Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating a moment in life in Cannon Falls September 17, 2018

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THE NUANCES OF RURAL MINNESOTA delight me.

On a recent Saturday afternoon stop in Cannon Falls, population around 4,000, I spotted a John Deere tractor driving through the heart of downtown, wagon in tow. A bride and groom sat on straw bales as the tractor paraded past First Farmers Merchant Bank, Brewsters Bar, antique shops, the side street leading to a winery and brewery, and on down the road.

I love moments like this when I can pause to take in a joyful scene, to smile, to celebrate the happiness of another, to appreciate the rural character of southeastern Minnesota. This is why I live where I live, why I document people and places and events and life in general. It isn’t always the big things that define life, that mean the most. It is the moments of unexpected delight that bring me joy. And if I have my camera in hand, I delight in sharing these snapshots with you. In today’s world, we need more of this—more reasons to pause, to just stand there, to take it all in, to feel moments of joy.

THOUGHTS?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Appleton: A ring dance on a wedding day August 25, 2016

The Ring Dance fountain in City Park, Appleton, Wisconsin

The Ring Dance fountain in City Park, Appleton, Wisconsin

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT KIDS and water on a hot summer day that brings joy and, for me, a longing for the carefree days of youth.

 

Ring Dance fountain, #51 from a distance

 

Perhaps that is why I am so drawn to a piece of art centering City Park in Appleton, Wisconsin. “Ring Dance,” created by internationally-acclaimed sculptor Dallas Anderson, a native of nearby Neenah, is a must-see for me nearly every time I visit Appleton.

 

Ring Dance fountain, #56 cavorting

 

On my most recent stop at the park on a hot and humid late July afternoon, I envied the cavorting carved kids cooling off in the fountain. And I envied the young women also cooling their heels in the water as they posed for bridal party photos.

 

Ring Dance fountain, #54 hands up

 

Not wanting to interfere with the professional wedding photo shoot, I snapped a few quick shots and called it good. Typically I would take more care in composing images, but I wanted to be respectful.

 

Ring Dance fountain, #58 bride watching

 

I’m always curious about public art that draws me back repeatedly. This $483,000 sculpture, according to info I found online, was funded with private donations and was installed 20 years ago.

 

"Ring Dance" seems fitting for a wedding photo shoot. Here the couple poses near a massive round flowerbed in City Park.

“Ring Dance” seems fitting for a wedding photo shoot. Here the couple poses near a massive round flowerbed in City Park.

I also learned of a Minnesota connection. Sculptor Dallas Anderson, who died in 2009, received his Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield, 20 minutes from my home and 300 miles from Appleton. Interesting how life circles and connects…

TELL ME, do you have a favorite water fountain sculpture? I’d like to hear.

© Copyright 2016 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

 

A fairy tale park in New Ulm August 3, 2012

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An overview of German Park in New Ulm, photographed last Saturday.

IF A PARK COULD BE WRITTEN into a fairy tale, then German Park in New Ulm certainly would serve as an ideal setting for a happily-ever-after story.

Descend the hillside steps into this picturesque park near New Ulm’s downtown business district, and you walk into an enchanting world of flowers and foliage, fountain and photographic opportunities.

I kept my distance from the bridal couple and their families.

However, on the Saturday of my visit, the happily-ever-after part of this story limited my photo ops. Not that I wasn’t tempted to write my own twists into the plot unfolding before me. But I figured the main characters, the bride-to-be and her groom being photographed here, would not appreciate me wedging my way into their storybook wedding day.

Columns add interest and a poetic quality to German Park.

So I skirted the edges of German Park, admiring the flowers and the fountain at a distance. I weaved among the columns, appreciating the beauty and charm of this place, all the while wishing I could photograph freely.

I kept a respectful distance in this, my closest shot of the bridal couple and their families.

At one point a nervous grandma hurried over to snatch up a camera bag as I approached with my camera bag hugging my hip, my Canon EOS 20D looped by a strap around my neck. I wanted to advise her that I wasn’t about to spoil the story, to wind my way up the path toward the happy wedding couple like a wily, wicked witch.

THE END

OK, I was a wee bit sneaky in including the bridal couple in this frame. But I liked how the  words tranquility, blessings and ordain from the Preamble to the Constitution seemed to fit the occasion.

One of numerous pavers which enlighten visitors about New Ulm, here the Hermann Monument.

This column informed me of something I never knew, that a deadly tornado ravaged the city on July 15, 1881. That event raised an awareness of the need for a local hospital.

FYI: To learn about the New Ulm tornado of 1881, click here to read an account published in the Saint Paul Daily Globe.

Click here to learn more about the history of New Ulm Medical Center.

Finally, click here to read an earlier blog post about New Ulm’s Goosetown.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling