Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Mixing art, music and BBQ at Faribault festival August 12, 2012

The banner and band scaffolding/set-up in the 300 block of Central Avenue during Saturday’s Blue Collar BBQ & Arts Fest in Faribault

FROM DEAFENING MUSIC that bounced between historic buildings along Faribault’s Central Avenue, to the savory taste and tantalizing, smokey smell of barbecued meat to the cheers of onlookers when a local celebrity plunged into the dunk tank to the clink of washers against asphalt in the washer tournament to human faces morphing, via paint, into animal faces, offerings at the fourth annual Blue Collar BBQ & Arts Fest in Faribault drew crowds, and smiles, on a picture perfect Saturday.

An overview of the crowd early into the event on Saturday, looking to the 300 block of historic downtown Farbault.

Coordinated by the Paradise Center for the Arts, the 13-hour free festival focused on bringing people into the historic downtown to enjoy/participate in the arts, music, food, a BBQ and homemade brew competition, and more.

The Black Widow BBQ team, one of about a dozen competing for top prizes of $500 in several categories.

BBQ teams set up along a side street to cook their meats and desserts.

A Texas native, now living in Faribault and a member of The Black Hat “BBQ” team, sprays apple juice onto his St. Louis style pork ribs during the BBQ contest.

Grill Cabin team members, from New Prague, prepare entries in the BBQ competition.

Retail stores like The Crafty Maven, 212 Central Avenue, at the heart of the arts and crafts fair and kids’ activities, expected an increase in business with an influx of an anticipated 5,000 people into the downtown for the festival. And that’s part of the plan, to celebrate downtown businesses, many of them event supporters. Other businesses in the community also sponsored parts of the festival.

Flower art and more, shaped and welded from old silverware, etc. is helping the DeWall brothers of DeWall Bros Metal Creations of Grand Meadow finance their college educations. Their art was for sale at the arts fest.

While the DeWall men were peddling their metal art, the women–mom/wife, Cindy, and girlfriend, Allison– were shopping and getting their faces painted by Jodi Gustafson of Big Shoe Entertainment.

Bob Maegerlein of Rochester, specializing in Raku ware, sold his pottery at the arts fair.

I arrived late morning and wandered for several hours past vendors—wishing I could sample the meat smoking in BBQ contestants’ grills; admiring the artistic creations of artists and a gifted face painter; ducking into the Paradise Center for the Arts to photograph the current art show, Car pARTS; steering mostly clear of the north end of the 300 block of Central because I couldn’t tolerate the volume of the live band music; trying a vendor’s delicious BBQed meat trio sampler that was way overpriced for the quantity (plus, no forks included); and, finally, stopping at Pawn Minnesota and then a Somali clothing shop on my way to the car.

Blues-rock guitarist/musician Trent Romens was among six featured musical acts.

Did the festival accomplish for me what I expected? Yes. I was entertained, although I would have appreciated a much lower volume on the music. Ditto for the price on the meat sampler. And I would have liked access to the home brew competition, which was tucked into the Paradise somewhere.

But all in all, the festival provided a fun way to while away part of a Saturday. And, for those downtown business owners who hoped the event would draw shoppers into stores, it worked for me. I’d never been into the pawn store and wasn’t even aware of the Somali shop or another ethnic business across the street (which wasn’t open).

If you’re from Faribault, I hope you took  time on Saturday to attend the Blue Collar BBQ & Arts Fest and appreciate what we have, right here in our own community.

With the weather about as good as it gets on a summer day, attendance was high at the Blue Collar BBQ & Arts Fest.

Dad and grandpa watched the pets while the kids played in the bouncy inflatables. These pom pom pets were a popular item sold at the arts fair.

Kids practiced for the washer tournament. I was not convinced by a tournament organizer to participate. “She would throw the washer through a store window,” my husband told him. He would be right. Either that or I would have struck a passerby. We walked away, for the safety of those in attendance.

Isabella, 7, of Faribault, one of the many kids who lined up for the free face painting. Check back for an additional post featuring the artwork of professional face painter Jodi Gustafson of Big Shoe Entertainment.

Taking a turn in the dunk tank…

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling