Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating family at the annual Kletscher reunion in southwestern Minnesota July 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:04 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Referees watch over the competition in which contestants filled cups, attached to their feet, with popcorn and raced to fill ice cream buckets.

Referees watch over the competition in which contestants fill cups, attached to their feet, with popcorn and race to fill ice cream buckets.

THIS YEAR THEY CALLED in the referees to control the competitors.

The competitors would be the descendants (and spouses) of Henry and Ida Kletscher, gathered on Sunday afternoon in the Vesta City Park for the annual family reunion. My aunts and uncles and cousins and their kids and their kids’ kids; my mom; four of my siblings and two of their spouses; and a single nephew.

P)lating food at the potluck meal spread across several picnic tables in the Vesta City Park shelter.

Plating food at the potluck meal spread across several picnic tables in the Vesta City Park shelter.

My first plate of food. I made sure to grab a piece of the blueberry dessert, which my Aunt Elaine brings each year. Wait too long and you miss out on a piece.

My first plate of food. I made sure to grab a piece of the blueberry dessert, which my Aunt Marilyn brings each year. Wait too long and you miss out on a piece.

Fueled by a potluck meal, preschoolers to my 90-year-old Aunt Elaine participated in an afternoon of organized competitive activities ranging from puzzle making to relay races to nail pounding to Kletscher family trivia.

In the flag race, contestants carry flags from one ice cream bucket to another.

In the flag race, contestants carry flags from one ice cream bucket to another.

Laughter erupted. Legs pounded the parched and hardened lawn. Good-natured kidding abounded.

Winners in the puzzle making competition celebrate.

Winners in the puzzle making competition celebrate. Contestants assembled 25-piece puzzles.

Teams cheered.

My cousin Greg cheats in the popcorn game in which contestants were supposed to fill cups. attached to their feet, with popcorn. He found his hands to work much better.

My cousin Greg cheats in the popcorn game in which contestants were supposed to fill cups, attached to their feet, with popcorn. He found his hands to work much better.

Cheating ran rampant, despite the two referees, who couldn’t possibly spot every rule infringement.

That would be my Aunt Janice helping to fill a squirt gun.

That would be my Aunt Janice filling a squirt gun.

In order to protect my camera, I keep my distance from the water balloon toss.

In order to protect my camera, I keep my distance from the water balloon toss.

I stepped back from the water balloon toss, dodged squirt gun fire, held my camera above the chaos to photograph the competition.

The games begin with assembling 25-piece puzzles.

The games begin with assembling 25-piece puzzles.

To a distant passerby, the goings-on may have appeared crazy and chaotic and perhaps worthy of a call to the Redwood County Sheriff’s Department.

In the nail driving contest, entrants had one minute to pound as many nails as they could into a section of wood.

In the nail driving contest, entrants had one minute to pound as many nails as they could into a section of wood.

But I observed fun—a family connecting and building memories.

Team Red poses for a photo.

Team Red poses for a photo.

In many ways, the reunion took me back to decades earlier and evenings of gathering at the farms of extended family members to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Then I was the kid, the girl racing across a pitch black farm yard playing “Starlight Moonlight” with my cousins—connecting, building memories.

In this game, competitors soak up water with sponges and race to fill ice cream buckets.

In this game, competitors soak up water with sponges and race to fill ice cream buckets.

Today I am the photographer, capturing those memories, reveling in the blessings of belonging to a family that cares enough to come together every July in a rural southwestern Minnesota city park a skip over gravel roads from acres of cropland.

My Aunt Jeanette holds one of her newest great grandsons, who traveled from near Milwaukee with his parents and twin brother to attend the reunion. I'm guessing this is 5-month-old Landon.

My Aunt Jeanette holds one of her newest great grandsons, who traveled from near Milwaukee with his parents and twin brother to attend the reunion. At five months, Landon (or Garrett, I’m unsure which twin) is among the youngest of Henry and Ida Kletscher’s descendants. This image was shot at the Saturday evening get together. In recent years the reunion expanded to begin on Saturday evening, resuming with the Sunday noon potluck. Games were also added within the past five years to keep the young people coming and to mingle the generations.

This the land of our forefathers, the home of our hearts, the place where family memories are rooted, here on the prairie.

CHECK BACK FOR MORE photos of family reunion fun.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

14 Responses to “Celebrating family at the annual Kletscher reunion in southwestern Minnesota”

  1. Lanae Says:

    We had so much fun I wish you could all be Kletschers for that day. Being on team “Red”neck made my day, even though we didn’t win the over all we did win a few games. Better yet we had FUN.

  2. Caryl Says:

    OMG I forgot the starlight moonlight thing. How did it go? Hope to see a ghost tonight? Fun memories.

  3. Jackie Says:

    You guys really know how to do a family gathering. Are different ones in charge of the games each year, ….it looks like so much fun. Oh, and the blueberry dessert looks amazing!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, Jackie, each year a different family is in charge of the reunion. By “family” I mean each child of my grandparents, Henry and Ida, and their families.

      And, yes, we do know how to have fun.

  4. Marilyn Says:

    We just had a big extended family reunion last Thanksgiving. It started Wednesday evening (for all the locals and early arrivals) through Saturday afternoon. There were a couple of out-of-town family (no kids) who stayed through the whole weekend and attended a local church with us. I remember the reunions we had when I was a kid – they were all held on just one day. I think the change to a reunion held over a long weekend hinges on fact that the family is spread over so many states: FL, IN, PA, VA, SC, GA, and CA.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      That sounds like a fabulous reunion. Nearly all of the Kletschers live in Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin, which makes a weekend reunion workable.

  5. kzemek Says:

    Our family reunions were always boring–everyone just sat around and talked, only a few played cards and there were only a few water balloons for the kids–one year. Your reunion looks way more fun!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, our family reunions were like yours, too, up until four years ago, except for those when I was growing up. Back in the day we played softball all afternoon. Now that my cousins and I are all grown up and have families and grandchildren, we decided we needed to change the reunion to keep the young people interested in returning every July. Thus the games. Some family members balked at the change, but now it seems nearly all have embraced this idea. It really is a good way to mix everyone up and build memories.

  6. Beth Ann Says:

    I absolutely love this—adding the games was genius!!! I never would have thought that a reunion like that would be so much fun (and physical!) but what a wonderful way to spend the weekend. Family, food and lots of wonderful memories being made for all generations is definitely a win win win win!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you. My sister Lanae and I will accept your “Genius Award” because we were the ones who thought of adding games four years ago when it was our family’s turn to host. This year my Aunt Jeanette’s family thought of bringing the colored bandannas and forming teams from the get-go rather than recruiting players for each new game. Genius. The bandannas were passed, along with the reunion tote, to the next family at the end of the reunion.

      The games have been a good way to mix young and old. The laughter, the good-natured teasing, even the cheating, are all building memories and connecting our families in ways that would not have happened had we just sat around in lawn chairs all afternoon.

  7. Bev Walker Says:

    I am sorry I missed the reunion but love seeing pictures of family. I had a trip to New Richmond this past weekend and again yesterday and returning today for my ailing 96 year old mother-in-law. Hopefully next year!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      We missed you, Bev, but understand your need to be there for your mother-in-law. Next year tell your boys and their families to come. My kids didn’t make it this year either…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.