Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Preparing for a family reunion August 15, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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At last year’s reunion, the young adults and kids played a human version of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2016.


FOOD, FUN AND FAMILY. Those three words focus my attention and energy this week with the annual Helbling Family Reunion just days away. Randy and I are co-hosting with a nephew and his wife.

Gatherings like this of nearly 50 people take substantial planning and implementation. But I love doing this sort of thing.


Randy found this Oktoberfest bier mug from Bismarck, North Dakota, at a New Ulm thrift store. He’ll use it at the reunion. His family roots are in the Bismarck-Mandan area. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.


A year ago, we chose a German theme to honor the family’s heritage. We’ll have a German meal complete with brats, German potato salad, sauerbraten, sauerkraut, kuchen, homemade pretzels and American foods, too. Food assignments were made months ago.

Following the German theme, I created a scavenger hunt for the kids to find gnomes and animals.

I culled the family history book for stories, some of which will be part of a trivia contest.


Using discarded props from Vacation Bible School past, Randy and I crafted this mountain backdrop.


And then, because I am a photographer who considers it vital to document events like this, Randy and I crafted a photo backdrop and the eldest daughter ordered German themed props for fun photo ops.

I’m always all about making a celebration special with decorating details. So off to Dollar Tree I went to scoop up plastic tablecloths, napkins and cups in black, red and yellow, the colors of the German flag.

Wildflowers and garden flowers will fill bier steins as table centerpieces.


Randy and I are on the right, pictured here with other siblings and in-laws. Several are missing. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2016.


I want to make this day special and memorable for a family I love and have been part of for 35 years. I expect plenty of laughter and BS as we talk and mingle and have fun together.

As much as I am excited about seeing many of my in-laws, I am especially happy that my son is flying in from Boston for a long weekend. My second daughter and her husband are driving from northeastern Wisconsin. And my eldest, her husband and baby girl are arriving from an hour away. I cannot wait to have all of my kids together for a day. We last saw each other at Christmas.

Now, as the days wind down, I consider all I have yet to do. Although the reunion is not at my house, I still have to clean and cook for overnight guests. I started that job last week but then stopped after the city sealcoated my street and dust filtered into my house day after day after day. There were times when I couldn’t see a block away for the dust stirred up by the traffic. Sigh.

And then I had a bit of a setback in my physical therapy and some limitations placed on me yesterday. Apparently I pushed myself too hard with weight lifting and general overall lifting resulting in near constant pain in my recovering shoulder. Now I’m on a weight restriction which should allow my muscles to rest and recover. I so did not need that this week.

But then that’s life. I’ll do what I can and leave the rest to others.

And if I have time to write more here this week, I will. If not, then I won’t, because right now I’m focused on food, fun and, most important, family.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


21 Responses to “Preparing for a family reunion”

  1. Kiandra Judge Says:

    My sister and I are hosting a family reunion this weekend while also planing an even bigger one on the other side of the family for next summer! Both very German too! I may have to copy your German theme idea 🙂
    Have fun with your family!

  2. Sorry about your shoulder! Thanks for sharing about the reunion-food, family and fun are the best.

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    Here is hoping that the weather is perfect.

  4. Bernadette Thomasy Says:

    I want to be part of your extended family and attend your reunion. Good planning makes a great event and I’m sure it will be terrific and something talked about for years. It’s all about making memories. Enjoy and keep healing.

    • You aren’t the first one who’s said they want to attend our family reunion. You’re right– it’s all about making memories and appreciating and connecting with one another.

      I’m trying to watch the lifting so my muscles recover enough to get back on tract with therapy.

  5. Littlesundog Says:

    Oh, what fun! The menu sounds fabulous! I think it’s wonderful that your family does this yearly. I can only remember attending a couple of family reunions in my life. It’s not that both sides of my parent’s families didn’t have them, it was that my Dad refused going. And then there was this rift in the family… I do not know much about relatives on either side, and I have three cousins that I know little about. I suspect one day when the older people are gone, my siblings and I will try to make time with our cousins and get to know each other better. It has been a sadness to only know family based on heresay and “stories” that we are not even sure are true.

    I so admire your family for keeping those ties that bind generations. For taking time to listen, learn and laugh… and celebrate your heritage. I’m excited to hear how this weekend goes, and look over the happy photographs you’ll share. I especially love the scenes of laughter and joy. That is what life is all about. Have a great time, and don’t overdo with that shoulder!! Save that for photography and get everyone else to do the “heft” work!

    • We started doing these summer reunions several years ago because the family was getting too big to gather at Christmas. And weather sometimes ruined plans.

      On my side, the Kletschers have a big reunion every summer. It’s been going on for decades.

      I hope that some day you can get to know your extended family better and put behind those rifts.

      I’ll have my camera in tow and try to photograph the essence of the event.

  6. Valerie Says:

    Whew…a lot of work but a lot of fun. I love planning events like this also! Too bad about the shoulder set back though.

  7. Jackie Says:

    I’m always excited to see your post on the Helbling reunion! Such a wonderful tradition for your family. I’m especially excited for you and Randy to have your kids all together, I just know you will have a great time. Enjoy Audrey !

  8. Susan Ready Says:

    Where did you have reunion? A photo booth was a great idea and menu sounded good. Overall sounds like a fun event and hope weather was good in your area.and how wonderful all your children could attend.

  9. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    I hope that you had a great time!

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