Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From Wheeling Township, Part III: More images & words from Germanfest October 4, 2017

A farm site along Minnesota State Highway 60 near St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, rural Faribault.


IN A RURAL SETTING not far from Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, the members, families and friends of St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, serve not only an incredible German dinner each September, but also incredible hospitality.



Shirley checks and refills food on the serving line.


Even the pickles are homemade.


Through my many years of attending dinners, luncheons and other events at this country church, I’ve gotten to know these friendly folks—Lynn, Kim, Doug, Craig, Shirley… I can’t come and go without stopping to greet and hug sweet Elsie, who now into her nineties still works in the kitchen stirring gravy or potato salad or cutting and plating pies (during the church ice cream socials). Truly, these dinners are labors of love.


Here two volunteers, in ethnic costumes, take a break at the root beer stand.


Petting zoo animals come from a nearby farm.


There’s always a well put together historical display.


I can only imagine the tremendous time, effort and energy involved in pulling off Germanfest, an event which features more than just the showcased ethnic meal which this year fed some 650. I appreciate the country store and market that offer home-baked and garden grown goods and more. I appreciate, too, the quilts stitched by talented hands and the music and petting zoo and historical displays and more.


On the church altar, a beautiful harvest display.


There’s something divinely wonderful about a Minnesota church festival that reconnects me to the land, that brings a sense of peace in a world brimming with too much discontent and chaos.



This gentleman arrived from four miles away in his Model T Ford.


Congregants make and sell crab apple jelly from trees growing on church property.


Dressed in lederhosen, a volunteer pauses to enjoy the music and check out the market under the tent.


Lucy, seven months, and her grandpa listen to the old-time music.


The Ray Sands Band plays tunes like “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie…”


I observed these guys kicked back and relaxing to the music of the Ray Sands Band.


A display of German items honors the congregation’s heritage.


I enjoyed this over-sized woodcarving of a fisherman.


Church festivals are made for visiting.


Ice cream cones of feed for animals in the petting zoo were popular with the kids.


These piglets were among animals in the petting zoo.


Even the church windowsills are adorned with harvest themed decor.


One final look at St. John’s UCC as we drive away.


NOTE: To all my readers who wish I would have told you about this church dinner in advance, I’m sorry. Please mark your 2018 calendars for next September. Germanfest is always held around the same time annually.

But I can tell you about another outstanding area church dinner set for 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. this Sunday, October 8, at Trinity Lutheran Church, North Morristown. With a homemade meal of turkey, ham and all the fixings, it’s one of the best (in my opinion) church dinners around. The event also includes a craft and bake sale in the church basement. Click here to read previous posts about Trinity’s fall dinner.

Please check back for one last post in my four-part series from Germanfest. You won’t want to miss this final, especially endearing, photo essay. Click here to read my first post and click here to read my second post, both published last week.

© 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


18 Responses to “From Wheeling Township, Part III: More images & words from Germanfest”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Church meals definitely have a special place, don’t they? I think the midwest ones are especially wonderful whatever form they take and have always loved reading about your experiences at various ones over the years.

  2. A fun torture to read about such a wonderful event- and not be able to partake! A church near Lakeside (Beth Ann’s Lakeside) has a Peach Festival every year that is a cherished event

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    Loved the photo of the pumpkin nest to the stained glass window.

    • Thank you. I hope you noticed the info at the end of the post about the Fall Dinner this Sunday at Trinity Lutheran, North Morristown. I thought of you when I added that.

      • Almost Iowa Says:

        I figured you did. Though I am honored and appreciative, I am also on a diet.

        ME: “But it’s a church dinner and we like church dinners. It’s all about community and the money always goes to a great cause.”

        HER: “You tried that line last week and how did it work for you?”

      • Ha, ha. It’s nearly impossible to attend a church dinner if you are serious about dieting. But you could cheat for just that one day…until the next dinner.

  4. Littlesundog Says:

    I really enjoyed all of the photos, Audrey. So much autumn color, happy faces and something for everyone! I am really happy to see appropriate feed was available for the petting zoo. You know me… it’s all about the animals! 🙂

  5. Sure looks like fun! Great post Audrey!

  6. Don Says:

    Now you made me hungry!!!! I love the way you framed the picture in the rear view mirror on the last shot, a true photographer you are……………

  7. Jackie Says:

    Love the photo of the church from afar with the grove of trees around it. What a fun gathering, so much “community” going in in those pictures, Loved your post Audrey!

  8. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Wow this looks like a really fun time!

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