Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Don’t ask Santa, ask Grandma in the home of champions December 29, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:09 PM
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BILLBOARDS, ESPECIALLY THOSE in rural Minnesota, fascinate me.

The signs impress me as more interesting, more focused, quirkier, it seems, and zeroed in on a specific geographical region. The messages, the art, can reveal much about an area and often make me smile, sometimes even laugh.

This creative real estate billboard in Sleepy Eye, at the intersections of U.S. Highway 14 and Minnesota Highway 4, makes me smile. A nearby sign boasts the local high school's athletic accomplishments.

This creative real estate billboard, right, in Sleepy Eye, at the intersections of U.S. Highway 14 and Minnesota Highway 4, makes me smile. A nearby sign boasts athletic accomplishments at Sleepy Eye and St. Mary’s high schools.

Additionally, many small towns take great pride in the local high school’s athletic accomplishments, even from decades ago.

Although many small towns brag about local sporting accomplishments, I would like to occasionally drive into a community and also read a sign boasting of academic, musical, theatrical or other accomplishments.

Wouldn’t that be nice to see in our sports-obsessed world?

Imagine reading a sign like “Home of the 2012 Minnesota State Spelling Bee Champion” or something like that.

HAS ANYONE OUT THERE ever spotted a sign in a community highlighting non-athletic accomplishments at the high school level?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


11 Responses to “Don’t ask Santa, ask Grandma in the home of champions”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Webberville, MI has a sign for the town’s middle school commemorating it’s state recognition of excellence for its Academic Personal Best program, won in 2006.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yeah, Webberville, middle schoolers! Great to hear of a community which publicly recognizes academic achievement via signage. Thank you for sharing that, Andrew.

  2. Clyde of Mankato Says:

    No and I look for it. Do not get me started on this topic.
    Evan MN, not far from Sleepy Eye, has two populations: 76 from the north and 63 from the south.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Now that is interesting. So…, do you split the difference and that’s the population of Evan?

      I have some pretty strong opinions on sports and academics, too, and the importance the general public (etc) places on each. I best not get myself too wound up on the topic either.

  3. treadlemusic Says:

    I can’t recall any that aren’t somehow sports related….so sad in my books, too! But we all are so painfully aware that, when it comes to education budget cuts, the sports “sacred cow” comes out unscathed~~for the most part! Even at the expense of academics…..which is even sadder. This is a ‘hot button’ topic for me who attended 12 years of parochial schooling and received such an excellent learning!!! DH and I usually find ourselves using those billboards as conversation topics when arriving at a new town. Interesting thoughts…..hugs, D

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I absolutely hear you on the “sacred cow” attitude toward sports. Faribault High School just built a new fitness center, thanks in part to a generous donation from a single individual. And that was truly a wonderful gift. However, lots of additional monies needed to be raised, and they were, from businesses and individuals. But our school is now facing huge budget cuts in academics and I don’t see any fund drive to raise monies to keep teachers, academic programs and reasonable class sizes. Interesting, huh? I expect an attempt will be made again to pass a levy like the one which just failed.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        Yes, it is very sad. Says a lot about our societal values…..slightly whacked out in some aspects!!! D

      • Clyde of Mankato Says:

        Where do I start, when do I quit? I spent 24 years teaching HS, and to be fair was an assistant fb coach for 11 years, as well as at various times advising yearbook and newspapers, coaching speech, and directing plays. My worst moment of anger was in about 1986 when I had to spend about $100 of my own money to buy needed paperback books for my A. P. English class when the district found $20,000 from a tight budget for weight rooms for the two high schools. Two coaches, who theoretically also were teachers, never spoke to me again after I blasted this.
        BUT the money a school spends on sports and other extra-curriculars is a quite small percentage of the budget. When you consider that in sports especially the amount of time kids are occupied (many of whom would otherwise be loose*) and physically active, it is a good buy. It is the public attention and attitude, as you are pointing out, where the real damage is done. We as a nation will not prioritize but somehow we expect our youth to do so. The classroom has no sanctimony in our schools (we pull kids out for anything), but somehow the kids are supposed to think it is important.
        *Loose kids are a major problem in this nation, costing vast amounts of money in many ways. One example is in our public libraries, which many parents see as free babysitting, or kids use as a playground. Again I have a vested history–my wife was a public children’s librarian in a small town. She had to police after school more than build a program and help and encourage kids. Parents would call her and tell her when she was supposed to make sure their children headed out for appointments, etc. She often at 9 at night had kids there who had no place to be but their parents were late picking them up. And these were often the “good” parents who used her that way. So what did she do: stay up to an hour late or kick them out? On the rare occasion when she did kick them out because she had somewhere to be, parents would complain that she had.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        You said it so well, Clyde, that I really cannot add anything except to commend you and your wife for your actions and good hearts. We need more of your type in this world. Well done in taking a stand and in being there for those students and children, even if it wasn’t always easy.

  4. Sadly, no, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-sports bragging sign. There is a small town in Illinois, Hebron, that painted its water tower like a basketball to commemorate a state championship in the 1950s.

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