Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Mankato: Bringing poetry to the public in parks & along trails August 1, 2014

WHEN WE FINALLY DETOURED our way around all the road construction to Lions Park in Mankato, we wondered how we would find my poem selected for the 2014 Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride.

“It’s probably right there, by the garbage,” my husband suggested when I noted a sign post nearby.

There's my poetry sign, by the garbage can.

There’s my poetry sign, by the garbage can.

And he was right. “Bandwagon,” my 14 line poem based on the long-running, locally-produced television show by the same name, is posted next to a paved trail, by a garbage can, at the park’s north entry in a quiet residential neighborhood not all that far from Minnesota State University Mankato.

My poem, "Bandwagon."

My poem, “Bandwagon.”

On this Saturday morning, not a soul stirred as my husband punched (507) 403-4038 into his cell phone and then, when prompted, 428, to listen to me read my poem as part of the “Mankato on the Move” audio tour.

A recreational trail winds past my poetry sign in Lions Park North.

A recreational trail winds past my poetry sign in Lions Park.

This marks the second time my writing has been selected for the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride, a second year project of the Southern Minnesota Poets Society designed to bring poetry to the public via signs placed in parks and along recreational trails.

I love the concept, the unassuming way in which these poems have been integrated into the community. This exposes poetry in a creative setting—outside the walls of a library, bookstore, educational institution or coffee shop. And for those of us who write poetry, it’s just one more opportunity to showcase our writing and appreciate the creative talents of other poets.

Me by my poetry sign.

Me by my poetry sign.

When I penned “Bandwagon,” I tapped into my memories of watching Bandwagon, a show which debuted in November 1960 on Mankato television station KEYC-TV. The program featured, and still features, audience members dancing to the music of old-time bands. It is one of the longest running, locally-produced entertainment programs in Minnesota television. The show is taped at 6:30 p.m. on the first Monday of the month at the Kato Entertainment Center and then aired the following four weekends.

I haven’t seen Bandwagon in four decades, not since I left the farm where my father drove his John Deere to the hay bunk and my mom may, or may not, have swayed her hips to “Cherry Pickers Polka.” All poets are allowed some poetic license.

John Deere tractors galore lined up at the 2009 Rice County Steam & Gas Engine Show. Santa will likely arrived on a newer model John Deere at this week's SEMA Equipment holiday open houses.

John Deere, an original sponsor of Bandwagon. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Back in the day, I knew the show as The John Deere Bandwagon, given its sponsorship by the farm implement company.

The Ray Sands Band played at the 2011 Germanfest.

The Ray Sands Band plays at a church celebration. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo used for illustration purposes only.

I can still hear MC Chuck Pasek introducing the bands and musical selections. And I can still see those couples twirling across the dance floor…

FYI: For more information about the Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride, including locations of the 2014 poetry boards, click here.

Please check back for another post featuring the writing of 12-year-old Hannah Leraas whose poem was selected in a youth division and is posted in Mankato’s Sibley Park. I’ve mentored Hannah.

The Mankato Poetry Walk and Ride is sponsored by Mayo Clinic Health System, Creative Ad Solutions Inc., Voyageur Web and the cities of Mankato and North Mankato.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if other communities, like my community of Faribault with an extensive park and trails system, would start a poetry walk and ride?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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24 Responses to “In Mankato: Bringing poetry to the public in parks & along trails”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    I so agree. It would be wonderful if towns, like Houston which is on the Root River Bike Trail, would add such to the system. I was not familiar with “Bandwagon” but know there are many such programs of years ago that are sadly missed and fondly remembered…….and much thanks to the promptings of wonderful writers like you!!!!!

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    It really is a great idea to have this poetry walk and ride. I can imagine that other towns will be jumping on this “bandwagon” (sorry the pun there) of poetry walks. Great picture of you and your sign and lucky you to have yours posted where people will be stopping often to throw away trash. It’s all about location, location, location! Congrats!

  3. Dan Traun Says:

    Congrats on the posting! Next to a garbage can isn’t all that bad of a location. I could think of a worse location (next to a pit toilet) 🙂

  4. How COOL Is that – AMAZING – Congrats!!!

    I am lucky that the month of July here is all about ART. There is great outdoor activities here, but most people want to hit the trail and go. Maybe some of the local parks could do something like this and we have great libraries that do great events, especially art and writing and photography.

    Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂

  5. DeLores Says:

    Congratulations Audrey! You have a God-given talent and I am glad you persued it
    with your poetry and photography! Is a book in your future? I hope so.

  6. Jackie Says:

    This is the coolest thing ,congrats again Audrey. By the way, I love your poem! (Did your mom and dad ever go out dancing?)


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