Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Art, history and community meld at Faribault car cruise-in August 22, 2011

I CAN’T DIFFERENTIATE a Ford from a Chevy. But I can distinguish a Mustang from a Cadillac.

You needn’t know cars, however, to appreciate a car cruise-in like the one I attended Friday evening in the 400 block of Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault. The monthly cruises are new to my community and, if I’m correct, Friday’s show marked the first this summer that hasn’t been rained out.

Downtown Faribault Car Cruise Night, looking southeast on Central Avenue.

Just several of the many vintage vehicles, these parked by a Mexican store and bakery.

For me, a car cruise-in is all about art, history, community and having a good time. However, for my automotive machinist husband, the one who got me interested in these shows, it would be mostly about the cars or trucks. He’s my go-to guy whenever I question the make, model or year of any vehicle on display, which is often.

While he’s more interested in what’s under the hood or in the overall design, I appreciate the hood ornaments, wheel covers, taillights, the curve of metal—the details that, to me, represent, mini artscapes.

I switched this photo to black-and-white to show off the hood ornament, a work of art.

A 1948 Dodge sported this artsy license plate.

Call this art, or humor, Ron Lehnen posed this "Halloween Rat" under the hood of his 1970 Chevrolet pick-up truck with the "rat motor."

On Friday, in Faribault, I also appreciated the art of neon lights flashing in storefront windows, the slant of sun against brick during that magical hour around sunset, and clouds that painted the sky on a perfect summer evening of temps in the low to mid 70s.

The setting sun cast a lovely light on the historic Hotel Faribault.

Merchandise and flashing neon lights created a colorful visual at a Mexican store in the car cruise block.

Toss in period tunes and music by the likes of Johnny Cash, my favorite country western singer, played on-site by local radio station Power 96, and the mood was set for hanging out and chatting it up with folks I hadn’t seen in awhile.

Car cruise attendees visited with one another, creating a sense of community.

Aaron shows his 6-year-old daughter, Lexi, the interior of a vintage car.

Ted told me about his new grandson, Jaxson. Kathy told me about the need for rain in the Courtland area, where my maternal roots lie and where her husband had traveled that day to farm with his brother. Lowell told me about the $8.99 steak dinner he’d just enjoyed down the street at the Signature Bar and Grill.

Food was the only item missing from cruise night, although I could have stepped into the Mexican bakery or walked to a restaurant along Central Avenue if I had really wanted something to eat. Maybe, eventually, organizers will encourage places like the bakery or nearby restaurants to set up food stands outside their businesses.

The next Downtown Faribault Car Cruise Night is set for 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. Friday, September 16. However, I’d advise coming well before 10 p.m. as the event pretty much ended around 9 p.m.

The 1970 Chevrolet pick-up with the rat motor. My husband owned an orange truck like his, only a year newer or older, I can't recall which. A steer wandered onto a roadway. He hit it and that was the end of his pick-up truck, many years before I met him. So I've only heard the story...never seen the truck.

Lowell and Deb Melchert leave the cruise in their 1947 Chevrolet as the event winds down.

YOU MIGHT ALSO CHECK out Woody’s Hump Day Cruise In on Wednesday evenings in downtown West Concord. Two remain, including one this Wednesday, August 24, and also on September 7. That cruise-in runs from 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m., or until dark.

Hastings also hosts the Historic Hastings Saturday Night Cruise-in from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. with the remaining events set for September 3 and 17 and October 1.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling