Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota faces: Vesta resident and promoter August 28, 2015

Portrait #37: My former neighbor, Dorothy

Dorothy. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

Dorothy. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

HER NAME IS DOROTHY. She was my next farm to the north neighbor when I was growing up near Vesta on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. Her eldest daughter, Mary Lee, and I were classmates from grade school through high school.

Dorothy was different than the others moms. She worked in town. At the bank. Back then in the 1960s and early 1970s, few women worked off the farm in rural Minnesota. So they were a bit of an oddity, at least through my girlhood eyes. Today Dorothy’s off-the-farm job would be the norm.

As I recall, my former neighbor was always active in the community. In 2012, when Todd Bol, co-founder of the Little Free Library, donated a library to my hometown of Vesta, Dorothy was key in finding a spot for it outside the Vesta Cafe. That’s when she posed for this photo as a representative of the Vesta Commercial Club.

She’s holding a book, Minnesota State Fair, An Illustrated History by Kathryn Strand Koutsky and Linda Koutsky, donated to the LFL by Coffee House Press. It’s a fitting photo to publish now. The Minnesota State Fair opened yesterday and runs through Labor Day.

You won’t find me there elbowing my way into the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ historic log building or lining up for a glass of $2 milk or watching an artist carve a dairy princess portrait in a butter block or sailing down a large slide or meandering around Machinery Hill. I suppose it’s almost traitorous to admit this, but I have not attended the Minnesota State Fair in nearly 40 years. I simply have no desire to fight the crowds.

But for those of you who wouldn’t miss the Great Minnesota Get Together, tell me why you go to the fair and what you must-see/must-do/must-eat there. In other words, what draws you to the fair?

Minnesota Faces is featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


38 Responses to “Minnesota faces: Vesta resident and promoter”

  1. Marneymae Says:

    Even though you haven’t been to the state fair in many years, your intimate description of some things that’ll occur there offer an opening for those who might be interested.
    I love the weaving of both personal (yours & Dorothy’s) & cultural past (Rural Minnesota & the country in general) along with the present through this piece.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    We had thought about going to the Fair but settled for our local county fair. DH had his cheese curds (he said they were as good as the “big one’s” version!) and his milk shake from “The Udder Place” so he was good. I enjoy seeing the quilts (no surprise there!) and other creative things, the “Commercial Bldg” is always fun, with all the ppl hawking their wares and all the “new” (must-have) gadgets. The “Food Bldg”, of course, and breakfast at one of the church food stands. Come early/leave early………that’s our plan of attack…..always!!!!!

  3. Kim Kletscher Says:

    My husband’s parents, Murl & Doris Kletscher, started a tradition where they went to the Minnesota State Fair every year. Murl would have to leave in time to make the drive to the cities so that he could park and walk to get to the WCCO radio booth as soon as the fair opened that day. My husband and I continued the tradition and went every year to the state fair when we lived in Minnesota. That yearly trip to the Minnesota State Fair is something we miss now that we live in Arizona – we’ve been to several other state fairs but no state does the state fair better than Minnesota!

    • What a great personal story, Kim. Thank you for sharing that. I expect if I had grown up attending the fair every year, I might hold that same fondness you do for it. But cows kept us on the farm.

      Oh, WCCO…the radio personalities there certainly were popular back in the day. Dad always had the barn radio turned to ‘CCO. Oh, and when we went to the fair, Dad always bought some new kitchen gadget. Funny since he didn’t do much in the kitchen. Maybe just trying to make life easier for Mom.

  4. Beth Ann Says:

    I love going to state fairs for the experience. There is so much to see and do and I love to walk through the livestock barns, sample everything on a stick and see the sea of humanity. But it is always nice to be able to leave the crowds behind.

  5. last year our high school marching band played at the fair so we went to see Ian. I had never been there and I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected! It was the day of record crowds – like 50,000 people in one day or something, but still I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in ten years!

  6. Dan Traun Says:

    I don’t go every year, but I am going this year. I am going for the food. Actually going to help a friend sample as much food as possible; hard to do solely when trying to sample a variety all on your own. The crowds do sometimes annoy me. The people watching is usually top notch. I am debating if I will bring a camera or just dig in and let the grease run down to my elbows (all things deep fat fried).

  7. The MN State Fair was a family tradition until the family moved out of MN. A few of the County Fairs were a family tradition too. We were allowed to eat fried foods – pronto pups, cheese curds, mini donuts – oh my! I loved checking out the animal barns and just exploring the fair in general. I think for me it was more about the tradition and spending a day with family away from the day to day and farm chores. Oh the memories and getting to go with the next generation to the fair with my nephews.

    Happy Weekend – Enjoy 🙂

  8. Almost Iowa Says:

    We are going sometime next week, unless the weather is bad. It is just something we do to mark the end of summer. I look forward to the Beer Garden and the brats. My wife heads straight for the 4H building and we both love the show animals, especially the horses.

    • So do you do any bench sitting while the wife examines the quilts? Or do you feign interest?

      • Almost Iowa Says:

        I wander off somewhere else. It hurts her a little that I do this because she so wants to enjoy the quilts with someone else – but when I tag along, she knows it is not the same thing as being with someone who appreciates the joy of quilting. I don’t ask her to tag along when I stick my nose in a machine either. But the horses – that is when we share the joy.

      • It sounds like you have a system that works. I assume you own horses?

      • Almost Iowa Says:

        We certainly have the pasture for them but a horse is a major long term commitment and we are not sure we are up to that.

        Imagine a Scooter who weights half a ton!

      • Yeah, you’re right about the commitment. I always wanted a horse when I was growing up. But Dad said they ate too much hay, which was needed for the cows. Oh, and he once saw a little boy who’d been kicked in the head by a horse. Another reason not to get us kids a horse. So we rode our stick horses, the steers and old fuel barrels turned into imaginary horses. And once in awhile a second cousin would ride over on her horse and give us rides.

      • Almost Iowa Says:

        If we got a horse, it would for the grandkids – but then what?

      • Oh, what fun. For the grandkids. They would be at your house all the time.

  9. Lori Weyrauch Says:

    I visit the State Fair several times each year: once with the entire family and a family friend, once with my husband, the last Sunday with just my daughter (we always attend the finals of the talent show) and one more time with a female (friend or family) who can appreciate all the girly things with me (quilts, baked goods, etc.). I love the atmosphere and the mix of people from across the state all gathering in one place. My favorite animals are the cows and rabbits, but I also love the history of the buildings and the new changes that take place each year. Walking the fairgrounds during non-Fair days is a special treat to admire the buildings, tree carvings, plants, and other things missed when there’s such a crowd. Yes, our State Fair is busy, crowded, dusty, hot, crowded, loud, crazy, animal-filled, crowded and a place for fantastic people watching, but it’s an amazing 12 days every summer that I wouldn’t want to miss!

  10. hotlyspiced Says:

    I would love to go to your State Fair. That’s a great picture of Dorothy xx

  11. Jackie Says:

    I’m with you Audrey, havent been to the fair in 20+ years. I’m not a big crowd person, would rather take a drive in the country and stop at a little hole-in-the-wall cafe 🙂

  12. Sue Ready Says:

    I am not a fair goer but can certainly appreciate all the Minnesota experiences packed into some 10 days. I always enjoy hearing about the new foods created on a stick to entice people to try.
    I liked your post showing LFL. These cute little boxes on a stick are a great community resource to encourage reading and sharing despite the popularity of e books.

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