Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Mixing art, music and BBQ at Faribault festival August 12, 2012

The banner and band scaffolding/set-up in the 300 block of Central Avenue during Saturday’s Blue Collar BBQ & Arts Fest in Faribault

FROM DEAFENING MUSIC that bounced between historic buildings along Faribault’s Central Avenue, to the savory taste and tantalizing, smokey smell of barbecued meat to the cheers of onlookers when a local celebrity plunged into the dunk tank to the clink of washers against asphalt in the washer tournament to human faces morphing, via paint, into animal faces, offerings at the fourth annual Blue Collar BBQ & Arts Fest in Faribault drew crowds, and smiles, on a picture perfect Saturday.

An overview of the crowd early into the event on Saturday, looking to the 300 block of historic downtown Farbault.

Coordinated by the Paradise Center for the Arts, the 13-hour free festival focused on bringing people into the historic downtown to enjoy/participate in the arts, music, food, a BBQ and homemade brew competition, and more.

The Black Widow BBQ team, one of about a dozen competing for top prizes of $500 in several categories.

BBQ teams set up along a side street to cook their meats and desserts.

A Texas native, now living in Faribault and a member of The Black Hat “BBQ” team, sprays apple juice onto his St. Louis style pork ribs during the BBQ contest.

Grill Cabin team members, from New Prague, prepare entries in the BBQ competition.

Retail stores like The Crafty Maven, 212 Central Avenue, at the heart of the arts and crafts fair and kids’ activities, expected an increase in business with an influx of an anticipated 5,000 people into the downtown for the festival. And that’s part of the plan, to celebrate downtown businesses, many of them event supporters. Other businesses in the community also sponsored parts of the festival.

Flower art and more, shaped and welded from old silverware, etc. is helping the DeWall brothers of DeWall Bros Metal Creations of Grand Meadow finance their college educations. Their art was for sale at the arts fest.

While the DeWall men were peddling their metal art, the women–mom/wife, Cindy, and girlfriend, Allison– were shopping and getting their faces painted by Jodi Gustafson of Big Shoe Entertainment.

Bob Maegerlein of Rochester, specializing in Raku ware, sold his pottery at the arts fair.

I arrived late morning and wandered for several hours past vendors—wishing I could sample the meat smoking in BBQ contestants’ grills; admiring the artistic creations of artists and a gifted face painter; ducking into the Paradise Center for the Arts to photograph the current art show, Car pARTS; steering mostly clear of the north end of the 300 block of Central because I couldn’t tolerate the volume of the live band music; trying a vendor’s delicious BBQed meat trio sampler that was way overpriced for the quantity (plus, no forks included); and, finally, stopping at Pawn Minnesota and then a Somali clothing shop on my way to the car.

Blues-rock guitarist/musician Trent Romens was among six featured musical acts.

Did the festival accomplish for me what I expected? Yes. I was entertained, although I would have appreciated a much lower volume on the music. Ditto for the price on the meat sampler. And I would have liked access to the home brew competition, which was tucked into the Paradise somewhere.

But all in all, the festival provided a fun way to while away part of a Saturday. And, for those downtown business owners who hoped the event would draw shoppers into stores, it worked for me. I’d never been into the pawn store and wasn’t even aware of the Somali shop or another ethnic business across the street (which wasn’t open).

If you’re from Faribault, I hope you took  time on Saturday to attend the Blue Collar BBQ & Arts Fest and appreciate what we have, right here in our own community.

With the weather about as good as it gets on a summer day, attendance was high at the Blue Collar BBQ & Arts Fest.

Dad and grandpa watched the pets while the kids played in the bouncy inflatables. These pom pom pets were a popular item sold at the arts fair.

Kids practiced for the washer tournament. I was not convinced by a tournament organizer to participate. “She would throw the washer through a store window,” my husband told him. He would be right. Either that or I would have struck a passerby. We walked away, for the safety of those in attendance.

Isabella, 7, of Faribault, one of the many kids who lined up for the free face painting. Check back for an additional post featuring the artwork of professional face painter Jodi Gustafson of Big Shoe Entertainment.

Taking a turn in the dunk tank…

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Touring the Minnesota in May BBQ & Cheese Festival May 19, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:21 AM
Tags: , , , , ,

Grilling burgers Friday evening at the Minnesota in May BBQ & Cheese Festival.

ON THE EVENING BEFORE the big BBQ competition, the atmosphere at the Rice County Fairgrounds felt kicked back. Contestants settled into lawn chairs with bottles of beer, others clustered around campers, some tossed bean bags and yet other competitors chatted it up with the locals.

Next to the Two Little Pigs BBQ site, a bean bag toss competition was underway.

The guys from QU Smokin’ Krewe, Waukesha, Wisconsin, took time to tell me about their “pit” and show me the meat cooking inside the massive wood pellet fired grill behind them.

A pig on a vintage Ford pick-up, placed their by the team of two brothers and childhood friends originally from East Grand Forks, Minnesota.

Only a few focused on prepping for the competition at the Minnesota in May BBQ & Cheese Festival which continues today (Saturday) in Faribault.

Judging begins at 11:30 a.m. in seven competitive categories in this Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event that has drawn 63 teams from all over—Appleton, Wisconsin; Rapid City, South Dakota; Storm Lake, Iowa; Delano, Minnesota…

They came with their stacks of wood and their bags and bags and bags of charcoal. They arrived pulling campers and massive grills. And they came with an attitude of fun, a sense of humor and a love of BBQ.

Many of the grills, like that of the Lone Star Smoke Rangers from Rapid City, South Dakota, are massive. But some contestants cook on ordinary backyard grills.

One of the many creative and humorous signs you’ll see at competitors’ sites.

Tami Schluter, co-owner of the historic Hutchinson House B & B in Faribault, brought her English bulldog, Butler, to the BBQ fest Friday evening.

One of the vendors at the BBQ fest.

Food vendor Hog Wild BBQ and Grill from Luck, Wisconsin, displayed its collection of trophies.

Daddy-O’s BBQ Shack, another festival food vendor.

FYI: For more details about today’s BBQ contest in Faribault, click here and follow this link to a previous blog post.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Come on over to Faribault for a BBQ & more May 17, 2012

An example of the barbecued meat prepared for the 2011 Minnesota in May BBQ Contest.

MINNESOTA BARBEQUE LOVERS, this is your weekend.

The season’s first of six Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned competitions in our state kicks off this Friday, May 18, with the Minnesota in May BBQ & Cheese Festival at the Rice County Fairgrounds in Faribault.

And, folks, it’s free—unless you purchase food and/or beverages from vendors. And you’ll want to, once you smell the tantalizing aroma of BBQed meats. Vendors open to the public at 11 a.m. Saturday.

For the first time ever, Faribault hosted the Minnesota in May BBQ Contest at the Rice County Fairgrounds in 2011. Contestants cooked under tents during a morning downpour. By afternoon, the rain stopped.

Bubba and Sabrina’s home on wheels and traveling BBQ central parked at the 2011 Minnesota in May BBQ Festival. The couple owns Bubba-Q’s, a restaurant in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Artfully displayed bacon-wrapped pheasant prepared by a BBQ team from Appleton, Wisconsin, during the 2011 competition at the Rice County Fairgrounds in Faribault.

With $10,000 in prize money up for grabs, you can expect some top contenders vying on Saturday for awards in these divisions: turkey product, chicken, ribs, pork, beef brisket, anything butt and dessert. Contestants will be cooking all morning and into the early afternoon with judging from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

These delicious-looking apple dumplings were entered in the 2011 dessert division.

Ten cooks will also compete in a “grilling with blue cheese” contest featuring Caves of Faribault cheese. Yes, we have some savory blue cheese made right here in my community and aged in sandstone caves. That contest is set for 3 p.m. Saturday.

Award-winning Amablu Gorgonzola from Caves of Faribault.

The Cheese Cave is a gourmet destination along Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault. Stop by on Friday or Saturday if you’re in town for the BBQ Festival.

The Friday events, running from 4:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. include a Kids BBQ Competition,  BBQ Cook-Off and live music.

Now I’m not promoting this BBQ fest simply because it’s the nice thing to do. I attended last year and thoroughly enjoyed the festival, including chatting with numerous contestants. You would not believe how far these people travel, how much money they spend and how passionate they are about barbecuing. Click here to link to a blog post about the 2011 Minnesota in May BBQ Festival, which did not include cheese. Click here to read a post about BBQers Bubba and Sabrina from Iowa. And click here to read a third story from the 2011 BBQ fest.

The logo for the Faribo Drag-On’s car club on a member’s vintage car.

This year a car show, hosted by the Faribo Drag-Ons from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday, has been added to the festival.

Other draws include a Saturday pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. ($5 cost), live music, food and non-food vendors and more. Click here to read a promotional flier about the Minnesota in May BBQ & Cheese Festival.

Contest and festival proceeds will benefit IRIS (Infants Remembered in Silence) and The Faribo Drag-Ons. Two more good reasons to attend.

If you can’t make it to the Faribault BBQ festival, you’ll have more opportunities from June through September to attend Minnesota barbeque fests—in Owatonna, Rochester, Marshall, Albert Lea and/or Worthington. Click here to read details from the Minnesota Barbeque Society.

HAVE YOU EVER ATTENDED a barbeque festival? Please submit a comment and share your experience.


This file photo shows the Faribault Woolen Mill days after a flash flood in September 2010 and before the mill reopened a year later. The mill had closed in 2009 and was not in operation at the time of the flood.

P.S.  If you’re in town for the BBQ fest, take time also to check out the Faribault Woolen Mill retail store across the Cannon River just south of the fairgrounds. The store, in the recently reopened and revamped historic mill, opened Tuesday. Retail store hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Saturday.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


From backyard barbecuing to competitive barbecuing May 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:39 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

An example of the barbecued meat prepared for the Minnesota in May BBQ Contest.

Tom Mcintosh of Appleton, Wisconsin, shows off bacon-wrapped pheasant with raspberry chipotle sauce for the open class division.

THEY START OUT innocently enough, barbecuing in the backyard.

Then, before they know it, they’re competing in barbecue competitions, driving all over the country with their gargantuan grills loaded into trailers.

Some have created their own rubs and sauces, while others doctor up purchased sauces.

They spend hundreds of dollars on meats, entry fees and travel expenses. Maybe, eventually, if they win enough contests, they’ll break even.

I met several of these die-hard barbecue contestants Saturday while walking the grounds at the Minnesota in May BBQ Contest in Faribault. By the time I arrived in the early afternoon, the teams had already turned in their mandatory entries—chicken, pork ribs, pork and brisket. Teams of judges evaluate the food on taste, tenderness and appearance in this Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event.

The competitors had been grilling for hours—under tents in pouring rain—when I got to the contest site at the Rice County Fairgrounds. Now they were relaxing, some of them kicking back with bottles of beer, others visiting with attendees and/or packing up.

As I wandered the soggy grounds with my husband, sidestepping puddles, I spied grills that looked more like space age inventions than grills. Mighty impressive. The Q Crew from Waldorf has even appropriately named its grill “the pig casket.”

Since I’m a word person, I noticed the creative names these teams of barbecue enthusiasts have given themselves: BurntOut Smokers, Rebel Fire Que’n Company, The Monkeys’ Uncles Competition BBQ Team… I didn’t pause to ask the stories behind the names and logos; I simply snapped photos.

At least one group of guys, from western Wisconsin, had time to talk. Not about their team name, which I don’t remember, but about the reason they do this: “To get a break from the wives and kids.” Not that they don’t love their families, but…

These buddies especially enjoy the fun of small town BBQ contests, like the one in Gilmanton, Wisconsin, where they start the day with Bloody Marys.

They’re an easy-going, laid-back bunch, these barbecuing fanatics. Or at least they are once the meats are turned into judges. Before that, I’d guess the atmosphere under those team tents rates as tense. After all, they’re in it to win it.

BBQ sauces and rubs were for sale.

Contestants arrived with mega-sized grills.

Creative team names were posted on tents and trailers and vehicles.

The Q Crew from Waldorf appropriately calls their grill, in the background, the "pig casket."

The team trailer for spitfire, one of many creative BBQ team names.

WATCH FOR MORE BBQ images in one more blog post.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Iowegians bring their barbecuing passion to Minnesota May 22, 2011

Bubba'Q's logo and slogan on the side of their BBQ trailer.


They’re from Ottumwa, Iowa. That’s “A-ttum-wa (short “a”), not “Oh-ttum-wa (Minnesota long “o”).

They’re about as cheerful and friendly a couple as I’ve met. Talkative with a definite accent that I would have placed as more southern Missouri than southeastern Iowa. They set me straight, in a kindly way, on the pronunciation of Ottumwa, a community of 25,000 along the Des Moines River.

Big smiles accompanied their language lesson and an intro to barbecuing at the Minnesota in May BBQ Contest in Faribault Saturday. Nearly 60 teams competed for about $10,000 in prizes in the two-day Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned event.

While Bubba and Sabrina didn’t win a prize this time—they have taken grand champion honors in other competitions—they seem content simply to barbecue, win or not. Clearly, this is their passion.

They own Bubba-Q’s, a restaurant and catering business in Ottumwa that features traditional pit style barbecued meats. The dessert menu of scratch made pies, triple chocolate fudge espresso brownies, banana delight pudding and more sounds mighty tasty too.

I wasn’t able to sample any of Bubba-Q’s meats, but Bubba tells me their style is “a little sweet, a little heat.”

I’ll take his word for it.

The ribs they prepare for competitions differ, they say, from the ribs prepared in their restaurant, where customers prefer them falling-off-the-bone tender. The judges, want tender, but chewable, still on the bone ribs.

The two agree that no matter how often and where they compete, and they’ve traveled to many competitions as far away as New Mexico and Las Vegas, they never quite know what will please the judges. Bubba says that’s OK. Then he smiles. Again. He’s just that kind of guy—with a face that shows he’s happy to be barbecuing, whether in Iowa or Minn-e-soooooo-ta.

Bubba and Sabrina's home on wheels and traveling BBQ central.

Even their pick-up truck advertises their barbecuing passion.

WATCH FOR MORE photos from the Minnesota in May BBQ Contest in future blog posts.

For the first time ever, Faribault hosted the Minnesota in May BBQ Contest at the Rice County Fairgrounds.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling