Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Owatonna: Sign sign everywhere a sign March 3, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Downtown Owatonna streetscape 1


THIS PHOTO, SHOT while driving through downtown Owatonna, calls for close study. There’s just so much here. It’s like a Where’s Waldo or an I Spy book. The longer I look at this image, the more I see.

Signs dominate. They are everywhere, although one is missing in the empty frame above the bar.

Notice also the art—murals, bicycle bike racks and an artsy boxed street lamp.

Notice the buildings with a hodgepodge of bricks and a history to which I am oblivious. I’m sure locals know the story behind The Emporium Dry Goods Groceries Shoes signage.

Owatonna apparently has a thing about signs, at least to my visitor’s eyes. Around the corner in the heart of downtown, “thirty minute parking signs” populate the retail area where I shopped. These made me feel unwelcome, like “Don’t linger and shop in our downtown.” I kept checking my watch while perusing the merchandise at a party supply store.

Upon leaving that shop, I noticed signs popping up everywhere like unsightly weeds. I can’t recall specific messages. But most had to do with parking or loitering or other city ordinances. I doubt I’ve ever seen so many signs in a single Minnesota downtown. Visually, the sign clutter detracts. From a visitor perspective, the signs send a message that is not exactly welcoming. The next time I’m in Owatonna, I intend to examine this issue more closely. Maybe count the signs…

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling