Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Memorial Day in Faribault’s Central Park May 31, 2016

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A sizable crowd gathered Monday morning in Faribault's Central Park for the annual Memorial Day program.

A sizable crowd gathered Monday morning in Faribault’s Central Park for the annual Memorial Day program.

FOR ME, PHOTOGRAPHING any place or event is about the details as much as the whole. Details are like words, which when strung together, create sentences and then a story.

Details are as precise as the properly placed gloved hands of a veteran.

Details are as precise as the properly placed gloved hands of a veteran.

On Memorial Day at Faribault’s Central Park, details were written into the annual post parade ceremony honoring our veterans and war dead.

The honor/color guard.

The honor guard.

Veterans dressed in pressed uniforms, formal in attire. Crisp. Snap. Salute. Precision marked their movements. Such formality evokes evidence of honor, most suitable for this occasion.

A veteran plays taps at the conclusion of the program.

A veteran plays taps at the conclusion of the program.

Taps mourned and guns fired. Flags rippled. Protocol held utmost importance.

A patriotic cap hangs from a bicycle.

A patriotic cap hangs from a bicycle.

Dressed appropriately for Memorial Day.

Dressed appropriately for Memorial Day.

And in the audience I observed a dress code of patriotic reverence for this day. Red, white and blue prevailed.

I noticed even the flag on the back of this man's cap.

I noticed even the flag on the back of this man’s cap.

A child waves a flag.

A child waves a flag.

Nestled on his grandpa's lap, this young boy holds an American flag.

Nestled on his grandpa’s lap, this young boy holds an American flag.

American flags, too, were noticeable.

Wreaths placed on the cross represent the wars in which the U.S. has been involved.

Wreaths placed on and below the cross represent the wars in which the U.S. has been involved.

On occasions like this, I feel a deep sense of pride that my community cares enough about those who have served to present, participate in and attend a Memorial Day program in the park.

Veterans walk through the crowd after advancing the colors.

Veterans walk through the crowd after advancing the colors.

We care about this great nation of ours, about our freedom, about our family members and others who have served in the U.S. military.

A member of the honor guard.

A member of the honor guard.

I noticed this poppy pinned to a veteran's uniform.

I noticed a poppy pinned to a veteran’s uniform.

Veterans wait.

Veterans wait.

I am grateful to live in this country, grateful to gather in a city park, grateful to have the uncensored freedom to photograph the details, to document this event in images and words.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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In Cannon City: A grassroots Americana commemoration of Memorial Day

The entrance to the Cannon City Cemetery is decorated for Memorial Day.

The entrance to the Cannon City Cemetery is decorated for Memorial Day.

THERE’S A CERTAIN SENSE of comfort in tradition. For nearly 100 years, folks have gathered each Memorial Day at the Cannon City Cemetery to honor our veterans.

This shows a portion of those gathered for Monday's semi-formal program.

This shows a portion of those gathered for Monday’s semi-formal program.

In the shade of spruce and cedar trees and surrounded by gravestones, I listened to natives read The Gettysburg Address, Freedom, What Heroes Gave and more; recite In Flanders Fields; and recall the history of this celebration. A Civil War veteran initially asked students from the village school to put on a Memorial Day program. In those early years, pupils marched from the school to the cemetery bearing floral wreaths. Today the cemetery board organizes this annual observance.

Mel Sanborn, left, emceed the program.

Mel Sanborn, left, emceed the program.

Song sheets were distributed to those in attendance and then collected to save for next year.

Song sheets were distributed to those in attendance and then collected to save for next year.

Don, on the guitar, and Judy Chester lead the singing.

Don, on the guitar, and Judy Chester lead the singing.

We sang patriotic songs like The Star Spangled Banner, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and America the Beautiful, some accompanied by a guitar, some not. Voices rose 40-plus strong above the shrill of a cardinal and the distant muffle of gunfire. Sun shone. Breeze rippled.

A bronze star marks a veteran's grave.

A bronze star marks a veteran’s grave.

The Cannon City Cemetery offers an ideal setting for a grassroots remembrance of those who have served our country. Therein lies its appeal to me.

Giving the history of and then reciting In Flanders Fields.

Giving the history of and then reciting In Flanders Fields.

I have no connection to this place where nearly 50 veterans are buried. But this ceremony reminds me of the Memorial Day programs of my youth. As an aging senior recited In Flanders Fields, I mouthed the words I recited so many years ago on the stage of the Vesta Community Hall.

Fields surround the cemetery.

Fields surround the cemetery where American flags marked veterans’ graves on Memorial Day.

In its peaceful location among farm fields, this cemetery reminds me of home. Of tradition.

Sam Wilson ends the program by playing taps.

Sam Wilson ends the program by playing taps.

And when taps sounded, I was reminded, too, of just how much some sacrificed so that I could stand here, in this cemetery, on Memorial Day, hand across heart reciting The Pledge of Allegiance.

Cannon City native Bob Lewis is a fixture at the annual Memorial Day program. Locals are already tapping his historical knowledge in preparation for the 150th anniversary celebration.

Cannon City native Bob Lewis is a fixture at the annual Memorial Day program. Locals are already tapping his historical knowledge in preparation for the 150th anniversary celebration in 2017.

FYI: Next year the Cannon City Cemetery turns 150 years old. Plans are already underway for a special celebration to mark the occasion. If you want to experience grassroots Americana on Memorial Day, this is the place to be.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault’s Memorial Day parade, a photo essay May 30, 2016

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Parade, 11 Color Guard

 

IT’S A TIME-HONORED tradition in Faribault—the 10 a.m. Memorial Day parade.

 

Parade, 6 big dogs

 

First, parade watchers come bearing lawn chairs and blankets to claim curbside spots along Central Avenue.

 

Parade, 12 flag bearer

 

To the south, down by the library/community center, parade participants are lining up, law enforcement vehicles at the head followed by the Color Guard and then the honored veterans. Marching bands slot in next.

 

Parade, 34 little boy with flag

 

It’s all so predictable. Every year. The same line-up, although occasionally the faces of politicians change.

 

Parade, 28 Scout carrying flag

 

Parade, 32 Scout handing out flags

 

Parade, 29 Scout close-up

 

Parade, 38 Girl Scouts

 

Parade, 39 Girl Scouts with flags close-up

 

But I love it. The Scouts, girls and boys, handing out flags.

 

Parade, 45 old blue pick-up truck

 

Kids scrambling for tossed Tootsie Rolls. Kids dressed in patriotic attire. Kids here with grandparents, making this a multi-generational tradition.

 

Parade, 41 old green car

 

Old cars and trucks.

 

Parade, 51 horses

 

And finally, at the end, the horses.

 

Parade, 56 patriotic horses

 

In 15 minutes, the parade is complete. Short. Sweet. Americana lovely in the sort of way that makes me appreciate Faribault, this place I call home in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

FYI: Check back for more photos from Memorial Day in Faribault and at the Cannon City Cemetery.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Aging in Minnesota May 26, 2016

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This billboard along the northbound lane of Interstate 35 just north of Faribault prompted this post about aging. FaceAgingMN is "a statewide campaign to raise awareness about the issues of aging that accompany the reality of a rapidly aging society." The group's goal is "to create a conversation about aging.

This billboard along the northbound lanes of Interstate 35 just north of Faribault prompted my post about aging. FaceAgingMN is “a statewide campaign to raise awareness about the issues of aging that accompany the reality of a rapidly aging society.” The group’s goal is “to create a conversation about aging.”

One day, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to be old.

That single statement from the FaceAgingMN website emphasizes the positive side of aging. If we weren’t getting older every day, well, we wouldn’t be here. I remember how, when I turned 40 years old, I lamented that I was so old. My friend Jenny reminded me of the alternative. That put everything in perspective. Now, 20 years later, I wish I was only forty.

I often wonder these days, with more of my life behind me than ahead—although none of us knows the length of our days—how time passed this quickly. How can it be that I am an empty nester, now a new grandma? Where did the years go?

When I look at myself in the mirror, I see the crow’s feet lines around my eyes, the sagging chin line, the creases etched deep into my skin. I see the graying hair, the added pounds, feel the aches in my back and hip.

And, most recently, when my husband and I met with our financial advisor, we thought about retirement. How much money will we need to survive? Will we have enough? What do we envision for our retirement? How did we get this old? By living, obviously.

We are at the top end of the sandwich generation with a son about to graduate from college and parents in their eighties. Financial concerns thread through all three generations.

A dear aunt sent me a letter the other day. The golden years, she wrote, are not so golden. She then listed her husband’s health woes. I wish I could make things better for her and my uncle. I wish, too, that I could bring back my friend’s husband who died of a heart attack five weeks ago at age 59. I wish my mom would be the same mom I remember before she face planted in the floor of her assisted living apartment breaking her neck and suffering a concussion some two-plus years ago.

But I can’t change these things. I can’t change aging. But I can choose to handle aging with some sense of grace and gratitude that I get to be old.

Tell me, how are you handling aging?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Beyond the Minnesota Zoo May 25, 2016

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Apple Valley sign

 

WAITING AT A STOPLIGHT along Cedar Avenue in Apple Valley, I noticed apple-shaped street-side signs. That prompted me to wonder about this south metro community’s name and history.

Mostly, I connect Apple Valley with the location of the Minnesota Zoo. And an Original Mattress Factory store; a brother-in-law is an OMF vice president.

But what about those apples? According to the city website, a builder named several of his plats Apple Valley and then planted an apple tree on each home site in some of his new developments. What a great idea. That was in the early 1960s.

In 1968, residents voted to incorporate the Township of Lebanon as the Village of Apple Valley.

As cities go, Apple Valley is relatively young. I’ve mostly lumped it with other south metro communities like Lakeville and Burnsville. Maybe it’s time to take a closer look, to explore beyond the few businesses I’ve occasionally shopped along and off busy Cedar Avenue. Does Apple Valley have an established downtown? What am I missing that would be worth seeing?

The Visit Apple Valley website uses these words (matched with photos) to describe an Apple Valley experience: serenity, luxury, ahhhhhhh, relaxation, play, indulge.

Interesting enough, it also touts Apple Valley as “the best place to stay when visiting the Mall of America” some five minutes away. That helps the local hotel business. But what about the local retailers who would prefer shoppers stay in town? I suppose, though, those MOA visitors do drop money in local shops…

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Unlike Tiny Tim, I never tiptoed through the tulips May 23, 2016

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A row of vibrant ukuleles are suspended in the front window of Eastman Music in historic downtown Faribault, Minnesota.

A row of vibrant ukuleles are suspended in the front window of Eastman Music in historic downtown Faribault, Minnesota.

I REMEMBER PLAYING a ukulele in junior high school. I had no clue what I was doing; I could not read a musical note. Somehow, though, I managed to strum my way through a concert and pass a music class. Interesting how I remember that all these decades later. And interesting how the teacher failed to notice that I was not learning to read notes under his instruction.

Unlike nearly every other student, I never had the opportunity to play piano or a band instrument. I was the second oldest of six children in a poor farm family. There was no extra money for music anything. Plus, my elementary school didn’t offer a band program and the junior high school, at 20 miles distant, was too far away for me to be involved in band.

I’ve always regretted not being able to read music or play an instrument. I cherished the toy accordion I received one year for Christmas. It is the closest I’ve ever come to owning a musical instrument. When my sister, three years my junior, took flute lessons, I taught myself to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Yes, my parents somehow scrimped money for musical instruments for my younger siblings.

How about you? Can you read music? Do you play a musical instrument? If not, why not?

NOTE: I took this photo a year ago and just now pulled it from my files.

Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

 

 

At the intersection of Minnesota Highways 99 & 13 May 19, 2016

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Lost dogs sign, 5

 

Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling