Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My crazy family reconnects at a rural Minnesota reunion July 29, 2014

My cousin Kirt leads his team in the first Kletscher Fear Factor competition by "agreeing" to a beauty make-over.

My cousin Kirt leads his team in the first Kletscher Fear Factor competition by “agreeing” to a beauty make-over.

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS Vesta stays in Vegas Vesta.

My cousin Kirt sports the family name on the back of his shirt.

Kirt sports the family name on the back of his shirt.

That mantra was repeated by several of my cousins on Sunday afternoon as my extended family gathered in my hometown for the annual Kletscher family reunion.

We gather in the Vesta park across the road from corn and soybean fields. Here a John Deere tractor drives past on Sunday afternoon.

We meet in the Vesta park across the road from corn and soybean fields. Here a John Deere tractor drives past on Sunday afternoon.

Every year I anticipate this weekend celebration which brings the descendants of Henry and Ida Kletscher to the small southwestern Minnesota prairie town of Vesta. The reunion kicks off with a Saturday evening campfire and then continues the following day with a noon potluck followed by games and visiting.

The playground proves a popular area for elementary-aged through high school.

The playground proves a popular area for elementary-aged through high school.

Laughter, play, competition, conversation and great homemade food define the weekend. I love my extended family and I love this reunion.

My mom, left, and several of the aunts line up to watch the afternoon games.

My mom, left, and several of the aunts line up to watch the afternoon games. Elaine, bundled in the fleece blanket, was the oldest attendee. She’s 91.

Since adding competitive games several years ago, the connectedness between generations has grown stronger:

Teams formed and then the make-up case was opened for beauty make-overs on three guys.

Teams formed and then the make-up case was opened for a beauty contest.

First, fairy wings for Lucas...

First, fairy wings for Lucas…

Prettying up Lucas...

…and then a little make-up.

Denver undergoes a make-over for his team.

Denver undergoes a make-over for his team.

Kirt, hamming it up for the crowd.

Kirt, who wanted what happens in Vesta to stay in Vesta, puckers up.

Kirt hams it up for the crowd, which voted by clapping and hooting and hollering. He won the beauty contest.

Kirt hams it up for the crowd, which voted by clapping and hooting and hollering. He won the beauty contest.

Just like my cousins and I hold dear our childhood memories of family get togethers in a time when we all lived near one another, now our offspring and theirs, are, once a year, experiencing a similar family closeness.

Dorothy, hands behind her, races to pluck raisins from rice cereal during a contest.

Dorothy, arms behind her, races to pluck raisins from rice cereal.

My cousin Terri, who co-hosts the Emmy-nominated television show, "Nature Adventures with Terri and Todd," brought a snake for part of the Fear Factor competition. She was attempting to get many family members to overcome their fear of snakes.

My cousin Terri, right, who co-hosts the Emmy-nominated television show, “Nature Adventures with Terri and Todd,” brought a snake for part of the Fear Factor competition. She was attempting to get family members to overcome their fear of snakes.

My cousin Sandy's grandson Keelan shows no fear of snakes. Some contestants kissed the snake to earn the highest number of points.

My cousin Sandy’s grandson Keelan shows no fear of snakes. Some contestants kissed the snake to earn the highest number of points.

My cousin Dawn apparently wasn't too fond of the tapioca pudding she was racing to eat during a competition.

My cousin Dawn apparently wasn’t too fond of the tapioca pudding she was racing to eat during a competition.

I can’t emphasize too much the importance of such reunions in this crazy busy world. Grandpa and Grandma would be proud to know their children and families still care enough about each other to gather every July in the place where my great grandparents, Rudolph and Mathilda Kletscher, put down roots.

The youngest attendee, 3-week-old Maddison.

The youngest attendee, 3-week-old Maddison, came with her parents from Lakeville, 120 miles away.

Henry and Ida’s offspring of all ages came to the reunion—from their oldest daughter, Elaine, age 91, to the youngest great great granddaughter, Maddison, born only three weeks ago.

Kids and families played together in the sand, too, building memories.

Kids and families played together in the sand, too, building memories.

And as for that Vegas mantra, I warned my cousins that I couldn’t keep what happens in Vesta, in Vesta. They just laughed and said they were OK with that.

But I’m not sure my cousin Bob was OK with unknowingly eating tofu in the chocolate cream pie I brought to the potluck. When I revealed the secret ingredient, he could not hide his disgust.

“I’m supporting the soybean farmer,” I told this farmer. That didn’t seem to matter. Another memory…

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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20 Responses to “My crazy family reconnects at a rural Minnesota reunion”

  1. bev walker Says:

    Looks like another wonderful reunion! Always great to see pictures of family!

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    What a fun day! I could hear the laughter and the clapping for the beauty pageant. Yesterday when I was going through closets I found a picture of Micah doing a Womanless Beauty Pageant. I don’t know how I convinced him to do it for a church event but I did. His “talent” was putting make up on me—-it was priceless. And he looked fabulous in his Goodwill gown even if it was a bit tight. 🙂 Glad that what happens in Vesta did not stay in Vesta. 🙂

  3. Thread crazy Says:

    What a fun time all of you had! Just think Kirt can now claim fame to winning the beauty contest and it no longer can be contained on Vesta! Since my Dad’s family reunions are in northern Ohio, I’ve not been able to attend…maybe one of these days. Thanks for letting us share in the family fun.

  4. DeLores Says:

    You have such a fun family! We don’t have family reunions anymore. All our Aunts & Uncles are gone now and many of my cousins aren’t interested in getting together.

    It was so nice meeting you & your husband on Saturday, Audrey. Tom said “What Nice People!”

  5. What Fun – Love that People are willing to Play the Part too! Happy Tuesday 🙂

  6. Norma Says:

    I do envy you so much. I haven’t been to a reunion in at least 20 years. None of my scattered family is interested. I noticed long sleeves and sweat shirts. I do wish I could wear that type clothing. The 100+ temperature is really quite depressing. Wonderful fun!!! However, forget the snake.:(

    • I’ve been attending Kletscher family reunions my entire life. Always a huge turn-out. There were 10 kids in my dad’s family and all but one married, meaning my extended family is HUGE.

      The weather on sunny was cool (60s/low 70s), especially when the sun ducked behind clouds.

      As for the snake, I agree w/ you. I kept my distance.

  7. Dan Traun Says:

    Wow! That sounds like two action-packed days of fun events and excitement. There is little more important than family; Cyndie and I just spent time with our families this last weekend celebrating our wedding last November. It is always a good time conversing and enjoying wonderful things to eat.

  8. Lanae Says:

    To my cousins on the other teams reading this….eat your hearts out, Team Kirt won!!!! All five games too so better luck next year. The tapioca pudding and black olives was very tasty. I just wish I was the one who got to hold and kiss the snake.

  9. Jackie Says:

    Audrey i have to say I’m just a little bit jealous of all that fun. I Love love love hearing about your family reunions, what a fun bunch you have. Do you know how many were in attendance? So good that your mom was able to attend! It’s really quite amazing that you have the age span of 91 years at the reunion….wow! Family is such a blessing, thanks for sharing your photo’s, each one told a different story 🙂

    • Right around 100 family members attended the reunion. There were a lot missing, too. We have a really big extended family.

      And what fun we have. Adding competitive games about five years ago really increased interest in the reunion and got us up and moving around and connecting with each other more. Plus, we are building new memories.

  10. hotlyspiced Says:

    This is such a lovely tradition, Audrey and long may it last. It’s so lovely that Elaine, at 91, was able to be there. How many of these reunions has she been to? It’s so important for families to remain connected and I’m so impressed that the parents of the new baby girl drove all that way just to be there – great effort! xx

    • I expect my Aunt Elaine has been to every reunion and they have been happening annually for decades. When I was younger, the reunion was with my paternal Grandpa Henry’s siblings and their families. Then when those families grew, Henry’s family broke away to hold its own reunion every July in Vesta.


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