Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Main Street Wabasso, home of the White Rabbit April 25, 2012

The Roadhouse Bar & Grill is a popular gathering and dining spot in Wabasso. During the summer, old car enthusiasts and motorcyclists gather here for Tuesday evening "Roll-ins" that draw up to 1,000 people. There's plenty of outdoor seating on a sprawling patio where a hamburger bar is set up for the popular event. The Grill also offers an extensive burger and sandwich menu with reasonable prices.

WITH A HALF HOUR wait before we could be seated at the Roadhouse Bar and Grill in Wabasso on a recent Saturday evening, I hit the sidewalk determined to photograph the Main Street of this small southwestern Minnesota town where I attended high school.

This road-side sculpture welcomes travelers to Wabasso, which means white rabbit.

I have, through the decades, discovered minimal familiarity among most Minnesotans with Wabasso, a Redwood County farming community of around 650 that links to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Song of Hiawatha.”

Longfellow writes in his section on the Four Winds:

“Honor be to Mudjekeewis!”
Cried the warriors, cried the old men,
When he came in triumph homeward
With the sacred Belt of Wampum,
From the regions of the North-Wind,
From the kingdom of Wabasso,
From the land of the White Rabbit.

I’ve always been told that Wabasso is an Indian word meaning “white rabbit.” I never learned of the poetic connection until researching on my own; English teachers at Wabasso High never taught this, that I recall. I doubt many of the locals are aware of Longfellow’s reference.

Wabasso is decidedly proud of its white rabbit namesake, though. You’ll find an oversized rabbit statue along State Highway 68 on the south side of town. The public school mascot is, of course, a white rabbit. And, as I found, even local businesses support the Rabbits via storefront signage.

Wabasso’s downtown business district is typical rural Minnesota with a mix of well-kept and deteriorating buildings that border a broad street. Attempts to modernize once stately brick buildings with wood and metal fail and make you wish for a money bag of gold to restore such structures to their original grandeur.

But for now, in this economy, one must choose to appreciate the imperfections of Main Street as adding character to a community like Wabasso, home of the white rabbit.

A broad view of a block along Wabasso's Main Street on a recent Saturday evening.

Wabasso is a strong agricultural-based community. The outgoing Future Farmers of America Minnesota State President Hillary Kletscher (my niece) graduated from Wabasso High School in 2011.

A sign supporting the high school sports team hangs in a salon window.

Wabasso is fortunate enough to still have a grocery store.

Signage in the window of Salfer's Food Center.

My WHS class of 1974 classmate Marcis owns this combination floral shop and hair salon along Main Street. Marcy was also waiting tables at the Roadhouse the Saturday evening I was in town.

Wabasso is fortunate to also still have a post office, unlike more and more rural communities in Minnesota.

THE PHOTOS IN THIS POST are similar in content to those printed in the just-published spring issue of Minnesota Moments magazine. Photographer Ryan Ware of Chaska and I contributed 16 images from 14 small towns to a photo essay titled “Touring Main Street in Small Town, Minnesota.” The essay is only a small sampling of the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of images we have taken of small towns and rural areas. Both natives of southwestern Minnesota, Ryan and I share a passion for photography that connects us to our rural roots. I would encourage you to check out Ryan’s photos at his Fleeting Farms blog by clicking here.

CLICK HERE to reach the Minnesota Moments website.

CLICK HERE for more information about the Roadhouse Bar & Grill.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Wabasso.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


6 Responses to “Main Street Wabasso, home of the White Rabbit”

  1. Dorothy Bowman Says:

    Certainly not a thing on main street which I recognaize!! Guess it has been a few years since we drove through there. Would love to roam downtown and see if anything looks the same. Guess I would be lost. Rabbits go for it!!

  2. Allan Landman Says:

    Wow! Another great place to cruise to during the Summer. Your convincing writing has piqued my interest of the Road House. Perhaps my Wife and I will have to put the top down on our 1993 Ruby Red Corvette, (40th anniversary Addition) and visit the Road House on a Summer Tuesday evening!!!! We both love Southern MN, and what better way than to drive with the wind in your hair, or in my case, wind on my scalp. My hair is unlike the Mascot of Wabasso HS, My “Hare” is running away! ” Hare” today, gone tomorrow.” Great Photo’s of your Home Town HS.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Allan. Yes, Wabasso, specifically the Road House Bar & Grill, would make a great road trip. Be prepared for a crowd. If you have the time, I’d suggest also cruising south to Lamberton to shop at Lamberton Antique Peddler, if you enjoy vintage/collectible/antique shopping. This multi-level store is packed with merchandise. I don’t know the hours; they may be limited, so check ahead. If you’re in Lamberton, be sure to peer through the windows of Sanger’s Bakery. It’s as if time stood still inside this former bakery. One of these times, I will get inside that place. I’ll post pix from Lamberton one of these days soon, too.

  3. Shoot. I’m realizing that I forgot to subscribe to the magazine after the last issue. Will do so tomorrow!!

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