Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A rural Minnesota billboard packs a powerful message January 10, 2011

IF YOU TRAVEL OUTSTATE Minnesota, otherwise known as any place outside of the Twin Cities metro, check out the billboards.

They’re worth noting because of how they differ from advertising along freeways, where anyone from anywhere will see the signage.

In rural areas, the target audience seems much more localized.

For example, on a recent road trip to southwestern Minnesota, I spotted a billboard along U.S. Highway 14 near New Ulm advertising the Brown County Fair. Never mind that the fair happened last August.

Another sign promoted Chuck Spaeth Ford Mercury in Sleepy Eye and New Ulm. My automotive machinist husband tells me Ford no longer manufactures Mercury.

I also saw a billboard advertising Carhartts at the Runnings (“farm”) store in Springfield. This rugged clothing, footwear and more are almost a must-have for rural Minnesotans.


Pizza and Carhartts advertised on billboards along U.S. Highway 14.

Folks in outstate Minnesota like pizza, too. Just buy it at your local SUPERVALU, in this case Tauer’s SUPERVALU Foods in downtown Springfield.

But I spied my favorite billboard of this road trip in Sleepy Eye. Sponsored by the Brown County Underage Substance Abuse Coalition & The Parent Communication Network, this sends a strong message to parents: PARENT YOUR CHILD.


Brown County Underage Substance Abuse Coalition billboard in Sleepy Eye.

I wish such billboards weren’t needed, that underage substance abuse didn’t exist. But we know it does, always has and always will.

I appreciate how the billboard message encourages and empowers parents:

Parents…you are the #1 influence in your child’s life. Talk to your kids today! They really do listen to what you have to say!

I’d like to see replicas of this billboard elsewhere in Minnesota, even Rice County where I live. Rice County is among Minnesota’s most dangerous counties for drunk driving.

Just change the sponsor name on the billboard, and you’re good to go.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling