Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Cheers to beer poems at a Minnesota brewery October 1, 2017

The patio outside Imminent Brewing Company in Northfield, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 2017.

 

I ADMIT, I HELD some apprehension walking toward Imminent Brewing in downtown Northfield late Saturday afternoon. I was on my way there not only for some great craft beer, but also to read poetry as part of a Beer Poetry Contest.

Would beer drinkers embrace poets when they stepped up to the mic? Or would they consider them an intrusion on an otherwise kicked-back afternoon at this former National Guard armory garage?

 

La Crosse, Wisconsin, celebrates Oktoberfest each autumn as noted in this Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo taken in 2015. There are bars aplenty in this college town.

 

Much to my delight, the crowd that filled the expansive space and overflowed onto the patio welcomed the writers of beer poems with enthusiasm. Folks listened and laughed as poets read of the beer culture in La Crosse, of Imminent Brewing staff and beer, of the days when a quarter would buy a glass of brew and more.

 

For my free beer, I chose Minnesota Hop Mess, Imminent Brewing’s newest beer, made with 100 percent locally grown fresh hops. This promo postcard was lying on tables in the brewery.

 

A request of “free beer for life” at the end of a rhyming poem caused an uproar of laughter. We poets did not get a life-time of free beer. But we each got a free pint. Cheers.

I didn’t win the poetry contest. The top three winners were determined by audience response and input from brewery staff and Northfield’s Poet Laureate, Rob Hardy. After hearing several of the poems and noting the support some poets had, I didn’t expect to place. But that’s OK. For me this event was more about the opportunity to share my poetry, to hear other poets and to expose people to poetry in an unexpected venue.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo used for illustration purposes only and not taken at Imminent Brewing.

 

A bonus came in meeting Joy Ganyo, an elderly poet who intended to read, but inadvertently left the piece of paper with her poem printed thereon at home. Instead, she parked her walker at a front row table, ordered a beer and listened. I introduced myself to Joy after the readings and, in our brief chat, learned that she planned to read a poem about wildflowers during the open mic time. I asked a bit about her past and she spoke with fondness of growing up in Warroad. We also shared a commonality of a journalism background. Later I would learn that Joy once owned and operated Seven Gables Books & Antiques in Northfield. To hear her read would have been, I expect, a treat.

 

 

I also enjoyed meeting Rob Hardy, Northfield’s Poet Laureate and coordinator of the Beer Poetry Contest and the Northfield Poetry Festival. Networking with other poets encourages me to continue in this craft of shaping words into works of art. Yes, even with a topic like beer.

Here’s the poem I wrote and then read at the Beer Poetry Contest. Enjoy!

 

Two Men, Two Beers

 

George settled onto the cracked vinyl bar stool,
cocked his seed corn cap and ordered a cold one,
harvest done,
corn brimming bins,
a big fat check widening his worn wallet.

 

Across the street, Stephen slid onto a shiny stool,
ran a hand through his hair and ordered an IPA,
conference done,
files brimming computer,
credit card pressed into his slim back pocket.

 

Back at the bar, George asked for a burger
and a side order of onion rings,
brushed the bee’s wings from his bibs
and waited while the TV blared
and the bartender slid a rag down the bar.

 

At the brewpub, Stephen signaled the server,
ordered a pulled pork sandwich and sweet potato fries,
brushed dog hair from his jeans
and waited while the guitarist strummed
and the bartender poured flights.

 

George eased the neck of the brown bottle to his lips,
drank deep, content as a cow chewing cud
with his brand-name beer.
He glanced out the window, saw his son sipping beer,
tipped his bottle to the beer snob.

 

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FYI: Click here to read the Northfield Poet Laureate’s Facebook page, which includes a photo of me reading “Two Men, Two Beers.”

 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Special thanks to blogger friend Valerie and her husband, Gary, for joining Randy and me at Imminent Brewing. I appreciate your support.

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In Northfield: Have a beer, hear a poem September 28, 2017

The patio outside Imminent Brewing Company in Northfield, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo July 2017.

 

I’VE READ MY POETRY ALOUD in an historic theatre, a church, an art gallery, a lake cabin, a library, a civic center meeting room, a golf club and outdoors next to a history center and in a town square. But I’ve never read at a brewery. That will change on Saturday when I participate in the Beer Poetry Contest at Imminent Brewing as part of Northfield Poetry Festival 2017.

 

A flight at Turtle Stack Brewery in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I’m excited to read at this new venue on a subject—beer—I’ve not covered in past poems. I wondered if I was up to the writing challenge given my limited beer knowledge. Sure, I like craft beer and enjoy checking out craft breweries. But could I craft a poem about beer?

 

Taps at F-Town Brewing in Faribault, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Once I sat down at the computer, words flowed like beer from a tap into a poem that is my signature down-to-earth style. And, no, I can’t pour my beer poem onto these pages. My poem releases Saturday at Imminent Brewing in downtown Northfield. And, yes, there are prizes on the line, including a growler of beer, for the winning poets selected by brewery patrons.

 

 

I love how Northfield embraces poetry from poems imprinted in sidewalks to the naming of Rob Hardy as the city’s Poet Laureate to this Poetry Festival. Prior to the brewery poetry readings (which include an open mic), area poets will read and sign books at 10:30 a.m. at Content Bookstore. And then at 1 p.m., the Northfield Public Library hosts a Youth Poetry Reading and Performance.

Youth between the ages of 18 – 20 can also participate in the 2017 Sidewalk Poetry Scavenger Hunt with a 1 p.m. Saturday, September 30, contest deadline. Click here for details.

 

Shipwreckt Books Publishing published Northfield Poet Laureate Rob Hardy’s collection this year.

 

Even if you think you hate poetry—and I realize plenty of people still consider poetry stuffy stuff written by intellectuals who can’t relate to the common man/woman—I’d encourage you to approach poetry with an open mind. Poetry has, in many ways, changed. Not the basics of good tight writing that emerge from a poet’s soul. But the accessibility of it. You can find a poet you like, words with which you can connect. Words that move you, make you laugh, make you think, make you cry. Even in your beer.

 

FYI: Join me, other poets, craft beer lovers and my husband for an open mic poetry reading from 4 – 6 p.m. Saturday, September 30, at Imminent Brewing, 519 Division Street, South Unit 2, Northfield. Cheers. Please drink responsibly.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The B’s have it with bargain books, bluebirds, Big Bang Boom & beer April 21, 2017

I LOVE BOOKS. And I love a bargain.

Combine the two and you have a used book sale. This week and next, book lovers in my area have opportunities to shop two used book sales.

The first, the annual Faribault American Association of University Women’s Book Sale opened Thursday at the Faribo West Mall and continues through April 25. Hours are from 10 a.m. to mall closing on April 21 – 23 and then from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. April 24 – 25. There’s an added activity—a Kids’ Karnival from 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

 

Books I selected from the “Minnesota table,” albeit Prairie Perpendicular (one of my all-time favorite fiction books) is set in small North Dakota farming community and written by a North Dakotan. I bought these at a past AAUW Book Sale. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I try to shop this sale every year, looking primarily for vintage and Minnesota-themed/authored books. But now that I have a one-year-old granddaughter I likely will also spend more time in the children’s books section.

 

Books my son purchased at a past AAUW sale. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

When my son was still home—he’s 23 now and living in Boston—he would haul home bags of fantasy and science fiction titles. He’s a voracious reader.

Just up the road about 15 miles, the Northfield Hospital Auxiliary is hosting its 56th annual book sale from April 25 – 29 at the Northfield Ice Arena. This is a mega sale where you can easily spend hours perusing books, puzzles, DVDs, CDs and vinyl. Hours are from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. April 25, from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. April 26 – 28 and from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. April 29. Books are free from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. on the final day.

 

I found this vintage (perhaps 1960s) booklet at last year’s AAUW Book Sale. I love the graphics. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I appreciate the efforts of the many volunteers who collect, haul, organize and sell these used books and more as a service to the community and as a way to raise monies for scholarships, community projects and more.

TELL ME: Do you shop an annual used book sale? Where? What draws you there?

 

Promo courtesy of the Bluebird Recovery Program.

 

NOW ABOUT THOSE BIRDS…the Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota holds its annual expo from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday at the Northfield Middle School. If bluebirds interest you as much as books interest me, then consider attending this event. Click here to learn more about “bringing back bluebirds for future generations.” Expo registration cost is $15 or $25 for registration and lunch.

 

Big Bang Boom. Photo courtesy of the Paradise Center for the Arts.

 

IT WON’T COST YOU anything to attend a concert at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue North, Faribault. The free concert by the pop/rock music trio Big Bang Boom is geared toward families.

 

Faribault artist Rhody Yule (now deceased) created this oil painting of the Fleckenstein Brewery in 1976. The building, and the brewery, no longer exist. The 20-foot Fleck’s beer bottle on the right side of the painting sat near the brewery entrance. Children often had their pictures taken here when their parents took a brewery tour. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

ADULTS WITH AN INTEREST in Minnesota brewing history will want to attend the Fleckenstein Brewery Walking Tour in Faribault on Saturday. Sponsored by the Rice County Historical Society and led by local Fleckenstein historian Brian Schmidt, the popular tours will be offered at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Good walking/hiking shoes are a must. Click here for more info and/or call 507-332-2121 to reserve a tour spot. The tours are filling quickly; don’t expect to get in if you just show up.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Blessings, beer & baseball in St. Patrick January 18, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a story from summer-time, season inappropriate. But, in the throes of a Minnesota winter, we need reminders that summer will return. In something like four months.

Across the road from the St. Patrick of Cedar Lake Township Catholic Church cemetery sits St. Patrick's Tavern.

Across the road from the St. Patrick of Cedar Lake Township Catholic Church and cemetery sits St. Patrick’s Tavern.

A BAR AND A CHURCH. It’s not an uncommon pairing in parts of rural Minnesota, in Catholic faith communities especially.

The bar recently changed ownership and became St. Patrick's Tavern.

The bar recently changed ownership and became St. Patrick’s Tavern.

Blessings and beer.

St. Patrick Catholic Church of Cedar Lake Township.

St. Patrick Catholic Church of Cedar Lake Township.

On a Sunday afternoon drive in the summer of 2015, my husband and I happened upon St. Patrick, an unincorporated burg in Scott County. There, upon a hill, sits St. Patrick Catholic Church of Cedar Lake Township. Out the front door and down the hill rests the bar, appropriately named St. Patrick’s Tavern. And on the back side of the hill lies the baseball field, St. Patrick’s Bonin Field. It’s named after Father Leon Bonin, a strong supporter of baseball in St. Patrick.

St. Patrick's Bonin Field

St. Patrick’s Bonin Field

Blessings, beer and baseball. How decidedly rural Minnesotan.

BONUS PHOTOS:

St. Patrick's Tavern in St. Patrick, Minnesota

St. Patrick’s Tavern is located at 24436 Old Highway 13 Blvd. in St. Patrick, Minnesota.

Cruising past St. Patrick's Tavern on a Sunday afternoon.

Cruising past St. Patrick’s Tavern on a Sunday afternoon.

More signage on St. Patrick's Tavern.

More signage on St. Patrick’s Tavern.

TELL ME: Do you know of any similar hamlets that offer blessings, beer and baseball. I’d like to hear your stories.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault area welcomes you to bike, run, eat, drink, learn about history & more this weekend October 6, 2016

 

fall-festival-291x300-copy

FARIBAULT CELEBRATES FALL this Saturday with a day jammed full of activities for all ages.

If you’ve never been to my southeastern Minnesota community, please join us. If you live here, appreciate what Faribault offers. Here’s a round-up of events slated for Saturday, most in our historic downtown:

Faribault’s Fall Festival begins at noon with the Children’s Costume Parade starting at Community Co-op and continuing north along Central Avenue to Fifth Street. Afterwards, kids, accompanied by adults, can trick-or-treat at downtown businesses until 3 p.m.

Additionally, there will be pumpkin painting, yard games and unicycle shows to keep families and other folks busy and entertained.

 

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

Sampling chili during a Fall Festival in downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

From 12:20 – 2:30 p.m., chili lovers, for a $5 fee, can sample chili from stands set up along historic Central Avenue.

 

The Adam Weyer Wagon Shop, built of limestone in 1874, is among historic buildings on the tour.

The Adam Weyer Wagon Shop, constructed of limestone in 1874, is among historic buildings on the tour. Weyer built buggies, carriages, wagons and bobsleds here from 1874 in to the early 1900s. He then opened a blacksmith shop. Today the building houses Carriage House Liquors.

 

Even before the costume parade, a free guided Old Town walking and biking tour of historical sites in downtown Faribault is scheduled from 10 – 11:30 a.m. Participants should meet at Buckham Center, 11 East Division Street.

 

And the volunteer firemen were on duty.

Firefighters return from a call in Marine on St. Croix, on the eastern side of Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo used for illustration purposes only.

 

Also at 10 a.m., until 2 p.m., the Faribault Fire Department hosts its annual open house. Kids can meet fire fighters and Sparky The Fire Dog. There will be free demos, free fire hats and free smoke detectors.

 

We wanted to sample all of the beers on tap, so we ordered a flight.

A sampler of F-Town beers. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Half a block off Central Avenue, F-Town Brewing kicks off its F-Oktoberfest at 11 a.m. with Gravel Grinder, a 50-mile charity bike race.

Brewery fun continues for 12 more hours with food trucks, live music and plenty of F-Town beer.

 

"Shoe Stories" opened Friday at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault.

The Paradise Center for the Arts is housed in a beautifully restored theater. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

At the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue North, the arts center hosts the Paradise Haunted Basement Tour from 1 – 3 p.m.

And for music fans, the Paradise presents A Tribute to “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen at 7 p.m. Admission price is $15 for members and $20 for non-members.

 

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

Math class is underway inside the one-room Pleasant Valley School during a past “A Night at the Museum.” Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

On the north side of town by the Rice County Fairgrounds, the Rice County Historical Society opens its doors and grounds for the fourth annual “A Night at the Museum.” The event, with a $2 admission price for adults and $1 for kids, runs from 4 – 7 p.m. It’s a great opportunity to observe and participate in living history.

 

hope-in-harmony

 

At River Valley Church, 722 Ravine St., the Lakelanders Acapella Chorus will present a 7 p.m. concert benefiting three local organizations that help women dealing with issues like domestic violence, homelessness, addiction, etc. Admission is a free will offering.

There you go. Lots to do in Faribault on Saturday. Come, join the fun, eat (and drink) local, shop local and appreciate all this community offers.

 

BONUS:

Well-kept and well-traveled paths take hikers deep into the Big Woods.

Well-kept and well-traveled paths take hikers deep into the Big Woods at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. The park is known for its incredible fall foliage. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Just to the east of Faribault, St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, hosts its annual Big Woods Run half marathon/10K/5K/kids K through Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. The events begins at 9 a.m. New this year is a guided prairie walk and nature talk.

 

Delicious home-cooked food fills roasters at Trinity's annual fall harvest dinner on Sunday.

Delicious home-cooked food fills roasters at Trinity’s annual fall harvest dinner in the church basement. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

On Sunday, to the west of Faribault at Trinity Lutheran Church, North Morristown, the church will host its annual fall dinner and craft/bake sale. For $12 (ages 13 and up; $5 for those 6 – 12)) you can enjoy a homemade meal of turkey, ham and all the fixings. I’ve eaten here many times and this is an incredibly delicious meal cooked by folks who know how to cook. The food is delicious, the portions ample and the company welcoming and friendly. Serving is from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Logo from Faribault Main Street, key organizer of the Faribault Fall Festival.

 

A Minnesotan’s take on Wisconsin August 26, 2016

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WHEN I TOOK A ROAD TRIP to Boston earlier this year, I learned something about my home state. Or rather, what others think of Minnesota. Whether in Indiana or New York or Massachusetts, folks reacted the same upon learning I was a Minnesotan. “It’s cold there,” they said.

Yes, it’s cold here. But not year-round. In the end, I decided, let them believe what they wish. Such opinions keep Minnesota from becoming densely populated like the Coasts.

Rolling hills and farms define the land east of La Crosse along Interstate 90 in the southwestern part of Wisconsin..

Rolling hills and farms define the land east of La Crosse along Interstate 90 in the southwestern part of Wisconsin..

But that got me thinking about how I view people and places, specifically Wisconsin and its residents. I’ve traveled there many times in the past five years to visit my daughter Miranda who lives on the northeastern side of the state.

Packers fans houses in Wautoma? Or simply a gold house and a green house?

Packers fans houses in Wautoma? Or simply a gold house and a green house? Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Here’s my outsider’s impression of Wisconsinites: fanatical about the Green Bay Packers, crazy about brat and fish fries, and lovers of cheese and beer. Wisconsin residents also seem particularly opinionated. And many love to hunt. Of course, I’m sweeping my neighboring state with a broad brush of generalities. Just like others do about Minnesota.

A tribute to Aaron Rodgers.

A tribute to Aaron Rodgers on a barn along Highway 10 west of Appleton. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Let’s examine my impressions more closely. I’ve seen Wisconsin fire hydrants painted Packers green and gold and brat buns and kettle corn in the same colors. And I’ve photographed a barn with this message: #12 is #1 G. If you’re not dressed in a Packers jersey on game day, well, you feel totally unfashionable. On game day weekends, Green Bay area hotels jack up the room prices as much as $100. My daughter clued me in on that.

The brat barn, not to be confused with a dairy or pig barn. You can purchase StoneRidge meats here.

The brat barn, stationed outside the Piggly Wiggly in Wautoma. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I’m not a brat lover, so I could never pass as a Wisconsinite. From my observations, brat fries are the most popular fundraiser in this state with brat fry shacks stationed outside many grocery stores. Friday night fish fries are equally as popular.

Van Handel's Cheese Hut, also a gas station, is located in Appleton.

Van Handel’s Cheese Hut, also a gas station and convenience store, is located in Appleton.

Wisconsin definitely lives up to its name as the Dairyland State. Cheese stores abound. The funny thing, every time I travel to Wisconsin, Miranda asks me to bring cave-aged blue cheese from Faribault. So I stash wedges in a cooler and sneak Minnesota-made cheese across the border.

I photographed this signage along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.

I photographed this signage along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.

Like cheese, booze is readily available in Wisconsin. For example, you’ll find walk-in beer coolers at Kwik Trip convenience stores, co-joined grocery and liquor stores, and lots of breweries. Twelve Wisconsin communities rank in the top 20 drunkest cities in America. According to a May 2016 report on 24/7 Wall St, “Appleton is home to the largest share of binge and heavy drinkers in both Wisconsin and the country.”

A strong opinion expressed on a billboard along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.

A strong opinion expressed on a billboard along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.

On a recent visit, and in past visits, I’ve also noticed plenty of opinions posted roadside, sometimes on billboards and other times on homemade signs. In Redgranite, a homeowner recently scrawled “Send Hillary to prison” and placed the message board along busy State Highway 21. I’ve also noticed strongly worded messages in billboards posted along Interstate 41 between Appleton and Oshkosh.

A pawn shop, somewhere along State Highway 21 between Omro and Tomah advertises guns.

A pawn shop, somewhere along State Highway 21 between Omro and Tomah advertises guns.

Finally, hunting seems a popular sport in Wisconsin based on the number of deer stands and deer processing places. While I’m not a big fan of hunting for sport, I do appreciate that hunting makes for fewer deer on roadways.

So…is my general assessment of Wisconsin fair and/or accurate? I do, by the way, really like Wisconsin, including the cheese and the beer.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Exploring La Crosse Part IV: Bars aplenty October 23, 2015

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A flight at Turtle Stack Brewery.

A flight at Turtle Stack Brewery.

LA CROSSE, WISCONSIN, HOLDS a reputation as a beer-drinking town.

Want booze with your breakfast? During Oktoberfest you could attend Kegs & Eggs, starting at 6 a.m.

Want booze with your breakfast? During Oktoberfest you could attend Kegs & Eggs, starting at 6 a.m.

 

Weeks after La Crosse's celebration of its German heritage, Oktoberfest signs are still posted.

Weeks after La Crosse’s celebration of its German heritage, Oktoberfest signs are still posted. Overhead permanent signage also directs you to bars.

The city’s annual Oktoberfest and volume of downtown bars back that up. Or just ask any college kid in La Crosse and you’ll likely get the same assessment.

I ate at Buzzard Billy's, which includes a bar, and then walked through The Starlite Lounge (a 1950s style cocktail lounge) afterward.

I ate at Buzzard Billy’s, which includes a bar, and then walked through The Starlite Lounge (a 1950s style cocktail lounge) afterward.

On a recent visit to this Mississippi River town, I spent some time downtown drinking beer (at a brewery), dining and shopping. If I was bar-hopping college age, I could have hung around into the evening and drank until bar closing time. Not that I encourage excessive drinking, but I was once young…

I believe all bars in Wisconsin are now smoke-free.

I believe all bars in Wisconsin are now smoke-free.

Digger's Sting is a retro steakhouse and cocktail bar.

Digger’s Sting is a retro steakhouse and cocktail bar.

Advertised drink specials alongside a sign that

Advertised drink specials alongside a sign that reads: Tavern League of Wisconsin…A Responsible Server.

By far the most creative bar signage.

By far the most creative bar signage.

I noticed, in particular, how La Crosse bars really try to draw patrons inside with creative signage. Take The Library, which clearly aims to attract college students via this message bannered across its awning: If Mom calls, tell her I’m at The Library! My second daughter, who attended the University of Wiscosnin, La Crosse, confirms that The Library truly looks like a library inside. She worked at the library. Not The Library. But at UW-L’s Murphy Library.

Anyone know how many places sell alcohol in downtown La Crosse?

Anyone know how many places sell alcohol in downtown La Crosse?

Should you happen to visit La Crosse, take note of all the bars. Try to count them. I wonder how many line the streets of this historic downtown.

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Check back Monday for the final post in my La Crosse series. And click here, then here and here to read my first three posts.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling