Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Faribault: A Willow Street welcome honoring Vietnam War vets August 31, 2016

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Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #72 group by my house

 

A DOZEN OF US GATHERED late Wednesday afternoon in my front yard to honor those who served and those who died in the Vietnam War.

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #4 drawing flag with chalk

 

As we waited for the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to arrive from Owatonna, the adults chatted. And some of the kids chalked American flags onto the sidewalk fronting my Willow Street property.

 

Vietnam Memorial Wall processional, #1 woman waiting with flag

Across the street a woman waits for the processional to begin.

Three American flags, spaced evenly along the boulevard, lifted occasionally in the breeze on a stunning August day here in southeastern Minnesota.

Leading the way...

Leading the way…

The Wall processional presented a great opportunity to honor these veterans. How well I remember the protests of decades earlier, the unrest and open hostilities expressed toward Vietnam vets. On this day in my community, in my neighborhood, in my yard, we gave them the respect they deserved. Whether or not you agree with the war matters not. Respect matters.

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #16 back of beginning

 

I saw honor in the lengthy lines of bikes, cars and other vehicles, in the waves, the American flags…

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #19 watching

 

There’s something deeply moving about participating in an event like this. I can only imagine the emotions felt by the Vietnam veterans who today—from Owatonna to Medford to Faribault and in between—witnessed a warm welcome home.

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #25 jeep

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #29 red jeep with wall sign

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #30 row of bikers

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #32 trike

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #34 back of 2 bikes

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #40 bikes and flags

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #46 biker & POW flag

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #49 biker waving

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #50 bikes

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #57 Vietnam vet on bike

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #58 red car

 

The Traveling Wall arrives in a trailer near the end of the processional.

The Traveling Wall arrives in a trailer near the end of the processional.

Volunteers will be setting up the wall on Thursday morning at the fairgrounds.

Volunteers will be setting up the wall on Thursday morning at the fairgrounds.

The trailer and accompanying vehicles continue north on Willow Street.

The trailer and accompanying vehicles continue north on Willow Street.

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #71 vets van

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #76 utility vehicle

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #9 American flag in chalk

My friend’s teenage daughter chalks a message of thanks on the sidewalk in front of my home.

FYI: The Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall opens Thursday afternoon at the Rice County Fairgrounds in Faribault. Click here for a detailed schedule of events from now through Labor Day. Check back for a follow-up post on a pre-eve stop I made at the fairgrounds.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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In Faribault: Prepping & waiting for the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 1:28 PM
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IN A FEW HOURS, the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall arrives in Faribault.

I am prepping. And so are others.

 

Vietnam Wall prep, #1 bikers

 

Around noon, a contingent of bikers, motorists and others swept past my Willow Street home en route to the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna. There the group will gather for a 3 p.m. departure. The entourage will travel through Owatonna, Medford and into Faribault, ending at the wall construction site, the Rice County Fairgrounds.

 

Vietnam Wall prep, #13 red vehicle

 

Here at my home, three flags are staked in the boulevard, a sight that prompted the Faribault group to honk horns and wave as they passed by.

 

Vietnam Wall prep, #24 basket of American flags

 

A basket of American flags sits inside my front door, awaiting kids I expect here for the processional. I’ve dug out the sidewalk chalk to keep them busy while waiting. Ice cream treats are stashed in the freezer. Water bottles are cooling in the fridge.

 

Vietnam Wall prep, #25 patriotic t-shirt

 

I’ve swiped my husband’s American flag t-shirt from his dresser drawer.

Shortly before invited friends, and maybe others, arrive, I’ll spray for mosquitoes.

Today’s processional promises to be a memorable and moving experience, especially for those of us old enough to remember Vietnam. I expect the kids to learn something today about this chapter in America’s history.

Faribault, I hope you will show your honor and respect by lining the processional route and by showcasing your patriotism with American flags.

Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

Vietnam wall replica arrives in Faribault today with opportunities to honor & heal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Many Vietnam veterans attended the ceremony.

I photographed this Vietnam veteran during a ceremony at Faribault American Legion Post 43 in July 2013. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

VIETNAM WAR. Those two words can create angst in those of us who remember that turbulent time in our nation’s history. Unrest and protests headlined media coverage. Veterans found themselves returning to a country ungrateful for their service. They were shunned, neglected, disrespected.

But today, with decades since the end of that war and with an aging population of Vietnam veterans, thinking has shifted and we as Americans recognize the need to honor these men and women who served and those who died doing so.

The Harley dress code: black leather.

Bikers will be among those escorting the traveling wall from Owatonna, through Medford and into Faribault between 3 – 4 p.m. today. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

This afternoon in my southeastern Minnesota community of Faribault, the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall arrives under escort for a several-day stay at the Rice County Fairgrounds. For those living along the route, like me, this presents a public opportunity to pay respect. I hope Faribault residents and others will show an enthusiastic and honorable patriotic welcome as the motorcade proceeds through town. Click here to see the specific processional route for the entourage, expected to arrive here around 3:30 p.m. today.

I hope, too, that many will visit this 80 percent replica wall of the original memorial in Washington, D.C. It will be open 24/7 from Thursday afternoon through early afternoon on Labor Day. I am certain seeing the thousands of names thereon will make a powerful personal impact.

A young boy peruses the pavers honoring veterans at the Rice County Veterans Memorial in Faribault.

Pavers at the Rice County Veterans Memorial in Faribault honor Vietnam and other veterans. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

There is hope also among local organizers for healing as written in their mission statement:

To offer veterans and visitors an opportunity to experience both an educational and healing experience, and offer an important historical contribution to the understanding of our nation’s history.

Healing is possible, even decades after the Vietnam War ended.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault Car Cruise season closes with impressive finale August 30, 2016

This cute little 1959 Metropolitan drew lots of attention as did its companion one several blocs away.

This cute little 1959 Metropolitan drew lots of attention as did its companion one several blocks away.

I COULD FEEL THE ENERGY, the vibe, the excitement on Friday evening in historic downtown Faribault.

This little guy was enthralled with the University of Minnesota's solar car.

This little guy was enthralled with the University of Minnesota’s solar car.

I could see the enthusiasm, the sense of community, the togetherness.

Another view of the U's solar car.

Another view of the U’s solar car.

And I heard the positive comments—the praise for Faribault Downtown Car Cruise Night and the number of collector vehicles and people the event drew. Even I couldn’t believe the scene before me as my husband and I arrived downtown an hour after the cruise started.

The crowd and vehicles stretched for blocks along Faribault's Central Avenue for Car Cruise Night.

The crowd and vehicles stretched for blocks along Faribault’s Central Avenue for Car Cruise Night.

Rather than filling the typical 1 ½ to 2 city blocks, vehicles lined four blocks of Central Avenue from Fourth Street to the Buckham Center. And the crowd of car enthusiasts far outnumbered any I’ve ever seen at these monthly cruise nights. That says a lot for the organizer—Faribault Main Street—and others who are embracing this ever-growing gathering.

One of the most unusual vehicles included this one. There's hole in the hood that allows the motor part to extend through the hood and for the vehicle to be driven.

This unusual vehicle drew lots of interest. There’s hole in the hood that allows the inner workings to extend through the hood and for the vehicle to be driven.

While I initially planned to leave my camera at home, because I’ve photographed Cruise Night many times already, I knew I would regret doing so. It was the right decision to sling my Canon 20-D across my shoulder and document whatever caught my eye. That included many many vehicles I have not seen at past Car Cruise Nights. Here’s some of what I saw:

Another favorite of mine: a 1955 Chevy Nomad two-door wagon.

Another favorite of mine: a 1955 Chevy Nomad two-door wagon, left.

A buick

Collectible car owners crossed the border from Iowa to participate in the Friday Car Cruise Night. Here’s a beautiful 1955 Buick.

A 1977

Another Iowa car: a 1977 Olds Cutlass Supreme

My appreciation for vehicles, like this Ford Torino, extends to the details. Love this artsy front end.

My appreciation for vehicles, like this Ford Torino, extends to the details. Love this artsy front end.

This Chrysler LeBaron doesn't seen all that old to me. That tells me something. I like the plain canvas backdrop of building #117, which has always been a mystery to me.

This Chrysler LeBaron doesn’t seen all that old to me. What does that tell you about my age? I appreciate the plain canvas backdrop of building #117, which has always been a mystery to me.

When a particularly noisy souped up car roared down Central Avenue, this boy covered his ears. I did the same.

When a particularly noisy souped up car roared down Central Avenue, this boy covered his ears. I did the same after snapping this image.

That would be a Mercedes.

That would be a Mercedes.

This 1956 Pontiac features a Continental kit which allows the spare tire to be attached to the back.

This 1956 Pontiac features a Continental kit which allows the spare tire to be attached to the back.

I always people watch. I have no idea why this couple was lying on the sidewalk at the intersection of Central Avenue and Fourth Street.

I always people-watch. I have no idea why this couple was lying on the sidewalk at the intersection of Central Avenue and Fourth Street.

One of the most unusual cars: a 1959 Ford Skyliner with a folding trunk.

One of the most unusual cars: a 1959 Ford Skyliner with a retractable roof, truly an engineering feat.

Hood ornaments always interest me for their artsy beauty.

Hood ornaments always interest me for their artsy beauty.

Volkswagons always

Although I don’t find the Volkswagen a particularly comfortable car (I once rode in one all the way from Mankato to central Wisconsin and back), I appreciate their unique style and cuteness factor.

Look closely and you'll find plenty of humor at a car show.

Look closely and you’ll find plenty of humor at a car cruise.

That's a chopped Model A, left.

That’s a chopped Model A, left.

As day faded into darkness, I photographed these Fords parked outside on the Faribault's oldest family-run businesses, Burkhartzmeyer Shoes.

As day faded into darkness, I photographed these Fords parked outside one of Faribault’s oldest family-run businesses, Burkhartzmeyer Shoes.

It was a perfect August summer evening in Faribault with the sky tinted red as the sun set, here looking toward the historic Buckham Memorial Library.

It was a perfect August summer evening in Faribault with the sky tinted red as the sun set, here looking toward the historic Buckham Memorial Library and the community center.

I love the hue of this unidentified vintage car.

I love the hue of this unidentified vintage car.

Although certainly not old, this Dodge Challenger Hellcat drew lots of admirers as the headlights changed colors: red, green and purple.

Although certainly not old, this Dodge Challenger Hellcat drew lots of admirers as the headlights changed colors: red, green and purple.

FYI: The Faribo Drag Ons won the first-ever Car Club Showdown on Friday evening and received a gigantic homemade trophy. (I missed the presentation.)

Friday’s event closes the 2016 Car Cruise Night season in Faribault. The event resumes in the spring. And from all indications (I talked to a key organizer and got an inside track), next year promises even more new attractions to draw folks into downtown Faribault. And that is a good thing.

A special thanks to my automotive machinist/car enthusiast husband, Randy, for his help in identifying the vehicles featured in this post.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall rolling into Faribault August 29, 2016

AS A TEENAGER OF THE EARLY 1970s, the Vietnam War proved part of my life in the fringe sort of way war does when you’re an emerging adult.

Along with my too short hot pants ensemble and my shiny go-go boots, I sported a POW bracelet, the shiny medal banding my wrist with the name of an American soldier held captive by the Viet Cong. I wish I remembered his name or even what happened to that bracelet. It may be stashed away in a cardboard box in a closet. To even write that seems dishonorable. How could I not give more respect to a prisoner of war who deserved my gratitude?

This week I will have a local opportunity to honor those who died in the Vietnam War, the war from which veterans arrived home without a nation’s welcome. Protests prevailed. I remember.

traveling wall logo

 

Thankfully attitudes have changed. This Wednesday, the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall rolls into Faribault for a six-day stay at the Rice County Fairgrounds. I am grateful to the individuals, businesses and organizations—like the Faribault Elks, multiple American Legion Posts, the local VFW Post and the Marine Corps League—that worked hard to bring this 80 percent scale version of the wall here to southeastern Minnesota.

Stock image courtesy of the Traveling Wall Faribualt 2016.

Stock image courtesy of the Traveling Wall Faribualt 2016.

Perhaps my POW’s name is imprinted on that wall, among the 58,282 Americans who died in this war. I will search for one name, that of Benjamin Franklin Danielson whose fighter jet was shot down over Laos in 1969. I remember the media coverage when this Minnesota soldier’s remains were returned to his native Kenyon in 2007, several years after bone fragments were found to match his DNA. I expect many individuals will be looking for names of loved ones or classmates or others on this 360-foot long by eight foot high replica wall.

Stock image courtesy of Traveling Wall Faribault 2016.

Stock image courtesy of Traveling Wall Faribault 2016.

But before the temporary memorial goes up on the north side of Faribault, it will arrive in my community of 23,000 Wednesday afternoon under escort by law enforcement, fire department personnel, bikers and others in private vehicles. Organizers emphasize that this is not a parade but rather a solemn procession. Those living aside the route from Owatonna along County Road 45 to Medford and then into Faribault are encouraged to line the roadway with American flags and to show their support.

Between two military uniforms, I shot this view of a 48-star American flag.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I live along the processional route. Those who know me personally and would like to join me in my front yard are welcome to do so. Dress in patriotic attire and bring American flags and patriotic items plus a lawn chair. I expect the entourage to pass my home around 3:20 – 3:30 p.m.

At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, the traveling wall debuts with a grand opening ceremony. The memorial remains open 24/7 until the closing ceremony at 1 p.m. on Labor Day. What a great opportunity this will be for us, as a community, as a county, as Minnesotans, as Americans, to honor those like Benjamin Danielson and my unidentified POW. Decades after I clamped that POW bracelet around my wrist, I understand the significance of this opportunity.

FYI: Many related events are planned in conjunction with the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall exhibit in Faribault. Click here to learn details. And click here to learn about the original memorial wall in Washington, DC.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A Minnesotan’s take on Wisconsin August 26, 2016

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WHEN I TOOK A ROAD TRIP to Boston earlier this year, I learned something about my home state. Or rather, what others think of Minnesota. Whether in Indiana or New York or Massachusetts, folks reacted the same upon learning I was a Minnesotan. “It’s cold there,” they said.

Yes, it’s cold here. But not year-round. In the end, I decided, let them believe what they wish. Such opinions keep Minnesota from becoming densely populated like the Coasts.

Rolling hills and farms define the land east of La Crosse along Interstate 90 in the southwestern part of Wisconsin..

Rolling hills and farms define the land east of La Crosse along Interstate 90 in the southwestern part of Wisconsin..

But that got me thinking about how I view people and places, specifically Wisconsin and its residents. I’ve traveled there many times in the past five years to visit my daughter Miranda who lives on the northeastern side of the state.

Packers fans houses in Wautoma? Or simply a gold house and a green house?

Packers fans houses in Wautoma? Or simply a gold house and a green house? Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Here’s my outsider’s impression of Wisconsinites: fanatical about the Green Bay Packers, crazy about brat and fish fries, and lovers of cheese and beer. Wisconsin residents also seem particularly opinionated. And many love to hunt. Of course, I’m sweeping my neighboring state with a broad brush of generalities. Just like others do about Minnesota.

A tribute to Aaron Rodgers.

A tribute to Aaron Rodgers on a barn along Highway 10 west of Appleton. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Let’s examine my impressions more closely. I’ve seen Wisconsin fire hydrants painted Packers green and gold and brat buns and kettle corn in the same colors. And I’ve photographed a barn with this message: #12 is #1 G. If you’re not dressed in a Packers jersey on game day, well, you feel totally unfashionable. On game day weekends, Green Bay area hotels jack up the room prices as much as $100. My daughter clued me in on that.

The brat barn, not to be confused with a dairy or pig barn. You can purchase StoneRidge meats here.

The brat barn, stationed outside the Piggly Wiggly in Wautoma. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I’m not a brat lover, so I could never pass as a Wisconsinite. From my observations, brat fries are the most popular fundraiser in this state with brat fry shacks stationed outside many grocery stores. Friday night fish fries are equally as popular.

Van Handel's Cheese Hut, also a gas station, is located in Appleton.

Van Handel’s Cheese Hut, also a gas station and convenience store, is located in Appleton.

Wisconsin definitely lives up to its name as the Dairyland State. Cheese stores abound. The funny thing, every time I travel to Wisconsin, Miranda asks me to bring cave-aged blue cheese from Faribault. So I stash wedges in a cooler and sneak Minnesota-made cheese across the border.

I photographed this signage along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.

I photographed this signage along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.

Like cheese, booze is readily available in Wisconsin. For example, you’ll find walk-in beer coolers at Kwik Trip convenience stores, co-joined grocery and liquor stores, and lots of breweries. Twelve Wisconsin communities rank in the top 20 drunkest cities in America. According to a May 2016 report on 24/7 Wall St, “Appleton is home to the largest share of binge and heavy drinkers in both Wisconsin and the country.”

A strong opinion expressed on a billboard along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.

A strong opinion expressed on a billboard along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.

On a recent visit, and in past visits, I’ve also noticed plenty of opinions posted roadside, sometimes on billboards and other times on homemade signs. In Redgranite, a homeowner recently scrawled “Send Hillary to prison” and placed the message board along busy State Highway 21. I’ve also noticed strongly worded messages in billboards posted along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.

A pawn shop, somewhere along State Highway 21 between Omro and Tomah advertises guns.

A pawn shop, somewhere along State Highway 21 between Omro and Tomah advertises guns.

Finally, hunting seems a popular sport in Wisconsin based on the number of deer stands and deer processing places. While I’m not a big fan of hunting for sport, I do appreciate that hunting makes for fewer deer on roadways.

So…is my general assessment of Wisconsin fair and/or accurate? I do, by the way, really like Wisconsin, including the cheese and the beer.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Appleton: A ring dance on a wedding day August 25, 2016

The Ring Dance fountain in City Park, Appleton, Wisconsin

The Ring Dance fountain in City Park, Appleton, Wisconsin

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT KIDS and water on a hot summer day that brings joy and, for me, a longing for the carefree days of youth.

 

Ring Dance fountain, #51 from a distance

 

Perhaps that is why I am so drawn to a piece of art centering City Park in Appleton, Wisconsin. “Ring Dance,” created by internationally-acclaimed sculptor Dallas Anderson, a native of nearby Neenah, is a must-see for me nearly every time I visit Appleton.

 

Ring Dance fountain, #56 cavorting

 

On my most recent stop at the park on a hot and humid late July afternoon, I envied the cavorting carved kids cooling off in the fountain. And I envied the young women also cooling their heels in the water as they posed for bridal party photos.

 

Ring Dance fountain, #54 hands up

 

Not wanting to interfere with the professional wedding photo shoot, I snapped a few quick shots and called it good. Typically I would take more care in composing images, but I wanted to be respectful.

 

Ring Dance fountain, #58 bride watching

 

I’m always curious about public art that draws me back repeatedly. This $483,000 sculpture, according to info I found online, was funded with private donations and was installed 20 years ago.

 

"Ring Dance" seems fitting for a wedding photo shoot. Here the couple poses near a massive round flowerbed in City Park.

“Ring Dance” seems fitting for a wedding photo shoot. Here the couple poses near a massive round flowerbed in City Park.

I also learned of a Minnesota connection. Sculptor Dallas Anderson, who died in 2009, received his Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield, 20 minutes from my home and 300 miles from Appleton. Interesting how life circles and connects…

TELL ME, do you have a favorite water fountain sculpture? I’d like to hear.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling