Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Back in Vesta for the annual Kletscher Family Reunion July 31, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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This sign once marked my hometown. It’s gone now, replaced by a different sign. I prefer this vintage familiar one. It has character. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


AS WE SWEPT THE PARK SHELTER and washed picnic tables in preparation for the annual Kletscher Family Reunion in my hometown of Vesta on Sunday, a woman passed by with a cluster of children. A petite woman in an Asian rice hat and authentic attire from her Vietnamese homeland.

I never saw her face, only heard that she is married to a college professor and lives in a house a ball field away. And sometimes sells egg rolls downtown.


The prayer I wrote and read before our noon potluck.


The moment imprinted upon me. When I grew up in this rural Minnesota small town in the late 50s, 60s and early 70s, we were all the same race. White. Only our religions separated us—lots of Lutherans and Catholics with some Brethren and Presbyterians thrown in the mix.


A snippet of the Kletscher family lineage, my grandfather being Henry.


To see diversity all these years later in this prairie town pleases me. Change doesn’t always come easily in a place where generations of families are rooted.

Family brought me back to Vesta, to reconnect with aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and their families. And a few significant others. I appreciate that we still value each other enough to gather every year in the city park located along gravel roads and across from cornfields. This year my siblings and I hosted.


Food for the potluck meal spreads across several picnic tables in the Vesta City Park shelter during a previous reunion. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Good food and conversation mark the reunion. I always make a point of moving from lawn chair circle to lawn chair circle so I can talk with nearly everyone. Conversations this year ranged from babies to flooding to a cousin getting out of an emotionally abusive marriage. He’s happy now, happier than he’s been in a long time. “Love is blind,” he noted. I encouraged him, told him how glad I am that he is now free.


Cards full of information used in the family jeopardy competition.


While that conversation ran deep, there were many light-hearted moments. Like those that came during the first-ever Kletscher Family Jeopardy Game which I planned and hosted. Team Sauerkraut (or Sour Kraut) easily defeated Team Hot Dish in a competition that sometimes seemed more like Family Feud than Jeopardy. All in good fun.

In the shade of towering trees on a July afternoon of perfect Minnesota weather, we laughed. We remembered. And we, the descendants of German immigrants, built new memories in a town where diversity once applied only to differences in religion.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


18 Responses to “Back in Vesta for the annual Kletscher Family Reunion”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    What a wonderful day this must have been. So glad you were able to be there and be with your family making new memories and reliving old ones.

  2. Almost Iowa Says:

    Team Sauerkraut? Team Hot Dish? Who to root for? Talk about brutal decision!

    [Gotta go with Sauerkraut though]

  3. Sue Ready Says:

    lucky you to still keep all those family connections each year through a family reunion. Bonds run deep with multiple generations of families. .Good conversation and yummy foods sweeten the time together.
    Did you play games this year?

    • This reunion has been going on annually for probably 50 or more years.

      The only game we played besides yard games was Jeopardy. That took a lot of work on my part and no one else among my siblings opted to do any other games.

  4. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Your family gatherings always sound like so much fun!

  5. I grew up a lot like you did. I still have my roots but haven taken flight throughout the years to adventure and experience. This is probably the biggest melting pot I have lived in. FatherCraves talks about the acceptance of differences here. I think it is fascinating to him to see differences that he did not grow up with and that it is okay to accept and embrace those differences. I also think he likes that his daughter is a well rounded person too. Loving the Team Names 🙂 Fun Times Indeed! Happy Day – Enjoy

  6. Jackie Says:

    I love hearing about your family reunions, I love the closeness you have with your extended family and that you still gather every year. I remember going to the “Erickson” reunion as a small child, but haven’t attended any for years. I was not all that close to my dad’s family, visits to see grandpa and grandma were sparse and the reunions were awkward to say the least. How many did you have that the reunion this year?

  7. Laurine R Jannusch Says:

    Ican see the local park in my mind’s eye. Congratulations to the Kletscher family for keeping up such a positive gathering. Family is truly worth celebrating by gathering regularly. My best to you all. Laurine Jannusch.

  8. valeriebollinger Says:

    Sounds like a delightful gathering with a creative and fun game!

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