

Barb's in-progress interpretation of the Central Park bandshell.

Barb’s in-progress interpretation of the Central Park Bandshell, in the background to the right.

On the other side of the park, Barb Bruns talked to me about blogging as she worked pastels across paper to recreate the bandshell, and the pet parade mural thereon. She is more than an artist. In Morristown, Barb operates Barb’s Custom Framing & Gift Shop with a local gallery at the front of her shop. It features the work of 27 local artists.

Artist Dana Hanson

Artist Dana Hanson

The sun shadows Dana's hand across her art as she paints.

The sun shadows Dana’s hand across her art as she paints.

Dana's dancer.

Dana’s dancer

A stone’s throw from Barb, the sinking sun spotlighted the mesmerizing art of Dana Hanson who, by freelance trade, creates art for her Lord Warmington Studio. Her grandmother, Frieda Lord, helped found Faribault’s art center. By day Dana works as a baker/cake decorator at Fareway Foods, just across the street from Central Park. On this evening, her art danced as she brushed oils into the shape of a hooded dancer in halal, the Hebrew word for praise.

Praise seems a fitting response for the addition of artists to the concerts. Jeff Jarvis confirms the enthusiastic reception. “Youngsters have emerged from the crowds to sit with ‘real’ artists—they even come back with their own art supplies to join in,” he cites.

Jeff, himself a visual artist, understands the financial and other challenges artists face in getting their work out there. “I wanted to elevate the status of visual artists by paying them to perform alongside the musicians,” he says. He accomplished that by securing a grant through the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

In addition to Jeff and the five artists I interviewed, Nicole Volk, Linda Van Lear and Julie Fakler have also been among the Concerts in the Park artists. Jeff selected local and emerging artists who enjoy working outdoors. The best works of each artist will be featured in a capstone exhibit September 8 – 11 at the Buckham Center Commons area with the opening reception from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. on Tuesday, September 8.

the sun sets behind the bandshell as the barbershoppers sing tunes ranging from "Sweet Caroline" to "God Bless America."

The sun sets behind the bandshell as the barbershoppers sing tunes ranging from “Sweet Caroline” to “God Bless America.”

FYI: The Concerts in the Park series continues for four more Thursdays with the Copper Street Brass Quintet performing July 30; Bend in the River Big Band on August 6; Jivin’ Ivan & The Kings of Swing on August 13; and The Bandshell Brass on August 20.

Please check back tomorrow for a story about a young entrepreneur who set up shop at the July 23 Concerts in the Park event. Plus, I will show you a few more concert images.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: The musicians of Monroe Crossing July 3, 2015

Portrait #30: Monroe Crossing

Monroe Crossing musicians photographed during a 2013 performance at North Morristown.

Four of five Monroe Crossing musicians photographed during a 2013 performance at North Morristown.

They’re in the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. They’ve recorded 14 CDs to date. Twice they’ve appeared at Carnegie Hall in New York City. And in 2016, they will become the first Minnesota bluegrass band ever to perform in South Korea.

They are Monroe Crossing, a group of five musicians who rank as one of Minnesota’s favorite bluegrass bands.

On Saturday the performers, as they have many times in the past, take the stage at the oldest Fourth of July celebration in Minnesota, now in its 123rd year. That would be in North Morristown, a country church and school and a few homes clustered west of Faribault in the middle of farm fields.

The Trinity Lutheran Church and School festival grounds is the perfect setting for these musicians who present foot-stomping down-to-earth songs. They perform at 1:30 p.m. and then again at 4 p.m. And it’s free, although donations are accepted in on-grounds donation boxes.

Plan to arrive well in advance of Monroe Crossings’ concerts. The July Fourth celebration begins at 9 a.m., when food stands and games open. Yes, there’s plenty of great food including homemade pies, barbecued pork sandwiches, burgers and more. You can play bingo, hunt for a medallion, observe a flag-raising, bid on auction items, throw horseshoes, attend a parade (at 10 a.m.), listen to other musicians (The Jolly Huntsmen Polka Band, Sawtooth Brothers, Benson Family Singers and Downtown Sound), drink beer and more.

There’s also plenty of visiting. Old-fashioned handcrafted rides are available for the kids. This rural celebration is about as Americana grassroots wholesome goodness as you’ll find anywhere in Minnesota on the Fourth of July.

Ending it all is a 10 p.m. fireworks display.

FYI: Click here to reach the North Morristown Fourth of July website page for a schedule of events and directions.

You can also check out the event Facebook page by clicking here.

Click here to view a photo essay from the 2013 celebration.

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The Minnesota Faces series is featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part IV: Touring the legendary Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa June 4, 2015

My husband exits the historic Surf Ballroom.

My husband exits the historic Surf Ballroom.

WHEN I MENTIONED to a friend that my husband and I were going on an overnight get-away to Clear Lake, Iowa, he immediately asked if we were touring the Surf Ballroom. We were.

A broad view of this massive ballroom which seats 2,100.

A broad view of this massive ballroom which seats 2,100.

The Surf is the focus for many visitors to this north central Iowa community. It wasn’t our main reason for traveling here. But we knew we couldn’t visit Clear Lake without seeing the famous Surf, site of Buddy Holly’s final Winter Dance Party performance before he, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson died in a February 3, 1959, plane crash along with the pilot.

This display references "American Pie."

This display references “American Pie.”

It was, writes Don McLean in his song, American Pie, “the day the music died.”

Another tribute to the Surf's most memorable performed, rock n roll legend Buddy Holly.

Another tribute to the Surf’s most memorable performer, rock n roll legend Buddy Holly.

Now I’m not much of a music history person, nor a person with musical talent. I can’t read a note. I don’t have a particularly good singing voice. I typically cannot tell you who sings what and even had to ask my husband, before our arrival at the Surf, what songs Buddy Holly sang. He cited Peggy Sue and That’ll Be the Day.

The exterior ticket booth.

The exterior ticket booth.

Looking toward the interior lobby doors.

Looking toward the outside, this interior set of lobby doors are hefty and heavy. To the right is the original coat check area, not shown in this image.

This sign summarizes the importance of the Surf.

This sign summarizes the importance of the Surf.

Yet, even for someone like me who is rather musically illiterate, the Surf proved an interesting place. Built in 1948, the current ballroom (the first burned down) is on the National Register of Historic Places. And rightly so. From the exterior ticket booth to the heavy doors that lead into the dark lobby, where you can check your coat, the Surf holds that feel of yesteryear. It’s difficult to explain. But you feel that sense of entering a different world from a bygone era the minute you step inside. As if you’ve left Iowa. And today.

Just a sampling of those who have played the Surf.

Just a sampling of those who have played the Surf.

More historic memorabilia of Surf concerts.

More historic memorabilia of Surf concerts.

The lounge area features a stage, bar and lots more memorabilia.

The lounge area features a stage, bar and lots more memorabilia.

You'll spot numerous signed guitars on display.

You’ll spot numerous signed guitars on display.

Here you’ll discover a hallway museum of musicians’ photos, posters and history. And inside the lounge you’ll see stars’ guitars and more photos and other tributes to those who have performed here. If a musician’s picture is displayed, then he/she’s played/been here.

The ballroom stage.

The ballroom stage.

On the Friday afternoon we arrived at the Surf, we almost didn’t make it into the actual ballroom. Black curtains were pulled across two entrances and marked by “closed” signs. I peeked through the curtains to see musicians for Lee Ann Womack setting up inside. I failed to notice on the Surf website that the dance floor occasionally closes if a concert is scheduled. So be forewarned: Check the Surf calendar. Even better, call ahead.

But then, as luck would have it, Mark, who’s been working Surf security since 1978 and clearly loves this place and his job, parted the curtains and invited us inside with the admonition to keep our distance from the stage. He’d overheard our disappointment and said, “Since you drove a long ways…” We’d traveled only 85 miles. But another couple had driven nearly four hours from Omaha.

In the back are layers of booths, all original.

In the back are layers of booths, all original, and beach-themed murals.

Portraits

Portraits of Ritchie Valens, left, Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson hang inside the ballroom.

Signatures...

Signatures…

He led us onto the original maple floor dance floor, pointed us to the original booths (where I slid into one; it’s a tight squeeze), noted the beach themed décor (it is, afterall, the Surf), took us into a small room where musicians and others have signed the walls…

Each February, the Surf still hosts a Winter Dance Party.

Each February, the Surf still hosts a Winter Dance Party.

I wished I could have lingered longer in the ballroom, asked Mark to switch on more lights for better photos. But I didn’t press my luck. If not for his graciousness, I would have remained on the other side of those black curtains.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Shortly before our visit,

The day before our visit, the king of blues died. B.B. King’s promotional poster hangs in the lounge.

Lee Ann Womack's band was setting up on the afternoon of our visit.

Lee Ann Womack’s band was setting up on the afternoon of our visit. This was snapped just outside the front entry doors.

About a block away, this outdoor sculpture at Three Stars Plaza honors Holly, Valens and Richardson.

About a block away, this outdoor turntable/album sculpture at Three Stars Plaza honors Holly, Valens and Richardson. You can also visit the plane crash site about five miles from town. Because of rainy weather, we did not go there.

FYI: Please check back next week for the three remaining installments in this series of seven posts from Clear Lake, Iowa.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Play me a tune in Mason City October 9, 2014

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MY ENTIRE LIFE, I wished I could play the piano.

But opportunity never presented itself. Or more like limited finances never allowed for purchase of a piano or piano lessons. When you grow up in a large family without much money, piano lessons miss the budget. And when there are farm chores, time does not allow for piano lessons.

To this day, I cannot play a single musical instrument or read a note.

A sign invites pianists to sit down and play.

A sign invites pianists to sit down and play the public piano.

But I appreciate music and what a group of Mason City High School students, through Youth Investing Energy in Leadership Development (YIELD), have brought to their northeastern Iowa community via “Tunes for the Town.”

A "Tunes for the Town" piano located in Mason City's downtown Plaza.

A “Tunes for the Town” piano located in Mason City’s downtown Plaza.

Through this project, students painted four donated pianos which were then placed around Mason City in May. On a recent visit there, I discovered one of those public pianos outside Southbridge Mall in the downtown Plaza. The other three are located in Central Park, near KCMR radio’s studio and inside The Music Man Square.

This public piano project is especially fitting for Mason City, birthplace of “The Music Man” composer, Meredith Willson.

Beth Ann and Randy uncover the Plaza piano, revealing a color piano which mimics my friend's colorful shirt.

Beth Ann and Randy uncover the Plaza piano, revealing a colorful piano mimicking my friend’s colorful shirt.

On this quiet Sunday afternoon, my husband, Randy, and friend, Beth Ann, who lives in Mason City and served as our tour guide, uncovered the piano.

Randy has enough musical knowledge to play a short tune.

Randy has enough musical knowledge to play a short tune.

Then Randy pounded out some simple beginner’s tune and determined the piano needs tuning. His dad played piano and organ and even an accordion, before he lost his hand in a farming accident. But even after the accident, my father-in-law still tuned pianos.

The colorful back of the piano.

The colorful back of the piano.

No concert was performed that Sunday afternoon in the Plaza. But my unheard applause rings for those high school students and “Tunes for the Town.”

Just cover the piano once you've finished playing.

Just cover the piano once you’ve finished playing.

FYI: The pianos are locked at night and, as you can see, are covered to protect them from the weather. They will be moved indoors this winter.

A 22-year-old Des Moines man pled guilty recently to felony criminal mischief after he flipped and destroyed one of the pianos earlier this year. That piano has since been replaced.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

These youthful musicians give me hope July 23, 2014

Songs of Hope performers present a selection from India.

Songs of Hope performers present a selection from India.

IF EVER YOU DESPAIR in today’s young people, consider the youth participating in Songs of Hope, a six-week St. Paul based performing arts summer camp that is part of Sounds of Hope, Ltd.

Labeled suitcases were placed on the grass to inform the audience of the culture featured.

Labeled suitcases and stands denote countries of origin during featured songs.

Consider these young people who travel from all over the world—places like Vietnam, China, Italy, Turkey, Israel and Guatemala—to spread messages of peace, hope, understanding and more via song and dance.

As the sun sets, performers in traditional Vietnamese attire present selections from Vietnam.

As the sun sets, performers in traditional Vietnamese attire present selections from Vietnam.

These musicians lifted my spirits during a 90-minute outdoor concert last Saturday at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

Ready to perform in traditional Chinese attire.

Ready to perform in traditional Chinese attire.

They give me hope that, despite the unrest in the Gaza Strip, the tense situation in the Ukraine, the continuing war on terror in Afghanistan, the situation along the U.S. southern border, and, yes, even the gun violence in Chicago, we can resolve our differences, overcome cultural and other barriers, and live in peace.

Participating youth from all over the world paint their names on the underside of boxes upon which they perform.

Participating youth from all over the world paint their names  and hand prints on the underside of boxes upon which they perform.

Hope, though sometimes an elusive word, is worth believing in.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Featuring Albania...

Featuring Albania…

Waiting to perform.

Waiting to perform.

Song and dance from Vietnam.

Song and dance from Vietnam.

After the concert, goods from various countries and more were available for purchase. The young woman on the left is a native of Argentina who works as an opera singer in France. She's in the U.S. for a month with Songs of Hope.

After the concert, goods from various countries and more were available for purchase. The young woman on the left is a native of Argentina who works as an opera singer in France. She’s in the U.S. for a month with Songs of Hope.

A sample of the merchandise being sold.

A sample of the merchandise available for purchase.

From Italy...

From Italy…

FYI: Click here to learn more about Sounds of Hope, Ltd.

And click here to view my previous blog post on the Songs of Hope concert in Faribault.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Youth from around the world bring songs of hope to Faribault July 22, 2014

On a perfect summer night, Songs of Hope performed an outdoor concert at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

On a perfect summer night, Songs of Hope performed an outdoor concert at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault.

AS THE GOLDEN ORB of the sun shifted across the sky, as dragonflies dipped above the audience, as a distant train rumbled, Songs of Hope musicians performed before a rapt audience at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault on Saturday evening.

The performers focused on hope, like their name.

The performers focused on hope, like their name.

And the message they brought—in their dancing and in their singing—was hope.

Songs from Guatemala.

Songs from Guatemala.

Inspirational defines these performers who have been attending the St. Paul based international performing arts summer camp, Songs of Hope. Seventy musicians from 15 countries are currently on tour, presenting 33 concerts in 18 days.

Chinese youth perform as the sun sets.

Chinese youth perform as the sun sets.

Songs of Hope is “about people getting together and sharing culture and lives,” Program Director Tom Surprenant said as he introduced the group.

Performing outdoors at River Bend.

Performing outdoors at River Bend.

But with audiences, like the one in Faribault, they share so much more: possibilities, hope, peace, freedom, justice…

In nearly constant motion.

In nearly constant motion.

I was beyond impressed by these young people who sang with such force and enthusiasm and rarely stopped moving as they presented 90 minutes of songs spanning multiple nations from India to Jamaica to Guatemala to Italy to Russia and many other places.

The band provided upbeat music that made you want to dance.

The band provided upbeat music that makes you want to dance.

Even though I could not always understand, music bridges language and cultural differences.

Selections from Jamaica included "Linstead Market" and "Stand Up For Your Rights."

Selections from Jamaica included “Linstead Market” and “Stand Up For Your Rights.”

Truly, skin color, eye shape, height nor any other physical characteristic mattered as these youth performed.

Nevaeh, the daughter of friends, wore the perfect shirt for the concert.

Nevaeh, the daughter of friends, wore the perfect shirt for the concert.

They were to me just kids sharing a hopeful message through song and dance, showing us that we are all human beings who can get along if we make the effort, living in harmony and peace with one another.

Look at the fun these youth were having singing a song, "I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream" about ice cream.

Look at the fun these youth had singing “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream,” a song about ice cream, a universal treat.

Especially moving was the group’s performance of “I Am Malala,” based on the experience of the young Pakistani girl who was shot simply for pursuing education. “Fight for what you believe in…for education…infinite hope.”

Hands joined in hope.

Hands joined in hope.

After attending this concert, I am, indeed, hopeful.

My heart went out to this boy from Israel given the current situation there.

My heart went out to this boy from Israel given the current situation there.

And I expect so is the young soloist from Israel who sported a t-shirt reading “PEACE & HOPE from ISRAEL.”

FYI: CLICK HERE to see a schedule of the remaining performances in the summer concert schedule, which ends on July 27. The final concerts are in St. Paul, Roseville and Montgomery.

Please check back tomorrow for additional photos from the Faribault Songs of Hope concert. If you have an opportunity to attend a performance, do. Songs of Hope will inspire and uplift you.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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