Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Appreciating historic downtown Faribault, especially in her holiday finery December 21, 2011

Strolling along Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault late on a Saturday afternoon in December.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON, while my husband shopped for dress shoes at Burkhartzmeyer Shoes in historic downtown Faribault, I meandered a block north to view Central Avenue dressed in holiday finery.

She’s stunning with sparkles and ribbons and Christmas reds and greens befitting any holiday party.

Keepers Antique Store decorated the wrought iron fencing on a downtown street corner as part of a "Winter Wonderland" themed decorating contest.

Honestly, I love the look and feel of my downtown. Even without the glitz and glamour of the holiday season, Faribault shines. The old brick buildings, the comforting small-town vibe, the ease of parking, the slow pace and the friendliness of shopkeepers appeal to me.

Next to the Signature Bar & Grill, a lovely holiday-bedecked street corner.

An elf outside The Crafty Maven, "featuring a unique mix of new and vintage items."

Quotes from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" portrayed in store-front windows.

I am always surprised when locals fail to appreciate downtown. How can you not value this treasure of a business district with arched windows, decorative trim and more on vintage buildings that impart an historic and homey feel to our town? Perhaps because I didn’t grow up here, I can truly see the beauty that native residents often overlook.

Another seasonally-decorated street corner charms visitors to Central Avenue.

I am always surprised, too, that Faribault hasn’t been discovered—like Red Wing or Stillwater or Wabasha or neighboring Northfield—as a destination city. The potential exists to draw tourists here into our specialty shops and arts scene. It’s not for a lack of effort, but…we’re not there yet.

I aimed my camera skyward as the setting sun caught the tops of historic buildings along Central Avenue.

First, we need to sell our own residents on the value of Central Avenue, our Main Street. Do we truly realize how fortunate we are to have a solid, core downtown like ours with a deep history and an inviting character?

Mega malls and strip malls and Big Box retailers—and I shop at those places, too—have nothing on Main Street.

Yes, I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, meaning my perspective evolves from memories of shopping in a downtown, not a mall.

When I stroll along Central Avenue in Faribault, nostalgia accompanies me. And she’s a mighty fine friend to walk with, especially during the holiday season.

Outside Keepers Antique Store, a rustic vignette charms.

Across the street at That Scrapbooking Place, a punch of color on the front window backed by a holiday display and reflections of historic buildings.

Sweet, dreamy gingerbread houses fill the display window at Sweet Spot, a Central Avenue candy and ice cream shop. I love how the reflection of an old building across the street melds with the gingerbread house.

IF YOU’VE NEVER been to Faribault, consider a trip here. We’re located along Interstate 35, just an hour south of Minneapolis. You’ll find antique, craft, candy, cheese and many other specialty shops and businesses, hometown eateries, as well as an arts center, along Central Avenue. If you have a specific question about Faribault, ask and I’ll answer.

LOCALS,  if you haven’t been downtown in awhile, I’d encourage you to park your vehicle, walk and appreciate your town. She’s all glammed up right now and a wonder to behold.

READERS, PLEASE CHECK back on Thursday for more Central Avenue holiday-themed images.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling