Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In North Morristown: A photo essay of Minnesota’s oldest July 4th celebration July 4, 2013

The bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing, has performed at North Morristown the past seven years, presenting two concerts at the celebration.

The bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing, has performed at North Morristown the past seven years, presenting two concerts at the celebration this year.

NORTH MORRISTOWN, MINNESOTA, is about as rural Americana as you’ll find anywhere in these United States of America on the Fourth of July.

The event is held at the North Morristown picnic grounds in southwestern Rice County.

The event is held at the North Morristown picnic grounds in southwestern Rice County.

Trinity Lutheran Church and School sit across the road from the picnic grounds.

Trinity Lutheran Church and School sit across the road from the picnic grounds.

Here, on the picnic grounds of Trinity Lutheran Church and School, generations of families have gathered for 121 years to celebrate our nation’s birthday with family and friends at our state’s oldest Independence Day celebration, begun in 1892.

The vintage car ride for kids.

The vintage car ride for kids.

The day brings old-fashioned games and rides for the kids, bingo, music, a scavenger hunt, a parade, a patriotic program and more. Fireworks shot over farm fields cap the day’s festivities.

Enjoying a pork sandwich and a beer.

Enjoying a pork sandwich and a beer.

And the food, oh, the food. Homemade pies. Savory hot pork and beef sandwiches, burgers, thick onion rings, and more.

A large crowd enjoys a free afternoon concert by Monroe Crossing.

A large crowd enjoys a free afternoon concert by Monroe Crossing.

What a day. What a celebration.

One pole shed is dedicated to bingo.

One section of a pole shed is dedicated to bingo and a silent auction.

The bingo callers.

The bingo callers.

Fun for the kids in the games and rides building.

Fun for the kids in the games and rides building.

A ticket for the fish pond.

A ticket for the fish pond.

Filling the squirt gun in the duck pond.

Filling the squirt gun in the duck pond.

Riding the old-fashioned barrel train.

Riding the old-fashioned barrel train.

The day's proceeds benefit Trinity Lutheran School.

The day’s proceeds benefit Trinity Lutheran School.

Homemade pies and ice cream are served from the pie building.

Homemade pies and ice cream are served from the pie building.

Blueberry pie.

Blueberry pie.

Hot pork and beef sandwiches and cold beverages are served from this stand.

Hot pork and beef sandwiches and cold beverages are served from this stand.

Visitors stopping by the ice cream shop can drop donations for the entertainment into a drop box.

Visitors stopping by the ice cream shoppe can drop donations for the entertainment into a drop box.

A peek inside the ice cream shoppe.

A peek inside the ice cream shoppe.

Enjoying an ice cream cone.

Enjoying an ice cream cone.

An overview of the novelties shoppe and games and rides building.

An overview of the novelties shoppe and games and rides and bingo building.

Guess the number of corn kernels in the duct taped jar and win a prize.

Guess the number of corn kernels in the duct taped jar and win a prize.

A 75-year-old Harley rider arrives at the celebration late in the afternoon.

A 75-year-old biker arrives at the celebration late in the afternoon on his 1977 Harley.

One of several lists thanking supporters.

One of several lists thanking supporters.

Garbage pick up in a 1964 grain truck.

Garbage pick up by a 1964 grain truck.

North Morristown is set in the middle of farm fields.

North Morristown is set in the middle of farm fields.

Β© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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28 Responses to “In North Morristown: A photo essay of Minnesota’s oldest July 4th celebration”

  1. Sartenada Says:

    Great photo report.

  2. The vintage kids rides are fantastic! What a great long-standing tradition in celebrating Independance Day.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I love those vintage rides, too. I tried to get one of the horses, which were taken from those old jumping horses and attached to chains somehow. But the sun, and the kids, were not cooperating. Next time.

      • The pie looks plenty good too πŸ™‚

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        It’s worth the trip just for the pie. But be aware that many times they sell out, meaning don’t wait too long to buy your pie. Late yesterday afternoon they were pulling freshly-baked pies from the oven to sell, so my husband was told. I assume the pies were being baked across the street in the church basement.

        You ought to come next year, Dan. So many great photo ops. We don’t attend every year, but often…

  3. htrax107 Says:

    Great piece again Audrey!!

  4. Now that was a fun blog post! Loved the photo of the woman taking the bit of the ice cream cone!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you. A truly fun event to cover. I was standing right next to the woman eating the ice cream and she seemed not to even notice me, which was great for photo taking.

  5. Joan Quiram Says:

    Thanks for the awesome write-up Audrey! We started attending this celebration about eight years ago and have looked forward to it every year since. I think it’s so amazing that so many people come out to this event, and I love the old-fashioned feel that it has to it. The parade was very enjoyable as usual, the food was AMAZING (I had blueberry pie too, but made by someone else as it didn’t look exactly like yours) and the fireworks display last night was spectacular (it rivals the fireworks of many of the large towns in the area). I love the picture in the ice cream booth since the gal in the picture is a friend of mine. By the way, almost ALL of the food sold out last night before the fireworks: pie, ice cream, taco in a bag, and onion rings. Wow, now we have to wait 364 more days to do it all over again! πŸ™‚

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You’re welcome, Joan. I didn’t see you; we did not arrive until late afternoon and left shortly after supper. I made sure I got to the pie stand right away because one year they were out and no pie for me.

      The volunteers who organize this do a fantastic job. Kudos to every single one of them.

      • Joan Quiram Says:

        That makes sense then if your blueberry pie looked different than mine, I got the last piece! πŸ™‚ (Mine had cream cheese in it and a crumbled crust….but NO calories….the gal assured me.) Yes, we were there for the parade, left at noon and came back for the fireworks. I think it’s so great that so many people come together to put on this celebration. Have a great weekend!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Do they keep a food count, ie. number of pies, burgers, etc.?

      • Joan Quiram Says:

        I’m sure they probably do somehow keep track of the number of customers they serve, but I’m not positive. I do know that they did much better than last year! It was so hot last year that most people left after the 10am parade, so there was lots of food left over. 😦 This year was more of a record year with high sales and a big crowd still hanging around into the evening. πŸ™‚

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Yes, I remember last year’s heat. Horrible. I agree that the crowd seemed to be hanging around and was larger, at least when we were there.

  6. ryanware Says:

    Wonderful photos they tell the story well. Monroe Crossing is always fun to see.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thanks, Ryan. It was my first time hearing Monroe Crossing and won’t be my last. What a talented group of entertainers.

  7. Beth Ann Says:

    Serious work that bingo calling!!! Loved that picture –well all of them but that one especially! Americana at its finest!

  8. I grew up in a rural town of 100 and moved to the big city (30,000) for grade school and high school. After college I moved to Minnesota and lived there for 10 years before moving to the west coast. Blogs are the new home town newspaper about local events…I really enjoyed your post, thank you.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I like that phrase, “new hometown newspaper.” Welcome to Minnesota Prairie Roots, Charlie from Seattle. Happy to have you.

  9. Jackie Says:

    What a fun 4th of July celebration. I love the barrel train and the vintage ride, the little duck game….oh I just love everything about this post, looks like so much fun! Great photo’s, they really tell the story of this small town celebration.

  10. Thank you for posting these photos. We didn’t get to attend this awesome event this year. The music and the food is always great. Monroe Crossing, the band shown in the first photo is terrific. I just listened to their CD that’s all covers of Bill Monroe songs – delightful!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You are welcome re. the photos. Always enjoy attending and photographing such grassroots celebrations.

  11. Cassie Says:

    My family went there for the first time that year since my uncle and aunt invited my dad to come and speak at the patriotic program. We were all completely blown away by this hidden treasure. We kept saying that we felt like we had just walked straight into something straight out of Pollyanna. We will definitely be back this year. What an experience!


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