Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Harvest barn dance celebrates family, friends and yesteryear September 19, 2011

A father and son were among the hundreds of guests attending a dance in this 96-year-old barn.

IN THE 1930s, at the height of The Great Depression, a young Herb Becker attended dances in the sprawling red barn along Rice County Road 1 several miles west of Dundas.

Herb didn’t know it then, but in 1948 he and his wife Dorothy would buy the “Faber farm” site with the 36-foot by 100-foot barn.

Today his youngest son John and wife Debbie own the farm, purchased in 1988. Saturday they hosted their first-ever Harvest Time Barn Dance.

John and Debbie Becker have reshingled and done other work to their barn to keep it from deteriorating.

“It’s a dream come true,” John said several times through-out the event which brought the barn back full circle to his father Herb—who died in 2009—and those long-ago barn dances.

I bet Herb would have been pleased with the party that drew family, friends and neighbors of the Beckers together on a cool autumn evening to visit, eat and dance the night away in the old hay mow. My husband Randy and I were among our friends’ invited guests.

Everything about the celebration in this 1915 barn spoke to the kind of down-home neighborliness and love of family that define the Beckers and the Malechas (Debbie’s family). These are good, honest, hard-working people of faith with their roots planted deep in the earth. I doubt I stopped smiling all evening.

And there was plenty to smile about—from the country-style decorated barn complete with red-and-white checked tablecloths, zinnias/sedum/golden rod in fruit jars, pitchforks, bushel baskets, seed corn signage, wooden barrels, cream separator, horse harness and lots more to the kids and adults sporting cowboy hats, cowboy boots and other western attire to the welcoming, sometimes boot-stomping, music of The Revivals band.

Battery-operated tea light candles and flowers in quart jars decorated tables covered with red and/or red-and-white checked cloths. This photo looks toward the west end of the hay mow.

Everywhere collectibles and antiques were on display, creating a setting of simple country charm.

Guests indulged in tasty roast beef sandwiches, calico beans, an array of salads and bars.

The Beckers created a coffee corner, where guests could grab some "De-Calf" or "Real Calf," visit, maybe even pull a deck of cards from the shelf for a game of Euchre.

Fall and vintage decorations lined the pathway leading into the barn.

It was the type of evening reminiscent of the old-fashioned gatherings of yesteryear, when adults could visit while the kids played with carefree abandon. And they did on Saturday. Tag and hide-and-seek. Pick-up football in the dusty farm yard. Make-believe, chasing each other with cap guns blazing.

Kids ran and played and ran and played--all night.

Heading out the barn door...

The kids, and a few adults, brought cap guns.

Probably my favorite image of the evening...no words necessary to describe these happy boys.

Inside, the adults admired the architectural bones of the barn, cranking necks upward toward the skeletal rafters, toward the conveyor that once carried hay bales across this dairy barn hay mow. And before that, the hay fork, on display outside the barn. They imagined climbing the ladder on the east end of the barn, like daring trapeze artists, to a platform above.

Looking toward the east end of the hay mow.

The east end of the hay mow with the ladder and platform and highlighting the barn's framework.

Looking toward the west end of the hay barn.

Pulling popcorn duty at the barn dance.

And later, when The Revivals from New Prague rocked the rafters with music that spanned polkas and waltzes to country and 1950s-1970s hits, adults and kids alike slid their feet across the corn meal-slicked plywood covering the maple floor that was too unsalvageable for refinishing. They twirled and shook and twisted.

And they danced like Herb would have wanted them to dance, celebrating life.

The Revivals from New Prague played a mix of music from old-time to rock.

Leaving the barn dance. Vehicles packed the farm yard.

CHECK BACK FOR MORE barn dance images. I won’t have photos of the dancing; once I had my band shot, I put away the camera.

HAVE YOU EVER attended a barn dance? If you haven’t, you might want to become friends with the Beckers. I bet they’ll have plenty of requests for a repeat harvest dance next fall. Thanks, John and Debbie, for an absolutely memorable and fun evening.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


13 Responses to “Harvest barn dance celebrates family, friends and yesteryear”

  1. John&Debbie Becker Says:

    Thank you so much Audrey. This has just put tears in our eyes this morning. Thanks for your beautiful work. Debbie Becker

    Audrey. You have real talent that should not be hid under a “Bushel Basket”. Thank you. John Becker

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, you two, now you’re making me cry. I am blessed beyond measure to have you in my circle of friends.

      John, as always, your sense of humor shines. A bushel basket, indeed.

  2. Barb Young Says:

    Oh my gosh, Audrey. . . you captured it all! What a wonderful evening! We will never forget it. Your blog will be so helpful in explaining the “barn dance” to my students here at MSAD. Thanks so much! Mike and Barb Young

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks, Barb. I know yesteryear is near and dear to your heart and I tried my best to capture that feeling of family and friends and neighbors gathering for an evening of simple, good old-fashioned fun. You and Mike contributed to the success of the dance, so thank you for all you did in the food and decorating departments.

      I’ll be posting some more photos in the next day or two, so check back.

  3. Mary Helen Erickson Says:


    I was fortunate enough to learn about this web-site today! It brought tears to my eyes to read your article and how you captured exactly who John and Debbie are and what they believe in! The barn dance was so heart warming to take us down memory lane as we gathered together as families and friends sharing memories of growing up around such great family values.

    Thank you for the memory!

    Mary Helen Erickson (Becker)

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Mary Helen, thank you. I’ve known John and Debbie enough years to understand the type of caring, loving, Christian individuals they are. Their barn dance was a true gift and blessing to all of us who attended. At one point I remember just standing there thinking, “Can life get any better than this, to be here, in this barn, among friends?”

  4. Emmy Says:

    What a lovely barn and a wonderful community! John & Debbie: would you consider holding a wedding reception in your barn? We are looking for a space for September 2012!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I wondered how long it would take to get an inquiry about a wedding reception in the Beckers’ barn. Not long. Those of us who have unmarried adult children were contemplating the possibilities for such a reception venue…

      Emmy, I will pass your request along to John and Debbie. But don’t get your hopes up because I don’t think they are interested in opening up their barn to such events. But I will ask. I could be wrong.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Emmy, John and Debbie are not interested, at this time, in renting out their barn for public use. Thanks for asking, though, and good luck finding the barn venue you are seeking. Readers, if you can help Emmy and find a barn for her wedding reception, submit a comment with the necessary info.

  5. Andrea Singleton Says:

    Wonderful article and idea. Do you know if the Becker’s will be putting this on again this fall?

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, I would love if John and Debbie would host another barn dance. But I have not heard of any plans for this to be an annual event. I know they are hosting a 50th wedding anniversary celebration for her parents in the barn sometime soon.

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