Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From Faribault: Lighting up the holidays with a Winterfest parade December 16, 2018

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Two weeks prior, city of Faribault snowplows were clearing eight inches of snow on the original date of the Parade of Lights. The rescheduled (due to the snowstorm) parade included the festive city snowplow.

 

WITH LIGHTS ALL AGLOW, from ground to sky, Faribault showcased its holiday spirit Friday evening during a festive Parade of Lights.

 

Across from Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, a crowd gathers outside Bernie’s Grill.

 

Warm temps hovering near 30 degrees brought out all ages to the second annual Winterfest. I was there, on the corner by third-generation family-owned Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, taking it all in.

 

Looking north on Central Avenue to the crowd waiting for the 5:30 p.m. fireworks and then the parade.

 

I sensed the anticipation as the crowd swelled, waiting for the fireworks followed by the parade.

 

 

Except for an inability to see only the highest fireworks over the tall buildings along Central Avenue, everything else went seemingly well.

 

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer tops a Faribault police vehicle.

 

 

A Faribault fire truck.

 

The back of the fire truck is a colorful blur of lights as it moves down Central Avenue.

 

Another entry from the city of Faribault.

 

The murmur of conversation, the rock of familiar holiday tunes like Jingle Bells, the bobbing of Santa hats, the flash of holiday lights…all created a real sense of holiday joy. I felt it. I heard it. I saw it.

 

One of my favorite units: sheep and a “wool blanket” on a “bed” representing the iconic Faribault Woolen Mill.

 

There’s something about an event like this that makes us all pause and celebrate, as a community, the spirit of Christmas. Faribault needed this. I needed this.

 

No holiday parade is complete without Santa and Mrs. Claus, here on the Elks Lodge float.

 

Keeping everyone safe…

 

Loved the gingerbread house.

 

To Faribault Main Street and to all who participated in the parade—from the Boy Scouts to the firefighters to local businesses and many more—thank you. You gave us all a gift on Friday evening. You brought holiday joy to Central Avenue, to our Minnesota community.

 

After the parade, the crowd disperses.

 

Parade-goers absolutely embraced these 45 minutes of Winterfest, this opportunity to unite and celebrate the holiday season in Faribault.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Connecting a community at a Christmas dinner in a church basement December 13, 2018

A street-side sign welcomes diners to the free Community Christmas dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

EVERY COMMUNITY HAS ITS HOLIDAY TRADITIONS. There’s comfort in that sameness, in the sense of community constructed from repeating events. Faribault is no exception.

Each December the Paradise Center for the Arts features a holiday play. Every year the Rice County Historical Society hosts A French-Canadian Christmas at the Alexander Faribault House. Every December Shattuck-St. Mary’s School invites the community to A Campus Christmas Walk.

 

Dining at a previous Community Christmas Dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

And on one Sunday in mid-December, Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church serves a Community Christmas Dinner. There’s something about sitting down with others for a good home-cooked meal that fosters an even stronger sense of community. Food brings people together in conversation. We need more of that—pulling up folding chairs in a church basement to talk between bites of mashed potatoes and gravy. Comfort in food and in conversation.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of a past dinner. This year pork will replace the turkey.

 

Fourth Avenue hosts its annual Christmas dinner from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. this Sunday, December 16. I’ve attended numerous times, photographed the event nearly every time. I delight in the words chosen to promote the dinner: Your Friends at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church Invite you to be our Honored Guest at a day of Feasting and Fellowship with your Neighbors.

Reread that. Friends. Honored Guest. Fellowship. Neighbors.

Those words exude warmth, welcome and a sense of care and community. Your economic status, your job status, your situation—none of that matters. You are welcome.

 

Volunteer Madeline serves Christmas cake at a past dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

Welcome to enjoy a meal of roast pork and stuffing, meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, coleslaw, freshly baked rolls and Christmas cupcakes. The menu has changed slightly from previous years. But that’s OK. I like pork (actually more than turkey). And Christmas cupcakes can replace Christmas cake.

 

Volunteers hard at work in the kitchen. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I expect to see a crew of volunteers busy as ever cooking, serving, clearing tables, washing dishes… It takes a well-organized team to pull together a home-cooked meal for the community. I appreciate this gift which extends beyond those being fed. Monies collected from a freewill offering will benefit Operation 23 to Zero, which assists vets in need.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo. Be sure to read the sign on the wall above the kitchen window.

 

This Community Christmas Dinner is about so much more than food. It’s about care and comfort and connecting and community. And hope. It embodies the spirit of Christmas.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault: #faribofrosty December 12, 2018

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BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME. The kids. The moms. The dads. The grandmas and grandpas. To see Faribault’s version of Frosty the Snowman.

 

 

Late Saturday afternoon, as day glided into the golden light of early evening, family after family pulled over at the corner of First Street Northwest and Third Avenue Northwest to take photos with a ginormous snowman created by the Hoisington family. It is their annual holiday gift to the community, a gift which brings lots of smiles and joy.

 

 

I witnessed that as kids and families posed for pictures with the towering snowman in the Hoisingtons’ front yard.

 

 

 

 

They came in their Paul Bunyan buffalo plaid and fur caps and hats, some with ear flappers, some not. They came in their boots and sneakers, their jeans, some ripped, some not. They came to see this towering snowman popular enough to now have his own hashtag, #faribofrosty.

 

 

I delighted in these families making memories on a cold December day in southern Minnesota.

 

 

Faribo Frosty embodies the spirit of giving. Faribo Frosty embodies the spirit of joy. Faribo Frosty embodies a sense of togetherness, of family, of community.

 

 

For a moment or ten, a snowman focuses thoughts and vision and the world seems a magical and happy place.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

“The Santa Diaries II” debuts in Faribault with humor & so much more December 11, 2018

From The Merlin Players Facebook page.

 

WHEN I ATTENDED The Merlin Players’ performance of The Santa Diaries four years ago at the Paradise Center for the Arts, I laughed. And I cried. Playwrights and performers brought a moving message coupled with comedy to the stage.

And now they’ve done it again in A Christmas Wedding—The Santa Diaries II. I attended Saturday evening, a day after the play debuted. Writers Laura Ambler and Mala Burt flew in from Maryland to watch as a talented cast—many of whom performed in the first Santa Diaries—took the stage.

The play focuses on a Hollywood couple returning to their hometown for their desired small town Christmas wedding. Except others have other ideas, including making the wedding a reality TV event. So the story evolves with humor aplenty, conflict and discerning what’s most important in life. Choose fame and fortune? Or love, happiness and contentment?

I realized part way into the play that I was smiling nearly non-stop. That says a lot for the writing and the performing. But when the script got serious, my thoughts turned introspective also. Like the characters in the play, we all have choices to make, especially this time of year. It’s easy to get caught up in finding the perfect gift, the material things that we think will make us, or our loved ones, happy. But really, it is the gift of time, of being with family and friends, that’s most important. I left the theater with that point reinforced.

I also left with awe at The Merlin Players’ performance, echoed by the playwrights with whom I chatted briefly. Laura Ambler praised the cast. I did, too, But I also praised her writing and that of co-writer Mala Burt. It takes a good, strong script to make a play successful as much as good, strong performers and production staff.

And there were many talented actors and actresses. Plus singers. Solos by Mandie Siems and Paige Pick held a quality of pureness. I could sense the raptness of the audience as the two sang.

I especially appreciated the ways in which the play became distinctly Minnesotan, even distinctly Faribault. Local radio personality Gordy Kosfeld voiced the radio announcer. Casseroles became hotdish, at least in one reference. Poinsettias set on stage came from Donahue’s Greenhouse, so said one of the performers. Details like that endear a performance to a local audience.

The playwrights also endeared themselves to me in their appreciation of Faribault, telling me how much they enjoyed the fresh snow and exploring my community. I loved hearing that. Locals don’t always appreciate Faribault’s historic setting and small town feel. This really is a special place.

And that includes the Paradise Center for the Arts. I am so grateful to have this arts center in the heart of our historic downtown with professional theater and so much more available locally.

FYI: Additional performances of A Christmas Wedding–The Santa Diaries II are set for 7:30 p.m. on December 13, 14, and 15 and at 2 p.m. December 16 at the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue North, Faribault.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Winterfest, Take Two December 10, 2018

Source: Faribault Main Street Facebook page

 

Shattuck-St. Mary’s invites you to celebrate the holiday season December 7, 2018

An arch frames the entrance to the Shattuck-St. Mary’s School Upper Campus in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

WHEN SHATTUCK-ST. MARY’S SCHOOL opens its doors for an annual Campus Christmas Walk each December, you can bet I am typically there to take in the festivities. It’s an opportunity to get in the holiday spirit and to tour this historic college prep school that seems more old school East Coast than Midwest.

 

The decorated entry of Shumway Hall. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Set on Faribault’s east side, this school is known for its rigorous academics and its stellar hockey program. But I appreciate Shattuck also for its historic architecture. When decorated for the Christmas season, the setting is particularly stunning.

 

Skaters following a past holiday figure skating show. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Campus Christmas Walk activities, which are free, begin with a Holiday Figure Skating Show at noon on Saturday, December 8, in the J.P. Parise Arena. (Yes, that J.P. Parise, former NHL player and director of hockey/coach at Shattuck.) The skill of the young figure skaters always impresses. This year they will perform a “Chronicles of Narnia” theme.

 

Cookie decorating during a past Campus Christmas Walk. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Following that show, Walk guests can enjoy hot chocolate and cookies (decorate your own if you wish) and cookie ornament making in the Morgan Refectory from 1-3 p.m. Santa will be there at the same time in the Morgan Gallery. This is definitely a family-friendly event.

 

Shumway Hall on the Shattuck campus, decorated for the Campus Christmas Walk. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2009.

 

Horse-drawn sleigh rides are available from 1-3 p.m. outside Shumway Hall. That’s the hall with the signature clock tower.

Additionally, the school store is open from 1-2 p.m. and Beau Chant Choral rehearses in beautiful Newhall Auditorium at 2 p.m. Go ahead and listen.

 

Ornate stairway just outside the dining hall. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

If you’ve never been to this event on the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Upper School Campus, I’d encourage you to attend. Every time I step onto that campus, I feel like I’m in another place, in another time. And during the holiday season, this historic campus is even more enchanting.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Let’s be there for one another December 6, 2018

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

WHAT ARE YOU DOING for others this holiday season? How are you connecting, offering support, comfort and care, and bringing joy and hope to others? I’m talking outside your immediate circle of family and friends.

Today, more than ever, we need to care about one another in a world that seems increasingly self-centered, mean and hostile.

We have the power individually and collectively to make a difference, to counter the negativity, to do something good. Not for ourselves. But for others. Especially during the holiday season.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

For example, each December for the past several, I’ve rung bells for the Salvation Army. It’s uncomfortable standing outside in the biting cold of a Minnesota winter. But it’s only for two hours and I can step inside Walmart to warm my hands under the bathroom hand dryer when my fingers feel numb. This is not about my comfort, though. Rather this is about greeting people with warmth and accepting donations from those wanting to help others.

And there are plenty of generous souls. This year a woman stopped, pushed coins into the kettle slot and told me she knew what it was like to go through rough times. And then there was the young mom who parceled coins into her toddler son’s hand to drop into the kettle. Except he returned each coin to her and then watched her drop the pennies, the quarters, the…into the bucket. What a valuable lesson she taught him. I especially appreciate those young parents who model giving.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Not everyone can give financially. I get that. But we can give of our time. On Sunday afternoon my bible study group gathered to wrap gifts as part of our Angel Tree Project. We’ve done this for years, ending our wrapping marathon with a soups and salads dinner together. I am always amazed at the generosity of people who pull some 75 paper angels from a Christmas tree at our church and then purchase gifts for those less fortunate. One young boy asked for a tacklebox (he’s getting it). I found that especially refreshing in a time when most kids would rather stay indoors with their tech toys. Typically I don’t like wrapping presents. But doing this with friends is fun and fosters a sense of togetherness in a shared mission.

I also helped pack boxes for our military men and women overseas and filled bags for local veterans. As the daughter of a Korean War veteran, I can only imagine how much my dad would have appreciated such a gift. Through that volunteerism I indirectly honored my dad.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

There are endless ways we can help one another. It doesn’t take much effort to find a cause that fits your interests and your talents. Or simply reach out on your own to uplift someone. Send a card. Make a phone call. Give a hug. Mentor a child. Open a door. Smile.

It’s within our power to make this world a better place, to show we really do care about others through our positive words and actions.

TELL ME: How do you help others?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling