Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Memories from “A Night at the Museum” October 5, 2015

Museum, 90 family photo outside church

 

ON THE FRONT STEPS of Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, a family posed for photos.

 

A boy feigns mock injuries for the living history event in Faribault.

A boy feigns mock injuries for a living history event in Faribault on Saturday.

Under a Red Cross tent, nurses tended a young boy kicked in the head by a horse.

The one-room Pleasant Valley School quickly filled with students as the teacher led his class in songs.

The one-room Pleasant Valley School quickly filled with students as the teacher led his class in songs.

Inside Pleasant Valley School, students sang “If you’re happy and you know it…” along with their accordion-playing teacher.

Every time this little guy poked the duck hunter, a duck call emitted. Eventually, he figured out that a real man, Brian Schmidt, was under all that garb. This is the moment Brian revealed himself.

Every time this little guy poked the duck hunter, a duck call emitted. Eventually, he figured out that a real man, Brian Schmidt, was under all that garb. This is the moment Brian revealed himself.

Inside Harvest and Heritage Hall, a boy poked at a duck hunter, wondering whether the camouflaged man was mannequin or real.

Mrs. Morris takes a break from making applesauce.

Mrs. Morris takes a break from making applesauce.

I love photographing moments like this of people connecting.

I love photographing moments like this of people connecting, here outside the Morris “home” in the Harvest/Heritage Hall.

Next to Mrs. Morris’ front porch, a trio of men visited while the lady of the house peeled apples in her kitchen.

Participants in "A Night at the Museum" file into the Harvest and Heritage Hall.

Participants in “A Night at the Museum” file into the Harvest and Heritage Hall.

Scenes. Some part of living history activities. Others authentic, in the moment. But all part of the Rice County Historical Society’s annual “A Night at the Museum.”

Many kids were dressed in period costume.

Many kids dressed in period costume.

A near perfect Saturday in October brought families and others to the museum grounds in Faribault to participate in this living history program that seems to grow in popularity every year. It’s an engaging event that includes a local history quest game for kids and plenty of learning and reminiscing opportunities for the adults.

Horse-drawn wagon rides around the Rice County Fairgrounds were popular.

Horse-drawn wagon rides around the Rice County Fairgrounds proved popular.

And mixed in with all the education and fun is the building of memories. I expect kids will remember riding in the horse-pulled wagon, searching for the Bruce Smith display to determine the year the Faribault native and University of Minnesota football player won the Heismann Trophy (1941), struggling to walk on stilts and more. One boy may even remember answering an old crank phone to the question, “Would you like to order a pizza?”, posed by my husband on the other end.

Old books were laid out on school desks.

Old books were laid out on school desks.

I’ll remember, not so pleasantly, the stressed mom who yanked and yelled at her daughter and how I tried to comfort the young girl cowering behind the schoolhouse door. Sometimes life’s moments hurt. But I delighted in finding a scythe I will return to photograph for an author writing a book about Laura Ingalls Wilder. And I was impressed by Gunnar, the friendly and confident elementary-aged boy who informed me that I was landscaping. He was right. I was photographing landscape (horizontal) images with my camera.

I expect this young girl will remember being pushed around in a wheelchair by a Red Cross nurse during this historical reenactment.

I expect this young girl will remember being pushed around in a wheelchair by a Red Cross nurse during this historical reenactment.

Aside from the unsettling incident I witnessed, I observed moments to savor. Moments that become part of an individual’s history, a family’s history, a couple’s history—remember that night we went to the museum…

BONUS PHOTOS:

A scene photographed looking from the outside into the historic log cabin.

A scene photographed looking from the outside into the historic log cabin.

Ready to iron outside the log cabin.

Ready to iron outside the log cabin.

Math class is underway inside the one-room Pleasant Valley School.

Math class is underway inside the one-room Pleasant Valley School.

Art in a classroom window.

Art in a classroom window.

A student reenactor sings along with her class.

A student reenactor in class.

Inside the main museum building, I studied a map with a magnifying glass. Minnesota was spelled with one "n."

Inside the main museum building, I studied an 1849 map with a magnifying glass. Minnesota was spelled with one “n.” And the Minnesota River was labeled the St. Peter River.

Mike and Pat Fuchs brought their horses and wagon for free rides.

Mike and Pat Fuchs brought their horses and wagon for free rides.

The beautiful horses.

The beautiful horses.

Driving through the fairgrounds.

Driving through the fairgrounds.

Stacked inside the Harvest and Heritage Halls are these crates from Fleckenstein, which brewed beer and made soda in Faribault.

Stacked inside the Harvest and Heritage Halls are these crates from Fleckenstein, which brewed beer and made soda in Faribault.

A high school reenactor reads a book in the museum barbershop.

A high school reenactor reads a book in the museum barbershop.

Behind the historic church, I walked through the graveyard.

Behind the historic church, I walked through the graveyard.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Minnesota Faces: Historical reenactors “Katie” and “Jim” plus more October 2, 2015

Portrait #42  : Siblings Kaylee and William

 

Portrait 42, Night at the Museum actors

 

Back in the day when I studied history, it was dull and boring and printed mostly as straight factual information in books. Dates and events and important people. Page after page after page with the occasional illustration or photo to break up the blocks of copy. Since I’m good at memorizing, I passed history classes with ease, but not with interest.

I haven’t cracked a history textbook in decades. But I presume they are a bit more interesting, perhaps in a storytelling, personalized way.

Today, thankfully, living history conveys the past in a personal and relatable way that a textbook never will. When I met siblings Kaylee and William last September, they were role-playing pioneer children during the Rice County Historical Society’s second annual “A Night at the Museum.

Lots of kids were running around the grounds in period attire or attending class inside the historic Pleasant Valley School. I was learning, too, as I wandered the museum grounds and observed reenactors portraying historical characters. I suspect I’m like most people who find this much more educational and entertaining than simply peering at historical items on display inside museum walls. Not that that doesn’t have value, too. It certainly does. I just prefer living history and am grateful our local historical society started this annual “A Night at the Museum.”

From 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. this Saturday, October 3, attendees can interact with costumed characters from Rice County’s past on the museum grounds at 1814 Northwest Second Avenue in Faribault, right next to the fairgrounds. New this year is a Flashlight Tour of Harvest and Heritage Halls at 6 p.m. There will also be horse-drawn wagon rides and food available around the fire pit. Click here for more information.

Maybe you’ll spot Kaylee and William there, pretending to be Katie and Jim.

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Participants in last year's Chili Contest dish up chili at a business along Central Avenue during the Fall Festival.

Attendees sample chili at a business along Central Avenue during the 2011 Fall Festival. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

IF YOU WANT TO MAKE a full day of it in Faribault, arrive earlier for the annual downtown Fall Festival and Oktoberfest. Most events begin at noon. However, starting at 9:30, until noon, local artists will gather outside the Paradise Center for the Arts to create en plein air.

At noon there’s a kiddie parade and a Chili Contest with businesses and others offering chili samples (for a fee) until 2 p.m. From 12:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., those interested can take the Spooky Basement Tour, a free event at the Paradise Center for the Arts. The PCA is also holding a costume sale.  Kids can go trick-or-treating downtown from 1 – 3 p.m. Games for kids, pumpkin painting and a unicycle show are also among fest activities.

New to the downtown festival this year is Oktoberfest, celebrated from noon to 11 p.m. at Faribault’s new brewery, F-Town Brewing Company, just off Central Avenue. The event features food trucks, yard games, live music and, of course, beer.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

History comes to life at Rice County museum September 30, 2014

THE SCENES COULD HAVE AIRED on Little House on the Prairie:

Wash basin and water cooler inside the schoolhouse entry.

Wash basin and water cooler inside the schoolhouse entry.

Harsh clang of the bell summons students inside the one-room Pleasant Valley School—girls to the left, boys to the right.

Youth role-playing Pleasant Valley School students.

Youth role-play Pleasant Valley School students.

Lessons written on slate.

Lessons written on slate.

Girls in prairie dresses scratch chalk across slate.

Attendees and participants in A Night at the Museum filled the one-room school.

Inside the one-room school.

My friend Duane role-plays the Pleasant Valley teacher.

My friend Duane role-plays the Pleasant Valley teacher.

Teacher praises his students with “Good, very good.”

Kids loved trying to walk on stilts.

Kids loved trying to walk on stilts.

Outside, during recess, legs fly in a game of tag while others flail in attempts to walk on stilts.

Luke, 13 months, finds an apple outside the log cabin.

Luke, 13 months, finds an apple outside the log cabin.

Across the way, in an 1856 log cabin, the scent of baking bread lingers while a steady hand cranks a butter churn.

Mike and Pat bring their horses and wagon to many area events.

Mike and Pat bring their horses and wagon to many area events.

Wagon rides around the Rice County Fairgrounds proved popular.

Wagon rides around the Rice County Fairgrounds proved popular.

A team of Belgian horses pulls a wagon, not a covered wagon like Pa Ingalls’, but still, a welcome mode of transportation on a stunning autumn afternoon and evening in southeastern Minnesota.

Pleasant Valley School, left, and Holy Innocents Episcopal Church.

Pleasant Valley School, left, and Holy Innocents Episcopal Church at the Rice County Historical Society, Faribault, Minnesota.

Fast forward to July 15, 1944, and Helen Greenville walks the worn floorboards of Holy Innocents Episcopal Church as she prepares for her daughter, Lilas’, wedding. “Oh the Deep, Deep Love” slides from bow to violin strings.

A Night at the Museum attendees visit with Mrs. Morris, who was peeling apples in her kitchen.

Visitors chat with Mrs. Morris, who is peeling apples in her kitchen.

Next door, Mrs. Morris peels apples for applesauce.

Barber Tom with customer LeRoy inside the museum barbershop.

Barber Tom with customer LeRoy inside the museum barbershop.

In another building, Hopalong Tenacity taps out Morse Code and the barber razors hair and Civil War veteran and businessman John Hutchinson greets guests, all dapper in top hat and tails.

Friends.

Friends.

These scenes and more were part of the Rice County Historical Society’s second annual Night at the Museum, an event which brings history to life inside and outside museum buildings.

Kaylee, role-playing Katie, struggles to push an old-fashioned lawnmower across the lawn outside the log cabin.

Kaylee, role-playing Katie, struggles to push an old-fashioned lawnmower across the lawn outside the log cabin.

I loved it. This is how I learn history best—through voices and stories and action.

Dad and daughter enter the historic church.

Dad and daughter enter the historic church. A Night at the Museum is definitely a family-oriented event.

And, based on my observations, adults and kids attending and participating likewise embrace this style of sharing history.

Kaylee and William (AKA Katie and Jim for the evening) raved about the apples.

Siblings Kaylee and William (AKA Katie and Jim for the evening) raved about the apples.

I’d like to see more of these living history events in my community of Faribault, one of Minnesota’s oldest cities founded in 1852 by fur trader Alexander Faribault. Our historic downtown would provide an ideal stage as would the historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour and so many other aged buildings in and around town.

HOW DO YOU BEST learn history? How does your community share its local history?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My Night at the Museum October 28, 2013

HISTORY BROUGHT TO LIFE pleases me, for I am an interactive learning history type of person.

I often get overwhelmed and impatient reading information in traditional museum displays.

Arriving around 6:30 p.m. Friday for A Night at the Museum at the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault.

Arriving around 6:30 p.m. Friday for A Night at the Museum at the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault.

So I was excited Friday evening to attend the Rice County Historical Society’s first ever A Night at the Museum in which costumed men, women and children played the roles of historical figures. Like Evangeline Whipple, second wife of Bishop Henry Whipple, and Ordinance Sargent Jones, stationed at Ft. Ridgely during the U.S. – Dakota Conflict of 1862:

Role-playing Evangeline Whipple.

Role-playing Evangeline Whipple.

Playing the role of Ordinance Sgt. Jones.

Playing the role of Ordinance Sgt. Jones.

The buckled cloth covering worn by French Mary keeps mud from boots.

The buckled cloth covering worn by French Mary keeps mud from boots.

I spoke with “French Mary” Tepe about her role as a vivandiere with Pennsylvania volunteers in the Civil War. Vivandieres carried a canteen of spirits and more and attended to the sick and wounded. I’d never heard of vivandieres prior to meeting French Mary.

Noah, who volunteers at the library through its youth program, sat in the museum's barbershop chair during A Night at the Museum. in the museum barbershop.

Noah, who volunteers at the library through its youth program, sat in the museum’s barbershop chair.

Noah read a souvenir edition of the Faribault Daily News in an old-time barbershop while Leroy bathed in a second story room above.

Flash cards in the one-room school.

Flash cards in the one-room school.

Mrs. Sweet taught arithmetic in the late 1850s one-room Pleasant Valley School where Noah’s sister, Hannah, along with others, assumed the roles of students.

Playing the old pump organ.

Playing the old pump organ.

Holy Innocents, from the side.

Holy Innocents.

I listened to music played on the pump organ in Holy Innocents Episcopal Church built in 1869 in Cannon City and consecrated by Bishop Whipple.

Mrs. Morris supposedly cooking applesauce.

Mrs. Morris “cooking” applesauce.

Next door I spoke with Mrs. Morris who was “cooking” applesauce in her 1920s kitchen. Except she wasn’t really using the old cookstove. The inviting scent of apples wafted, instead, from apple slices heating in a kettle on a mostly out of sight hotplate. Ingenious.

This multiple engaging of the senses added to the experience. In the old log cabin, built in the mid 1800s by a Scandinavian immigrant in the Nerstrand Big Woods, I savored the yeasty aroma of bread baking—not in the old stove—but rather in a bread machine hidden away. Ingenious.

The setting for A Night at the Museum.

The setting for A Night at the Museum.

Outside, several tiki torches flickered, many snuffed out by the strong early evening breeze. Nearby, visitors gathered around a small campfire to sip apple cider, eat hot dogs and/or munch on cookies.

A barn front forms a backdrop in Harvest Hall, where visitors can learn about the area's agricultural heritage.

A barn front forms a backdrop in Harvest Hall, where visitors can learn about the area’s agricultural heritage.

Horses hooves clopped on the pavement as visitors were treated to a wagon ride around the adjoining county fairgrounds.

Brian Schmidt dressed as a hunter, not to be confused with a mannequin.

Not a scene from Duck Dynasty.

But the most memorable event of the evening for me, and likely Brian Schmidt who serves on the historical society board, occurred inside Heritage Hall. I stopped briefly at a display on outdoor recreational activities in the county and noticed what I assumed to be a camouflaged duck hunter mannequin in a corner. Except he wasn’t. As I walked away, a duck call sounded. Startled, I turned back, peered more closely at the masked face and realized I’d been fooled. By Brian.

A peek at Heritage Hall.

A peek at Heritage Hall.

Excellent. This Night at the Museum was not billed as a Halloween event. But in that moment, for me, it was.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling