Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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

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Minnesota Faces: Boys at a barn dance September 25, 2015

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Portrait #41: Boys at a barn dance

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011

 

Several years ago when my dear friends John and Debbie hosted a dance in their rural Dundas barn, I photographed these two boys. To this day, it remains one of my favorite portraits. Such sweetness in those faces.

I didn’t ask the boys to pose as they did. The cowboy just slung his arm around the other boy. They may be cousins or brothers or simply friends. I don’t recall. But it’s obvious they enjoy each other and were having a good time.

Maybe I’ll see the pair again this weekend, all grown up, perhaps sporting cowboy hats, maybe not. John and Debbie are celebrating the 100th birthday of their barn with an old-fashioned barn dance. I can’t wait to kick up my heels to live music, chow down on great food (including meat from Nerstrand meats and pie from the pie-baking contest), mingle with party-goers, and simply delight in the ambiance of dancing in the hayloft.

And, yes, I’ll have my camera in hand to document the event.

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Minnesota Faces is featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: September bridal couple September 18, 2015

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Portrait #40: Carlyn & Jared

 

Portrait 40, Jared and Carlyn

 

Aside June, September is the most popular month for weddings in Minnesota. That’s according to my unofficial, brief online research. I believe it.

My parents were married in September. So was my eldest daughter. And last September, my niece Carlyn married Jared.

They were wed in Walnut Grove, childhood home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was a stunning autumn day, a reason September proves popular for weddings. The church was packed, the flower girls and ring bearers restless and cute.

And I was there with my camera, in an unofficial capacity. I’ve photographed weddings for family in the past, but won’t any more. I can do without the drama, emotions and challenges. I much prefer to shoot journalistic style images without the pressures of portrait photography.

Which brings us to this photo, taken as Carlyn and Jared’s wedding guests tossed birdseed at them. I love everything about this frame—the light, the motion of the seed showering the couple, the blur of the crowd, Jared’s loving glance at his bride, Carlyn’s smile. It captures a moment of celebration and love. On a beautiful September afternoon in southwestern Minnesota.

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Minnesota Faces is featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: Steam engine tractor operator September 4, 2015

Portrait #38: Steam engine tractor operator

 

Portrait 38, Rice County Steam engine

 

The sheer size of a vintage steam engine tractor always impresses me. As do those who operate these monstrosities. Just look at the difference in scale between man and mammoth machine, this one at last year’s Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show. You better know what you’re doing when you run one of these machines.

The steam engine tractor will rumble around again this weekend at the show grounds along Minnesota State Highway 3 three miles south of Northfield.

If you appreciate vintage tractors, flea markets, farm work demonstrations (like threshing, corn shelling, plowing, sawing, etc.) and more, then you must attend the Friday – Sunday event. Click here to see the complete line-up of activities. Don’t miss the Parade of Tractors at noon daily.

I promise, you will enjoy this event. I especially like its comfortable size—big enough to offer plenty to see and do, but not too large as to overwhelm. I always see people I know here and that’s part of the fun. Visiting. Oh, and the food, is pretty darned good, too.

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Minnesota Faces is a series featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota faces: Vesta resident and promoter August 28, 2015

Portrait #37: My former neighbor, Dorothy

Dorothy. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

Dorothy. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

HER NAME IS DOROTHY. She was my next farm to the north neighbor when I was growing up near Vesta on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. Her eldest daughter, Mary Lee, and I were classmates from grade school through high school.

Dorothy was different than the others moms. She worked in town. At the bank. Back then in the 1960s and early 1970s, few women worked off the farm in rural Minnesota. So they were a bit of an oddity, at least through my girlhood eyes. Today Dorothy’s off-the-farm job would be the norm.

As I recall, my former neighbor was always active in the community. In 2012, when Todd Bol, co-founder of the Little Free Library, donated a library to my hometown of Vesta, Dorothy was key in finding a spot for it outside the Vesta Cafe. That’s when she posed for this photo as a representative of the Vesta Commercial Club.

She’s holding a book, Minnesota State Fair, An Illustrated History by Kathryn Strand Koutsky and Linda Koutsky, donated to the LFL by Coffee House Press. It’s a fitting photo to publish now. The Minnesota State Fair opened yesterday and runs through Labor Day.

You won’t find me there elbowing my way into the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ historic log building or lining up for a glass of $2 milk or watching an artist carve a dairy princess portrait in a butter block or sailing down a large slide or meandering around Machinery Hill. I suppose it’s almost traitorous to admit this, but I have not attended the Minnesota State Fair in nearly 40 years. I simply have no desire to fight the crowds.

But for those of you who wouldn’t miss the Great Minnesota Get Together, tell me why you go to the fair and what you must-see/must-do/must-eat there. In other words, what draws you to the fair?

Minnesota Faces is featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: Faribault friends August 21, 2015

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Portrait #36: Friends, Shukri and Khadra

Friends and then Faribault High School seniors Shukri Aden, left, and Khadra Muhumed photographed at the International Festival Faribault 2012.

Friends and then Faribault High School seniors Shukri, left, and Khadra photographed at the International Festival Faribault 2012.

These young women represent the relatively new faces of my community. Beyond French and German and Irish and the blood of other long ago immigrants, we are now also Somali, Sudanese, Hispanic, Cambodian and more. So much more.

Faribault is a diverse southern Minnesota city. We are richer for our differences, although that is not always recognized or appreciated.

Rather than focus on that which separates, let us bridge that which divides.

FYI: Faribault celebrates its cultural diversity this Saturday, August 22, at International Festival Faribault scheduled from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. in Central Park. Click here for more information.

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Minnesota Faces is featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: The Kool-Aid Kids August 14, 2015

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Portrait #35: Kool-Aid vendors Quinlan, Jazmyn and William

Quinlan, left; his sister, Jazmyn; and friend William sell lemonade on March 17, 2012. The boys were the primary sellers. Jazmyn assisted occasionally and popped in for the photo.

Quinlan, left; his sister, Jazmyn; and friend William sell Kool-Aid on March 17, 2012. The boys were the primary sellers. Jazmyn assisted occasionally and popped in for the photo.

They—youth selling Kool-Aid or lemonade—settle into the landscape of a Minnesota summer, drawing us like moths to a porch light. We can’t resist cute and industrious kids and the offer of an icy beverage on a sweltering summer day.

The kids photographed here, though, were peddling Kool-Aid on St. Patrick’s Day 2012, when the temperature soared to an unbelievable 80 degrees in southern Minnesota. Kind of like the weather we’re experiencing now, minus the humidity.

Friends Quinlan, then 12, and William, then 10, were experienced entrepreneurs having sold Kool-Aid the previous year on the same busy street corner in Faribault. Sometimes it’s all about location, location, location.

Usually, it seems, these pop-up business owners have a plan for their profits. The summer prior, the boys had reinvested their money in the business and then spent the rest at the local Aquatic Center and Rice County Fair and on video games. They had yet to allocate the new season’s funds, although some had already been spent on Hot Wheels at the next-door garage sale.

I hope you’ve stopped at a kid’s lemonade or Kool-Aid stand this summer and dropped a quarter or more. Kids who take the initiative to set up a stand and then sit for hours vending beverages show determination and gumption. They’re also learning the value of working for their money. That I’ll support.
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The Minnesota Faces series is featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling