Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A close-up look at the Veseli Ho-Down August 24, 2011

A banner below the hill by Most Holy Trinity Church and school welcomed attendees.

WHENEVER I ATTEND an event like the Veseli Ho-Down, or go anywhere, I notice the details.

That skill has evolved from my years as a writer, fine-tuned also by my work as a photographer. Photography encourages me to seek the faces, even the hands and feet, of individuals in a crowd to tell a story in an unexpected way.

I apply that same method to photographing buildings and activities, anything really. Give an overall picture, but then move in to showcase the often overlooked details.

That said, as promised in a previous post, below are more photos from the festival my husband and I attended on Sunday at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Veseli, near Lonsdale in northwestern Rice County. Enjoy the details, from my perspective, of the Veseli Ho-Down.

First...the crowd...and then a closer look at individuals, and more, at the festival...

An employee from a Bloomington group home brought residents and their therapy bird, Buddy, to her hometown for the Ho-Down. The parakeet (is that correct?) quickly attracted the attention of fest-goers like this girl.

An 11 a.m. polka mass started the day's activities. I took this snippet image of worshipers from the balcony of Most Holy Trinity. I'll feature detailed photos of the church in another post, so check back.

While technically not the best photo, I still like this image for the story it tells of women taking a break from their work in the church basement. When I noticed the rosaries and cross above the kitchen window opening, I knew I had to photograph this scene. The volunteers were selling baked goods.

Kolacky, a Czech pastry, were among the many ethnic baked goods sold at the festival.

The New Prague Czech Singers performed in their mother tongue under a tent in mid-afternoon.

I upped the contrast on this image to make the colors pop on this costume worn by a Czech singer.

The hands of the bingo number caller, or whatever you call a person who calls bingo numbers.

A sign on a propped-open-with-a-rock church basement door directs fest-goers to the bake sale. To the left in the photo is the station for the hog raffle.

I met 94-year-old (almost 95) Celia enjoying a burger in the company of her great niece, Brenda. I was charmed by her beautiful face and quiet elegance. Ceila grew up near Webster and today lives on a farm with her bachelor son near Lonsdale. Celia typically attends about a half-dozen area church festivals each summer. Her great aunt likes visiting with people and enjoys the Czech music, Brenda says. A few weeks ago Celia won $100, half a hog and $10 playing bingo at the Immaculate Conception Church festival in Lonsdale. She's one lucky lady.

The kids, as kids will, chased each other up and down the handicapped entrance to the church.

Waiting for customers at the duck pond in the kids' games tent.

I laughed when I saw this sign on yellow beans for sale. That's an interesting way to sell produce.

I am Lutheran. We do not do raffles. But everywhere I turned at the Ho-Down, someone was pedaling raffle tickets. As I waited in line for the chicken dinner, two men pushed Split the Pot raffle tickets. For $1, you buy a ticket. Every hour a winner is selected and gets half the money. The rest goes to the church. No, we did not win, but we contributed to Most Holy Trinity. These guys hustled the grounds all afternoon.

And where did all that raffle and other money go? Right through the cashier's window in the former Catholic school. I walked by this building numerous times before I noticed the sign, the open window and the well-worn step-up step. It's details like this that tell the complete story of small-town events like the Veseli Ho-Down.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


10 Responses to “A close-up look at the Veseli Ho-Down”

  1. Bernie Says:

    What a fun photo essay!
    I miss polka masses. To the best of my knowledge, we don’t have them here in Montana.
    I have never heard of a therapy bird. Huh, learn something new everyday!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      This marked the first polka mass I’d ever attended (remember, I’m Lutheran) and I loved it. The only thing that would have improved my experience was having a worship program.

      I’d never heard of a therapy bird either, so I also learned something new. Since I don’t care for flapping bird wings, I was hoping the bird lady wouldn’t say to me, “Would you like to hold the bird?” She didn’t, for which I offered a prayer of thanks. Getting that close to photograph one was close enough for me.

      Welcome back, Bernie. I’ve missed your comments.

  2. Looks like a great time was had by all. It encompassed everything. A great look from all perspectives.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Your conclusion would be spot-on correct. The only angle I didn’t focus my camera on would be the beer drinking, for obvious reasons.

  3. 94 yr old Celia looks awfully spry for almost 95!

  4. This brings back the memories – loved the Ho-Down growing up nearby. I actually went to 2nd grade here. Loving your captures – thanks so much for sharing and taking me down memory lane:)

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You are kindly welcome, Renee. We really enjoyed the Ho-Down. Great music. Great food. And what a crowd. Plus the bonus of getting inside that beautiful church.

  5. Jeannie Campbell Says:

    I am Czech on my mother’s side where my ancestors grew up in a small village in northeastern N D called Veseleyville. My grandmother & oldest aunt made the best kolaches in the world and I spent years searching for anything similar to them. A few years ago, I discovered Veseli Hoedown and thought I had died & gone to Heaven when I saw those kolaches & baked goods in the Church basement. I could tell just by looking at them that they were like the ones of which I have such cherished memories. Thank you for all of your baking & cooking (also found the pork & dumpling dinner to be a real treat) and hard work to bring back the best memories of my Czech heritage!

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