NOSTALGIA WEAVES into our lives the older we grow, time blurring the edges of memories. But then something comes along to jog the mind into recalling a sweet childhood memory. For me, that’s Faribo Frosty.
Since 2005, the Hoisington family has built my community’s version of Frosty the Snowman. I loved Frosty as a child—the song, the Little Golden book, the animated holiday cartoon narrated by Jimmy Durante. There’s something so compelling about a snowman that comes to life via a magical top hat. And when he melts, oh, the sadness.
But the melting of Faribo Frosty, given his robust size and current height of 17 or so feet, is not imminent. Lead creator Andy Hoisington cares for Frosty with the devotion of a man who recognizes the importance of his snowman. Families and grandparents and couples come to the corner of First Street Northwest and Third Avenue Northwest to see Faribo Frosty in the Hoisington’s front yard. I’ve been there with my grandkids, most recently a few weeks ago. When my granddaughter was two, she stretched her arms wide to hug Frosty. Couples have gotten engaged here and been photographed here to announce a pregnancy.
Ginormous Faribo Frosty, crafted with shaved ice from the local ice arena and from snow by Andy and his family (including adult sons Jake and Josiah and son-in-law Nick), attracts visitors from well beyond Faribault. He’s also been filmed for metro area television features, including KARE 11 Boyd Huppert’s “Land of 10,000 Stories.”
I’ve watched the Hoisingtons work on Frosty, shoveling shaved ice from a trailer, climbing a ladder to pack and shape the beloved snowman. He requires constant maintenance given Minnesota’s diverse winter weather. This is truly a labor of love after 18 years.
I am grateful for this family’s dedication to bringing joy into my community with their version of Frosty. Faribo Frosty makes me happy. He makes me smile with his wide smile, his bright carrot nose, his over-sized signature red scarf and mittens, even his black bucket pipe and his black top hat. Faribo Frosty is, in every way, nostalgically magical.
TELL ME: If you live in southern Minnesota, have you seen Faribo Frosty? If you live in another cold weather area, do you have a similar winter attraction or have you seen one?
Traditionally, Randy and I stop by during this late February opening of the walk-up/drive-up DQ for the bargain Peanut Buster Parfaits. When the DQ closes for the season at the end of October, we’re there, too, for the discounted parfaits.
Typically, we wait in line behind a long string of vehicles for the coveted treat. Last October we pulled up to the drive-up window only to learn that they’d just run out of ice cream and there would be no more with the shop temporarily closing. Disappointed doesn’t quite describe my emotion in that let-down moment. I’d been anticipating the taste of sweet and salty—hot fudge and peanuts atop that sweet, snow white soft-serve ice cream.
And now here it is, March 3, and I missed opening weekend with the $2.49/each Peanut Buster Parfait three-day special. Perhaps this winter of too much snow distracted me. Even if the calendar shows that spring is only officially 17 days distant, nothing feels or looks remotely like spring here. And so, I reason, this is why I missed opening weekend at The Little Dairy Queen of Faribault. My thoughts remain deeply entrenched in this winter of deep snow.
IF NOT FOR THE SNOW, I can envision this as some place warm and sunny. Some location other than here. Some place with real palm trees, not just those painted on the side of a building.
I can picture myself on the patio, relaxing and conversing at a table with friends, drinking margaritas while the hot sun bakes my skin. But wishful thinking doesn’t land me in Arizona or Texas or California or Florida or Mexico. I am in Minnesota, outside the shuttered Cancun Grill Mexican Restaurant, drawn here by an inviting tropical scene of ocean and palm trees.
Just days after a major multi-day winter storm dumped some 14 inches of snow on Faribault, I find myself photographing the “for sale” restaurant. The contrast of snow layering tables, chairs and patio against the backdrop tropical-themed mural catches my creative eye, allowing for a visual and mental escape from all this winter.
I’ve never dined at this restaurant, although I wish I had based on the positive online reviews: Authentic wonderful Mexican cuisine. Best tacos here. Excellent burritos and margaritas. Large portions. Delicious. Great service.
Now it’s too late to experience this taste of Cancun in my southern Minnesota community. But I can dream. I can dream of palm trees I’ve never seen, except at Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul. I can dream of places I’ve never visited. I can dream of staying at an all-inclusive fancy resort, of warm beach sand filtering through my toes and sunshine on my face. I can dream of lazy days lounging by the sea with a good book rather than time spent shoveling snow.
In this moment I am not in Minnesota, enveloped in a wintry landscape. Rather, my imagination melts away the snow, replacing it with beach sand so white I need sunglasses. Ah, this is lovely, this Cancun of fleeting travel.
This permanently closed restaurant along busy Fourth Street Northwest/Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault offers me a momentary escape. I feel the breeze as palm trees sway against the merging blue sky and water while I sip a strawberry margarita on the sun-drenched patio.
ICE FISHING RATES AS A SPORT that must seem absurd to anyone living in a warm weather climate.
I mean, if you aren’t from a place like Minnesota or Wisconsin, how would you react to anglers driving their vehicles onto a frozen lake, fish houses in tow? That seems reckless and unsafe and dangerous, and it can be. No ice is ever considered 100 percent safe. But, take precautions like knowing your lake (or river) and its ice thickness, driving with windows rolled down and carrying safety equipment, and the sport can be relatively safe.
Still, this time of year and with the particularly snowy winter we’ve had in Minnesota, ice fishing right now doesn’t seem all that safe to me. Snow acts like a blanket, insulating the ice, resulting in thinner, inconsistent and weaker ice. Decades have passed since I engaged in the sport so I am not writing from current day experience, only from basic knowledge.
Sunday afternoon while out and about in Faribault, I came upon three guys with ice fishing equipment on the frozen Cannon River Reservoir by the Woolen Mill Dam. As I watched, I hoped they knew what they were doing because I didn’t feel all that confident in the strength of the river ice with water flowing below.
But I appreciated that they were out enjoying the 30-degree sunny afternoon, warm enough even to shed their gloves and heavy coats. They’d already set up two portable fish houses by the time I arrived at North Alexander Park. I stood there and observed as the trio carried ice auger, ice saw, and scoop shovel and towed a sled with fishing gear across the snow-covered river. I was uncertain whether they were spearing for or simply angling for fish. Turns out neither.
Local avid outdoorsman and columnist Larry Gavin clarified: Those guys were actually netting carp. The net is stretched from one tent to the other using a hook and a series of holes. They were checking to see if the location was a good one. Every year they net Wells Lake and get a semi tanker full of carp that are shipped overnight to Chicago. There is a high demand for carp as a food source in some ethnic dining.
It was such an iconic Minnesota winter scene, the fishermen in their camouflage attire, a visual clue that they are year-round sportsmen. I can only imagine the camaraderie, the BS, the anticipation of these friends as they searched for fish.
I loved the way their sled left a snaking trail across the Cannon, almost like a line of poetry winding through the snow, writing of winter outdoors, of fish tales, of ice fishing in Minnesota.
FYI:The ice fishing season is winding down in Minnesota. All dark houses, fish houses and portables must be off inland lakes by the end of the day beginning on March 6 in the southern two-thirds of the state and by March 20 in the northern third. You can still ice fish, just can’t leave houses unattended. Local officials can set different restrictions if unsafe conditions call for such action.
BEFORE THE RAIN OF MONDAY, which reduced our significant snow pack, I determined to document the snowy landscape of Faribault. Plus, Randy and I needed to get outdoors, stretch our legs and embrace the 30-some-degree warmth of a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Traveling around town these days requires a bit of extra caution, starting in our driveway. The towering snowbanks flanking the ends necessitate creeping out, all the while trying to see whether any vehicles are approaching. The same goes for many intersections around my community. It’s been a few winters since I’ve seen snow mounded this high. City crews are doing a good job of moving or removing snow to increase visibility. They were on my corner Monday morning to clear snow from the storm sewer drain and intersection.
Parking lots hold mountains of snow which take me back to just how much fun I had as a kid playing on the massive piles of snow my dad built with the loader on his John Deere tractor. Up and down the snow hills my siblings and I ran, playing Canadian Mounties or whatever our imaginations decided.
In Faribault on Sunday, I observed families scaling the hill by the high school after sliding down. I love seeing kids enjoying winter outdoors in Minnesota.
In a corner of the high school parking lot, the snow is pushed so high that I’m clueless as to how it got that high. It’s impressive. I don’t even want to think about how long it will take for that glacier to melt. June?
The same goes for the snow piled in the Faribo West Mall parking lot. Or maybe it’s the Walmart parking lot. The roofline of the discount retailer is barely visible.
Along and near the river in two city parks, picnic tables surrounded by snow remind me that many months will pass before anyone can picnic. Well, I suppose, technically one can picnic in winter, if you are willing to slog through a foot plus of snow to dine.
To my photographic delight, though, three ice fishermen slogged through the snow to fish on the Cannon River by the Faribault Woolen Mill Dam. Randy suggested I might want to walk out there for some close-up photos rather than rely on my zoom lens. No, thank you. At this stage in winter, especially, with snow acting as insulation on ice, I don’t trust the ice. These guys, with their portable pop-up fish houses, clearly think differently than me.
My thoughts about right now are those of being ready for winter to end. But, realistically, I understand that we have two months of winter remaining here in Minnesota. As a life-long Minnesotan, I can’t deny that. Onward, into March.
AS SOMEONE WHO GREW UP on a dairy farm, I understand the hard work and commitment of feeding, caring for and milking cows. Every. Single. Day. Although the process has become easier with automation, the fact remains that dairy farmers can’t just walk away from the barn for a day. The cows still need to be milked.
As a child and teen, I labored in the barn, assisting my dad with feeding, bedding straw, and scooping manure. He did the actual milking. And he was under a time crunch to finish milking our Holsteins before the milk truck arrived to empty the bulk tank and transport our cows’ milk to the Associated Milk Producers plant in New Ulm.
That backstory brings me to today, nearly 50 years removed from the southwestern Minnesota crop and dairy farm where I learned the value of hard work. AMPI in New Ulm is still going strong and recently won several honors at the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association 2023 U.S. Champion Cheese Contest in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Forty-two judges evaluated entries based on flavor, texture, appearance and taste. There were 2,249 entries from 197 dairy companies and cooperatives in 35 states. Minnesota was well-represented. (Click here to see a full list of the winners by category.)
AWARD-WINNING BUTTER FROM NEW ULM
The 113 contest divisions include dairy products beyond cheese. And that’s where New Ulm’s AMPI plant scored, earning second place for its unsalted butter and third places for salted butter and flavored butter, specifically chipotle butter. AMPI’s Sea Salted Root Beer Butter which sounds, in Minnesota lingo, “different,” did not place.
I grew up on AMPI salted butter. The milk man—the guy who picked up the milk from our milkhouse—also brought blocks of butter. Dad just left a slip of paper indicating how many pounds we needed and the driver pulled the packages from his truck.
Redhead Creamery earned Best of Class in the Natural Rind Cheddar category with its previously award-winning Lucky Linda Clothbound Cheddar, named after Sjostrom’s mom. That top cheese was then chosen to compete against 19 other top cheeses for the honor of U.S. Champion Cheese. An aged Gouda made by the team at Arethusa Farm Dairy in Connecticut won the best cheese in the U.S. title. Two Wisconsin cheeses earned second and third places.
I have yet to try, or even find, Minnesota-made Redhead Creamery cheeses. But I will be looking for them locally, especially Lucky Linda Cheddar. I’d even like to take a road trip to the dairy and cheese operation, which offers tours.
CAVES OF FARIBAULT EARNS HONORS
My community is also home to award-winning handcrafted cheeses. This year cheesemakers at Prairie Farms’ Caves of Faribault placed second in the Gorgonzola competition with Ama Gorg. In the blue-veined division, Caves of Faribault earned fourth for its AmaBlu. These cheeses have previously won honors and they are well-deserving. I love Caves of Faribault cheeses, aged in sandstone caves along the Straight River. If you like blue cheese, and I realize either you love it or you hate it, then this is your cheese.
MORE MINNESOTA WINNERS
Minnesota-based Bongards Creameries in Perham also earned a Best of Class with its Monterey Jack cheese in the national competition. Likewise, Kemps, LLC in Farmington took Best of Class for its pineapple flavored cottage cheese and second for its chive flavored cottage cheese. I didn’t even realize cottage cheese came in such flavors.
If there were other top winners from Minnesota in the 2023 U.S. Cheese Contest, I apologize for missing them. But after scrolling through pages of information, I stopped looking.
MINNESOTA IS DAIRY STRONG
What I realized is that small creameries to co-ops to large companies in Minnesota make a lot of dairy products. We may not have as many cheesemakers as the Dairyland State, but certainly enough for anyone who likes cheese and other dairy products to recognize Minnesota’s value in the dairy industry.
I saw Minnesota entries (again, I may have missed some) from Prairie Farms Dairy Cheese Division in Rochester, Bongards in Norwood, Agropur in Le Sueur, Stickney Hill Dairy in Rockville and First District Association in Litchfield. The varieties of cheeses range from pasteurized process American cheese from Prairie Farms to jalapeno and roasted red cheddar from Litchfield-based FDA, “a grassroots cooperative since 1921.”
CHANGED & UNCHANGED
Much has changed, yet much has not since I left the farm in 1974. Cooperatives remain as strong as ever, yet small scale artisan cheese makers, have also emerged. The demand for basic cheeses remains, yet cheese makers are crafting diverse flavors to meet consumers’ expanding tastes. Small family dairy farms have been mostly replaced by large-scale dairy operations. Change is inevitable. But one thing has not changed for me personally. I love dairy products, especially cheese.
THURSDAY MORNING, 10:30 a.m. AND SNOW is still falling here in Faribault. But the sun is breaking through and I am hopeful the snow will soon end. The unofficial yardstick reading on our patio is 14 inches from this three-day weather event.
Randy is blowing the driveway open as I write. Just as he nearly finished clearing the end, the city plow arrived, blading a windrow of snow back across the driveway. Timing. Now he’s working on removing that ridge. This is not unexpected; we Minnesotans assume this will always happen.
Neighbors have emerged, too, blowing snow from sidewalks and drives. Across the street, neighbor boys are outside playing. I watched as one scooped snow onto his shovel, waited and then promptly dumped the load onto his brother’s head. Nearby, Dad continued working the snowblower.
This is a snow day for Minnesota kids. E-learning and distance learning or maybe no learning at all.
A mom and her two little ones are out walking the dog.
Businesses and public places—the arts center, the library, the mall, the shoe store—are either closed or opening late. People seem to be heeding the warnings to stay home and off roadways. Even Randy is staying home from work today.
Traffic, mostly non-existent earlier, is picking up along our main arterial street. Mostly snowplows and pick-up trucks pulling trailers loaded with snow removal equipment.
In the extreme southwestern corner of Minnesota, my native prairie, a portion of Interstate 90 remains closed along with many state highways. Wind whips this light snow, creating whiteout conditions, snowdrifts feet high and impassable roads. The National Guard is standing by to launch roadside rescues if needed.
As snowstorms go, I’ve experienced much worse, especially as a Redwood County farm kid. I respect winter in Minnesota, understand the dangers when a major storm descends. And today, although this storm was not quite the historic storm predicted, I’m good with that. With some 14 inches of total snowfall, that’s enough for me, and Randy.
TELL ME: If you live in Minnesota, how much snow did you get? If you live elsewhere, are you experiencing any bad weather? I’d like to hear your stories.
AS I WRITE THIS MID-MORNING Wednesday, the view outside my office window is one of a landscape layered in new snow, about five inches. The light snow of earlier has stopped.
All appears calm, until I look closer. I notice snow sweeping off my neighbor’s roof. I see, too, treetops swaying, a trio of exposed squirrel nests nestled among branches. Another neighbor’s political flags extend in the wind, bannering messages I’m weary of seeing long after the 2020 election has ended. Buffeting my front steps, dried hydrangea heads wave in the rhythm of the morning wind.
For days now, we’ve been lectured by weather forecasters and officials alike not to be lured into complacency. This lull in an anticipated historic winter storm here in Minnesota is expected. Southern Minnesota braces for storm’s second punch after overnight snow.That Minnesota Public Radio headline and similar headlines have played across media outlets for days.
I lean into believing the National Weather Service predictions about this multi-day event that could rank among our top five winter storms. It’s not only about the quantity of snow, possibly topping 21 inches, but also about the wind. As a prairie native, I understand how quickly winds of even 25 mph can create white-out blizzard conditions, making travel dangerous and impossible. Winds are expected in some places to top 50 mph. Our governor has already declared a peacetime emergency.
When my husband left for work Wednesday morning, I asked him to remain weather aware, reminding him that this storm is about the wind as much as the snow. He works as an automotive machinist in a rural location, typically a 35-minute commute. Unlike me, Randy leans into believing storm predictions are more hype than reality. Sometimes he’s right. Time will tell. Regardless, I inquired whether his phone was fully-charged and whether a sleeping bag was still in the van. It was and it was. And I asked him to text when he arrived at work and when he leaves later today. He did and I expect he will. Roads this morning were worse in sheltered areas, he reported.
By noon our winter storm warning transitions into a blizzard warning in effect for 24 hours. It’s not often my county of Rice, just south of the Twin Cities metro along Interstate 35, enters blizzard status. I expect this designation in southwestern Minnesota and other primarily open land area parts of the state, but not here.
Whatever happens, we’ve been warned by the National Weather Service, Twin Cities, on their Twitter page Wednesday: There seems to be some confusion this morning because the sun has come out. Does this mean all we got is a measly 3-5” and it’s over? Nope! As we’ve talked about for days, round 2 is on the way and it will pack a punch! Expect an ADDITIONAL 10-15” by tomorrow morning.
IF MY MOM WAS STILL LIVING, I’d apologize. I’d apologize for dismissing her connections between weather and an aching body. I laughed off that cause-and-effect as one of those ideas passed from generation to generation. More myth than truth. But I’m not laughing any more.
As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed an interplay between changes in weather and how I feel physically. Right now my body is hurting. A lot. I attribute that partially (mostly) to the winter storm. Anytime a storm is approaching, upon us and/or the weather turns bitterly cold, I experience more pain.
I’ve read that fluctuations in barometric pressure (lower in the winter) specifically affect joint pain, stiffness and swelling. Without completely going down the rabbit hole of self-diagnosis, that generality seems to apply to me.
I should provide some backstory here. I have an artificial right hip, implanted in 2008 after I developed osteoarthritis so severe I could barely walk or tolerate the pain. Because I was youngish, I was advised to hold off on surgery as long as possible. Much of the pain I experience now centers on the right implant side of my body and in my lower back. My back is plagued by osteoarthritis and scoliosis. As Randy has noted, my body is crooked and I can visually see and feel that.
Bear with me. I also have an implant in my left wrist, the result of a 2018 fall which shattered my wrist. Ten screws hold that wrist plate in place. When the weather changes, I notice discomfort in my wrist. Likewise in my right shoulder. I broke that in 2017 after missing the last step on a hospital stairway while on my way to donate blood.
What is my point in sharing all of this? Not to garner sympathy or give the impression of woe-is-Audrey. Rather, I’m interested in learning whether you notice, like me, a connection between weather and body. I recognize this question may be more applicable to those of you who are aging Baby Boomers.
So let’s hear. Share your personal stories and your insights and perhaps we can reach an unscientific conclusion. Was my mom right? Is there a connection between weather and an aching body?
WHEN A MAJOR WINTER STORM is in the forecast for Minnesota, we Minnesotans listen intently. And then we stock up on eggs, milk and bread. Or so the joke goes. But, in reality, grocery stores do experience an uptick in business. Liquor stores, too. And for anyone who owns a snowblower—and that’s most of us—having enough gas to fuel snow removal is a must, not an option.
So here we are, poised to get massive quantities of snow over several days. Faribault is in the 17 to 22-inch snowfall range, according to the National Weather Service forecast on Monday. That bull’s eye target of snow stretches from western to eastern borders across a wide swatch of southern Minnesota from around Mankato in the south to St. Cloud in the north.
And then as if the large amounts of snow aren’t enough, winds are anticipated to rage, blowing around all that light, fluffy snow. The 40-45 mph winds gusting up to 50 mph will create white-out and blizzard conditions in many regions, especially on the prairie.
This looks to be a doozy of a winter storm that begins on Tuesday afternoon, ends on Thursday evening. Forecasters seem quite confident it will play out as predicted. I expect closures of schools, businesses and more. I expect snow gates (yes, there’s such a thing) to be pulled across interstates and other highways. There will be winter storm (our warning starts at 3 pm today) and blizzard warnings, travel advisories, “no travel recommended” and most likely stranded motorists who need rescuing.
Randy and I are prepared. I have a stack of library books to read. We have 2 ½ dozen eggs (thanks to a friend who has free-range chickens), enough milk and nearly a full loaf of bread. The snowblower gas tank is topped. And the mini fridge in the basement is stocked with craft beer. Yup, we’re ready…