Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Memories shared, memories made at a rural Minnesota family reunion July 31, 2012

Old-fashioned games like a gunny sack race, a three-legged race, and running with eggs on a spoon have been popular activities at recent Kletscher family reunions.

MY COUSIN LYNN doesn’t realize it, I’m sure. But when she repeated to me several times at this past weekend’s Kletscher family reunion that we need to keep this going, that not all families are like ours, gathering every year, remaining connected, sharing memories of the past, I knew that she was absolutely right.

The reunion originated many, many years ago as an annual summer picnic for descendants of Rudolph and Mathilda Kletscher, my great grandparents. As their son Henry’s family grew, a reunion for the family of Henry and Ida, my grandparents, was established.

In my 55 years of life, I bet I’ve missed only a handful of Kletscher reunions. It’s that important to me to attend this yearly gathering  in my hometown of Vesta. These aunts and uncles and cousins (and my grandparents, long ago deceased) were very much a part of my life when I was growing up as we all lived in close proximity to one another.

Saturday evening, circled around a campfire in the Vesta City Park, we shared memories of the many, many times our family celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. While the uncles clustered around card tables to swig beer and play cards so many decades ago and the aunts visited, we cousins raced in the dark shadows of farm yards in raucous games of “Starlight, Moonlight.” And then, when the wooden crate of pop bottles was pulled out, we swarmed to grab the rare treat of bubbly beverages.

Such were our memories (some best kept within the family) shared as darkness settled upon the prairie. Campfire flames flared and sparked while conversation ebbed and flowed as only it can in the comfortable familiarity of family.

Despite the feelings of closeness evoked at a reunion, the reality is that we are connected now primarily by memories and blood, not by the intertwining of our lives today. For the most part, we’ve moved away from the prairie and see each other only at the reunion or at the funerals of family members.

Several years ago, my sister Lanae and I decided we needed to infuse new energy into the reunion if we were to keep the next generation interested in remaining connected. That meant offering activities which would create memories. And so we, and other family members, have planned games. This year was no exception.

The cupcake walk, a popular activity two years ago, was brought back.

Elle, one happy little girl with a cupcake. She’s also an excellent hula hooper.

Already we can see our hard work and efforts effecting a change. The younger generation wants to come to the reunion now as opposed to “having” to tag along with mom and dad and being bored to death because “there’s nothing to do.”

I need only see the excitement in the faces of my cousins’ kids and grandkids’ and the smiles on my cousins’ faces to realize we’re on to something with offering organized activities. These descendants of Henry and Ida Kletscher are bonding and building memories.

It didn’t take much persuading to get the young adults participating in the Tacky Tourist Relay, helping each other slip into Hawaiian garb and more during our Hawaiian Luau themed reunion.

Perhaps 15 – 20 years from now they will circle around a campfire in the Vesta park remembering those gunny sack races or the time they hula hooped or Audrey insisting they join in the Tacky Tourist Relay Race.

Teams compete in the Tacky Tourist Relay.

I hope they will smile at the memories and realize how very blessed they are to be part of a family that has loved one another for generations.

Even my generation (OK, they’re a wee bit younger than me) formed a Tacky Tourist Relay team.

My sister Lanae and cousin Kirt assist each other in the hula hoop competition. I’m pretty certain they did not win.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Land of the FREE July 30, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:28 AM
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Bridge graffiti along Minnesota Highway 28.

DO YOU EVER WONDER—because I do—how, when and why graffiti is spray painted onto bridges, buildings, boxcars and elsewhere?

Do these artists/vandals/rebels/criminals (choose the noun that fits) plot and then sneak, in the cover of darkness, to scrawl their messages and art upon these very public canvases?


Who are these defiers of rules?

Did they scribble with crayons on walls while growing up? Did they doodle in notebooks when they should have been doing homework? Are they reckless and wild or the girl/boy next door accepting a dare?

I’ve never known a graffiti artist, although I’d like to meet the one who block-letter-printed “FREE” on this train overpass along Minnesota State Highway 28 between Morris and Sauke Centre.

I’d ask him/her, “Why did you choose that word, ‘FREE?’”

Have you freed yourself from something? Have you set someone free? Or do you simply appreciate what it means to live in the land of the free?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Darwin and Alma once owned a 1957 Chevy Bel Air July 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:18 AM
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A 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, parked along Central Avenue in downtown Faribault during the July 20 Faribault Car Cruise Night.

DARWIN LINGERS, gripping the handles of his wife’s stationary wheelchair as he admires the 1957 India Ivory and Matador Red Chevrolet Bel Air.

Alma seems equally mesmerized, transported back in time to the days of early motherhood and mobility—of youthful legs and a Chevy that hauled her family from farm to town and beyond and back home again.

When the family grew too large, the couple ditched the Bel Air and upgraded to a roomier station wagon.

Admiring the popular 1957 Chevy Bel Air in downtown Faribault.

But on this Friday evening so many decades later with the kids grown, one deceased, the aging farmer and his wife lock their eyes on the Bel Air waxed to a glossy shine. They remember the days of kids piling into the backseat of the 57 Chevy.

Darwin wishes out loud for that Chevy, just like the one parked on a Faribault city street on a late summer evening. Alma, hands clasped in her lap, nods ever so slightly in silent agreement.

I placed my camera on the sidewalk and angled it up to capture this rear view shot of the 57 Bel Air. And, yes, the date on the license plate says 1956. My husband insisted the car is a 57 and I checked numerous sources to verify the year.

I wonder, as I wander away, how many other such memories are sparked by the old cars and trucks parked along Central Avenue during Faribault Car Cruise Night.

As treasured as those vintage vehicles are for their monetary worth, it is the memories which hold the most value. Just ask Darwin and Alma.

Just another shot of the 57 Bel Air because it was so photogenic and I simply fell in love with this Chevy.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


One couple’s affection for a vintage ambulance July 26, 2012

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED about the types of individuals who own vintage ambulances and hearses. Why? Why would you want a vehicle associated with medical emergencies and/or death?

Craig and Kathy Schuster arrive in their 1969 Cadillac ambulance on Faribault’s Central Avenue.

Craig Schuster of Faribault partially answered that question after he and wife Kathy pulled onto Central Avenue in their 1969 Cadillac ambulance during the recent Faribault Car Cruise Night. I practically pounced to get answers from the couple who are members of The Professional Car Society, Northland Chapter, and have also owned a hearse.

Looking for a parking spot during Faribault Car Cruise Night, held on the third Friday of every month, May – September.

For Craig, the interest in ambulances stretches back to his youth. Growing up in Waseca during the 1950s and 1960s, he admired the ambulances driving through town on their way to Rochester.

“They just tripped my trigger,” says Craig. “I always said, ‘I’m going to work in, drive and own one.’”

And he did—all three. Craig is a casual EMT, plus a barber, although his wife laughs and admits that’s hard to believe given her husband’s long silver pony tail.

Yes, the lights and siren still work. Craig obliged my request to turn on the lights.

The couple’s attachment to ambulances, specifically the 1969 Cadillac, is assuredly one of devotion. They sold the Cadillac in 2006 after four years of ownership, then bought it back this spring. Why? Says Kathy: “We like it.”

Part of Craig’s affection for this particular ambulance likely comes from his belief (or perhaps more accurately, wishful thinking) that this could be the very same ambulance used in the 1977-1983 television drama CHiPS. His ambulance, he claims, is identical to the one seen in the show which features the adventures of two motorcycle-riding California highway patrolmen. I really remember only the handsome and macho Erik Estrada in his role as Frank “Ponch” Poncherello. The ambulance? What ambulance?

As Craig tells it, his 1969 Cadillac ambulance came from southern California and was on the verge of being crushed in a salvage yard when it was rescued and brought to Minnesota.

“I wish this thing could talk,” Craig says. “Maybe it would say, ‘Yes, I’m the one (from the ChiPS show).’”

A peek at the drug overdose patient inside the vintage ambulance.

Though Craig doesn’t know the detailed history of his ambulance, he can tell you about the patient he’s transporting. The man overdosed on bad acid at Woodstock, the 1969 music festival in New York which attracted more than half a million attendees and went down in music history.

My husband, Randy, helps Craig Schuster, left, unload the patient.

Or if you prefer the truthful version, the mannequin comes from a Northfield barbershop and is placed in the front window during that community’s annual Defeat of Jesse James Days celebration in early September.

So there you go—one man’s fun with his vintage ambulance and the reason he owns it.

This could have been a scene straight out of the 70s, minus the modern car on the right.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


In which I meet Wilson, a member of the fun-loving Schrot family July 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:21 AM
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JIM SCHROT WORRIES about his relative, Wilson Schrot. After all, Jim caught Wilson attempting to steal gas from the gas barrel at Jim’s rural Faribault home last Thursday evening.

Jamie, Jim’s grown and married daughter, figures Wilson simply ran out of gas for his lawnmower and decided to help himself. She appears willing to overlook Wilson’s latest antic.

“He (Wilson) gets into a lot of trouble,” Jim says. The two don’t elaborate, but say Wilson shows up in the most unexpected of places at the most unexpected of times.

Jamie once discovered Wilson inside her tent, curled up in her bed. He’s climbed into family-owned tractors and trucks, but stopped short of stealing them.

Not that he could. Wilson, you see, is a dummy. You know, a mannequin.

See Wilson Schrot sitting there in the front passenger seat of Jim’s 1940 Ford. (I noticed several dummies in the storefront window behind the car. Wilson’s friends, perhaps, keeping a watchful eye on him?)

The Schrot family has, for the past several years, embraced Wilson and his shenanigans, ever since a cousin dragged him home from somewhere. No one seems to remember details. Or at least they weren’t sharing that information with me when I first spotted Wilson in the front passenger seat of Jim’s 1940 Ford at last Friday evening’s Faribault Car Cruise Night.

My first photo of Wilson, taken shortly before Jamie showed up to snap pictures with her cell phone.

I was photographing the Hawaiian shirt clad dummy with the blonde mullet wig when Jamie showed up to snap photos of him, too. I engaged her in conversation and that’s when I was introduced to Wilson, named after the volleyball in the Tom Hanks’ film, Cast Away.

Not that Wilson is a castaway. I mean, Jim didn’t abandon Wilson after he caught him trying to steal gas. Instead, he brought him to the car show in an apparent half-hearted attempt to find a date for Wilson.

But, Jim admits, “He doesn’t get too many chicks because of his mullet.”

Jim and Jamie suggest Wilson switch out his hair piece—he has several—to improve his appearance and likelihood of landing a date.

I’m not sure Wilson needs the Schrots help, though. He seems to draw plenty of attention on his own. An unidentified man backing his classic car into the space next to Jim’s Ford asked Wilson, “I’m not getting too close to your car, am I?” Then he noticed that the freckled Wilson with the duct taped arm was a dummy. “I’m glad no one was there to hear me.”

Jim reposed Wilson, who recently had carpal tunnel surgery (thus the duct tape), so the story goes.

The Schrot family has given Wilson a life, even going so far as to establish a Facebook page for him. Ask Jamie if she set up Wilson’s Facebook account and her quick, snipped response of “maybe” is enough to tell you she did.

Based on Wilson’s Facebook page—the public part that I can read because I’m not on Facebook—he is a country boy who likes his beer. He also likes singer Johnny Cash; the movie, The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew; the book, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell; and the tv show, Richard Bacon’s Beer & Pizza Club. He also enjoys the sport of beer darts.

Wilson certainly keeps the extended Schrot family entertained, laughing, making up stories and plotting his next adventure.

It is the stories, Jamie says, which make the whole Wilson gig fun, if not crazy. For example, when Wilson was caught trying to steal that gas, Jamie got the story rolling about his lawnmower running out of gas.

Ask if their family is kind of crazy and Jamie shoots back: “Everybody else is crazy, but we’re normal.”

Uh-huh, Jamie. What’s that story about the time Wilson was dismembered at a party, or as Jim corrects, a “social gathering?”

Meet Jim Schrot, not to be confused with Wilson. I first spotted Jim in September 2009 at the Rice County Steam and Gas Engine show and dubbed him the flamboyant John Deere guy. It fits. See why this family embraces the likes of Wilson Schrot.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


For your entertainment: Two perspectives on Faribault’s Car Cruise Night July 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:26 AM
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A Ford Model A drives into downtown Faribault on Central Avenue during the July 20 Faribault Car Cruise Night.

I NEVER THOUGHT I would find old cars and trucks interesting. Not in a million years.

But I’ve acquired, in recent years, an appreciation for the vehicles of yesterday displayed at local car shows. I credit my smart and talented automotive machinist husband, who is like a walking Wikipedia when it comes to knowledge of vehicles, for my interest. Randy finally convinced me to tag along once to a car show and that was it.

HIS VIEW: Not my color, not at all.  MY VIEW: The graceful curves of a swan hood ornament draw my eye to this street rod.

Our reasons, though, for appreciating these cars and trucks of the past differ. He’ll peer under the open hoods and such while I’m admiring hood ornaments and emblems, the curve and sweep of metal, paint colors and more.

HIS VIEW: Lotta teeth there.  MY VIEW: Can you see my reflections in the shiny, curvy bumper art on this car?

My interest springs from an artistic and photographic perspective. His is more mechanical and practical.

And as a bonus, if I overhear or discover a story or two at these shows, I value the displayed vehicles even more. Watch in upcoming days for several interesting stories from the July 20 Faribault Car Cruise Night. It was quite a night for stories, as you will read. Until then, enjoy these photos.

HIS VIEW: Let’s buy one, but not a yellow one.

MY VIEW: Look how the setting sun glints across the hood as I photograph those magnificent, detailed wheels.

HIS VIEW: That would be a nice old pickup to own.  MY VIEW: Loving the stylish sweep of the front end.

HIS VIEW: Why are you photographing that taillight?  MY VIEW: Just look at those shimmering reds, the honeycomb effect and that royal art.

HIS VIEW: A good cruisin’ car.  MY VIEW: It’s the stripes, the stripes, oh, yes, the stripes that lead my eye across the trunk and beyond.

HIS VIEW: I’d love to own that 1930s vintage Chevy truck.  MY VIEW: I know you would, dear. It is pretty sweet.

HIS VIEW: I didn’t know grasshoppers grew that big.  MY VIEW:  Thanks for making me laugh and bringing back memories, for me at least, of all those grasshoppers on the farm when I was growing up.

HIS VIEW: That’s the inside of a 1967 Chevy Impala Super Sport.  MY VIEW: Look at all those circles, circles, circles.

HIS VIEW: A good looking Pontiac Firebird.  MY VIEW: Art.

HIS VIEW: Insert key here.  MY VIEW: I’ve never noticed a rocket emblem before on a car (Oldsmobile Ninety Eight).

HIS VIEW: Check out the motor.  MY VIEW: One sweet Chevy.

HIS VIEW: Just the front of a Buick.  MY VIEW: Vertical lines on the front of the car and the building behind create a pattern.

MY VIEW and maybe HIS VIEW, too: Nice curves.

MY VIEW: A fancy, schmancy MG with a royal air. HIS VIEW: I never cared too much for British cars.

OUR VIEW: Lost in the 50s, 60s, 70s…on a Friday evening in downtown Faribault.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Driving into a ghost town on Hogsback Road July 23, 2012

An old building, perhaps a former blacksmith shop, in Belvidere Mills.

GHOST TOWNS INTRIGUE ME. I wonder—who lived in these places and were these towns once thriving and why did people leave?

Often, placement of the railroad determined which Minnesota town survived, which did not.

Recently my husband and I, on one of our day trips, turned off Goodhue County Road 3 about 10 miles south of Red Wing, onto Hogsback Road and into Belvidere Mills.

Yes, Hogsback Road. When you read a street sign like that, you just know there’s a story somewhere that’s been passed down from generation to generation. If only I knew the right old codger to consult for a little history lesson on the road that now also is called Wellscreek Trail. I’ll travel on Hogsback Road, thank you.

The former Belvidere Mills creamery, modernized into a garage.

The first view we got of the lovely old barn in Belvidere Mills.

And so we did, up the hill on Hogsback Road past a handful (or less) of houses and the old creamery and a stately red barn and past another old building (perhaps a blacksmith shop), around a curve in the gravel road and we were already out of Belvidere Mills. We turned around and backtracked.

Our second view, the side, of the barn as we backtracked into the ghost town.

And back again past the old building in the top photograph, this a side shot. What is it, readers?

Thanks to signage placed by the Goodhue County Historical Society along the county road, we knew this was the site of the former Belvidere Mills, established in 1858.

The historical society has marked some 60 ghost towns in Goodhue County with signage to “preserve their history and to recognize their historical contribution.” All either once had, or currently have, post offices.

They also have intriguing names like Black Oak, Cannon Junction, Featherstone, Roscoe Centre, Skyberg and White Willow.

And then there are the Goodhue County Minnesota ghost towns of—ready for this—Lena, Norway and Miami.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


What is this world coming to? July 20, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:17 PM
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THE QUESTION LINGERS on the edge of my brain, nearly tumbling in words onto my tongue, over my lips and out my mouth.

What is this world coming to?

Do you ever ponder that very same question, asking today why a 24-year-old would open fire in a Colorado movie theater killing a dozen and injuring some 60 more? Why? What drives a person to such violence, to take the lives of other human beings who are simply out for an evening of entertainment?

Why, on July 10, did a father in River Falls, Wisconsin, kill his three young daughters? To get back at/punish/hurt his ex-wife?

Why do two young girls vanish, poof, just like that, while riding their bikes in a small Iowa town?

What is this world coming to?

About two blocks away from this anniversary party in south Minneapolis, a crime scene was unfolding late last Sunday morning.

Why, last Sunday, when my family drove to south Minneapolis for a 50th wedding anniversary party, did we turn off Lyndale Avenue and a block away encounter a multitude of police cars and yellow crime scene tape and a TV news crew arriving? We continued on our way wondering what was unfolding as we greeted family, sipped lemonade and slipped into folding chairs in the festive, fenced in backyard just down the street and around the corner.

When my middle brother arrived a bit later, he noted that officers were posed with weapons drawn. Were any of us in danger as we drove past the scene?

What is this world coming to?

Why are children, the most innocent of victims, being shot and killed in Minneapolis on such a regular basis that this horrible crime no longer surprises us?

Have we become immune to violence and the essence of evil which drives it?

What is this world coming to?

When will the killing stop?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The old blacksmith is watching, just ask John

A sign tacked onto the blacksmith shop at the Village of Yesteryear in Owatonna reads: It reminds us of the “horse and buggy” days gone by. A lot of horseshoes, buggy and wagon wheels came in and out of the Bixby shop, as well as other blacksmith shops throughout the county. These shops were an essential part of all villages, towns and cities in the 1800’s.

INSIDE THE OLD BLACKSMITH SHOP, John Styndl is reading the newspaper on a lazy summer Sunday afternoon. He has no intention of firing up the forge or picking up the tools to demonstrate how his great great grandfather, Frank Styndl, once pounded hot metal into useful equipment or shaped shoes for horses.

Instead, he takes pride in telling visitors about the blacksmith shop Frank built on his farm east of Bixby in 1896, ten years after the Styndl family immigrated to the U.S. from the Czech Republic. Frank worked as a blacksmith in the Old Country and then in his own shop in Steele County, Minnesota, until his death in 1931.

Today that blacksmith shop sits on the grounds of the Steele County Historical Society’s Village of Yesteryear in Owatonna which, on a recent Sunday, hosted an historical extravaganza. John was volunteering in the blacksmith shop when I entered through double sliding doors into a dark room illuminated by the blinding glare of a bare light bulb and sunlight filtering through doors.

John in Frank’s blacksmith shop where, “all the equipment in the shop such as wheelbenders, drill presses, bench vises, foot grinders, files, hammers, tongs and other equipment were used by Frank.”

Rusty tools and horseshoes cling to the walls and a cut out, near life-sized photo of Frank leans next to an anvil draped with horseshoes as great great grandson John speaks about his interest and work in preserving the blacksmith shop.

He remembers biking past the abandoned blacksmith shop as a kid, asking his father about the faded signage on the building. His father and a great uncle did occasional blacksmithing, but nothing like that of three generations of the Styndls prior who earned their livelihoods as blacksmiths.

John dreamed of someday moving Frank’s shop to the Village of Yesteryear. Eventually that became a reality and, from 1991 – 1996, his family and neighbors worked to restore the building. He even found an old house chimney from the appropriate time period, knocked off the mortar and rebuilt the 240 bricks into a new chimney.

Family photo of John and Frank Styndl.

“I’m glad to be able to preserve it,” John says of F. Styndl’s blacksmith shop. He’ll tell you, though, that he gets a bit uneasy with Great Great Grandpa Frank’s likeness watching his every move.

About that time in our conversation, another visitor steps into the blacksmith shop and shares how he remembers, years ago, observing his local blacksmith, bent over, toiling in the heat of his shop. “He was always cranky,” he notes.

The three of us laugh and figure we’d be crabby, too, in such uncomfortable working conditions.

It is stories and remembrances like this which make a building like the old blacksmith shop more than just a structure occupying space at a site such as the Village of Yesteryear.

Stories connect buildings to people and to the past.

You need only take the time to pause and ask, to listen and to observe, if you are to understand the history that has molded lives and communities and is still shaping the future.

CLICK HERE TO READ a previous blog post about the Steele County Historical Society’s Extravaganza at the Village of Yesteryear. Then click here to read a second post on the event.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Five things to do this weekend in the Faribault area July 19, 2012

FROM TEA TO TRACTORS and plenty of in-between interesting attractions, you’ll find lots to do this weekend in my region of southeastern Minnesota.

I shot this image at the Rice County Free Fair several years ago.

Already underway and running through Sunday is the Rice County Free Fair in Faribault. Evening grandstand shows include Enduro Auto Races on Thursday, an All-Star Pro Rodeo on Friday, a National Truck & Tractor Pull on Saturday and a Demolition Derby on Sunday. Besides the entertainment, you’ll want to stroll through the barns, the midway and the exhibit buildings, plus sample some fair food.

John Deere tractors galore lined up at the 2009 Rice County Steam & Gas Engine Show. I have never attended the Credit River Antique Tractor Club Show near New Prague.

In nearby Scott County, tractors take center stage (or rather space) at the annual Credit River Antique Tractor Club Show which runs from 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. Friday, July 20, through Sunday, July 22. To get there, take Exit 76 on Interstate 35 and go west on Scott County Road 2 for about 11 miles.

From a tractor parade to flea market, entertainment and more, this promises to be a family-friendly event in a beautiful rural setting. My friend Nancy Fredrickson of Lakeville tipped me off to the tractor show. Says Nancy: “It’s set up at Cedar Lake Farm Regional Park outside of New Prague where the tractors and vendors are scattered under big beautiful trees on hillsides that lead past the old barn and down to Cedar Lake shore.”

Nancy and her husband, Gordon W. Fredrickson, will be there, near the entrance, selling their collector series Farm Country Tales and If I Were a Farmer books. Readers, Nancy and Gordon are two of the finest, down-to-earth people you will meet. Plus, their rural-themed picture books are about as real and honest and authentic as they come. I highly-recommend these books to anyone interested in farming from years past.

Hanging out along Central Avenue during Faribault Car Cruise Night in May.

If classic cars are your thing, then take in, or participate in, the Faribault Car Cruise Night from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Friday in the 400 and 500 blocks of Central Avenue in the heart of historic downtown Faribault. According to the group’s Facebook page, “…if you have a cool car or truck or motorcycle, bring it down.”

The Paradise Center for the Arts theater, this photo from several years ago and the set for “South Pacific.”

Also on Friday, but in the 300 block of Central Avenue, the fractured fairy tale, “Into the Woods,” opens at 7:30 p.m. at the Paradise Center for the Arts. The Faribault theater and the Northfield Arts Guild are collaborating on the musical which continues on selected weekdays and weekends through August 5.

Betsy cuts Tacy’s hair in this snippet from a mural by artist Marian Anderson in the Maud Hart Lovelace Children’s Wing at the Blue Earth County Library in Mankato.

Finally, 40 miles away in Minneapolis and Mankato, the Betsy-Tacy Society is holding its annual convention. The organization focuses on celebrating the Betsy-Tacy children’s book series written by Mankato author Maud Hart Lovelace. I love, love, love these books about three friends growing up in Deep Valley (Mankato) in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I read the series to my young daughters two decades ago and we, even to this day, occasionally call my second daughter Tib, after Tib from the books.

It’s probably too late to get into the convention, but you can still join in on some of the fun by attending the free Betsy-Tacy Storytime Tea from 10:30 a.m. – noon Saturday at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore, River Hills Mall, Mankato. A Maud Hart Lovelace interpreter will read from Betsy-Tacy and photos can be taken with Betsy and Tacy. Visitors can also shop at the Betsy-Tacy Bookfair at Barnes & Noble.

The childhood home of Maud Hart Lovelace (aka Betsy), author of the Betsy-Tacy series first published in 1940.

The houses where Lovelace (Betsy in the books) and her friend Frances “Bick” Kenney (Tacy) grew up are owned by the Betsy-Tacy Society and are open to the public. They are a must-see for any fan of Lovelace’s books, although this weekend may not be the best time to tour the homes if you prefer elbow room to crowds.

There you go. Five things you can do within 40 miles of Faribault this weekend.

What are your plans?

FYI: You probably already know this, but just in case you don’t…  By clicking on the highlighted phrases/sentences within the post, you will be directed to more detailed information about the featured events.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling