Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Symbols of freedom at Fargo’s Lindenwood Park July 4, 2012

IF YOU VISIT the Fargo-Moorhead Sertoma Club website, you will read this:

Sertoma stands for the high and noble service to mankind through communication of thoughts, ideas and concepts to accelerate human progress in health, education, freedom and democracy.

Here a volunteer removes flags posted along Roger Maris Drive in Lindenwood Park on Flag Day.

Then, if you visit Fargo’s largest park, Lindenwood Park, around the Fourth of July or on Labor Day, September 11, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day or Flag Day, you’ll see evidence of that mission. Some 75 American flags line Roger Maris Drive as part of the Sertoma Flag Service project.

I saw the impressive display of flags when I was in Lindenwood on June 14, Flag Day.

Volunteer Bruce Hanson gathers the flags, which typically are posted for several days on holidays and memorable historic occasions.

There I chatted briefly with Sertoman Bruce Hanson as he carried carefully rolled flags from the park grounds and placed them into a Sertoma trailer. The project, he says, has been ongoing in the city for a long time (since 1973, according to the website) and was moved to Lindenwood several years ago. Prior to that, the flags were scattered at businesses throughout Fargo and West Fargo. Grouping all the flags in one place makes more of an impact.

Businesses are still involved, Hanson says, via flag placement sponsorships. Proceeds from the flag project go back to the community.

The Sertoma Freedom Bridge over the Red River, linking Fargo and Moorhead.

I didn’t ask Hanson about the other Sertoma project I noticed in the park, the Sertoma Freedom Bridge, a foot-bridge which links Lindenwood Park on the North Dakota side of the Red River with Gooseberry Mound Park on the Moorhead side.

I photographed my shadow and that of my 18-year-old son on this popular biking and walking bridge.

The bridge closes July 9 for reconstruction and reopens October 1. I did a brief online search and learned that this bridge has been battered more than a few times by the raging floodwaters of the Red River. That was difficult to imagine given the docile nature of the narrow and muddy Red on the June evening I visited Lindenwood Park.

But I was assured by a man and his granddaughter that the river most assuredly spills from its banks and floods the lower park areas.

I’d really like to know more about the history of this pedestrian and bike bridge. When was it built? And why is it pegged “Freedom Bridge?”

You’ll also find this symbol of freedom in Lindenwood Park. This memorial honors the 81 men who lost their lives on the WW II American submarine, the USS Rabalo. Four survived but died as Japanese prisoners of war after the submarine hit a minefield and sunk while passing through the Balabac Strait. The submarine was assigned to North Dakota for establishment of a monument.

The Lindenwood Park monument to baseball player Roger Maris, who was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, but grew up in Fargo. This New York Yankees’ outfielder set a new major baseball league record in 1961 with 61 homeruns. That broke Babe Ruth’s record of 60. Maris was also a Most Valuable Player in the American League several times and played in seven World Series. Fargo is home to the Roger Maris Museum at the West Acres Shopping Center.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Cannon Falls pulls out the flags for President’s visit August 15, 2011

Amy Savvy cleans the windows at Amy's Savvy Seconds, next to the Cannon Falls Chamber of Commerce, on Sunday afternoon in preparation for President Barack Obama's visit.

IN A FEW HOURS, President Barack Obama arrives in small-town Minnesota for the first stop on a Midwest bus tour that will also take him into rural parts of Iowa and Illinois.

The folks in Cannon Falls, a town of some 3,795 in southeastern Minnesota, have rolled out the flags in a patriotic welcome to our nation’s leader.

Throughout the downtown Sunday afternoon, most businesses were displaying American flags in storefront windows. Flags were also posted along the downtown streets. Some homeowners displayed flags in their yards and mini-flags lined at least a block of the roadway leading to Hannah’s Bend Park, site of the President’s visit.

Along the road to Hannah's Bend Park, at least one homeowner had decorated with mini American flags.

An American flag hangs outside Schaffer's Antiques.

A street-side flag in downtown Cannon Falls.

Vintage building signage provides the backdrop for an American flag in this historic river town.

Whether Obama will ever see the many flags in the downtown remains unknown as his route into and out of Cannon Falls remained unofficially unknown to the locals I visited with on Sunday. At least one business owner speculated he would travel U.S. Highway 52 into town, which seems the most likely route.

Warren Schaffer of Schaffer’s Antiques recalled a shutdown along that highway when President Ronald Reagan passed by Cannon Falls.

The last visit by a U.S. President to this Goodhue County town occurred in 1928, when Calvin Coolidge attended the dedication of a statue honoring Col. William Colvill, a Civil War veteran who led the First Minnesota Volunteer Regiment during the battle at Gettysburg.

Most Cannon Falls residents likely feel as antique shop owner Schaffer does about Obama’s visit. “He’s the President. This is a little town. This is a big deal.”

A Spanish American flag hangs on a wall inside Schaffer's Antiques. The flag, which shop owner Warren Schaffer thinks likely was a coffin flag, is not for sale. It makes a nice wall decoration, Schaffer says.

A flag in the window of the Cannon River Winery, a busy place on a Sunday.

A shot of Cannon Falls' main drag and a flag in the window of an insurance company.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Flag Day patriotism June 14, 2011

IN HONOR OF FLAG DAY today, I’ve scrolled through my archives and pulled some of my favorite flag images. For the few I am showcasing here, many more exist within the stories of Minnesota Prairie Roots.

But for today, for this minute, view these and reflect on the many ways Minnesotans show their patriotism and loyalty to country via American flags.

Vietnam War era veteran Joel Kukacka's patriotic garage in the hamlet of Heidelberg, Minnesota.

A flag waves in the wind on a soldier's grave at the Cannon City Cemetery.

Herold Flags in West Concord sells flags and flagpoles.

Flags fly at the Rice County Courthouse, Faribault.

Korean War veteran Ray Sanders at the 2010 Memorial Day ceremony in Faribault's Central Park.

Blue stars on a WW II honor flag displayed last July 4 at my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, along with American flags.

American flag decor adds a patriotic flair to the down-home Kasota Zoo.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling