Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reflecting on North Morristown’s July 4 celebration July 7, 2021

Pork and roast beef sandwiches were sold at this stand along with beverages. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

NORTH MORRISTOWN on the Fourth of July suits me and my rural roots. Not that I’m rooted to this place in the middle of farm country in southwestern Rice County. But the down-to-earth basics of this nearly 130-year-old Independence Day celebration appeal to the raised-on-a-Redwood-County-farm girl in me.

A look toward the fest grounds from the parking area early Sunday evening. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

I appreciate how this event, held annually on festival grounds in a rural Minnesota landscape, remains basically unchanged. Just like North Morristown, which is not a town, but rather farm sites, fields, a Lutheran church and school, and the grassy, shaded celebration site.

A grain truck drives through the festival grounds, I believe to pick up garbage. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

The rural character of July Fourth here prevails. In tractors and grain trucks. In barns, machine sheds and farmhouses. But it stretches beyond that to the people, to families rooted in North Morristown for generations. In many ways, Independence Day here is as much a celebration of our nation’s birthday as it is one big family reunion. With guests, like me, welcomed.

The next generation sells tees in the novelty shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

The event feels friendly and comfortably homey. I recognize that doesn’t come without a lot of planning, time, effort and hard work on the part of volunteers. I’ve coordinated and led events much smaller than this and fully realize the work and commitment.

There’s nothing high tech about the vintage rides. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

So to those who spearheaded this year’s Fourth of July in North Morristown, thank you. And to those who have led in the past, thank you also. You are bringing joy to a lot of people. You are preserving the past. You are bringing people of all ages together from all over, this year from as far away as the Philippines. You are strengthening families and building memories. You are offering an alternative to high tech everything.

One of the many vintage kiddie rides. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

In a fast-paced world, we need a place and event like North Morristown on the Fourth to remind us to slow down, to sit for a spell. To listen to the music. To savor a slice of homemade pie or a pork sandwich. To visit with friends and family and strangers. To watch babies toddle in bare feet and kids climb onto vintage horses. To play BINGO or hunt for a hidden medallion. To feel grateful for faith and family and health and country.

The kiddie games are simple, like the duck pond. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

At its core, North Morristown on the Fourth represents so many things I hold dear. I expect others feel the same.

The countryside near North Morristown. Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

TELL ME: Did you attend the North Morristown July 4 celebration or one similar? I’d like to hear.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


10 Responses to “Reflecting on North Morristown’s July 4 celebration”

  1. Washe Koda Says:

    The summer of 2000 I ran away and toured North Central Iowa on a ‘kiddie’ Carnival Amusement crew 🎪🎠🎡 𝕋𝕙𝕣𝕖𝕖 𝕠𝕗 𝕊𝕞𝕚𝕥𝕙𝕤 𝕣𝕚𝕕𝕖𝕤 𝕨𝕖𝕣𝕖 𝕞𝕒𝕟𝕦𝕗𝕒𝕔𝕥𝕦𝕣𝕖𝕕 𝕚𝕟 𝔽𝕒𝕣𝕚𝕓𝕒𝕦𝕝𝕥, 𝕄𝕚𝕟𝕟𝕖𝕤𝕠𝕥𝕒 ❗️ 😉

    • Are you specifically referencing the car kiddie ride in the photo? I’d like to hear more. Do you have more info on “Smiths rides?” The Tilt-a-Whirl was made in Faribault, but that originates with the Sellner family.

      • Washe Koda Says:

        We had Tilt-A-Whirl and spinning strawberry’s & spinning frogs from Fairboult , MN 😉

      • Yup, those would all be from Faribault. The former Sellner Manufacturing Co. is located within blocks of my home. A Texas company bought out Sellner’s. But the Faribault base remains as Goldstar Amusements and you can see some of those rides outside the business.

  2. Sandra Says:

    This is great fun. Dad’s emigration sponsor aunt and uncle settled in North Morristown, had 9 children, one granddaughter my age, mother was godmother. Sometime in the 50s the had a talent show, mother was sure their day wouldn’t be complete without hearing me sing. Fortunately there were other mothers and kids. Before dad died in ’57, this was the place to be. Fast forward 50+ yrs. I’m doing genealogy, trying to find a zip code for “North” Morristown my software would accept. Embarrassing. Mother’s MS kept us from going again. She would just love this! Traditions that survive. Celebrate the land and faith. I need pie to reflect. Thanks! great reporting!

  3. I especially like the vintage rides for the kids. So simple…reminds me of my childhood.

  4. Wonderful and fun events are in full swing now. Isn’t it fabulous?

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