Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Fifty-one years of presenting The Last Supper Drama at a rural Minnesota church March 22, 2013

St. John's members portray the disciples in this undated vintage photo, the first record of a photograph from The Last Supper Drama. Actors, from left to right, are Luverne Hafemeyere, Earl Meese, Vicgtor Luedke, Howard Meese, Virgil Bosshart, Arnold Keller, P.L. Golden, Alvin bosshart, Paul Bauer, Elmer Covert Sr. and Arnold Bauer. Photo courtesy of St. John's.

St. John’s members portray the disciples in this undated vintage photo, the first record of a photograph from The Last Supper Drama. Actors, from left to right, are Luverne Hafemeyere, Earl Meese, Vicgtor Luedke, Howard Meese, Virgil Bosshart, Arnold Keller, P.L. Golden, Alvin bosshart, Paul Bauer, Elmer Covert Sr. and Arnold Bauer. Photo courtesy of St. John’s.

THOUSANDS OF MILES from Milan, Italy, in the flat farm fields of Rice County in southeastern Minnesota, Leonardo da Vinci has left his mark on a small congregation.

For 50 consecutive years, St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, has presented The Last Supper Drama, a theatrical interpretation of the master artist’s most famous painting created in 1495 as a mural in an Italian monastery.

St. John's 50th presentation of The Last Supper Drama in the sanctuary.

St. John’s 50th presentation of The Last Supper Drama in 2012.

I penned those two opening blog post paragraphs during Holy Week 2012, shortly after attending the St. John’s performance.

So update that number. The congregation is slated to present its 51st The Last Supper Drama at 8 p.m. on March 24, Palm Sunday.

I’d advise attending because you don’t get more grassroots basic than this in the retelling of Christ’s final meal with his 12 disciples via a script penned by a long ago St. John’s pastor.

Judas grips the bag of silver, his reward for betraying Christ.

Judas grips the bag of silver, his reward for betraying Christ, as seen in the 2012 drama.

Each disciple speaks of his personal relationship to Christ, making this a particularly introspective drama presented by members and former members of St. John’s.

The parking lot at St. John's United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is nearly full 20 minutes before the congregation's annual performance of The Last Supper Drama.

The parking lot at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is nearly full 20 minutes before the congregation’s annual performance of The Last Supper Drama.

Truly, there’s something about slipping inside this rural 1800s limestone church as evening melds into night, settling upon aged pews among those who have worshiped here for generations, that is particularly comforting.

It is good for the soul to sing and pray and listen, to sweep your thoughts into a meditative mindset for Holy Week.

That this country congregation continues with a tradition begun in 1963 impresses me. Such uninterrupted longevity is a testament to faith, an appreciation of history and a clear understanding that still today, perhaps more than ever, The Last Supper Drama needs to be shared.

A view from the balcony before the drama begins shows the spotlight to the left and The Last Supper table below. The actors enter, spotlighted in the dark church, to take their seats at the table. There they "freeze" in place to mimic Leonardo da Vinci's painting.

A view from the balcony before the drama begins shows the spotlight to the left and The Last Supper table below. The actors enter, spotlighted in the dark church, to take their seats at the table. There they “freeze” in place to mimic Leonardo da Vinci’s painting.

FYI: St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is located 10 miles northeast of Faribault. Take Minnesota State Highway 60 east for eight miles and then turn north onto Rice County 24. Drive two miles to 19086 Jacobs Avenue.

Click here and then here to read my detailed The Last Supper Supper Drama posts from 2012.

Click here to read my post from 2011.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Winona Winhawks lose to Orphans in regionals as national mascot competition advances March 21, 2013

WinhawksMINNESOTA HIGH SCHOOL sports fans, the results are in, and the Winona Winhawks are not advancing in USA TODAY‘s competition to name the country’s “best” high school mascot.

The Centralia Orphans of Centralia, Illinois, claimed the Region 4 title on Wednesday with 43.482 percent (more than 5.4 million) of the vote compared to the Winhawks’ 30.788 percent (more than 3.8 million). You can click here to view detailed Region 4 results.

Online voting for the national title begins at 11 a.m. ET today (March 21) and ends at 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 27. Click here to vote.

These regional winners are now vying for prizes ranging from $100 – $2,000 for their high school’s athletic departments:

  • Region 1: Kingswood Oxford Wyverns of West Hartford, Connecticut
  • Region 2: Key Obezags of Annapolis, Maryland
  • Region 3: St. Mary’s Episcopal School Turkeys of Memphis, Tennessee
  • Region 4: Centralia Orphans of Centralia, Illinois
  • Region 5: Chinook Sugarbeeters of Chinook, Montana
  • Region 6: Carbon Dinos of Price, Utah
Chinook Sugarbeeters mascot

Chinook Sugarbeeters mascot

Just FYI because I did not know, and you probably don’t either, a Wyvern is a legendary poison-breathing creature that is part dragon, eagle and snake. Obezags is an anagram of gazebos, a feature of the Key School campus.

Which mascot would you choose as the most unique/best?

Even though I live in Region 4, I’m going with the Sugarbeeters of Chinook, Montana, population 1,500. Chinook Sugarbeeters rolls off my tongue with a rural ring that pleases me. And that’s as good a reason as any to back a community which once was home to a massive sugarbeet factory, according to the Chinook Area Chamber of Commerce website.

The Chamber also states that Jay Leno once claimed the Sugarbeeters ranked as number two out of 100 “strangest mascots” in the U.S.

Whichever mascot wins, I hope the national online voting process is not plagued with technical problems and the unsportsman-like conduct of the regional rounds. Click here to read my previous post on those issues.

Let’s keep this all in perspective, people. Better to lose than to resort to name-calling and mean-spirited competition.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The proposal March 20, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:15 AM
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HE ASKED.

She said, “Yes!”

And I’m going to be the mother-of-the-bride.

Monday evening, on the one-year anniversary of dating, Marc proposed to my eldest, Amber.

Marc and Amber, newly-engaged and celebrating at the St. Paul Grill. Marc ordered a steak, saying, "That is what a man does after he asks a woman to marry him."

Marc and Amber, newly-engaged and celebrating at the St. Paul Grill. Marc ordered a steak, saying, “That is what a man does after he asks a woman to marry him.”

I am excited and happy and thrilled, all those joyful words reserved for those occasions when you feel blessed beyond measure.

I am going to be a mother-in-law, welcoming a wonderful son-in-law into our family. Marc is all I could ever hope for in my daughter’s husband. He is a man of faith. He loves and cherishes my girl and makes her incredibly happy.

From the first photo I saw of the two of them together, I knew, just knew, they were totally head over heels in love. I could see it in their eyes, in their broad smiles, in the way they leaned into one another. I just knew.

Amber and Marc in Bakersfield, Ca., Marc's hometown.

Amber and Marc in Bakersfield, Ca., Marc’s hometown.

For months they long-distance dated, flying back and forth between LA and Minneapolis. The time between visits grew shorter until, finally, Marc relocated to St. Paul last October, shortening their dating miles to the drive between the Twin Cities.

I understood, with absolute certainty then, that this relationship would result in an eventual proposal of marriage.

The ring.

The ring. Beautiful.

The obvious question, then, is how did these two, a native Minnesotan and a native Californian, meet? Beth, a college friend (of Amber) who lives in California and who met Marc via another college friend, thought the two would be a good match. Text messages, Facebook exchanges and phone conversations preceded their first date in March of last year.

I became aware of Marc only after Amber, who had visited Beth in the fall of 2011, announced in March 2012 that she was flying to California. Again.

“Why would you want to go to California?” I inquired of her. “You were just there.”

“Well, there’s this boy…”

Now that boy will become my daughter’s husband.

I snapped this photo of Marc and Amber walking across the parking lot at Faribault High School after my son's graduation in early June. It's one of my favorite images of the couple.

I snapped this photo of Marc and Amber walking across the parking lot at Faribault High School after my son’s graduation in early June. It’s one of my favorite images of the couple just because, ya know, it’s so sweet. Now they are walking into their future together.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photos courtesy of Amber and Marc

 

The TARDIS travels to Kenyon March 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:29 AM
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The TARDIS is labeled as a Police Public Call Box. A note on the front reads: Advice and Assistance obtainable immediately. Officers and cars respond to all calls. Pull to open.

The TARDIS is labeled as a Police Public Call Box. A note on the front reads: Advice and Assistance obtainable immediately. Officers and cars respond to all calls. Pull to open. This shot was taken while driving westbound on Highway 60.

TRAVELING EASTBOUND into Kenyon along Minnesota Highway 60, I spot what appears to be a portable blue toilet seemingly randomly planted in a front yard near an American flag clipped to a pole.

Why would anyone place a porta potty in this visible location and in the snow near a flag?

Turns out I am not viewing an outdoor loo at all, but rather a TARDIS. Exactly. What’s a TARDIS, you ask?

My 19-year-old passenger son explains that a TARDIS is the featured mode of transportation on the BBC sci-fi television show, “Doctor Who.” The TARDIS, according to the series website, will take the doctor anywhere, anytime.

But to Kenyon, Minnesota?

With no time to stop and inquire about the Time and Relative Dimension in Space capsule, I can only wonder who placed this here and why?

LET’S HEAR your thoughts, readers. The more creative, the better. I’ll even accept the truth on the TARDIS placement. I am pretty much clueless as to the TARDIS and “Doctor Who.”

Another view. I don't know which house the TARDIS belongs to, the gray one or the white one.

Another view of the TARDIS.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thankful he’s back in Fargo & not stranded along I-94 March 18, 2013

FOX 9 news at 8 a.m. shows just how bad the current weather situation is in Minnesota.

FOX 9 news at 8 a.m. shows just how bad the weather situation is in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Fargo is located above the B in “Blowing.” Faribault lies 300 miles to the south and east along Interstate 35, in the eastern edge of the blizzard warning.

ALREADY SATURDAY AFTERNOON his dad and I were urging him to call Brittany, his ride back to North Dakota State University.

“You need to leave early on Sunday,” we suggested to our 19-year-old. We’d heard the weather forecast for snow and strong winds, creating blizzard conditions. “If you don’t, you’ll end up stranded in some town along I-94 because they’ve closed the interstate.”

He listened. Brittany listened. They left at 10 a.m. Sunday, picking up three other NDSU students en route, arriving six hours later in Fargo. They beat the snow and the wind, if you can ever beat the wind in North Dakota. Many times our son has declared, “It’s a good day in Fargo when the wind doesn’t blow.”

FOX 9 news at 8 a.m. today lists the I-94 and other western Minnesota road closures.

FOX 9 news at 8 a.m. today lists the I-94 and other western Minnesota road closures.

This morning I-94 between Alexandria and Fargo is closed as persistent wind gusts of 40-50 mph sweep through the region creating those white-out conditions, making travel impossible. Along other sections of that interstate, especially in the Stearns County area, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has tagged travel as hazardous.

This morning NDSU is closed. I expect the son is sleeping in.

Even though I’d love to have him home for an extra day of spring break, I’m relieved that my boy is tucked safe inside Johnson Hall. Better there than 300 miles away in Faribault and all of us worrying about how he would make it back to Fargo for classes tomorrow.

You see, always at the back of my mind niggles the memory of a horrific crash along icy I-94 west of Alexandria on February 20, 2012, which killed four young women from Minnesota, all students at NDSU.

TELL ME ABOUT weather and travel in your area. How bad is it out there?

© Text copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Some green bling to wow you on St. Patrick’s Day March 17, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:32 PM
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I AM A JEANS AND T-SHIRT kind of girl woman. Casual attire defines my wardrobe.

I dislike shopping, especially for clothes and jewelry, which shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially my next-youngest sister. She received my hand-me-downs when we were growing up. Fashion was not my forte, she will tell you.

She would be right. I want comfort and casual in clothes and if those clothes also happen to be fashionable, well then that’s a bonus.

The same goes for jewelry. I’m your basic wedding/engagement ring, earrings and wristwatch kind of accessorizing woman. Sometimes I’ll throw a necklace or scarf around my neck when I dress up. Typically those accessories have been given to me by the daughters who have considerable more fashion sense than me.

Likewise, my husband seems to possess a certain ability to choose jewelry that appeals to me. Just look at these earrings he gave me for our 30th wedding anniversary last May.

My “Sweet Romance” 30th anniversary earrings.

My mouth gaped when I saw all this sparkly bling in my favorite color, green. I was speechless for a moment as I viewed the “gems” (no, they are not “real”) which remind me of my mother’s vintage rhinestone earrings and necklaces. I love, love, love these earrings.

However, I have nothing fancy enough in my limited wardrobe to match their beauty. But I don’t care.

This morning after church I pulled on a green plaid flannel shirt and jeans. Then I slipped designer Shelley Cooper’s “Sweet Romance” earrings into my pierced ears and thought of my sweet husband who has a knack for mostly (there was that scented hot pad) choosing gifts I love.

And what’s not to love about Cooper’s jewelry line? According to her website, this Californian…

…is a jewelry artist, designer, historian, and businesswoman who has nurtured a love of antique jewelry into a flourishing design and manufacturing company that exquisitely produces the original collections of Sweet Romance. Her designs, derived from a life-long study of antique and vintage jewelry, radiate the authenticity and spirit of many eras of fashion history.

The collection’s legacy designs enfold stories and memoirs about jewelry, the women who inspired it, and the historical times that gave it expression. These storylines illuminate the lives and times of queens and consorts, fashion doyennes and socialites, vamps and starlets, dreamers and romantics, and our great-grandmothers.

I’m no queen or consort, fashion doyenne or socialite, vamp or starlet, or even a grandma. But I suppose, as a writer, I could be considered a dreamer and a romantic. And now I have the earrings to prove it.

FYI: This unofficial endorsement of Shelley Cooper’s “Sweet Romance” jewelry line was unsolicited and written solely because I love the earrings. My husband paid full retail price for the earrings purchased at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota and Ms. Cooper certainly does not know me, a mostly unfashionable Minnesota blogger.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Fans spar in USA TODAY high school mascot competition March 16, 2013

A gym at Wabasso High School, home of the Rabbits. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

A gym at Wabasso High School, home of the Rabbits and my alma mater. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo used here simply to illustrate sports and not directly connected to the mascot competition.

I’M NOT SURPRISED, not at all, that a USA TODAY sponsored competition to find “the best” high school mascot in the nation has turned into a verbal sparring match between fans of the Winona (MN.) Winhawks and the Centralia (ILL.) Orphans.

The issue apparently started when USA TODAY’s online voting site crashed on Thursday, the final day of the competition.

From what I can gather, the Orphans held a strong lead early on with the Winhawks implementing a strategic last-minute game plan in an attempt to claim the Region 4 title.

Now these high school sports fans are accusing each other of poor sportsmanship, unfair voting tactics and more, while others are calling for a boycott of USA TODAY’s contest. As of Saturday morning, commenters had posted 546 comments on the Region 4 voting page, well beyond any other region. Region 6, the next closest with the top two mascots separated by less than 3,000 votes, had about half the comments.

Region 4 has also racked up the most votes at nearly 7.9 million, compared to the second nearest vote total of almost 4.5 million in Region 5. The vote and comment totals in Region 4 show you just how heated this competition has become between the Minnesota and Illinois teams.

I read only a sampling of the comments from each region, enough to surmise that codes of good sportsmanship have been replaced by name-calling and a whole lot of negativity, especially between Winhawks and Orphans supporters. I wonder if the USA TODAY high school sports staff wishes they’d never created this competition.

In a special announcement posted on the contest website, USA TODAY extended the voting period, which resumes at 3 p.m. ET Monday, March 18, and ends at 3 p.m. ET Wednesday, March 20.

That decision is not sitting well with Orphans fans, based on comments posted on the Region 4 voting page. Online stats show the Illinois team leading with 36.937 percent (4,071,313) and the Winhawks trailing with 34.436 percent (3,795,630) of the votes. Some Orphans supporters are accusing USA TODAY of changing the game rules because of complaints from Winhawks fans.

True or not, I don’t know. But here’s USA TODAY’s official stance.

Wow! When you all turn out to support your mascot, you can really bring the site to a crawl. Because we want to make sure that everyone who wants to vote can vote, we don’t want any technical difficulties to get in the way. So the regional round of the USA TODAY High School Sports’ Best Mascot competition will resume…

I expect the war of words will resume, too, on Monday.

Does any of this surprise you? Not me. Sadly.

Two thousand dollars and a national title are at stake here. But now, with all the controversy and unsportsmanlike conduct surrounding this contest, would you really want your mascot to win?

Thoughts?

Here are the current standings, top two in each region, as of Saturday:

Region 1:

  • Morse Shipbuilders of Bath, ME., 45.657 percent, 1,092,775 votes
  • Kingswood Oxford Wyverns of West Hartford, CT., 45.23 percent, 1,082,570 votes

Region 2:

  • Key Obezags of Annapolis, MD., 37.187 percent, 492,084 votes
  • Northampton Konkrete Kids of Northampton, PA., 21.007 percent, 277,976 votes

Region 3:

  • Key West Conchs of Key West, FL., 34.032 percent, 504,060 votes
  • St. Mary’s Episcopal School Turkeys of Memphis, TN., 33.462 percent, 495,609 votes

Region 4:

  • Centralia Orphans of Centralia, ILL., 36.937 percent, 4,071,313 votes
  • Winona Winhawks of Winona, MN., 34.436 percent, 3,795,630 votes

Region 5:

  • Pratt Greenbacks of Pratt, KS., 45.276 percent, 2,250,804 votes
  • Chinook Sugarbeeters of Chinook, MT., 44.677 percent, 2,221,011 votes

Region 6:

  • Carbon Dinos of Price, UT., 40.063 percent, 1,504,129 votes
  • Oregon Episcopal Aardvarks of Portland, OR., 39.987 percent, 1,501,267 votes

CLICK HERE AND HERE to read my first two posts on this contest. To vote in the USA TODAY “best” high school mascot competition, click here.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling