Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Connecting to the past at a Minnesota barn dance, Part III September 30, 2015

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The sun sets behind John and Debbie Becker's rural Dundas, Minnesota, barn.

The sun sets behind John and Debbie Becker’s rural Dundas, Minnesota, barn on the evening of their September 26 barn dance.

THRICE NOW I’VE DOCUMENTED dances in the Becker Farms barn. And what an honor it has been to photograph these 2011, 2012 and now 2015 celebrations in such a bucolic rural setting in southeastern Minnesota. I delight in photos, which combined with words, write family and personal histories.

After guests ate, several tables would be removed for dancing.

After guests ate, several tables were removed for dancing.

I probably will never visit our nation’s capitol or see the Pacific Ocean or tour the Rockefeller Estate or attend a Broadway play or study a Van Gogh painting. But that’s OK. I have danced in a barn, something few Baby Boomers likely have done. I can write “Danced in a Barn” in my life’s story.

Peering out a hayloft door, I shot this scene of a neighboring farm place.

Peering out a hayloft door, I shot this scene of a pond and neighboring farm place.

Dining in the barn.

Dining in the barn.

Playing with the rural version of Jenga blocks.

Playing with the rural version of Jenga blocks.

I appreciate the simple things in life. Sun setting. Great conversation and good music. Satisfying food that’s tasty and uncomplicated. Joy that comes from watching children at play, realizing too many years have passed since I was a kid free-ranging on the farm.

Visiting outside the barn.

Visiting outside the barn.

To my friends John and Debbie Becker, I am grateful for the chances to dance in their 100-year-old barn, to witness the coming together of family and friends in a hayloft.

Guests gathered inside and out on a lovely September evening.

Guests gathered inside and out on a lovely September evening.

There’s something about a barn dance that roots to the rural past in a way that no museum can. As I danced, I could imagine the dances of yesteryear, hayloft empty of loose hay, eager young men and anxious young women eyeing each other from opposite sides of the loft. I could imagine food spread across planks, the scent of animals below mingling with the smell of fried chicken.

Parking vehicles was a major job considering the hundreds of invited guests.

Parking vehicles was a major job considering the hundreds of invited guests.

And outside, horses tethered rather than vehicles parked.

Even this Dekalb sign inside the barn generated memories of Dekalb corn growing in my dad's fields and me detasseling corn for this seed company.

Even this Dekalb sign inside the barn generated memories of Dekalb corn growing in my dad’s fields and me detasseling corn for this seed company.

Grandparents build memories with grandchildren at the barn dance.

Grandparents build memories with grandchildren at the barn dance.

I'm sure the four judges will always remember the difficulty of choosing winners in the homemade pie judging contest.

I’m sure the four judges will always remember the difficulty of choosing winners in the homemade pie baking contest.

Red wagons hold timeless universal appeal to kids.

Red wagons hold timeless universal appeal to kids.

This girl's cowgirl hat reminded me of the straw hats I wore while playing make-believe as a child.

This girl’s cowgirl hat reminds me of the straw hats I wore while playing make-believe as a child.

As this boy pulled a wagon up the incline toward the hayloft, I wondered if he would climb aboard for a wild ride down. Instead, he released the wagon. I would have rode down, gripping the handle.

As this boy pulled a wagon up the incline toward the hayloft, I wondered if he would climb aboard for a wild ride down. Instead, he released the wagon. I would have careened down, gripping the handle.

Whether my imagination matches historic reality, I am unsure. But I am certain of one thing. A barn dance connects folks to the past in a profound way.

I am always comfortably at home on a farm like the Beckers' farm site.

I am always comfortably at home on a farm like the Beckers’ farm site.

For me, a woman from the land, dancing in a hayloft fits me better than gliding across the smoothest of floors in an elegant ballroom. I am comfortably at home in a barn, in a way that’s sweetly familiar. Connected to my rural Minnesota prairie roots.

FYI: Click here and here to read my previous posts on the September 26 barn dance in rural Rice County, Minnesota.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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23 Responses to “Connecting to the past at a Minnesota barn dance, Part III”

  1. Marneymae Says:

    This series bring joy to my heart & a smile to my face.
    Thank you for sharing this absolutely lovely aspect of your community

  2. Littlesundog Says:

    Lovely post… so many memories of neighborly get-togethers of long ago. We don’t see much of that anymore… I’m glad to see it’s still a custom in some areas! And what a great old barn to celebrate in!

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    I hope that everyone who attended the event has a link to these pages. You have created a wonderful story in pictures for them.

  4. treadlemusic Says:

    I so love such dances, also! But, trying to convey all that embodies these events to someone who has never experienced them is a huge challenge……..especially since all our body senses are ‘fed’…..sights, sounds, aromas AND taste!!!!!!! You covered them all beautifully!! Well done………………………….

  5. A Great Sense of Community and Coming Together to Dance and Celebrate – Beautiful Captures – love, love, love this series 🙂 It reminds me of my growing up years and the memories made from hanging out in various barns – swinging and landing into the hay, roller skating in the hay loft, the smell of hay and straw, the animals, etc. Happy Day – Enjoy!

  6. Thread crazy Says:

    I must agree with “Almost Iowa”. What wonderful memories you have captured in your photos and stories. I know I would want to be able to relive through your stories. Such a memorable evening.

  7. Love your pictures 🙂 What an amazing farm. Something everyone should experience at least once…

  8. hotlyspiced Says:

    The interior shot of the barn with the fairy lights is gorgeous. It certainly looks like a fabulous celebration and I do wish someone would have taken a photo of you kicking up your heels on the dance floor. I do hope you get to NY one day to attend a Broadway Show xx

    • You would have loved everything about this dance, Charlie. The food, the setting, the people…

      I put my camera away once the dancing began because the barn was too dark and I don’t shoot with flash.

      I’ve been to New York once, while in college. That was once enough for me. I truly am not a big city girl.

  9. That could be a movie set, it’s so perfect for one.

  10. Sue Ready Says:

    I feel “Dance in A Barn” has possibilities to be penned into a poem under your guidance:) I love how you included so many children into the post photos showing how an event such as this can be enjoyed by all ages. Lots of wonderful memories for you and Randy.

  11. Emily Says:

    This is a great series, Audrey. I think “I Danced In a Barn” could be a great name for a book. 🙂 You are a storyteller, both with images and words.


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