Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating a Minnesota barn’s 100th birthday with an old-fashioned barn dance September 28, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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The band, Downtown Sound, sets up inside the Becker barn for a 10th birthday barn dance.

The band, Downtown Sound, sets up inside the Becker barn for a 100th birthday barn dance.

THE OLD BARN was all decked out with rural décor.

 

Barn dance, 24 Dekalb sign & corn

 

Barn dance, 84 wagon display

 

Barn dance, 30 bouquet

 

Guests gather in a corner near a display of Becker family farm photos.

Guests gather in a corner near a display of Becker family farm photos. The images are displayed on the exterior of the bathroom built into the barn.

Ear corn and seedcorn signs. Washboard and washtubs. Gourds and pumpkins. Fresh-cut zinnias, cosmos and other garden flowers in jars. Red-and-white checked gingham tablecloths. And in a corner, a collection of family and barn photos.

 

Barn dance, 127 Becker barn banner close-up

 

Across the end of the hayloft, just above the section where the band, Downtown Sound, was setting up, and below an American flag, a banner blazed Becker Barn Dance 1915 – 2015.

The sun sets on a perfect September evening on the Becker farm.

Guests gather on the hayloft deck as the sun sets Saturday evening.

John and Debbie Becker purchased the farm from John's dad, Herb, in 1988.

John and Debbie Becker purchased the farm from John’s dad, Herb, in 1988.

John and Debbie Becker purchased the farm from John's dad, Herb, in 1988.

John and Debbie Becker

 

Hundreds gathered on a perfect September Saturday evening at the John and Debbie Becker farm just west of Dundas along Rice County Road 1 to celebrate the birthday of a sprawling 36-foot by 100-foot barn built in 1915. One hundred years ago.

Family arrives for the barn dance and party.

Family arrives for the barn dance and party.

A vintage photo of the Herb and Dorothy Becker family. The current barn owner, John, is the youngest in the family.

A vintage photo of the Herb and Dorothy Becker family. The current barn owner, John, is the youngest in the family.

Family and friends visit before the meal and dance.

Family and friends visit before the meal and dance.

But this party was about more than commemorating this century-old massive barn in the Becker family since Herb and wife, Dorothy (both now deceased), purchased the farm in 1948. It was also about a coming together of family—only one of the elder Beckers’ descendants was missing—and friends to celebrate the land, farming and the rural way of life.

A view of the farmyard and barn dance guests from a hayloft window.

A view of the farmyard and barn dance guests from a hayloft window.

Posted in the barn

Posted in the barn, a photo of the Becker farm and an appropriate saying.

Aunt and nephew at the barn dance.

Aunt and nephew at the barn dance.

As I gazed through an open hayloft window at the crowd mingling in the farmyard below, I considered how thankful I am to have grown up in rural Minnesota, to have this close connection to the land and to extended family. Just like the Becker family.

The sun spotlights machine sheds. Vehicles parked in every nook and cranny on the farm.

The sun spotlights machine sheds. Vehicles parked in every nook and cranny of the farm.

Wagons rolled.

Wagons rolled.

A vintage swingset proved a popular spot.

A vintage swingset proved a popular spot.

Playing games...

Playing games…

Here, on this evening when the sun set a brilliant gold across ripening corn fields and edged shadows around silos, kids rumbled wagons across gravel, pumped legs high on an aged swingset, covered eyes in an old-fashioned game of hide-and-seek. It was like a flashback to yesteryear for me, back to simpler days when kids played with imagination and folks took time to visit.

 

Barn dance, 28 interior barn overview 2

 

Nostalgia prevailed on this September evening of a near full moon. Host John Becker briefed guests on the history of the barn, known long ago for its neighborhood barn dances. In his youth, long before he bought this farm, John’s father attended dances here, where men sat on one side of the hayloft, women on the other. On this evening, all generations mingled in the hayloft and John reminded them to be thankful to the Lord for the harvest.

 

Barn dance, 36 barn dance sign outside barn

 

I was thankful to be here, sitting on a bench on the newly-constructed deck off the hayloft. Gazing at the peak of the barn toward the evening sky scattered with stars. Inside the band played Sweet Caroline as the autumn breeze cooled me.

 

Barn dance, 268 dark barn interior band area

 

Later I would twirl, in my husband’s arms, across the cornmeal slicked plywood floor to a polka, flap my elbows to the chicken dance and rock it out to I Fought the Law (and the law won) and many more tunes. I danced until my muscles ached. And I smiled, oh, how I smiled. It’s been a long time since I’ve had this much fun, since I’ve forgotten the worries of life and immersed myself in the joy of a memorable evening with friends.

 

Barn dance, 131 plate of food

 

Barn dance, 148 family in food line

 

Barn dance, 118 fall themed pie close-up

 

Judging pies.

Judging pies.

The food was equally as memorable with savory beef and pork sandwiches from Nerstrand Meats, baked beans and an assortment of salads and bars brought by guests. Later, after judges sampled pies in the pie-baking contest, plated pies presented a dessert smorgasbord. And if that wasn’t enough, sausage and cheese, chips and dip and other snack foods were available for grazing later.

The side entry into the hayloft.

The side entry into the hayloft.

Some six hours after we arrived, Randy and I descended the steep walk-way into the hayloft and followed the gravel drive past the grain dryer (next to the yard light) toward vehicles parked on the lawn. We threaded our way toward our car, music fading as the distance widened between us and the 100-year-old barn.

FYI: Check back for more photos from the barn dance in additional posts tomorrow and thereafter.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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31 Responses to “Celebrating a Minnesota barn’s 100th birthday with an old-fashioned barn dance”

  1. Marneymae Says:

    Awesome!
    So joyous!
    Pie 18 is beautiful

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    The multitude of pictures today indicate how wonderful this evening was for you and I am so glad that you celebrated your birthday i such a wonderful way. We all need those fun times, don’t we?

  3. Great Captures – thanks so much for sharing – it has been sometime since I have been in a barn! Happy Week – Enjoy 🙂

  4. Almost Iowa Says:

    Audrey, you have outdone yourself. Your photos are fantastic. It almost feels like we were there with you.

    “cornmeal slicked plywood floor”

    Interesting. I might try that as an excuse for not sweeping the kitchen floor….”but honey, it’s for dancing”.

    • Thank you, Greg. I’ll be sharing even more photos, making this a several-part series. A barn dance these days is unique enough that I feel OK doing this.

      Sure, go ahead and dump some cornmeal on the kitchen floor. Let me know how that works for you.

  5. I wondered about the cornmeal on the floor, too! I would have fallen right on my behind. Not a dancer. But I love these photos and you showed the atmosphere and joy so well. What fun!

  6. I know we’ve had conversations before on old barns, and it is such a pleasure to see one that has been so well preserved and is still functioning and flourishing. Great pics too, Audrey.

  7. Dan Traun Says:

    I would love to have a barn like that. What a great, fun event.

  8. Lanae Says:

    Need a list of the types of pies that were brought in for judging and sharing! Really looks like a lot of fun and glad you enjoyed your birthday. (Many More!!!!)

    • I’m sorry, but I don’t have a list of the pies and I don’t know that one was kept. But the varieties I remember are apple, pumpkin, pear, peanut butter, “cow pie”…

      Thank you for your birthday wishes, dear sister. The barn dance was a lovely way to celebrate.

  9. hotlyspiced Says:

    Beautiful post, Audrey. I really enjoyed this. The barn has so much history and is gorgeous and I love how the interior was decorated and it looks so welcoming with the tables all set up with the tablecloths. The food looks great too and I’d love the recipe for that raspberry slice (if that’s what it is), if there’s a way of forwarding it to me. What a wonderful occasion of bringing family and the community together and I do hope they have more of these celebrations in the future xx

    • If you enjoyed today’s post, be sure to check back for more photos the next two days.

      That is, indeed, a raspberry bar on the food plate. I will see if I can track down the recipe. Lots of people brought bars, so hopefully someone will know who made these. If I get it, I’ll email you directly if that’s OK.

  10. Sue Ready Says:

    Belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY Wishes
    and what a fun event to attend and 6 hours!! gosh you really must have had a good time. You were so lucky to be able to enjoy the food (especially the Fall Pie), music and conversation with family and friends.

  11. Thread crazy Says:

    Great post Audrey, and what a great way to celebrate a birthday! The old barn looks awesome with all the fall decorations,….warm and inviting. Love the camera shy little boy..just precious.

  12. Wow what a great place. It sounds like you had a lovely time.


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