Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Making American Stories during Faribault Car Cruise Night, Part III June 25, 2020

Closing in on downtown, only blocks from Central Avenue, at the end of the car cruise route.

 

AS I WATCHED AND PHOTOGRAPHED the June 19 Faribault Car Cruise Night, I considered not only the stories I would tell with my photos, but the stories of those participating in this monthly summer event.

 

What’s the story behind the TOOTIE license plate on this Ford Fairlane?

 

And where was this young boy riding prior to the cruise?

 

What stories have been written, and shared, in this 1956 Chevy station wagon?

 

What prompted them to join the cruise? What would they see? How would they feel? What memories would they take away from this leisurely Friday evening drive around Faribault area lakes and back into town? Will they, years from now, talk about the summer of 2020 and how, even in the midst of a global pandemic, they went on a car cruise?

 

What’s the story behind this vintage Pontiac owned by Sharon and Tom?

 

The back of that beautiful Pontiac.

 

Life is one long story. With many chapters. And editing along the way. Sometimes by us, sometimes by those who think they can edit our lives or rewrite our stories. They can’t. They are not us. Our stories are ours.

 

Part of Faribault’s “American Stories” campaign.

 

“Making American Stories” is among a handful of marketing slogans selected by local tourism folks to promote Faribault. That theme, along with crafting, experiencing, shaping and preserving American stories, is bannered on signs posted throughout my community. I like this campaign. It’s clear, meaningful, uncomplicated and fitting. It defines community strengths—from history to home-grown businesses to things to do.

 

What’s the story behind “The Rock” shirt?

 

What leads someone to own a vintage car like this Buick Electra?

 

What prompts someone to get all creative and build a rat rod?

 

What’s the full story behind this tattoo?

 

Where did the owners find this vintage Chrysler convertible and what’s its history?

 

And on summer evenings in to early autumn, one of those local once-a-month activities is Faribault Car Cruise Night. It brings together the past and the present. Links vintage vehicles and new. Seniors and kids. Car collectors and, new this year, Harley riders.

 

What’s the story behind the ATV?

 

Wonder what stories this Pontiac GTO convertible could tell?

 

So many American stories in the making during the June 19 Faribault Car Cruise Night.

 

Switched from a Central Avenue-based park-and-look event, this actual driving cruise has added a new dimension in the making of this American story. I wonder about the stories. Those already written. And those being written.

This concludes my three-part photo series on the June 19 Faribault Car Cruise Night.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Cruisin’ in red, Part II from Faribault Car Cruise Night June 24, 2020

A 1957 Chevrolet.

 

WHEN I PHOTOGRAPH car shows, I find myself drawn to red vehicles.

 

A hot rod.

 

For one, the color red pops in photos.

 

 

But, I’m also wondering if red cars are more common? Is that why, when I scroll through frames from the June 19 Faribault Car Cruise Night, that I notice lots of red vehicles in my photos.

 

Ford Fairlane.

 

Red cars.

Mid-60s Chevy pick-up truck.

 

Red trucks.

 

 

Even red Harley Davidson motorcycles. Bikes ended the parade.

 

Ford Mustang.

 

When I think of a red vehicle, I think of speed. And being a bit show-offy.

 

 

Mid 1960s Ford Mustang.

 

 

I think of youth. Although that’s not necessarily accurate. How many guys have purchased red cars during the stereotypical mid-life crisis? Maybe you don’t want to answer that question. Red, I suppose, looks good on anyone, no matter their age.

 

Camaro Super Sport.

 

Red seems an attention-grabbing hue. A good color choice for on-the-road visibility.

 

 

Whether a vehicle is fire-engine red or a shade muting more to maroon, the undertones will always catch my eye. There’s just something about red…

 

1962 Chevrolet.

 

TELL ME: Have you ever owned, or do you own, a red vehicle or shade thereof? What’s your color preference in a vehicle? And why?

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A photographer’s perspective on Faribault Car Cruise Night August 19, 2014

Two of the numerous vehicles parked in downtown Faribault Friday evening for the last Car Cruise Night of the season.

Two of the vehicles parked in downtown Faribault Friday evening for the last Car Cruise Night of the season.

AFTER ATTENDING NUMEROUS CAR SHOWS in recent years, including two back-to-back this past weekend, I sometimes wonder how I can possibly find anything new to photograph.

But I do.

I set my camera on the pavement for this low down perspective shot.

I set my camera on the pavement for this low down perspective shot.

Hanging out at Faribault Car Cruise Night.

Hanging out at Faribault Car Cruise Night.

Hood ornaments always draw my attention.

Hood ornaments always draw my attention.

It takes determination to seek out the details, the interesting perspectives, the light, the people and more. It helps to have an automotive machinist husband who knows cars inside and out.

Plenty of old vehicle lined a block of Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault.

Plenty of old vehicles lined a block of Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault.

I’ll never care about old cars quite like Randy, still yearning for the ’64 Chevy he drove decades ago as a young man. I’d love for my husband to own one again. But with other more pressing needs, a vintage vehicle remains on the dream list.

The "license plate" caught my eye.

The “license plate” and front of this Plymouth caught my eye.

Proud to be a Green Bay Packers fan.

Proud to be a Green Bay Packers fan.

The proud Packers fan who bought this car already painted green. Perfect for this Minnesotan with a daughter living in Milwaukee and encouraging her dad's Packers mania.

The proud Packers fan bought this car already painted green. Perfect for this Minnesotan with a daughter living in Milwaukee who encourages her dad’s Packers mania.

And so my spouse and I meander among the old-time vehicles, me with camera in hand examining details like hood ornaments and interiors and the shine of bumpers.

Lots of looking under the hood opportunities.

Lots of looking under the hood opportunities.

Randy noticed, and pointed out to me, the original car order from 1967 for a Satellite still owned by the original owner.

Randy noticed, and pointed out to me, the original car order from 1967 for a Satellite still owned by the original owner.

And then I noticed the mini Satellite in the back window.

And then I noticed the mini Satellite in the back window.

He’s more interested in what’s under the hood and whether everything is original.

See that metal rod sticking out behind the tire. I would have totally missed it except for my husband pointing out the wheel scraper that keeps the tire from hitting the curb.

See that metal rod sticking out behind the tire. I would have totally missed it except for my husband pointing out the curb scraper that keeps the tire from hitting the curb.

Remember how common these Phillips 76 balls once were on car antennas?

Remember how common these Phillips 76 balls once were on car antennas?

It’s a great system because he shows and shares information about vintage vehicles that I would not even consider or notice.

An absolutely beautiful work of art, in my opinion.

An absolutely beautiful work of art, in my opinion.

And maybe, just maybe, he has developed an appreciation for my artistic perspective.

A classic Ford Falcon.

A classic Ford Falcon.

HOW ABOUT YOU? What interests you in vintage vehicles?

Craig attracted plenty of attention when he flipped on the lights and sirens on his vintage ambulance.

Craig attracted plenty of attention when he flipped the lights and sirens on his vintage ambulance when leaving Faribault Car Cruise Night along Central Avenue.

What do you notice?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Appreciating the historic setting of Faribault’s Car Cruise Night July 21, 2016

the historic

Buildings on the National Register of Historic Places provide the backdrop for vintage vehicles during Faribault’s Car Cruise Night on July 15.

SO MUCH ABOUT FARIBAULT DOWNTOWN Car Cruise Nights appeals to me. Certainly the vehicles draw my interest from an artistic, photographic and historical perspective. The opportunity, too, to mingle and visit also appeals to me.

The University of Minnesota Gopher Motorsports team brought their global Formula SAE series race car to cruise night .

The University of Minnesota Gopher Motorsports team brought its global Formula SAE series race car to cruise night and parked it in the 300 block of Central Avenue’s historic district.

But one other aspect imprints upon me every single time I attend this monthly summer event. That’s the historic setting. Aged buildings in the 5 x 2 1/2 block Faribault Commercial Historic District provide a lovely backdrop to the many vintage vehicles that roll onto Central Avenue.

Lovely old buildings in the 300 block house places like a cheese shop and a cakery.

Lovely old buildings in the 300 block house places like a cheese shop and a cakery. My eldest daughter’s wedding reception was held several years ago in The Loft, a second floor event rental space in the Bachrach Building (with the arched windows).

As a photographer, I am always cognizant of light and background, of angle and perspective, of composition and subject. Thus, I notice the primarily brick buildings that rise stories above the street, casting deep shadows as dusk settles.

I appreciate the faded lettering on the former Security Bank building.

Details on buildings along the west side of the 300 block of Central Avenue.

Sometimes I just stand in the middle of Central and look upward toward the arched windows, the ornate roof lines, the fading letters that mark long ago businesses and wonder about yesteryear. I think about the tailors and harnessmakers, the shoemakers, the purveyors of dry goods, books and stationery…

Historic buildings reflected in a polished vehicle at Car Cruise Night.

Historic buildings reflected in a polished vehicle at Car Cruise Night.

I am grateful that my community had the foresight to preserve these stalwart buildings of the 1870s and 1880s rather than tear them down. I am grateful for the existence of the Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission. I appreciate my downtown.

A 1959 Edsel Village Wagon is parked in front of the Paradise Center for the Arts with its restored marquee.

A 1959 Edsel Village Wagon is parked in front of the Paradise Center for the Arts with its recreated marquee.

Faribault is uniquely geographically positioned off Interstate 35 within an hour of the Twin Cities metro to draw visitors. Minnesota State Highway 60 also passes right through the heart of town. I’m sensing that more people are finally discovering this place I’ve called home for some 30 years. Newer businesses like a cheese shop, brewery and cakerya thriving arts center; and more are bringing people into our historic downtown.

This emblem tops a trophy to be awarded August 19 at the Car Club Show Down.

This emblem tops a homemade over-sized trophy to be awarded August 19 at the Car Club Show Down.

I’d like to see, though, a shift in local attitudes. While many residents appreciate and value downtown Faribault, we need to grow more local pride. Events like Car Cruise Night and the upcoming Blue Collar BBQ & Arts Festival (on August 13) get residents involved and foster a sense of community.

pawn

The building behind the cars (230 Central) is listed on documents as the Masonic Building, built in 1875. Pawn Minnesota once housed Poirier Drug Store. In 1993, Warner Brothers filmed a scene in the drug store for the movie Grumpy Old Men starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.

As someone who grew up 120 miles away to the west in a small town founded nearly 50 years after Faribault, I deeply appreciate Faribault’s historic downtown. My hometown of Vesta is devoid of old buildings, the one-block Main Street now mostly vacant lots. Faribault has dozens of places throughout the community on the National Register of Historic Places, including the 200 block of Central Avenue. Those historic buildings are an enviable asset.

Collector vehicles pop color and history into the

Collector vehicles pop color and history into Faribault’s downtown.

When I attend events like Car Cruise Night, I take notice of my surroundings. Not just the collector vehicles. But the historic setting that showcases them. And I realize how valuable this downtown is to this city.

BONUS PHOTOS:

The Drag-On's Car Club brings together local car enthusiasts.

The Faribault Drag-On’s Car Club, established in 1987, brings together local car enthusiasts. This sign was posted inside a vehicle at Car Cruise Night.

Pride reflected in the polished

Pride reflected in the polished finish of car and hood ornament.

This unique vehicle drew lots of interest at the July 15 Car Cruise Night.

This unique vehicle, parked in front of the Paradise Center for the Arts, drew lots of interest at the July 15 Car Cruise Night.

The sleek lines of a jetliner hood ornament drew my artistic attention.

The sleek lines of a jetliner hood ornament drew my artistic attention.

A multitude of messages in a vehicle window caused me to pause.

A multitude of messages in a vehicle window caused me to pause.

The Dodge Super Bee with the bee theme going on drew my interest.

The Dodge Super Bee with the bee theme going on drew my interest. This was parked in the 200 block of Faribault’s historic downtown Central Avenue.

Faribault Downtown Car Cruise Nights draw all ages and some dogs, too. I'd like to see some family-oriented events added, perhaps a scavenger hunt that focuses on the historic building exteriors.

Faribault Downtown Car Cruise Nights draw all ages and some dogs, too. I’d like to see family-oriented events added, perhaps a scavenger hunt that focuses on the historic buildings.

Some buildings in the historic commercial district

Some buildings in the historic commercial district have not yet been fully restored.

While photographing vehicles, I noticed the truck reflection in the storefront window of a hair salon.

While photographing vehicles, I noticed the truck reflection in the storefront window of a hair salon with this simple artsy display.

FYI: This concludes my three-part series on the July 15 Faribault Downtown Car Cruise Night. Click here to see my first post and here to read my second in this series.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

For your entertainment: Two perspectives on Faribault’s Car Cruise Night July 24, 2012

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A Ford Model A drives into downtown Faribault on Central Avenue during the July 20 Faribault Car Cruise Night.

I NEVER THOUGHT I would find old cars and trucks interesting. Not in a million years.

But I’ve acquired, in recent years, an appreciation for the vehicles of yesterday displayed at local car shows. I credit my smart and talented automotive machinist husband, who is like a walking Wikipedia when it comes to knowledge of vehicles, for my interest. Randy finally convinced me to tag along once to a car show and that was it.

HIS VIEW: Not my color, not at all.  MY VIEW: The graceful curves of a swan hood ornament draw my eye to this street rod.

Our reasons, though, for appreciating these cars and trucks of the past differ. He’ll peer under the open hoods and such while I’m admiring hood ornaments and emblems, the curve and sweep of metal, paint colors and more.

HIS VIEW: Lotta teeth there.  MY VIEW: Can you see my reflections in the shiny, curvy bumper art on this car?

My interest springs from an artistic and photographic perspective. His is more mechanical and practical.

And as a bonus, if I overhear or discover a story or two at these shows, I value the displayed vehicles even more. Watch in upcoming days for several interesting stories from the July 20 Faribault Car Cruise Night. It was quite a night for stories, as you will read. Until then, enjoy these photos.

HIS VIEW: Let’s buy one, but not a yellow one.

MY VIEW: Look how the setting sun glints across the hood as I photograph those magnificent, detailed wheels.

HIS VIEW: That would be a nice old pickup to own.  MY VIEW: Loving the stylish sweep of the front end.

HIS VIEW: Why are you photographing that taillight?  MY VIEW: Just look at those shimmering reds, the honeycomb effect and that royal art.

HIS VIEW: A good cruisin’ car.  MY VIEW: It’s the stripes, the stripes, oh, yes, the stripes that lead my eye across the trunk and beyond.

HIS VIEW: I’d love to own that 1930s vintage Chevy truck.  MY VIEW: I know you would, dear. It is pretty sweet.

HIS VIEW: I didn’t know grasshoppers grew that big.  MY VIEW:  Thanks for making me laugh and bringing back memories, for me at least, of all those grasshoppers on the farm when I was growing up.

HIS VIEW: That’s the inside of a 1967 Chevy Impala Super Sport.  MY VIEW: Look at all those circles, circles, circles.

HIS VIEW: A good looking Pontiac Firebird.  MY VIEW: Art.

HIS VIEW: Insert key here.  MY VIEW: I’ve never noticed a rocket emblem before on a car (Oldsmobile Ninety Eight).

HIS VIEW: Check out the motor.  MY VIEW: One sweet Chevy.

HIS VIEW: Just the front of a Buick.  MY VIEW: Vertical lines on the front of the car and the building behind create a pattern.

MY VIEW and maybe HIS VIEW, too: Nice curves.

MY VIEW: A fancy, schmancy MG with a royal air. HIS VIEW: I never cared too much for British cars.

OUR VIEW: Lost in the 50s, 60s, 70s…on a Friday evening in downtown Faribault.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

So much to do this weekend in the Faribault area September 16, 2022

Performers at the 2019 Hispanic Heritage Celebration in Northfield. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2019)

IF EVER THERE WAS A WEEKEND packed with community activities, especially in Faribault, this is the weekend. Here’s a summary list of events, most of which I’ve attended through the years.

Let’s start with Friday, September 16:

The artsy front of a Ford Torino at a past car show. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

The final Faribault Car Cruise Night of the season takes place from 6 – 9 pm in the parking lot of Faribault Harley-Davidson. Besides vintage vehicles, there will also be food vendors and music.

Moving to Saturday, September 17:

Goats were a popular draw at Family Day in 2019. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo September 2019)

Start out early by shopping the Faribault Farmers’ Market, which opens at 7 am in Central Park and closes at noon. But this isn’t any ordinary market day. This is Family Day with farm animals, a bounce house and more for kids. That starts at 9 am and continues til noon.

Flea market vendors set up shop on the grounds of the Rice County Historical Society during a past market. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Blocks away to the north, the Rice County Historical Society hosts its popular Fall Flea Market from 8 am – 2 pm in the parking lot and on the grounds.

At 11 am, until 2 pm, Harry Brown’s is hosting a Car Show at the fairgrounds.

Riding her Harley during a June 2020 Car Cruise Night. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo June 2020)

Meanwhile, way across town, Faribault Harley-Davidson celebrates an Anniversary Bash from 9 am – 10 pm as the motorcycle dealer marks 45 years in business. There will be a bike show and ride, music and food vendors.

At Divine Mercy Catholic Church on the south edge of Faribault, folks will gather from 4 – 9 pm for the annual Spirit Fest. That features food, music, an auction, bake sale, hay maze, drive-in movie, fireworks and much more.

Out-of-town events on Saturday, September 17:

The Montgomery Arts & Heritage Center, 206 First Street North on the north end of downtown. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2020)

The Arts & Heritage Center of Montgomery has a morning full of activities that include a book-signing by Barbara Marshak of New Prague, author of Painted Skies, beginning at 10 am. Sister Anita Smisek presents on “Minnesota’s Big Woods Musicians” at 11 am. Guests can also view the work of wildlife artist Tom Miller, current exhibitor, and see the Czech dancer topiaries created by Meghan Petricka. The arts center opens at 9 am and closes at noon.

Dancers perform at the 2019 Hispanic Heritage Celebration. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2019)

From 11 am – 6 pm at Central Park in Northfield, Hispanic Heritage Celebration 2022 is happening. That event features food vendors, arts and crafts activities, dance and art, all themed to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

One more nearby event, on Sunday, September 18:

Wagon rides are part of the country social. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

The Valley Grove Preservation Society hosts the Valley Grove Country Social from 1 – 4 pm at its hilltop location near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. This is the site of two historic churches. The event includes an organ recital at 2 pm, Scandinavian music performed outdoors, prairie and cemetery walks, horse-drawn wagon rides, rope-making and more.

There you go. Rain, unfortunately, or fortunately since we need moisture, is in the forecast for Friday and Saturday…

For detailed information on all of these events, please search online.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating Faribault’s brewing history with Fleck’s Travaganza! August 19, 2022

The event promotional created by Jeff Jarvis of West Cedar Studio.

MY COMMUNITY WILL CELEBRATE a rich history of brewing this weekend at the Fleck’s Travaganza!, an event honoring Fleckenstein Brewery. The brewery, opened in 1856 and producing assorted beverages for 108 years (until 1964) in two locations along the Straight River bluffs in Faribault, has long garnered local interest.

A historical themed bench outside the RCHS summarizes the Fleckenstein family’s brewery history in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Cheers to Fleck’s beer. This photo is featured on a bench outside the RCHS. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Even more history on a bench by the RCHS. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

The Rice County Historical Society (RCHS) features the brewery in its museum. Local historian Brian Schmidt collects Fleckenstein items and memorabilia. And the State Bank of Faribault displays a sizable collection of brewery items.

The 1946 Fleck’s delivery truck, pre-restoration, in the July 2016 Faribault Car Cruise Night. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2016)

But this weekend all eyes will focus on a restored 1946 Fleckenstein Brewery delivery truck. That truck will lead a parade of vehicles through Faribault (click on link for the route) beginning at 5:30 pm Friday at the RCHS. The parade follows major routes through town, including past my house on Willow Street, and ends along Central Avenue for the Faribault Car Cruise Night.

A building in Faribault’s downtown historic district bears the Fleckenstein name. I took this photo, featured several years ago on the cover of the Faribault tourism magazine, during the July 2016 Car Cruise Night. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

The beer delivery truck will also be parked along Central Avenue on Sunday morning during an invitation only RCHS event for volunteers.

A downtown Faribault mural featuring Fleck’s beer. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

The bank exhibit will be open Friday evening during the Car Cruise in the heart of historic downtown Faribault and also from 9 am – noon Saturday. Just across the street from the bank, a mural features the brewery.

This shows a section of the park, which includes a playground, picnic area and shelter and a river overlook. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2022)

Saturday brings more events with the 10 am dedication of Fleckenstein Bluffs Park along the Straight River in downtown Faribault.

Faribault artist Rhody Yule created this oil painting of the Fleckenstein Brewery in 1976. The building, and the brewery, no longer exist. The 20-foot Fleck’s beer bottle on the right side of the painting sat near the brewery entrance. Children often had their pictures taken here when their parents took a brewery tour. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo January 2011)

At 1 pm, “Fleckenstein Brewery, a History” will be presented by collector and historian Schmidt at the RCHS. Special guest is Al Fleckenstein. Following that, at 3 pm, Schmidt leads a tour of the Fleckenstein Brewery ruins site on the campus of Shattuck-St. Mary’s School. Attendance is limited to 50 for the packaged, ticketed events with reservations via the RCHS highly-recommended. Cost for both is $20.

Stacked inside the RCHS Harvest and Heritage Halls are these crates from Fleckenstein Brewing. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2015)

If you want to take home a bit of memorabilia, a commemorative bottle of grape pop is available for $5. Specially-made by Spring Grove Beverages in southeastern Minnesota, the soda comes with an original Fleck’s grape pop cap attached. Proceeds from the soda sales benefit the historical society.

I found this Fleck’s beer bottle at LB Antiques in Jordan in February 2017. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Now, the only thing missing—and this comes from someone who appreciates and enjoys craft beers—is Faribault-brewed craft beer. Perhaps some day…

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Car stories July 22, 2022

I expect the driver of this 1956 Plymouth Plaza has stories to share about the vintage car he drove to the Faribault car show. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

ATTENDING THE July 15 Downtown Faribault Car Cruise Night prompted the stories I am about to share. Experiences create stories, which help us to understand and connect with one another. What are your car memories?

Mine are of my bachelor Uncle Mike’s blue-green Nash Rambler, a small (for 1960) boxy car. He didn’t need a roomy car. I remember the Rambler for its size, its color and its name. And its novelty among all the Chevys and Fords.

And then there was Grandpa Bode’s salmon-hued car, make and model unknown to me then and now. The color imprints upon my mind as does the rapid blink-blink-blink of the blinker. If I heard the sound now, I would still recognize it. But to describe the distinct blink proves impossible. I remember also the clear plastic that covered the seats and how, on hot summer days, the bumpy plastic stuck to my legs.

Heading north on Central Avenue in Faribault near the end of the July 15 Downtown Car Cruise Night. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Grandma Kletscher drove a boat of a car. Large, white. Occasionally she threaded a garden hose into the exhaust pipe, started the car and gassed the moles tunneling through her yard. She was stubborn, determined, innovative. I recall, too, riding with her in that car to nearby Belview to shop for fabric at the general store. She would choose yardage for shapeless dresses I stitched for her. Simple. Zipper tracing down the back. Darts at the bustline. Short-sleeves. Basic dresses to cover her stout frame.

I recall, too, my dad’s 1959 black-and-white Chevy Impala, our family car until he sold it to a neighbor boy and later wished he hadn’t.

Dad liked spacious Impalas. I remember his second Impala, blue in color, and how our family of eight, plus Grandpa, piled inside for our once-a-year trip to visit relatives in The Cities. We packed like sardines, shoulder-to-shoulder, hip-to-hip with no wiggle room between kids. If not for the excitement of actually leaving the farm for some distant travel, I doubt we would have managed the miles. But the adventure kept us focused as we watched for the Flying Red Horse and Caterpillar landmarks, our GPS of sorts along with a paper road map pulled from the glove box.

All the vehicles along Central Avenue hold stories. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

And then there was my first car, a 1976 yellow Mercury Comet purchased right after my graduation from college. It soon garnered the nickname, Vomit. Two flat tires on the day I bought the former rental car from Florida should have sent me back to the Minnesota dealer. The car seemed to have endless mechanical and other problems. A door that wouldn’t close all the way in the depths of winter. A black interior that heated like a sauna in the summer. And too many other issues that fit the Vomit moniker.

Yet, my Vomit with the “press” sticker adhered to the windshield got me to where I needed to be during my early days as a newspaper reporter: chasing fire trucks, interviewing sources, attending endless local government and school board meetings, trying to source information about a murder in New Ulm, covering a homecoming celebration in Odin in 1981 for Bruce Laingen, an American diplomat held hostage in Iran for 444 days…

Those are my car stories. We all have them. What are yours?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Car show perspectives from downtown Faribault July 20, 2022

Randy tells me the unpainted condition is intentional, that this is “a thing.” (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

EVERY TIME I ATTEND a car show, like the Downtown Faribault Car Cruise Night last Friday evening, I discover new details that draw me in for a closer look. Often that means peering inside a vehicle. And often that means asking my automotive machinist husband for information. He’s knowledgeable about anything vehicle-related from under the hood to exterior to interior.

A beautiful vintage car interior. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Because of Randy, I attended my first car show many years ago. Mostly I tagged along, expecting to be bored. But I wasn’t as I viewed the displayed cars and trucks through a creative, rather than an automotive, lens. That’s still my perspective.

Old and new vehicles parked outside Janna’s Market Grill, formerly Bernie’s Restaurant. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Randy sees the whole of a vehicle, verbalizing how he wishes he still had his 64 Chevy, his first car. His mind is like a data bank of information on vehicle makes, models, years, original or not. It’s nice to have an automotive tour guide of sorts while meandering at a car show.

Dice are a popular adornment on vintage cars. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Photographed through a car window, a footprint gas pedal. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
On the hood of a Cobra. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

My enthusiasm heightens when I spot something like a purple die atop a door lock or a footprint-shaped gas pedal. Randy noted some cars also had mini footprint dimmer switches. Who knew? Not me. And when I saw a Cobra emblem, he told me of their rarity.

The car show features a mix of vintage and newer vehicles. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I appreciate his insights as we wind among the vehicles along three blocks of Faribault’s Central Avenue (we skipped the fourth block) on a lovely mid-July evening in southern Minnesota.

On the former bank building to the left, a ghost sign remains. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Aged buildings flank the avenue, rising high, shadowing the street. I appreciate the architecture of these mostly well-kept buildings in this Historic District. I spot a ghost sign on the Security Bank building.

In the 300 block of Central Avenue, a sports car parks in front of the Paradise Center for the Arts. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
In the window of Good Day Coffee. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Amazing how this windshield opens. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

At the Paradise Center for the Arts, marquee lights are visible in the dusk of day. Directly across the street, the neon of a Coffee sign glows in the window of Good Day Coffee. At 210 Central Avenue, two lights hang above double red doors. I notice them when Randy points to the open windshield of a car. Or maybe it was a truck. I don’t recall. But I’ve never seen anything like that—windshield hinging open.

I heeded this message, exercising extra caution while skirting this car. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
A car with a name, Tootie. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
I always spot interesting stickers on vehicle windows. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Such nuances delight me, hold my interest, draw me to look closely. I notice stickers, license plates, messages to keep my hands off.

A mini model tops a car roof. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Custom detailing on a Chevy. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Sports cars join in the Car Cruise. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Attending a car show is about so much more than looking at and admiring vehicles. It’s about viewing the whole from hood to trunk and everything in between, inside and out. It’s about appreciating those who own these vehicles and are willing to share them with the public. It’s about art and history, memories and stories, and if you have a personal tour guide like me, an opportunity to learn.

Cars evolve. So do communities. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

And it’s about community. A coming together. Appreciating each other and this place, Faribault. Sometimes I don’t think long-time residents value our city enough. We need to pause, look up, look around, reflect. See the beauty in the historic buildings and in the people who live here. Respect and celebrate those who call downtown home. Faribault is evolving, growing, changing. Just like the cars at Car Cruise Night.

FYI: Please click here to read my first post on the July 15 Car Cruise Night in Faribault. And please check back for one final post in this three-part series.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Cars, community & history come together along Central in downtown Faribault July 19, 2022

A lovely lavender car drew my interest against a backdrop of historic buildings in downtown Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

ON A JULY EVENING, as the descending sun shone along the tops of historic buildings in downtown Faribault, I paused to take in the scene before me.

Although signage indicated only registered vehicles could park along Central, other vehicles were parked there. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Checking out the vehicles parked along four blocks of Central Avenue. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2022)

Vehicles outside the Signature Bar & Grill, a popular downtown dining and drinking spot. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Throngs of folks congregated around vehicles parked along Central Avenue during a monthly Friday Downtown Faribault Car Cruise Night.

Among the street-side food vendors, El Jefe, outside its downtown restaurant. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Others visited in groups or stopped to purchase food from food trucks or from a downtown restaurant.

Faribault’s Car Cruise Nights continue to draw crowds to Central Avenue. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I felt the energy, the pulse of people moving, of togetherness. I observed the mingling of cultures, of ages. I sensed a spirit of community which comes in a gathering of people on a lovely summer evening in southern Minnesota. It felt good to be part of this scene.

Vehicles began leaving as the car show wound down. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I arrived close to 8 pm, nearing the end of an event which began hours earlier with a car cruise around area lakes. Yet, I still found plenty of cars, trucks and motorcycles to appreciate. Some old, others new.

I consider hood ornaments, whether original or added, to be works of art. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

My approach to Car Cruise Night is not defined by my interest in cars. Rather, it’s defined by art, by my photographic perspective. By my creativity.

I always peer inside vehicles to see what unusual things I’ll discover, here a Smurf theme. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
I always see lots of dice dangling inside vehicles. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
A quilt covers a seat in an old truck. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I focus on details. Dice. Hood ornaments. Stickers. The gleam of wax-shined chrome. A Smurf. A patchwork quilt covering a truck seat. So much to take in.

A bold, jewel-toned truck drew my eye. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Like a Dreamsicle. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I appreciate, too, the colors. Some bold. Others as dreamy as a Dreamsicle.

Faribault’s downtown historic district is one of the largest in Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Banners identifying Faribault’s Historic District include a vintage photo. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Flashback to yesteryear in this vintage vehicle. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

And then my eyes shift to the setting. Central Avenue, lined with aged buildings of extraordinary architecture, creates an historic feel, adding to the experience of Car Cruise Night. As I watched an open air vintage car head north along the avenue, it was easy to imagine bygone years.

Not all vehicles are old. These sports cars were part of the cruise, parked near Cardboard Vault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

At street level, I see long-time businesses like the Signature Bar & Grill and Burkhartzmeyer Shoes and many new businesses like Good Day Coffee, El Jefe, Cardboard Vault and more, including the many shops opened by immigrants who now call Faribault home. Today’s diversity of ownership reminds me of yesteryear, when immigrants settled here, opened shoe and furniture factories, brewed beer, ran general stores, set up barber chairs and much more in a town settling and growing.

An historic building is reflected on the shiny chrome of a motorcycle parked along Central for Car Cruise Night. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Faribault remains a place of settlement and growth. And a place where, on a Friday evening, I glimpse history in buildings and vehicles. I see, too, the essence of community in this cohesive coming together on a lovely summer evening in July.

FYI: Faribault’s next car show is scheduled for 6-9 PM Friday, August 12, during the Blue Collar BBQ Festival at Teepee Tonka Park on the east side along the Straight River.

Please check back for more photos from the July 15 Car Cruise Night I attended in historic downtown Faribault.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling