Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

More than a snowman, Faribo Frosty brings smiles, joy January 15, 2020

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Randy blowing snow from our driveway during a previous winter. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

AS I LOOK OUTSIDE my office window, I see snow and grey skies. And front steps which await shoveling by me, because I’m the clean-up half of Team Helbling Snow Removal. Randy operates the aged, mammoth snowblower. I use an assortment of shovels depending on moisture content and snow depth.

 

Grandpa and Izzy build their own Frosty in our backyard in December 2018. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

A time existed when I loved snow, when I built snow forts and snowmen, packed snowballs, raced across snow mountains, went sliding, made snow angels. Those are but memories although, with grandchildren, I am regaining an appreciation for the fun aspect of snow. On occasion, a snow person now pops up in our yard.

 

Faribo Frosty photographed in the Hoisington family’s front yard in December. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2019.

 

Up close with Faribo Frosty in December 2019. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Gracing the Hoisingtons’ yard at the corner of Third Avenue Northwest and First Street Northwest in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2019.

 

But in one Faribault yard, a snowman has established permanent winter residency. He is Faribo Frosty, a towering—as in more than 20-feet tall—and rotund snowman standing at 18 Third Avenue Northwest. This is home to Andy and Debbie Hoisington who, for the past 10-plus years, have gifted my community with this now local icon of winter.

 

Andy and his son Jake work on Faribo Frosty. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

I’ve observed Andy and his son working on Frosty, climbing a ladder, packing snow. Andy sources ice from the local ice arena to keep Frosty at a healthy, tip top lovable shape.

 

My granddaughter hugging Faribo Frosty. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2018.

 

And folks of all ages love Frosty. There’s simply something about an over-sized grinning snowman with a bright red scarf and mittens that makes me happy. Numerous times in recent years when I’ve stopped to see Frosty, I’ve observed the joy Faribo Frosty brings. My own granddaughter last winter stretched her arms wide to hug Frosty. Moments like that make me forget about the cold and shoveling snow.

 

Faribo Frosty draws lots of appreciative fans. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2018.

 

And moments like this remind me of the simple joys in life, if we but pause to embrace them.

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Thank you, Hoisington family, for creating Frosty, for your winter gift to this community and beyond.

FYI: Click here to learn more about Faribo Frosty from a metro media source. His fame is spreading. Also click here to read my past posts about Faribo Frosty.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The magic of Faribo Frosty December 19, 2018

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WHEN I POSTED ABOUT #faribofrosty last week, a blogger and reader from Pittsburgh asked for under-construction photo documentation of the mega snowman in the front yard of the Hoisington family home in Faribault.

Well, I didn’t have any sculpting images. I knew only that Andy Hoisington, assisted by other family members, shapes the gigantic snowman by hand, literally, and by shovel. Andy pulls out a ladder (he’s a painter) when Frosty grows beyond his reach. Andy is tall, btw.

All of this handcrafting is quite an accomplishment really given the snowman’s height, which is maybe 15 feet (just guessing here). Magical, you might say.

Visual proof of how Faribo Frosty came to be eluded me. Until Saturday. My 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter was in town for a long overdue overnight stay. And on our list of to-do items was posing for photos with Frosty. Izzy is at that magical age of discovery. Frosty would impress her.

But, when we pulled up to view Frosty, we saw a snowman stripped of his bright red scarf, his top hat, his pipe, his arms, even his face. Not particularly exciting, a blob of snow.

 

Andy and Jake work on Faribo Frosty early Saturday afternoon.

 

Then I remembered the request from Ruth in Pittsburgh to take photos of the snowman under construction. While this was repair rather than an original build, it still documents the process. I rolled down the van window and shot a few frames. Then I asked Andy when he and his son Jake would be done with their work. Frosty was suffering from heat-related issues. Yes, a day of 30-plus-degree temps in December sunshine is not good for a snowman, even one as big as Faribo Frosty.

 

Andy, lead snowman builder.

“Come back in two hours,” Andy shouted from high on the ladder.

 

Grandpa and Izzy build their own Frosty in our backyard.

 

 

Well, that wouldn’t work for us. We had a vintage snowmobile show to attend, a stop at the library for books and then back home so Izzy could build a snowman with Grandpa before making roll-out Christmas cookies. Then we had to get to the children’s Christmas service at church by 5:30 p.m. Frosty would have to wait until Sunday. Izzy seemed fine with that given she could now glimpse her very own snowman from the kitchen window. She refused, though, to pose for a photo. In fact, she told me to “Go back inside, Grandma,” when she spotted me poking my head out the back door with my camera.

 

Izzy gets her first close-up look at Faribo Frosty in Grandpa’s arms.

 

 

 

 

Thankfully on Sunday, Izzy mostly cooperated. She even hugged Frosty when I prompted her. It was a sweet and magical moment. This would be a much better world if we all paused to hug a snowman.

 

 

We fit in our photo shoot before a group of Vikings, and Faribo Frosty, fans arrived. While we were there, drivers and passengers in two vehicles also slowed down for a look. This snowman’s popularity has soared given his new social media presence. He’s making a lot of people happy, including me and my granddaughter.

 

 

Thank you, Hoisington family, for your ongoing efforts to bring holiday joy to the Faribault community. I appreciate you. And so does Izzy.

FYI: Faribo Frosty is located at the intersection of First Street Northwest and Third Avenue Northwest in Faribault (18 Third Ave. N.W. precisely).

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault: #faribofrosty December 12, 2018

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BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME. The kids. The moms. The dads. The grandmas and grandpas. To see Faribault’s version of Frosty the Snowman.

 

 

Late Saturday afternoon, as day glided into the golden light of early evening, family after family pulled over at the corner of First Street Northwest and Third Avenue Northwest to take photos with a ginormous snowman created by the Hoisington family. It is their annual holiday gift to the community, a gift which brings lots of smiles and joy.

 

 

I witnessed that as kids and families posed for pictures with the towering snowman in the Hoisingtons’ front yard.

 

 

 

 

They came in their Paul Bunyan buffalo plaid and fur caps and hats, some with ear flappers, some not. They came in their boots and sneakers, their jeans, some ripped, some not. They came to see this towering snowman popular enough to now have his own hashtag, #faribofrosty.

 

 

I delighted in these families making memories on a cold December day in southern Minnesota.

 

 

Faribo Frosty embodies the spirit of giving. Faribo Frosty embodies the spirit of joy. Faribo Frosty embodies a sense of togetherness, of family, of community.

 

 

For a moment or ten, a snowman focuses thoughts and vision and the world seems a magical and happy place.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Frosty returns to Faribault February 7, 2018

 

FOR ME, WINTER in Faribault wouldn’t be winter without the ginormous snowman standing in the front yard of an historic home at 18 Third Avenue Northwest.

 

 

Here the Hoisington family has crafted a giant Frosty for the past nine winters, first acquiring sufficient additional snow from church parking lots and now from the Faribault Ice Arena. This year’s snowman came to life in early December, although I sidetracked to view it for the first time several days ago.

 

 

I’ve seen and photographed this towering snowman for three, now four, years. Still, I react the same—with a broad smile. There’s something about a snowman, no matter it’s size, that recounts the winter fun of childhood. And that’s a good thing to remember when I tire of the cold and snow in the Bold North.

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Click here to see my 2014 blog post on this snowman.

Click here to read the 2015 post.

And click here to read the 2016 post.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Wisconsin’s version of Frosty the Snowman December 9, 2014

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WISCONSINITES ARE CRAZY about their Green Bay Packers. That I’ve learned in the four years since my second daughter moved to eastern Wisconsin.

From Packers billboards to barn signs, Packers apparel and green and gold brat buns in the grocery store, Packers craziness abounds.

My daughter photographed this display of Green Bay Packers themed holiday items at Shopko.

My daughter photographed this display of Green Bay Packers themed holiday items at Shopko.

You can even find holiday décor promoting this much beloved football team, as discovered by my daughter on a shopping trip to the local Shopko. She couldn’t resist texting an image of Cheesehead Green Bay Packers snowman ornaments.

A clearer image of the Packers Cheesehead snowman from the Green Bay Packers Shop.

A clearer image of the Packers Cheesehead snowman from the Green Bay Packers Shop.

Cheesy or cute? You decide.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Photo courtesy of Miranda Helbling
Second image from the online Green Bay Packers Shop

 

A ginormous Frosty at an historic home February 21, 2014

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Snowman, really up close

FORGET CREATING a mini-sized version of Frosty the Snowman.

Snowman, looking up at

This oversized snowman stands in the Hoisington family’s yard at 18 Third Avenue Northwest in Faribault. My friend John directed me to the snow art last Sunday.

Snowman, from front of house

As impressed as I was by the snowman, I was even more impressed with the house. I love everything about this historic home’s exterior from the front brick pillars topped by lion statues to the sturdy entry columns to the graceful curves to the signature windows. I can only imagine the beautiful interior.

This reminds me of the stately home along Lake Harriet in south Minneapolis.

John, when trying to direct me to the location, referenced the house as Dr. Mc I-can’t-recall-his-name’s home, which meant nothing to me, not being a native of Faribault. I find that historical reference typical of my community. My husband and I, after all, live in “the Swanson house,” even though we’ve owned our home for 30 years.

FYI: This was photographed prior to our two-day thaw of 40 degrees and prior to our Thursday/Friday blizzard.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault is about blankets, beer, blue cheese & a whole lot more April 28, 2016

Faribault's new promotional billboard, visible while traveling southbound along Interstate 35 near the city. Faribault is about a half hour south of the Twin Cities metro.

Faribault’s new promotional billboard, visible while traveling southbound along Interstate 35 near the city. Faribault is about a half hour south of the Twin Cities metro and about an hour from the Iowa border. Perfect for a day trip.

MY COMMUNITY OF FARIBAULT could easily fall into that grey space of endless towns perched along Interstate 35 from the Texas-Mexico border to Duluth in northeastern Minnesota.

But Faribault, pronounced fair-uh-boh, because it’s a French name, isn’t just any other community. This is a city of some 23,000 with a strong sense of history. Drive a few miles off I-35 to see the aged buildings along and branching off Central Avenue and scattered throughout town. We have historic churches (like the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour) and the historic Shattuck-St. Mary’s School and wonderful old houses.

A new billboard along I-35 hints at what you’ll discover in this southeastern Minnesota community named after founder and fur trader Alexander Faribault.

Let’s zoom in on billboard details:

Strolling along Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault late on a Saturday afternoon in December 2011.

This remains one of my all-time favorite shots of Faribault’s Central Avenue, our Main Street. It showcases the aged buildings and beauty of our historic downtown. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, December 2011.

HISTORIC DOWNTOWN: Aged buildings, most beautifully restored, border Central Avenue for several blocks. If you appreciate old architecture, history and home-grown businesses, then you’ll enjoy our downtown.

Award-winning Amablu Gorgonzola from Caves of Faribault.

Award-winning Amablu Gorgonzola from Caves of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

BLUE CHEESE: Award-winning blue and Gorgonzola cheeses are produced and aged in Faribault, in sandstone caves along the Straight River. I’m crazy about AmaBlu, St. Pete’s Select and AmaGorg cheeses. All are sold at The Cheese Cave, a Central Avenue retail shop that also serves up a limited menu of soup (seasonal), sandwiches, salads, pizza and more. The fresh cheese curds, flavored and plain, are a must-try. Iowa-based Swiss Valley Farms now owns the once locally-owned retail shop and cheese company.

We wanted to sample all of the beers on tap, so we ordered a flight.

Samples from a flight of F-Town beer. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

BEER: F-Town Brewing Company opened in the downtown historic district, just a half-block off Central Avenue, last summer. It’s a great addition to our community, continuing a tradition of early beer brewing in Faribault by the Fleckenstein brothers.

Perusing merchandise at the recently reopened Faribault Woolen Mill retail store.

Perusing merchandise at the Faribault Woolen Mill retail store. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

BLANKETS: The historic Faribault Woolen Mill has been weaving blankets for some 150 years. Visit The Mill Store (open daily except Sunday) and/or tour the mill (every Friday or the second Saturday of the month) along the banks of the Cannon River. This business produces quality made blankets, throws, scarves, etc., in the time-honored tradition of hands-on looming by employees who’ve been around for a long time.

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BILLBOARDS SHOWCASE only a quick visual of what any place offers. So here are additional personal recommendations from my favorites and must-see list of Faribault attractions:

This restored 1915 clock was installed on the Security State Bank Building, 302 Central Avenue, on Saturday.

This restored 1915 clock was installed in 2015 on the Security State Bank Building, 302 Central Avenue. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

ART: Stop at the Paradise Center for the Arts, a restored theater, to peruse the galleries and gift shops or to take in a show.

Admire the recently-restored Security Bank Building clock at 302 Central Avenue.

At the south end of Central Avenue, at its intersection with Division Street, admire the art throughout Buckham Memorial Library. Don’t miss the Charles Connick stained glass window, the Greek murals or the exterior clock tower.

Throughout the downtown area are numerous murals depicting scenes from Faribault history. I love this concept of combining art and history in such a highly-visible public way.

While I’ve never toured Whillock Studio, home to woodcarver Ivan Whillock, I’d suggest a visit. Locally, his work can be seen in churches, at the library and more. Noted woodcarver Marv Kaisersatt also calls Faribault home. Kaisersatt keeps a low profile. But I was lucky enough to visit his second floor downtown studio (not open to the public) several years ago when penning a magazine article.

Folks waited in line for these cupcakes.

Folks waited in line at last summer’s Faribault Farmers Market for these cupcakes from Bluebird Cakery. The business now has a storefront location at 318 Central Avenue, Suite 101. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

FOOD: Hands-down, The Signature Bar & Grill serves the best thin crust (or any) pizza in town. I always order the Italian sausage. The old-fashioned bar area is reminiscent of Cheers.

The Depot Bar & Grill, housed in an old train depot, is always a good dining choice. Warm weather outdoor dining is available on a patio next to the railroad tracks. It’s a thrill to feel the power of a train roar past only feet away.

Faribault offers many ethnic dining choices ranging from Mexican to Somali to Chinese, Thai, etc. Gran Plaza Mexican Grill downtown is a local favorite.

Fairly new to downtown Faribault is Bluebird Cakery, specializing in cupcakes (plus other sweet treats) and assorted coffees, etc. I’ve been there several times and each time it’s been super busy. Choosing cupcakes proves difficult given all of the enticing flavors.

I’m not a fan of fast food or fast food chains. But for an authentic American fast food dining experience, Faribault’s A & W still offers car hop service during the warm months. And I do love a frosty mug of A & W root beer.

New to Faribault, and hidden away in the Faribo West Mall, is Smoqehouse Restaurant. I’ve been there once and will definitely be back as I love pulled pork and other savory smoked meats. The smokey smell alone is enough to draw me in. Take note that if you want to eat here after the mall closes on say a Saturday evening, you need to use the back entrance across from the Walmart Auto Center.

Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, a family-owned shoe store along Central Avenue in Faribault.

Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, a family-owned shoe store along Central Avenue in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

SHOPPING: I’m not much of a shopper. But I do like thrift stores–you’ll find Good Will, the Salvation Army, All Seasons Community Services Thrift and Jan’s Thrift Shop in Faribault along with some used clothing shops.

Third-generation family-owned Burkhartzmeyer Shoes is a Faribault staple offering full shoe-fitting services (yes, they measure your feet and put the shoe on your foot) and shoe repair. This place is reminiscent of a bygone era when outstanding personal customer service mattered. I know nearly everyone who works here and these are salt-of-the-earth wonderful people. Shoe boxes are tied with a cotton string and you’ll even get a sucker if you want one.

We also have gift shops, antique stores, an architectural salvage business and more in our historic downtown.

Tables packed with colorful flowers fill the Faribault Garden Center.

Tables packed with colorful flowers fill the Faribault Garden Center. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

FOR THE GARDENER:

Farmer Seed and Nursery, in an aged building along Minnesota State Highway 60/Fourth Street, is a fun place to poke around for anything plant and garden related. This business has provided American gardeners with plants, bulbs, seeds, etc. for more than 120 years through its mail order catalog (also now online) business. It’s especially fun to tour during the holidays when themed Christmas trees pack the store.

Donahue’s Greenhouse is open for the season, drawing gardeners from all over to this massive family-owned greenhouse/retail shop at 420 SW Tenth Street. After a long winter, this feels like walking into summer. I get a bit overwhelmed with all of the choices at Donahue’s, thus I often shop at the smaller Faribault Garden Center or Northstar Seed & Nursery.

Twiehoff Garden & Nursery on the east side is another great choice for plants and then fresh produce throughout the growing season. Housed in a no-frills pole shed style building which lends an earthy authenticity, this 52-year-old business is operated by the friendly Twiehoff family. It’s one of my main sources for local fresh seasonal produce along with the Faribault Farmers Market.

Biking through River Bend Nature Center.

Biking through River Bend Nature Center. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

NATURE: One of my favorite places for an in-town get-away is River Bend Nature Center. Faribault also has an extensive trail system for biking and walking.

City View Park, on the east side by the water tower, offers a beautiful overlook of Faribault.

The restored Tilt-A-Whirl sits in downtown Faribault, just two blocks from Buckham Memorial Library.

The restored Tilt-A-Whirl sits in downtown Faribault next to Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, just two blocks from Buckham Memorial Library. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

HISTORY: It’s everywhere in Faribault. In the architecture of old buildings. On murals. In the Rice County Historical Society Museum. In our churches, especially The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour. In the historic Hutchinson House Bed & Breakfast. Even in a restored Tilt-A-Whirl car located on the corner by Burkhartzmeyer Shoes. Yes, the Tilt-A-Whirl originated in Faribault and, up until a few years ago, was still made here.

I love Faribault. I’ve lived here more than half my life now. I don’t have the connection of family roots. But I do have the connection to place. Faribault is home.

DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS about Faribault? If so, ask away and I’ll try to answer.

FYI: Chambers of Commerce and tourism centers in Faribault, Owatonna and Northfield have joined in promoting visits to their communities through a Minne-Roadtrip venture. All three cities lie along the I-35 corridor, with Faribault in the middle. Click here to learn more about this promotion. I’ve explored all three communities; they are definitely worth your visit.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Snowmen, then & now January 25, 2016

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The Hoisington family's 2016 snowman.

The Hoisington family’s 2016 snowman.

FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS, I’ve photographed the over-sized snowmen sculpted in the Hoisington family’s yard in the heart of Faribault at 18 Third Avenue Northwest.

 

Snowman, 11 head close-up

 

This year I braved double digit below zero windchills on a bitterly cold Sunday afternoon to document a sculpture that brings me joy.

 

Snowman, 10 close-up

 

A snowman hearkens to carefree days of childhood, when I actually loved winter. It brings memories of laboring with my siblings to roll snow into monumental balls. Three snowballs stacked atop each other to build our version of Frosty.

Snowmen and snow days. Snowdrifts hard as granite. Snow bucked into piles by Dad behind the John Deere tractor and loader. Imaginary mountains upon which we raced as Canadian Mounties.

Boots crunching on snow, the sharp sound slicing the quiet of the Minnesota prairie. Noses dripping. Cheeks flaming red. Fingers numbing through too thin gloves.

These are my winter memories, elicited by photographing a snowman.

What are yours?

FYI: Click here to view last year’s snowman pix. And click here to see my photos from 2014.

Check back tomorrow to see another notable snowman gracing a Faribault yard just blocks from the Hoisington snowman.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Oh, the joy of building a snowman February 4, 2015

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RECENTLY, I HELPED my great niece build a mini snowman barely higher than my knees.

I taught 5-year-old Meghan how to roll balls, then how to pack snow so the head wouldn’t topple from the body. She was a quick learner.

Next, I sent her in search of twigs for arms. She roamed a snow-covered hillside, flash of purple against brilliant white.

Then we scavenged for stones for eyes.

Beneath the sprawling bare branches of an aged oak, I plucked fallen acorns for a nose and buttons.

Not the snowman my niece and I built, but rather a gigantic snowman built by the Hoisington family, 18 Third Ave. NW in Faribault.

Not the snowman my niece and I built, but rather a gigantic snowman at 18 Third Ave. NW in Faribault.

Together, with the aid of my eldest daughter, we hodge-podged a face that smiled back at us.

I’d forgotten what simple joy lies in creating a snowman.

In the Hoisington family's Faribault yard, this snowman is sure to make you smile.

In the Hoisington family’s Faribault yard, this snowman is sure to make you smile.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to lift yourself out of the winter blues, to chase away the worries of life, to ease the stress.

To view the world through the eyes of Meghan, who found nothing more delightful than building a snowman on a Saturday afternoon was a gift.

FYI: If the gigantic snowman featured here looks familiar, it’s because last year I photographed an over-sized snowman in this same Faribault yard. Click here to view last winter’s snowman.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Historic Winona drive-in hosts Farm Tractor Night & I was there September 4, 2014

A John Deere reaches

A John Deere rounds the corner onto the 600 block of East Sarnia Street where the drive-in is located.

TRACTORS RUMBLED INTO WINONA’S Lakeview Drive Inn parking lot on a perfect Minnesota evening in late August. Ideal temps. Sun edging behind the bluffs in this Mississippi River town of nearly 28,000.

Drive-in fare served in a paper lined basket.

Drive-in fare served in a paper lined basket.

Folks reminisced and downed burgers, onion rings and more served in red plastic baskets lined with checkered paper.

A few cars, some vintage, managed to sneak into the drive-in among all the tractors.

A few cars, some vintage, managed to sneak into the drive-in among all the tractors.

Just like the old days. Root beer crafted on-site at the 1938 drive-in and served in frosty mugs by car hops.

Rows of tractors ringed Lakeview Drive Inn.

Rows of tractors ringed Lakeview Drive Inn.

My husband and I happened upon historic Lakeview’s annual Farm Tractor Night while returning from a vacation to Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. What a delight.

One view of Farm Tractor Night.

One view of Farm Tractor Night.

We were first introduced to Lakeview when our eldest daughter attended Winona State University, several blocks away, 10 years ago. I even wrote a magazine feature article on this vintage drive-in.

One can only imagine the conversation.

One can only imagine the conversation.

There’s something about a classic home-grown drive-in that speaks to summer and the past like no other place…

BONUS PHOTOS:

The oldest tractor, a 1937 John Deere A, at Lakeview.

The oldest tractor, a 1937 John Deere A, at Lakeview.

A sweet vintage Ford.

A sweet vintage Ford.

Even the Winona County dairy princesses showed up for Farm Tractor Night.

Even the Winona County dairy princesses showed up for Farm Tractor Night.

A lovely old Oliver parked on the edge of the parking lot across the street from a spacious city park.

A lovely old Oliver parked on the edge of the parking lot across the street from a spacious city park.

Loved the original art on this International tractor.

Loved the original art on this International tractor.

These two guys

Come as you are for Farm Tractor Night. So authentic.

Attendees could go on a tractor-pulled wagon ride through the park across the street.

Attendees could go on a tractor-pulled wagon ride through the park across the street.

Just arrived at the tractor show.

Just arrived at the tractor show.

FYI: The Lakeview Drive Inn closes for the season on September 14.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling