Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The joys of a July concert in the park July 24, 2017

The book on my lap wasn’t open for long before I focused on the concert and my surroundings.


UNDER THE CANOPY FRINGES of a locust tree, book in hand, I settled onto a lawn chair for an hour of music performed by the Owatonna Community Band at Faribault’s Central Park.

On this Thursday evening, as the sun lowered, a bandshell packed with musicians played a variety of tunes—The Entertainer, the best of Queen, a patriotic collection, Italian Feast, John Philip Sousa marches, 76 Trombones and more. Among my favorites, Prairie Dances, dedicated to the Old West Railroad and to those with an affection for Laura Ingalls Wilder and the prairie. That would be me. When the band began to play, a train whistled from across the city. Perfect.



Such detailed moments claim my attention, making an event particularly memorable. I observed the rise and fall of a small dog’s body in the declining heat of a hot and humid July day. Nearby another larger dog temporarily escaped its owner and then returned, leash in mouth. I laughed.

It’s important in life to grasp these moments for the joy they bring. I tipped my head back to a view of those locust leaves shadowed against the evening sky. Peace descended.

I watched as a widower unfolded his lawn chair then helped his lady friend with hers. Such old-fashioned manners impress me. Only minutes earlier, Randy carried my lawn chair across the park and opened it.



Several times I snapped photos with my smartphone, wishing for my Canon DSLR camera, currently tucked away due to my broken right arm/shoulder. Still, I could manipulate a few snapshots. I turned my camera phone toward the sun slanting through the trees in the golden hour of photography. I’ve always loved this time of day, of transition from light to dark, of busy to quiet.

And I love these summer evenings in the park, book on lap, if opened only briefly. Not even the words of New York Times bestselling author Karen White could compete with the beat of the band or the beauty of this July evening in my southeastern Minnesota community.

TELL ME: Does your community offer free outdoor summer concerts in a park? If yes, do you attend?

FYI: The Gold Star Band, a group of six Mankato-area musicians, will present a concert of classic and current music from 7 – 8 pm Thursday, July 27, during the Concerts in the Park series at Faribault’s Central Park. Two of the band members are in the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. The Community Cathedral Cafe will serve free root beer floats prior to the concert.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


11 Responses to “The joys of a July concert in the park”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    We attended two concerts at the Brevard Music Center this weekend and two more scheduled for this week. My favorite yesterday was the Soloists of Tomorrow event when winners from the competition showcased their talent. A 15 year old marimba player won my heart. Amazing talent. Our seats on the left side of the amphitheater provide just enough cover from the rain but still make us feel like we are on the lawn outside. Perfect spots for perfect concerts. Cell phone pics did a great job of sharing with us.

  2. Littlesundog Says:

    There are various celebrations in our city park throughout the year. The park is just across the road from our pecan orchard. We used to attend these concerts and festivities some, but just haven’t made the time in recent years. Often, we can hear the music from the park at our house, just a few blocks away. Over the Fourth of July FD and I worked in the orchard and could hear the music, shouts and laughter just across the way. It was a delight to be so near, yet manage our work.

    Working on our place is non-stop it seems. But not so many years ago we took in festivals and concerts in the Lawton and Oklahoma City areas. Perhaps there will be a time when we slow down again, and revisit those more relaxing ventures.

  3. Met up with friends on Saturday and went on quite the 9-hour bike adventure – play, laughter, fun, food, music, etc. – all rolled into one good, fun-filled packed day 🙂 It really brought out the inner kid in me – nothing to do, nowhere to be – just soaking in the day – AWESOMEness! Happy Day – Enjoy

  4. Valerie Says:

    Northfield is hosting the Vintage Band Festival again this year, on Saturday, July 29. Several bands will be playing outdoors, on Bridge Square all day, and it’s free.

  5. This looks like a lot of fun too. We don’t do anything like that around here.

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