Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An Old MacDonald style park in Mankato August 18, 2015

One of two barn style buildings at Sibley Park in Mankato, Minnesota.

The barn style stable at Sibley Farm in Mankato, Minnesota.

GROWING UP, MY DAUGHTERS had a Fisher Price barn that, when the doors opened, “mooed.” For hours they would play with this toy farm. Being a rather unwise mom who determined that everything from their childhood could not be kept, I gave the barn, silo, Little People, tractor and animals to friends with little ones. My eldest once reminded me that was a mistake. I agree.

A fenced pond is in the foreground and a second barn type pole shed in the background.

A fenced pond is in the foreground and the farm’s barn in the background.

But now she, and other twenty-somethings who hold fond memories of the Fischer Price barn, can see a similar real-life barn at Sibley Farm in Mankato’s sprawling Sibley Park.

Kids love the tractors, this one located next to the bridge spanning the pond stocked with fish and dotted with water lilies.

Kids love the tractors, this one located next to the bridge spanning the pond stocked with koi and dotted with water lilies.

Friendly sheep are a favorite.

Friendly sheep are a favorite.

The fabulous farm-themed playground.

The fabulous farm-themed playground. There’s also a traditional playground, shown in the background.

I explored the farm on a recent Sunday afternoon, delighting in the animals, the pond, and the agricultural-themed playground. What a brilliant idea, to create this educational and engaging tribute to the region’s rural roots in the heart of southern Minnesota farm country. The farm park opened in 2008 and was partially funded by a $200,000 gift from the Al and Erla Fallenstein fund through the Mankato Area Foundation.

A young family checks out the alpacas.

A young family checks out the alpacas.

When I got to the pygmy goats, a young boy was feeding them grass.

When I got to the pygmy goats, a young boy was feeding them grass.

The farm animal sculptures provide perfect photo opportunities.

The farm animal sculptures provide perfect photo opportunities.

This agricultural-themed park makes my farm girl heart happy—to see kids petting farm critters, posing with farm animal statues, racing to tractors, and clamoring onto barn, silo, straw bale and even cornstalk playground equipment. This is a place for families, for anyone who grew up on a farm, and for those who didn’t.

The farm features Ayrshire cattle like this one seeking shelter in the heat of a summer afternoon.

The farm features Ayrshire cattle like this one seeking shelter in the heat of a summer afternoon.

We need to hold onto our rural heritage. And one way to do that is through parks like Sibley Farm.

Your guide to Sibley Farm in Mankato.

Sibley Farm’s lay-out.

FYI: Sibley Farm is located at 900 Mound Avenue and is open daily from 6:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. mid-spring, summer and early fall. Admission is free. Click here to read a 2011 post I wrote about a goat-napping caper at this very park.

BONUS PHOTOS:

A sign at the playground.

A sign at the playground.

And the chickens.

The playground chickens.

I absolutely love the creativity of the playground cornstalks.

I absolutely love the creativity of the climbing apparatus designed to look like cornstalks.

Love the signage at the farm-themed playground. There's also traditional playground equipment, background.

Love the signage at the farm-themed playground. There’s also traditional playground equipment, background.

Playground pig sculptures.

Playground pig sculptures.

A musical detail on the playground.

A musical detail on the playground.

The miniature ponies are kid-sized friendly.

The miniature horses are kid-sized friendly.

Bring coins so kids can feed the animals.

Bring coins so kids can feed the animals.

Daily instructions posted inside the barn for employees.

Daily instructions posted inside the barn.

Found feathers displayed in the barn.

Found feathers displayed in the barn.

Appropriately printed lockers.

Appropriately printed lockers.

CHECK BACK TOMORROW for a similar, but much smaller, project proposed for the Redwood Falls Public Library.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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26 Responses to “An Old MacDonald style park in Mankato”

  1. Thread crazy Says:

    What a neat little park. That truly is a testament to all farmers across this land and such an educational area for the children. This is someplace I’d like to visit myself.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    What a great place. I love it and wish I could have visited with you. 🙂 Sharing with all my Iowa friends because I know a lot of them would love to go there as well.

    • Well, thank you for sharing. In addition to Sibley Farm, Sibley Park has walking trails, a beautiful flower garden, poems posted (Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride) and more. Yes, your Iowa friends could make a day of visiting Mankato. There’s the downtown Sculpture Walk. And then, of course, the Betsy and Tacy houses, of interest to fans of the Betsy-Tacy children’s book series by Maud Hart Lovelace.

  3. I so want to check out the playgrounds and PLAY – ha! – oh so COOL!!! Great Park – Loving Your Captures – thanks so much for sharing 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy!

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    Like I have said so many times, “kids get all the cool stuff.” (sigh)

    That’s the irony of it. Kids spend their play time pretending to be adults, adults spend their play time pretending to be kids.

  5. Dan Traun Says:

    What a wonderful and unique park. I remember having the very same Fisher Price barn as a child.

  6. Such creativity, it is incredible what some folks can imagine and then to see their ideas come to life. And solely for the enjoyment of the masses. Thanks again for sharing Minnesota with the rest of us Audrey.

  7. Jackie Says:

    Looks like a fun place to take my grands…I’m gonna have to look into this place, thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Oh my goodness that looks like a lot of fun.

  9. Sweet Posy Dreams Says:

    Charming place. Looks like fun for all ages, but especially kids. On the subject of keeping toys. Don’t feel guilty. We kept all our kids’ Fisher-Price and they are just cluttering up the attic. Who knows what condition they’ll be in if there are ever any grandchildren to play with them? My mother saved my Little Kiddles and Little Kiddle town. By the time my daughter came along, the old plastic was so fragile that things broke when played with. (The Barbies were all right, but the Kiddles and stuffed animals, not so much.)

  10. hotlyspiced Says:

    What a lovely park. I love the lockers. When Archie was a baby my father used to travel a lot to the USA on business. On one trip he returned with the exact same toy. He gave it to Archie but we kept it at mum and dad’s house and it has been much adored and certainly played with, over and over by all 13 grandchildren. It’s still going strong and it still ‘moos’ when the barn doors are open. Fischer Price made some amazing children’s toys xx


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