Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Happy to ring Salvation Army bells on a balmy Minnesota morning December 6, 2014

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Gary and Barb work the 10 a.m. to noon bell-ringing shift at Walmart south.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of 2013 Salvation Army bell ringing.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE 25 degrees can make.

The temp felt downright balmy ringing bells for the Salvation Army outside the north entrance of the Faribault Walmart this morning.

A year ago, at the south entrance, my husband and I rang bells in temps that hovered around a bone-chilling zero degrees Fahrenheit. Numerous times we stepped inside to warm up.

But this morning the sun shone bright upon us during our 10 a.m. to noon shift. It was lovely. No need to head to the bathroom to thaw hands under the heat of a hand dryer. This was an orange shorts topped by a Green Bay Packers jacket kind of morning, per the attire of one Walmart customer.

In true typical Minnesota talk, numerous folks commented on the beautiful weather. We couldn’t have agreed more. Standing in the outdoors for two hours in 25 degree weather felt almost tropical compared to the bundled up with minimal skin exposed temps of a year ago.

We were happy to be there, no matter the weather.

This marks my second year of bell ringing. And, like last year, I used eye contact and a friendly greeting to welcome folks, whether they gave or not.

And so many gave—from the smallest tyke hoisted to the kettle by a parent to the elderly man shuffling across the parking lot to the woman waiting for a taxi to the family with five children who gave on their way in, and then out of, the store.

I appreciated the kind words of several who thanked us and held dear an elderly woman’s words, “God bless you.”

It touches me deeply when parents pause so their children can drop coins and bills into the kettle. We thanked those children by handing out kisses—chocolate candy kisses. And I thanked the parents, too, for teaching their children to give.

In this season of spending, I hope you will donate to a charity to help those in need. Who knows, some day that person in need may be you, or me.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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My joyful experience ringing bells for the Salvation Army on a bitterly cold Minnesota day December 9, 2013

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SNUGGED IN A FLANNEL SHIRT and jeans, layered under my husband’s insulated coveralls and sweatshirt, and with wool socks, insulated winter boots and mittens covering my extremities and a festive hat adding a holiday flair, I reported to my post at noon Saturday to ring bells for the Salvation Army.

Randy snapped this photo of me upon our return home from ringing bells. One donor suggested we receive "hazard pay" for ringing on such a bitterly cold day. There's no pay; this is a volunteer opportunity.

Randy snapped this photo of me upon our return home. One donor joked that we should receive “hazard pay” for ringing bells on such a bitterly cold day. This was a volunteer “job.”

The temperature hovered around zero degrees Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius) in Faribault as I tied on my red apron, secured a scarf around my neck (I would add a second later) and took over bell ringing duties from my friend Barb. My husband, Randy, replaced her husband, Gary.

The temperature at 11 a.m. Saturday in Faribault, just an hour before Randy and I began ringing bells.

The temperature at 11 a.m. Saturday in Faribault, just an hour before Randy and I began ringing bells.

For the next two hours, in bitter cold temperatures which challenged even the hardiest of life-long Minnesotans like us, we greeted visitors at the Walmart south entrance.

Now you might think I would never again want to ring bells given my fingers and toes and cheeks got uncomfortably cold. At one point, per friend and north Walmart bell ringer Virgil’s suggestion, I retreated to the women’s bathroom to warm my icy red fingers under the hand air dryer. Heat never felt so good.

Gary and Barb work the 10 a.m. to noon bell-ringing shift at Walmart south.

Gary and Barb work the 10 a.m. to noon bell-ringing shift at Walmart south.

I will ring bells again, though.

When my cheeks started hurting and flaming red, I added a second scarf.

When my cheeks started hurting and flaming red, I added a second scarf.

I will ring bells again because the temporary discomfort I experienced is nothing compared to the challenges faced by those who benefit from Salvation Army services. Funds help those in emergency situations cover gas, housing, medical and other expenses. Donations also finance the “Shop with a Cop” program assisting children in need.

Nearly 90 percent of the monies dropped into kettles in Rice County stay in the county. This year the county chapter hopes to raise $50,000. In 2012, nearly $40,000 were raised, which was not enough to meet local needs.

Gary and Barb welcomed a stranger's cups of coffee.

Gary and Barb, an hour into their two-hour shift, were getting cold, but still smiling.

To be a small part of the Salvation Army’s mission, by giving two hours of my time, proved humbling and rewarding. Friend Virgil rang for 1.50 shifts while Linda, another ringer from my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, pulled a double shift. That’s four hours. Outside. In the bitter cold.

Two girls give to the Salvation Army on Gary and Barb's shift.

Two girls give to the Salvation Army on Gary and Barb’s shift.

I was especially moved by the young parents who are teaching their children the joy of giving. Several times I watched as youngsters barely tall enough to reach the kettle dropped coins into the slot, sometimes spilling the change onto the sidewalk. We rewarded 14 youngsters with candy canes for their generosity.

One particular boy, about nine, exuded extra energetic enthusiasm. “Have a good day!” he shouted to us after placing money in the kettle.

Moments like that are priceless as is the story one mother shared while her little boy put coins in the bucket. They had seen a Toys for Tots television ad, she said. He then wanted to donate a toy, if he could get one for himself, too. I thanked this mom for teaching her son about giving at such a young age.

Randy and I were also the recipients of gratitude. Numerous donors thanked us for ringing bells, especially on such a cold day. “Bless your heart,” one woman said. Those three words most assuredly warmed my heart.

And then, near the end of our two-hour shift, another woman exiting Walmart handed me two packs of chemical hand warmers to slip inside our mittens and gloves. I was incredibly moved by her thoughtfulness.

What a great mission as noted on the sign,

What a great mission as noted on the sign: “Sharing is caring…need knows no season…God bless you.”

In the previous shift, another stranger purchased coffee for Gary and Barb and doughnuts for Virgil and Linda. Again, such kindness.

When our shift ended, we handed our bells and aprons and hand warmers, and the remaining 22 candy canes reserved for kids, over to our friend Leann. She was ringing the Salvation Army bell with joyful enthusiasm as we walked away.

I learned later that Virgil retrieved his wife’s boots from his car for Leann, whose boots weren’t warm enough. Leann distributed 14 candy canes to giving children, just like us, then passed the remaining four treats to fourth-shift bell ringer, Dennis.

I asked Leann if she’d had any particularly memorable moments and she shared how a teen, who’d just purchased gifts and wrapping paper, paused to pull bills from his pocket and donate. Not only that, he told her how happy he was to give.

That, my friends, represents the true spirit of charitable giving.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My latest art-at-a-bargain find from the Salvation Army August 7, 2011

My Jose Maria de Servin painting.

WHAT’S YOUR PREFERENCE in art?

Do you shop for mass-produced art at a big box retailer?

Or are you the gallery type, purchasing one-of-a-kind fine art?

Maybe you shop flea markets, rummage sales or thrift stores for hand-crafted or vintage art.

Perhaps you’re artistic enough to create your own art to hang in your home or workplace.

If you know me as well as I expect you may from following Minnesota Prairie Roots, you would rightly guess that I prefer to find one-of-a-kind art at a bargain by shopping second-hand. Notice that I didn’t say bargain art. I said art at a bargain. There’s a difference.

My collection includes original paintings by hobbyist painters, prints by unknown artists, embroidered pieces by someone’s grandma… I’ve purchased most at unbelievably low prices—try 50 cents or $3.

Through the years I’ve even acquired an original Jose Maria de Servin painting and a vintage print of South Dakota artist Harvey Dunn’s  “The Prairie is My Garden” at steal prices. Both times I had no idea what I was purchasing. I simply liked the art.

That’s the thing with me and art. I buy a piece of art not as an investment, but because I like it.

That said, I recently picked up a three-dimensional rendition of  “The Last Supper” at the Salvation Army Store in Faribault. I debated whether I should pay $14 for the made-in-Spain art. In fact, I set the 24 x 17-inch piece down twice before watching another woman pick up and admire it. At that precise moment I decided I really wanted the unique art. I had to restrain my urge to run over and snatch it up after she set it back on the shelf. I waited until she was well out of grabbing range.

The Last Supper three-dimensional art I bought at The Salvation Army Store.

Later, the woman stood behind me in the check-out line and told me how she wished she had “The Last Supper” I clenched in my hands. “Then I saw you pick it up,” she said.

I responded with a seemingly casual remark: “Yeah, if you see something you think you might buy, you shouldn’t set it down…”

HOW ABOUT YOU? Where do you shop for art and what deals have you found?

Close up with Christ and the disciples at The Last Supper.

I hung the three-dimensional The Last Supper in my dining room.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Ringing bells for charity & bonus holiday events December 8, 2017

 

RINGING BELLS for the Salvation Army stretches beyond simply accepting donations for a charity that does good in my community. It’s also an opportunity to bring joy to someone needing something as basic as a friendly greeting and a warm smile.

When I ring, I make eye contact with everyone approaching me. Not because I want to guilt anyone into giving. Rather, I want to welcome them with a smile, a good morning/afternoon and, most often, a Merry Christmas. That’s my nature, to be friendly. Whether an individual can, or chooses to, give, remains their personal choice. I understand the finances of the senior citizen who apologized for not giving, citing limited Social Security income and mounting medical bills. He didn’t have to explain. Those who can and want to give, will.

 

Randy and I rang bells together from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. Saturday, December 2, took a half hour break and then returned to ring bells solo at two locations for another two hours. A lack of bell ringers led us to pull a double shift. Donations on December 2 totaled $3,965 in Rice County, surpassing the $2,500 match by an anonymous donor. Of that county-wide total, $2,620 was dropped into red kettles in Faribault.

 

For the first time ever in my seasons of ringing bells, I watched as a woman emptied the bulging contents of her coin purse into the red kettle. Her gift meant as much as that of a 40-something guy who dropped a few coins in the slot and remarked that every coin counts. He’s right. From the $20 donation to the $1 bills and pennies shoved in by children, every gift holds value to help someone in need.

 

Two girls give to the Red Kettle Campaign during a past holiday season. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I am grateful for the generosity in the Faribault community ($2,620 on December 2) and especially for those young parents who parcel coins and bills into the hands of their little ones. When one of those children asked to ring the bell on Saturday, I obliged. That sparked an idea. Maybe next year I will hand the bell to every kid who donates and offer them a chance to ring for a moment. And I’ll continue with my tradition of handing out candy kisses to youth.

I will continue also to greet those I meet with friendliness, even if some react with unkindness, something I experienced for the first time this year. The meanness won’t deter me. I am determined to keep a positive attitude, to do the best I can as a volunteer, as a human being, to extend kindness to those I greet while stationed at the red kettle. If my smile can brighten one person’s day, then I am grateful.

FYI: If you are interested in volunteering with the Red Kettle Campaign in Rice County, call (507) 334-0639 or email faribaultbellringer at gmail.com, northfieldbellringer at gmail.com or lonsdalebellringer at gmail.com, depending on location. You can also sign up online at this link: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090f4dacab2faafd0-2017

Bell ringers are desperately needed as the local chapter strives to reach its goal of $50,000. As of Monday, donations totaled $10,478, according to Ed Little, co-chair of the local Red Kettle Campaign. Last Saturday in Rice County, an anonymous donor matched donations with a $2,500 gift. On December 15 and 16, an anonymous donor will once again match county donations, this time up to $5,000.

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LOOKING FOR SOMETHING to do in Faribault this weekend?

 

Skaters from Shattuck-St. Mary’s Figure Skating Center of Excellence presented a Christmas Spectacular on Ice in 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo. They’ll skate this Saturday during the Campus Christmas Walk.

 

The Faribault Woolen Mill hosts a Holiday Open House from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday featuring gourmet goodies, give-aways, store specials and more. Bring a Toys for Tots donation and get a free gift.

Pop into the historic Farmer Seed and Nursery to view the many beautiful themed Christmas trees with ornaments available for purchase. The store opens at 8 a.m. Saturday, closes at 5 p.m.

 

In the Shumway Hall entry hall, carolers sing for Christmas Walk guests in 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

On the east side of Faribault, Shattuck-St. Mary’s School opens its campus to the public for the annual Campus Christmas Walk. The Saturday event begins at noon with a free Figure Skating Holiday Show in the sports complex. Following that, from 1 – 3 p.m., enjoy hot chocolate and cookies and ornament making and cookie decorating in Morgan Refectory. Nearby, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at The Inn from 1 – 4 p.m. Stop at Shumway Hall between 1 – 3 p.m. for a sleigh ride. And then end your campus visit by taking in the half hour Holiday Concert in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd beginning at 3 p.m.

 

One of the many creches from the collection of Kathleen Putrah now on display at the Paradise.

 

Pop into the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault’s historic downtown from 1 – 4 p.m. Saturday to shop at the Winter Farmer’s Market for locally-grown/raised produce/meats, baked goods and more. Also check out the work of local artists available for purchase in the PCA gift shop during the Holly Days Sale. Don’t miss the display of creches in the art gallery. And in the evening, take in “Coconuts and Mistletoe,” a holiday play performed by the Paradise Community Theatre beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. In this comedy, Santa conspires with spies to save Christmas.

In between all those events, be sure to shop at the the many home-grown businesses in our community.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Lighting up the holiday season in Faribault December 3, 2017

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Among the units in Faribault’s first-ever Parade of Lights holiday parade, this beautiful sleigh.

 

HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES DEFINED the weekend for me in Faribault. From ringing bells for the Salvation Army for four hours to lunching at a church craft and bake sale, to buying a Christmas tree to touring an art gallery nativity display to shopping the Faribault Winter Farmers’ Market to touring the historic Alexander Faribault house to viewing Faribault’s first lighted holiday parade, my Saturday was jam-packed. But what fun to get into the Christmas spirit right here in my community.

 

Crowds gather along historic Central Avenue for the Parade of Lights as the sun sets.

 

While vehicles were banned from the parade route, one driver headed south on Central directly toward the parade just as it began. She was directed off the roadway.

 

Parked on a side street just off Central, this Chavis Vacuum & Sewing Center truck awaits the start of the parade.

 

Local merchants showcase the holiday spirit in window displays.

 

 

Large groups of people congregate outside Burkhartzmeyer Shoes for the parade. Co-owner Bruce Burkhartzmeyer served as parade grand marshal.

 

I especially delighted in the 20-minute holiday parade along Central Avenue in our historic downtown. As the sun slipped into darkness Saturday evening, families and others gathered to watch trucks and cars and floats roll by in bright holiday lights. Snowmen, penguins, elves, candy canes, Christmas trees and more incorporated into the units added holiday cheer. Kids scrambled for candy tossed by those dressed in festive attire.

 

This classic vintage pick-up truck decorated by Brushwork Signs rated as one of my favorite parade entries.

 

Students from Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault march in the parade, their holiday lights blurred by my camera shooting in too-low light conditions. Still, I like the results, showing motion.

 

Lots of snowmen on floats, but not a flake of snow on the ground.

 

Faribault’s sweet version of the Polar Express.

 

An oversized vacuum cleaner promotes as local vacuum cleaner store.

 

I loved this Parade of Lights, part of Faribault’s first-ever Winterfest which began on Thursday. And based on the crowds, they shared my enthusiasm. I could sense the excitement, heard the positive comments, felt the energy of a community embracing the joy of the season.

 

A Faribault fire truck follows police cars as a lead in the parade.

 

Kids await candy tossed from those walking alongside floats.

 

A city of Faribault snowplow ablaze in lights.

 

To those who organized this event (the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Faribault Main Street and local businesses) and to those who participated in the parade, thank you. You brought the Christmas spirit into the heart of our downtown, into our community, into the hearts of those gathered on a balmy December evening in southeastern Minnesota.

 

The back of the parade as it heads north along Central Avenue in downtown Faribault.

 

I expect the Parade of Lights to be back next year with even more entries and an even larger crowd.

 

Note: Check back for more stories featuring some of the holiday activities I enjoyed on Saturday in Faribault.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Double your Red Kettle donations this Saturday in Rice County December 1, 2017

 

WHEN MARION CALLED to remind Randy and me of our Salvation Army bell-ringing slot this Saturday, she also shared good news. Every dollar donated to the Rice County Red Kettle Campaign on December 2 will be matched up to $2,500. How generous is that?

An anonymous donor from Faribault is offering the match, a move I hope encourages people to give even more generously to a program focused on neighbors helping neighbors.

The gift repeats on December 16 with a maximum $5,000 match from another anonymous Faribault donor, according to Gina Little who co-chairs the county campaign with her husband, Ed.

I’m confident folks can reach those max matches, moving toward the $50,000 Red Kettle goal in Rice County.

 

Randy and I will be at this location outside Walmart on Saturday morning ringing bells. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Saturday morning Randy and I will station ourselves at the Walmart north location to accept donations. We’re happy to once again volunteer with our church, Trinity Lutheran. Others from Trinity will ring at Walmart south, HyVee and Fareway in Faribault. Bell ringers are also on-site in Northfield and Lonsdale.

The weather forecast for Saturday looks to be a balmy 40-some degrees, ideal conditions for us as we stand outdoors to ring bells, greet and thank people. In past years we’ve worked in temps as low as zero. But, dressed appropriately for conditions, we managed.

 

Me, ringing bells for the Salvation Army in the past. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Ringing bells proves a joyful and humbling experience as we’ve witnessed gratitude, heard stories and observed parents teaching their children the joy of giving. I always come with a bag of Hershey kisses for the little ones, depositing a kiss in their tiny palms after they’ve pushed coins or bills into the kettle slot.

Eighty-eight percent of the donated monies stay right here in my county and go towards emergency services (gas vouchers, food, shelter, etc.), a heating program, “Shop with a Cop,” sending kids to a Salvation Army camp in northern Minnesota and a visiting program with the elderly in care facilities.

 

Two girls give to the Salvation Army during a past campaign. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

The need is great. Last year the Rice County Red Kettle Campaign fell short of its $50,000 goal with $43,000 raised. That meant cutting back on some services. But this year, especially with those $2,500 and $5,000 matches, I think we’re capable here in Rice County of reaching the $50,000 goal.

Please consider giving generously this Saturday and again on December 16 to push county-wide giving to those generous matches.

 

A friend rings bells at Walmart during a previous holiday season. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

And consider, too, signing up to ring bells. Call (507) 334-0639 or email faribaultbellringer at gmail.com, northfieldbellringer at gmail.com or lonsdalebellringer at gmail.com depending on where you wish to ring in Rice County.

You have the power to help your neighbor in this season of giving.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Fashionably cold in Minnesota January 4, 2017

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Along a gravel road somewhere between Nerstrand and Kenyon, Minnesota.

Along a gravel road somewhere between Nerstrand and Kenyon, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo March 2014.

WHILE ROAD-TRIPPING FROM MINNESOTA to Massachusetts last May, I found myself defending my home state. Apparently non-residents have a singular impression of Minnesota. And that would be “cold.”

Back then, when spring was emerging green and beautiful here, I assured non-residents that Minnesota is about much more than cold weather.

But today I can’t argue with the cold assessment as arctic air settles into Minnesota, plunging temperatures to the single digits above zero. Thank you, Canada, for kicking the cold out your front door toward your neighbor’s property.

When my cheeks started hurting and flaming red, I added a second scarf.

Me bundled up several years ago for two hours of ringing bells for the Salvation Army in arctic cold. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Fortunately, Minnesotans know how to handle the frigid temps. Along with complaining, we bundle up. At least I do. Fashion isn’t nearly as important to me as warmth. Gone are the days of caring whether a stocking cap will flatten my hair or whether my Northwest Territory boots are in style. Warmth trumps appearance.

 

scheels-billboard-between-wasca-and-janesville-11

 

Yet, apparently you can be “cute and cozy” in outdoor winter attire, according to a Scheels billboard I spotted along U.S. Highway 14 between Waseca and Janesville. The model appears well-cozied in her winter jacket, leggings and boots (which seem more fashionable than practical). I wouldn’t want to be slip-sliding around on the ice in those heels.

That all said, I appreciate Scheels’ efforts to convince us that we really can be fashionable in outdoor winter attire. Now if only we could convince the rest of the country that Minnesota is about much more than cold weather.

TELL ME: When you think of Minnesota, what word pops into your head? Cold? Snow? Something else?

How can Minnesota change its “cold” image? Or should we?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Bell-ringing moments bring smiles & gratitude December 3, 2016

Me, ringing bells for the Salvation Army on Saturday morning in Faribault. Photo by Randy Helbling.

Me, ringing bells for the Salvation Army on Saturday morning in Faribault. Photo by Randy Helbling.

“WE’LL GET YOU on the way out,” he said, his smile wide.

I admit to skepticism. But, as promised, the pre-teen stopped after exiting Walmart Saturday morning to drop money into the Salvation Army’s signature red donation bucket.

“You’re a man true to your word,” I acknowledged, thanking him for his gift.

 

ringing-bells-overview-at-walmart

 

Likewise, I thanked many others—from kids to seniors—who donated money during my two-hour shift of ringing bells with my husband. I greeted every customer with a smile and wishes for a good morning and a Merry Christmas. Some looked me in the eye and repeated the greetings. Others hurried past, heads down. Whether they could give or not, I wanted them to feel my warm holiday welcome.

 

ringing-bells-sign

 

Many made me smile. Like the cool teens dressed all in black. They pushed coins into the slotted bucket then danced across the parking lot. I never expected them to give. Just goes to show.

Or the girls who gave as they entered Walmart and again on the way out. “We got two kisses,” one said to the other as they walked away. She was referencing the Hershey kisses I give to kids who give. It adds to the fun—to tell kids, “Wait a minute, I have something for you—a kiss.” And then I reach inside the pocket of the red Salvation Army apron and deposit a foil-wrapped kiss in their palms. And they smile like I’ve just handed them the most precious gift.

 

Randy ringing bells.

Randy ringing bells.

My husband’s favorite moment came at my expense when a man stopped, pointed upward and asked, “What’s that up in the sky?” I followed his sight line…to the sun. And then I laughed, getting the joke. And he laughed. And Randy laughed. We haven’t seen the sun through grey clouds in days.

But in that moment, the sun shone like a blessing upon us and our morning of volunteering for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign.

© Copyright 2016 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

 

The Red Kettle Campaign: More than just ringing bells & collecting donations December 16, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Members of Trinity Lutheran Church rang bells at various Faribault locations on Saturday. Here Bud and Bev ring outside of Walmart.

Members of Trinity Lutheran Church rang Salvation Army bells at various Faribault locations on Saturday. Here Bud and Bev ring outside of Walmart.

DRESSED IN A KHAKI COAT and sporting a Vietnam veteran’s cap, he rolled up to the Faribault Walmart in his motorized cart Saturday morning. He stopped outside the entry, where my husband and I were ringing bells for the Salvation Army.

A man drops coins into the red kettle tended by Bud and Bev.

A man drops coins into the red kettle tended by Bud and Bev.

I thanked him for his service to our country. And then he pulled some change from his pocket, dropping the coins into my palm to place in the red kettle. He had a story to share, too. Back in the 1950s, growing up in northeast Minneapolis, he was helped by the Salvation Army.

Who knows when we may be in need of assistance?

Who knows when we may be in need of assistance?

This soldier’s story touched me, moved me nearly to tears. His wasn’t the only story I heard during our two-hour bell ringing shift. Another man, Tom, explained that he gives to the Red Kettle Campaign because the Salvation Army aided his niece in South Carolina. “It means something to me,” he said.

More giving...

More giving…

Mostly, I don’t know the reasons people give. I am simply thankful that they pause to stuff bills or drop coins into the kettle. For the first time since I began ringing bells several years ago, I watched a man pull up in his vehicle, park, donate and drive away. Likewise, a woman stopped, rolled down her car window and handed me $20. These two went out of their way to give to others.

I delighted in the many young parents who gave their children money to donate.

I delighted in the many young parents who gave their children money to donate.

What perhaps touches me most are the young families who donate. I watched as dads and moms hoisted preschoolers high enough to reach the kettle, patiently waiting as stubby fingers pushed coins into the slot or folded bills to fit therein. My husband and I thanked the kids with a kiss—a foil-wrapped chocolate kiss. And I thanked the parents for teaching their children to give.

Hub replaced my husband and I in ringing bells at Walmart's south entry.

Hub replaced my husband and I in ringing bells at Walmart’s south entry.

Ringing bells for two hours is about more than collecting donations for the Salvation Army. It’s about listening to stories. It’s about greeting shoppers with a smile and a warm welcome, whether they choose to give or not. It’s about encouraging philanthropy and thanking young parents and their children. It’s about thinking of others during the Christmas season. And that, perhaps, is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbing