Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Why I love church festivals like the one at Moland Lutheran June 25, 2013

Diners flocked to Moland Lutheran Church on Sunday for the congregation's annual strawberry festival in the church basement.

Diners flocked to Moland Lutheran Church on Sunday for the congregation’s annual strawberry festival in the church basement.

OH, THE PEOPLE you meet in church basements…

Moland Lutheran Church southwest of Kenyon.

Moland Lutheran Church southwest of Kenyon.

Like 90-year-old Georgia Vincent, nee Aase, who was born a mile south of Moland Lutheran Church, was baptized in this rural Kenyon parish and today drives 25 miles from Steele Center every Sunday morning for worship services.

She’ll tell you that her great grandparents came from Norway and that her father wanted a boy, whom he would name George. He didn’t get his boy.

Georgia eventually moved away to the Twin Cities and married. Her husband died on her 48th birthday, so, after 35 years she returned to the area, settling in Steele Center to raise her young daughter.

Georgia Vincent wipes down trays.

Georgia Vincent wipes down trays.

On this Sunday afternoon, Georgia was stationed in a corner of the church basement, washing trays during Moland’s annual strawberry festival. She did so with a smile, happy to contribute to an event where she once served food to diners. At age 90, she leaves that task to the younger folks.

Georgia, at work.

Georgia, at work.

Next year Georgia claims she will retire from helping at the festival.

I don’t believe her.

AND NOW, ON TO MORE PHOTOS from that strawberry festival:

Volunteers guide motorists into parking spaces outside the country church.

Volunteers guide motorists into parking spaces outside the country church.

First stop: the bake sale inside the church entry. My husband purchased caramel rolls.

First stop: the bake sale inside the church entry. My husband purchased caramel rolls.

Shopping at the bake sale.

Shopping at the bake sale.

Routing past retired farmer and head counter George Derscheid, stationed near Georgia.

Routing past retired farmer and head counter George Derscheid, stationed near Georgia in the church basement.

George's tally sheet. George pointed out a spot of skin cancer on his hand, said, he's dealt with bone cancer and now skin cancer. He's the most optimistic and cheerful person.

George’s tally sheet. He wondered why I wanted to photograph his hands. Because, I said, I like hands and the stories they tell. And then George pointed out a spot of skin cancer on his hand, said he’s dealt with bone cancer and now skin cancer. He’s the most optimistic and friendly person, just like Georgia.

Volunteers dish up hot pork sandwiches from Nerstrand Meats, homemade potato salad, ice cream, angel food cake, strawberries and chocolate cake, whatever you choose.

Volunteers dish up pulled pork sandwiches from Nerstrand Meats, homemade potato salad, ice cream, angel food cake, strawberries and chocolate cake, whatever you choose.

Lots of coffee to go around.

Lots of coffee to go around.

Diners file through the food serving line.

Diners file through the food serving line.

The backs of the folding chairs are labeled with the church name.

The backs of the folding chairs are labeled with the church name and the same strawberry decorations are pulled out every year.

First I ate my pork sandwich and potato salad.

First I ate my pork sandwich, potato salad and pickles.

Then I returned for a generous bowl of ice cream heaped with fresh strawberries. I couldn't eat all of it, so my husband finished off the delicious dessert.

Then I returned for a generous bowl of ice cream heaped with fresh strawberries. I couldn’t eat all of it, so my husband finished off the delicious dessert.

Diners exit the church.

Diners exit Moland Lutheran Church.

I love church festivals. For the food, the fellowship, the friendly folks, the history, the often beautiful setting…

PLEASE CHECK back for additional photos from Moland Lutheran.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

30 Responses to “Why I love church festivals like the one at Moland Lutheran”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    What a great post! I felt like I was there and I have been there in a way—I have lots of those type of church dinners under my belt! I noticed the picture of the praying man in the picture of the workers dishing up the food —-Chris’s grandparents had that print in their dining room and now it is making me wonder what ever happened to that picture! I always loved it. Great photo shoot, Audrey!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks, Beth Ann. I’m glad you caught that picture of the praying man in my photo because I intentionally included it in the image. You will be interested to hear that “Grace” is the official Minnesota State photo. It started out as a photograph taken by Iron Ranger Eric Enstrom of Bovey. Then Rhoda Nyberg hand colored the black-and-white image. You can read about the history of the photo/painting by following these links:
      http://www.gracebyenstrom.com/

      http://www.startribune.com/local/140587173.html

      • Beth Ann Says:

        Well thank you Mrs. Journalist!! I did know that the name of it was Grace but had forgotten that!!! Thanks for the links!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Oh, yes, you can always count on me to give you additional info. And you are most welcome.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    Love the photos!! The Henrytown Lutheran Church not too far from here canceled their Strawberry Social this year….a disappointment as it is looked forward to by many. Several years ago, I bought their church cookbook……awesome. Your featured church reminds me very much of the one here. I think they all were built about the same time by very similar folks.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I suppose the fest was canceled by the lack of berries, correct? I asked the Moland folks where they got their berries this year. Although I was not given a specific answer, they said from various sources. Typically the strawberries come from only one grower.

      And, yes, I do think many of the churches were constructed around the same time period. I’ll show you some more photos of Moland tomorrow. There’s something about the intimacy of a country church that cannot be replicated in an in-town church or a modern day house of worship. I still miss the old Lutheran church I attended growing up.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        There is something special in those small wood clapboard buildings. As you say, the small-ness is key. Even if you don’t know the people sitting at a partially vacant table, you are always welcome to join them. Same was true at the Highland Store Cafe. A body probably wouldn’t even ask such a question in a larger/town establishment. There is so much that is still “real” in the rural areas!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Well said, Doreen. And I am never shy about striking up a conversation, although conversation was difficult for me in the Moland basement because of my hearing loss.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        That is a difficult “thorn” for someone who is so pleasantly outgoing and a “people-person”! The ‘din’ of many people talking in a church basement does make for difficult hearing, I have always thought.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Not just church basements. Any large gathering of people in a confined space makes for difficulty hearing.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        Tom (DH) has the same difficulty. Stressful and tiring!

  3. Erin Says:

    What great pictures Audrey! I went to a small Lutheran church in Western MN and these pictures bring back the memories! That meal looks delicious!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Alright, Erin, now you need to tell me where you grew up as you know I am from southwestern Minnesota. I’ll take you inside Moland’s sanctuary tomorrow. Glad you enjoyed the church basement meal. It was delish.

  4. I enjoyed going to festivals/gatherings like this growing up and the food was the BEST – had some faux grandmothers that made sure we were well fed – ha! Happy Tuesday:)

  5. Caryl Says:

    Was Georgia married at age 13?

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I see your point. Something isn’t right with that 35 years and age 48. I suspect some miscommunication going on here and that Georgia didn’t return immediately after her husband’s death. Good catch. Math whiz I am not. But I should have caught that, too.

      • Deb Says:

        Georgia lived in the Twin Cities before she met her husband. She returned to Owatonna to raise her then 10 year old daughter, Nancy. An interesting fact, she represented Steele County at the Minnesota State Fair last year as the (female) Senior Volunteer of the Year AND was also was named Big Sister of the Year at the same time! Here is a photo. http://www.bbbsofsouthernmn.org/site/c.7fIGIWMFJnJ0H/b.7468367/k.E20B/Volunteer_to_start_something.htm

        Wonderful lady and wonderful friend, you were lucky to meet her!

        BTW, I read your blog faithfully. Thank you.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Deb, thank you so much for that clarification. Yes, I feel blessed to have met Georgia. She exudes friendliness and confidence and, oh, that smile. Lovely, lovely woman.

        Glad to have you as a blog follower, Deb.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Thanks to reader Deb, this numbers difference has been clarified and the post updated. Georgia married her husband before moving to the Cities.

  6. westerner54 Says:

    Love, love, love this. A perfect snapshot of rural America.

  7. Jackie Says:

    Great post Audrey, I just love the pictures of Georgia, and man I hope I can still wipe a tray when I’m 90, let alone drive a car. I noticed the photo of the praying man (Grace). I love that photo and see it quite often in Lutheran churches, My grandparents who were Lutheran had it in their living room, They had a light on the frame that lit the picture up in the evening. I never knew it was the Minnesota official state picture, an interesting tid-bit to know.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      And if I’m correct in my research, the official state photo hangs in the office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, where my eldest daughter works. I’ve always loved that picture, too. How interesting that your grandparents had a light on the frame of “Grace.”

  8. I love her hands and face…

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      The close-up of the hands are George’s, not Georgia’s. Both George and Georgia’s faces reveal their outgoing personalities.

      • Oh, sorry! Still – love the lines.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        No problem, Gretchen. In recent months I’ve really gotten into noticing hands when I’m photographing certain events. I look at my own hands sometimes and wonder how they’ve gotten so “old” looking. Or perhaps I should say that they have developed character.

  9. Karen Says:

    Church sponsored activities are the foundation of our communities.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I expect that could be said for many of Minnesota’s rural communities, too. Not so much in larger cities. My church family is truly my family here in Faribault, where I did not grow up. They are my “small town” within a city of 23,000.


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