Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part II: So much to appreciate at North Morristown’s July 4 celebration July 6, 2016

FROM THE COMFORT OF MY LIVING ROOM, I watched fireworks explode across the television screen in bursts of sparkling hues against the hazy New York City skyline. Simultaneously, smoke from neighborhood fireworks drifted through open windows in my Minnesota home, creating an enhanced sensory illusion.

Red, white and blue attired prevailed among fest-goers who settled in a gazebo, on lawn chairs and grass and on bleachers to hear musicians perform.

Red, white and blue attired prevailed among fest-goers who settled in a gazebo, on lawn chairs and grass and on bleachers to hear musicians perform.

As I enjoyed the live broadcast, I considered how different my observance of our nation’s birth. Hours earlier I’d roamed the festival grounds of the North Morristown Fourth of July celebration. At this rural southern Minnesota location, I experienced a down-to-earth grassroots event that is still going strong after 124 years.

In New York City, boats shot fireworks. In North Morristown, the only body of water was a kids' wading pool holding rubber duckies for a carnival game.

In New York City, boats shot fireworks. In North Morristown, the only body of water was a kids’ wading pool holding rubber duckies for a carnival game.

Some 1,200 miles away on the East Coast, fanfare and orchestrated precision capped the evening. In North Morristown the day also ended in fireworks—shot from a farm field along a country road with fireflies dancing in the road ditches.

A couple listens to the music while sitting on portable bleachers under a canopy of trees.

A couple listens to the music while sitting on portable bleachers under a canopy of trees.

What a contrast of parties.

Parked on the festival grounds following the parade.

This 1940 Farmall owned by John Krause was parked in the festival parking lot.

I’ve been to New York once, nearly 40 years ago. I have no desire to return. But I’ll return to North Morristown as I have many times for the Fourth or for the annual fall harvest dinner at Trinity Lutheran Church. This rural location suits me and my agricultural upbringing.

Cooper rides a vintage car while his mom watches.

Cooper rides a vintage car while his mom watches. The homemade kids’ rides are signature North Morristown.

No fancy signage needed.

No fancy signage needed to deliver information.

Games, rides and the ticket booth are housed in this red poleshed.

Games, rides, the ticket booth and more are housed in this red poleshed.

A strong sense of community and of family, of nostalgia and of tradition define this place and this celebration.

The barrel train ride is by far the most popular of the kids' rides.

The barrel train ride is by far the most popular of the kids’ rides.

There’s a certain comfort in the simplistic rustic charm of North Morristown on the Fourth of July. It’s a place you want to bring your kids and grandkids, where you come to meet friends and make new friends. It’s a place to reunite with family, to remember the past and to create memories.

The barrel train chugs away across the lawn.

The barrel train chugs away across the lawn.

You'll see lots of duct tape used here.

You’ll see lots of duct tape used here, including on this vintage horse ride.

Games of skill draw many a player.

Games of skill draw many a player.

The carnival style rides are novel, the food homemade delicious, the atmosphere welcoming and kicked back.

Craig, whom I know from Faribault Car Cruise Nights, showed up (with his wife Kathy) dressed as Uncle Sam.

Craig, whom I know from Faribault Car Cruise Nights, showed up (with his wife Kathy) dressed as Uncle Sam.

A biplane buzzes the festival grounds mid-afternoon.

A biplane loops over the festival grounds mid-afternoon.

The Rev. Juan Palma of Trinity Lutheran Church North Morristown teams up with his son to call bingo.

The Rev. Juan Palm of Trinity Lutheran Church North Morristown teams up with his son to call bingo.

Here you can strike up a conversation with a bluegrass fan from nearby New Prague; love up a 12-week-old puppy named Max; encourage Noah, Hannah and Jack in their search for the medallion; catch up with Rose whom you haven’t seen in years; delight in a biplane writing smoke across the sky; listen to the pastor’s son call bingo numbers…

An appreciative crowd listens to Monroe Crossing, a popular bluegrass band.

An appreciative crowd listens to Monroe Crossing, a popular bluegrass band.

It’s nothing like NYC. And that’s absolutely alright by me.

BONUS PHOTOS:

This banner marks the intersection of two county roads near the North Morristown festival site.

This banner marks the intersection of two county roads near the North Morristown festival site.

Kids' activities are to the left, food and beverage stands to the right and the entertainment stage straight ahead.

Kids’ activities are to the left, food and beverage stands to the right and the entertainment stage straight ahead.

New to the skill games this year is the target shooting game using a spring-loaded gun.

New to the skill games this year is the target shooting game using a spring-loaded gun.

A flag bedecked car passes the festival grounds.

A flag bedecked car passes the festival grounds.

Kids loved the blow-up prizes ranging from animals to an inflatable ice cream cone.

Kids love the blow-up prizes ranging from animals to an inflatable ice cream cone.

A fest goer crochets while musicians perform.

A fest goer crochets while musicians perform.

The names of all parade grand marshals are displayed on the main stage backdrop.

The names of all parade grand marshals are displayed on the main stage backdrop.

Next year will be a big year as North Morristown marks its 125th Fourth of July celebration.

Next year will be a big year as North Morristown marks its 125th Fourth of July celebration.

FYI: Click here to read my first post on North Morristown’s 2016 Fourth of July celebration.

I’d like to thank all of the hardworking men, women and children who organize and volunteer at the North Morristown celebration. You are giving all of us a delightful way to celebrate the Fourth. Whether you grilled burgers, scooped ice cream, sold tickets, operated a carnival ride, picked up garbage, sold buttons and more, know that you are valued and deeply appreciated. These events don’t happen without your tireless efforts and dedication. So thank you.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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29 Responses to “Part II: So much to appreciate at North Morristown’s July 4 celebration”

  1. It did look like a lovely day – and so cool to have a fair on the Fourth – much better – nothing like that around here of course. Your rural community is so much more active than ours. More American really. I love reading about it. c

    • Most Minnesota communities have summer celebrations. It takes a team of dedicated volunteers to do this year after year. You would enjoy the North Morristown celebration. It’s definitely “American.”

  2. Littlesundog Says:

    Outstanding photos! I too am grateful at these types of events, for the folks that work so hard to put them together. It’s often thankless work.

    • Three of my friends volunteered this year, even though they don’t live in North Morristown. One scooped ice cream for seven hours. He’s not a native; he grew up in Wisconsin. All three enjoyed working. But, you’re right. We need to thank these volunteers more often.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    What a fun filled day you had. I love small town events like this and you highlighted a lot of really fun things going on as always. Love all the red, white and blue.

  4. Dan Traun Says:

    I’ll pick rural over urban anytime; “fireflies dancing in the road ditches” isn’t anything you’d see in the concrete jungles. Those homemade rides are the best. One of these years I will get there to see them in person.

  5. treadlemusic Says:

    I think it would be an awesome idea to join you at the Morristown celebration next year!!!!! There are many such events around our local area but most have lost some of the “rural small-town flavor” that makes them uber special!!!!! Ah yes…….the aroma of sulfur definitely evokes 4th of July memories!!!!!

  6. Don Says:

    What a fantastic way to spend the 4th! Small towns know how to take the simple things and have a great time doing them. In the near future I look forward to attending these rural celebrations, perhaps the 125th year celebration in North Morristown! Oh my, your mention of fireflies brings back memories as we do not have them here! Nor do we have a fireworks show as we have no darkness only 24 hour daylight on the 4th, BLAH!

    • Your yearning to return to Minnesota is growing stronger. I read that in your comments. Plenty of fireworks shows here to choose from on the Fourth. So how do you celebrate the Fourth in Alaska? By watching the NYC fireworks show?

  7. Don Says:

    We celebrate by making noise with firecrackers (we save the fireworks for new years eve) and having barbecues. My son and I fly radio controlled airplanes and helicopters and our club has an annual flying competition that brings many people up from Anchorage. We fly up to midnight and beyond!

  8. Ha, ha, I watched the Boston Pops and the fireworks from my easy chair too.. Going to fireworks displays is a thing of the past for us now that our daughter is grown. I remember traveling to different towns on different nights to keep her (and ourselves) entertained.

  9. Marilyn Says:

    Waves of nostalgia engulf me as I read the comments with each photo. We’ve got red-white-and-blue, ice cream, kids, prizes, concerts from my deck chair here in OZ but I miss so much the fireflies. I didn’t realise just how much I miss fireflies until I read this post. My prairie roots are way down deep but your MN take on prairie roots are a sweet interpretation. And the comments are great to read, too. I really am nostalgic tonight! I think I’ll go dream an Indiana dream.

  10. Sue Ready Says:

    your magnificent photos captured the flavor and essence of rural America celebrating a national holiday. I loved rubber ducks in the plastic pool and the expression of the girls face holding a plastic zebra she claimed as her own. These photos are a reminder that simple can sometimes be better.

    • Thank you, Sue. I’m always watching, looking for those moments that will convey emotion in a photo. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to capture such moments.

      I especially like your summary statement: These photos are a reminder that simple can sometimes be better.

  11. Lovely place to pull up a chair and play with yarn. I spent much of the weekend knitting while my kids, nieces, and nephew played with fireworks. Hope you had a great weekend

  12. Jackie Says:

    This celebrations just sounds way too cool, I really think I need to make time for it…. some day perhaps I will.


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