Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A Saturday afternoon sampling chili & more at the mall February 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:22 PM
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The Faribo West Mall, just off Interstate 35 and Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault.

FROM FIERY PEPPER HOT to cinnamon sweet to overpowered by tomatoes, chilies served at the Faribo West Mall’s Saturday afternoon Chili Contest offered enough variety to satisfy any taste.

My husband and I paid $1 each for a plastic spoon with which to sample the 16 chilies like those offered by Kristen Langmeier and her daughter Hannah Plath. Serving side by side, Kristen said she was competing against her husband, Jeff. Hannah scooped up her dad’s “very spicy” no-bean chili laced with bacon and grilled steak. Kristen ladled her “regular spicy” chili infused with beer.

Faribault residents Hannah Plath, left, and her mom, Kristen Langmeier, served two types of chili. Entries were judged on taste and presentation by celebrity judges. The dining public simply chose one favorite.

Celebrity judges Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn, left, Faribault Mayor John Jasinski and President of the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Kymn Anderson sample the chili.

At another table, a former Texan removed the seeds from the jalapenos to quell the heat in his no-bean chili. He noted that in Texas you don’t add beans to chili.

But there were plenty of beans in the Minnesota chilies along with a variety of meats from ground pork to turkey to chicken, beef and more.

Once we’d tried the chilies, in between watching performances by the Joy of Dance Academy II dancers, Randy and I wandered the mall. That’s exactly what contest organizers hoped—that diners would also explore businesses housed in the shopping center.

Dancers performed outside the mall's main tenant, JC Penney.

Young dancers watch an older, more experienced dancer perform.

I’ll be honest here. I rarely get beyond the mall’s anchor store, JC Penney on the north end, or the Salvation Army on the opposite end.

Everything in between seems mostly a changing landscape of empty space and retail stores that come and go, with a few businesses, like Maurices, that have been around for awhile.

Organizers of the Chili Contest, which benefited the Faribault Food Shelf, were aiming to dispel the belief among locals that “there’s nothing at the mall.” The recent closure of the mall’s movie theater, the only one in Faribault, prompted discussion around town about the mall’s future within the community.

I’m here to report that, yes, the Faribo West Mall definitely has plenty of empty space for tenants. But it also has many businesses, albeit businesses that weren’t particularly busy when we toured at mid-afternoon Saturday.

I was delighted to discover this shop crammed with collectibles. Note: It's not open every day.

I loved the colors in this vintage clock at Terry's shop.

Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a shop like Terry’s Curiosities and Collectables (sic) which has been in the mall for three years (who knew?) and sells everything from clothing to collectibles to sports cards and more. It’s a place I’ll return to.

A snippet of the mall's "Freedom Shrine."

And how could I have failed to notice the “Freedom Shrine” along a mall wall featuring framed copies of the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence and more? It’s been there since 1983, a year after I moved to town, for gosh sakes.

That’s the problem. All too often we fail to notice and appreciate what we have. So let me show you more of what the Faribo West Mall offers rather than lamenting what it’s missing.

More mall businesses.

Bella's, a cozy shop, sells these vivid shoes, helps with party planning and more.

Reading a newspaper while waiting at the mall barbershop.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling