Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Faribault Car Cruise season closes with impressive finale August 30, 2016

This cute little 1959 Metropolitan drew lots of attention as did its companion one several blocs away.

This cute little 1959 Metropolitan drew lots of attention as did its companion one several blocks away.

I COULD FEEL THE ENERGY, the vibe, the excitement on Friday evening in historic downtown Faribault.

This little guy was enthralled with the University of Minnesota's solar car.

This little guy was enthralled with the University of Minnesota’s solar car.

I could see the enthusiasm, the sense of community, the togetherness.

Another view of the U's solar car.

Another view of the U’s solar car.

And I heard the positive comments—the praise for Faribault Downtown Car Cruise Night and the number of collector vehicles and people the event drew. Even I couldn’t believe the scene before me as my husband and I arrived downtown an hour after the cruise started.

The crowd and vehicles stretched for blocks along Faribault's Central Avenue for Car Cruise Night.

The crowd and vehicles stretched for blocks along Faribault’s Central Avenue for Car Cruise Night.

Rather than filling the typical 1 ½ to 2 city blocks, vehicles lined four blocks of Central Avenue from Fourth Street to the Buckham Center. And the crowd of car enthusiasts far outnumbered any I’ve ever seen at these monthly cruise nights. That says a lot for the organizer—Faribault Main Street—and others who are embracing this ever-growing gathering.

One of the most unusual vehicles included this one. There's hole in the hood that allows the motor part to extend through the hood and for the vehicle to be driven.

This unusual vehicle drew lots of interest. There’s hole in the hood that allows the inner workings to extend through the hood and for the vehicle to be driven.

While I initially planned to leave my camera at home, because I’ve photographed Cruise Night many times already, I knew I would regret doing so. It was the right decision to sling my Canon 20-D across my shoulder and document whatever caught my eye. That included many many vehicles I have not seen at past Car Cruise Nights. Here’s some of what I saw:

Another favorite of mine: a 1955 Chevy Nomad two-door wagon.

Another favorite of mine: a 1955 Chevy Nomad two-door wagon, left.

A buick

Collectible car owners crossed the border from Iowa to participate in the Friday Car Cruise Night. Here’s a beautiful 1955 Buick.

A 1977

Another Iowa car: a 1977 Olds Cutlass Supreme

My appreciation for vehicles, like this Ford Torino, extends to the details. Love this artsy front end.

My appreciation for vehicles, like this Ford Torino, extends to the details. Love this artsy front end.

This Chrysler LeBaron doesn't seen all that old to me. That tells me something. I like the plain canvas backdrop of building #117, which has always been a mystery to me.

This Chrysler LeBaron doesn’t seen all that old to me. What does that tell you about my age? I appreciate the plain canvas backdrop of building #117, which has always been a mystery to me.

When a particularly noisy souped up car roared down Central Avenue, this boy covered his ears. I did the same.

When a particularly noisy souped up car roared down Central Avenue, this boy covered his ears. I did the same after snapping this image.

That would be a Mercedes.

That would be a Mercedes.

This 1956 Pontiac features a Continental kit which allows the spare tire to be attached to the back.

This 1956 Pontiac features a Continental kit which allows the spare tire to be attached to the back.

I always people watch. I have no idea why this couple was lying on the sidewalk at the intersection of Central Avenue and Fourth Street.

I always people-watch. I have no idea why this couple was lying on the sidewalk at the intersection of Central Avenue and Fourth Street.

One of the most unusual cars: a 1959 Ford Skyliner with a folding trunk.

One of the most unusual cars: a 1959 Ford Skyliner with a retractable roof, truly an engineering feat.

Hood ornaments always interest me for their artsy beauty.

Hood ornaments always interest me for their artsy beauty.

Volkswagons always

Although I don’t find the Volkswagen a particularly comfortable car (I once rode in one all the way from Mankato to central Wisconsin and back), I appreciate their unique style and cuteness factor.

Look closely and you'll find plenty of humor at a car show.

Look closely and you’ll find plenty of humor at a car cruise.

That's a chopped Model A, left.

That’s a chopped Model A, left.

As day faded into darkness, I photographed these Fords parked outside on the Faribault's oldest family-run businesses, Burkhartzmeyer Shoes.

As day faded into darkness, I photographed these Fords parked outside one of Faribault’s oldest family-run businesses, Burkhartzmeyer Shoes.

It was a perfect August summer evening in Faribault with the sky tinted red as the sun set, here looking toward the historic Buckham Memorial Library.

It was a perfect August summer evening in Faribault with the sky tinted red as the sun set, here looking toward the historic Buckham Memorial Library and the community center.

I love the hue of this unidentified vintage car.

I love the hue of this unidentified vintage car.

Although certainly not old, this Dodge Challenger Hellcat drew lots of admirers as the headlights changed colors: red, green and purple.

Although certainly not old, this Dodge Challenger Hellcat drew lots of admirers as the headlights changed colors: red, green and purple.

FYI: The Faribo Drag Ons won the first-ever Car Club Showdown on Friday evening and received a gigantic homemade trophy. (I missed the presentation.)

Friday’s event closes the 2016 Car Cruise Night season in Faribault. The event resumes in the spring. And from all indications (I talked to a key organizer and got an inside track), next year promises even more new attractions to draw folks into downtown Faribault. And that is a good thing.

A special thanks to my automotive machinist/car enthusiast husband, Randy, for his help in identifying the vehicles featured in this post.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Part II: When memories cruise into a car show August 4, 2016

A 1964 Chevy SS.

A 1964 Chevy SS.

THERE ARE REASONS we love the things we do. Always reasons. And at the Cruise-In Car Show held last weekend at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, there was a reason my husband voted for a 1964 Chevy SS as his favorite car. He once owned a similar Chevy. Not an SS. But a rusted out 1964 Chevy Impala. He wishes he still had that vintage vehicle, albeit in pristine condition.

The tail light on the 1958 Chevy I liked.

The tail light on the 1958 Chevy I liked.

I favored a cherry red 1958 Chevy that reminded me of the car my maternal grandpa drove. I remember mostly the salmon (not red) hue, the distinctive click of the blinker and the bumpy plastic protecting the seats. Grandpa’s car may not even have been a Chevy. But the lines of this car looked familiar.

Look at the graceful lines in these vintage cars.

Look at the graceful lines in these vintage cars.

My appreciation of vehicles is more about lines, curves and colors—the visual artistic appeal—rather than performance. Perhaps that’s why current day cars seem less attractive than those of 50 years ago.

Several tractors were registered at the show.

Several tractors were registered at the show.

As I approached the four tractors parked at the cruise-in, I hoped to see a B Farmall or John Deere like the ones from my childhood farm. But there were none. It’s difficult for me to think of 1970s tractors as collectibles. There’s a reason for that and it’s called aging. My aging.

At the request of St. John's car cruise-in organizers, I climbed a 10-foot step ladder to photograph the scene.

At the request of St. John’s car cruise-in organizers, I climbed a 10-foot step ladder to photograph the event.

These days I find myself growing more nostalgic. I am drawn to that which defined my past. I find that a tad unsettling, this yearning for seemingly simpler days when life was less complicated, less stressful, less cluttered. The “good old days,” they call them. Am I that old already to think that way?

Chevrolets are popular collector cars.

Chevrolets are popular collector cars.

Perhaps this is really what car shows are all about. Not about shiny vehicles or souped up whatever, but rather about memories and appreciating the past.

BONUS PHOTOS:

A tractor owner left his key in his tractor, complete with key chain from the Little Brown Church in the Vale.

A tractor owner left his key in his tractor, complete with key chain from the Little Brown Church in the Vale.

I have an affinity for Mustangs that traces to my teen years.

I have an affinity for Mustangs that traces to my teen years.

I was intrigued by these gauges on the exterior of a car, just outside the driver's side of the windshield.

I was intrigued by these gauges on the exterior of a car, just outside the driver’s side of the windshield.

Because green is my favorite color, I am naturally drawn to this car.

Because green is my favorite color, I am naturally drawn to this car owned by a Minnesotan who is a big Green Bay Packers fan.

Likewise, this blue on a blue Volkswagon also drew my eye and my interest.

Likewise, this blue on a blue Volkswagon also drew my eye and my interest.

FYI: Click here to read my first post from St. John’s Cruise-In Car Show. And check back tomorrow for one final post from this rural Faribault event.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

More than a car show at St. John’s, rural Faribault August 3, 2016

At the St. John's car cruise-in.

At the St. John’s car cruise-in.

I’VE ATTENDED CAR SHOWS in parks, along city streets and at a fairgrounds. But never at a church or in the country.

A vintage car arrives for the cruise-in car show at St. John's, 19086 Jacobs Avenue, rural Faribault.

A vintage car arrives for the cruise-in car show at St. John’s, 19086 Jacobs Avenue, rural Faribault.

A tractor trophy awarded at the show reflects the rural region.

A tractor trophy awarded at the show reflects this rural region of southern Minnesota.

Across the road from St. John's, a truck pulls a grain bin.

Across the road from St. John’s, a truck pulls a grain bin.

Saturday morning I wheeled to a country church northeast of Faribault for St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township’s first-ever Cruise-In Car Show. It’s a peaceful rural setting among farm fields and farm sites near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park.

An overview of the car show next to the church.

An overview of the car show next to the church.

This congregation knows how to draw folks in for events ranging from the annual The Last Supper Drama on Palm Sunday to Lenten soup luncheons to an ice cream social to a September Germanfest to the Big Woods Run and more. Many times I’ve gone to St. John’s activities, where I always feel welcomed by a friendly group of people like 90-year-old historian Elsie, Lynn (who’s usually in the kitchen) and the Rev. Lora Sturm.

My husband's hands clasped in prayer.

My husband’s hands clasped in prayer.

On this Saturday morning, the reverend leads attendees in prayer. As I stand between a row of vintage cars in the church parking lot, I consider how wonderful to hear this prayer of blessing upon the vehicles and upon those in attendance.

This group of men visited for a long time around various vehicles.

This group of men visited for a long time around various vehicles.

While visiting with others, I note that most either belong to this congregation or grew up in this church. There’s a special closeness in country churches that comes from living in the same geographical area and gathering here to socialize, to celebrate, to mourn, to grow in the faith (although some admittedly have drifted away).

The oldest vehicle at the event.

The oldest vehicle at the event.

Roots run deep through generations of families. German immigrants founded this congregation in 1856 as Minnesota’s first German Evangelical Church. They worshiped, nonagenarian Elsie tells me, in a log cabin before that burned and the current church was built in 1870 by German farmers from locally-quarried limestone.

I set my camera on the grass and aimed up to photograph this view of St. John's.

I set my camera on the grass and aimed up to photograph this view of St. John’s. Yes, there’s a cross-topped steeple, just not in this image.

The “Old Stone Church,” as it is known, stands strong on the corner of a paved county and gravel road next to the church cemetery. A 4-year-old boy points to a gravestone and tells me God is buried there. I lead him to the stone, read the name thereon and explain to him that God is not buried here nor is He dead.

Cars parked right next to the cemetery.

Cars parked right next to the cemetery.

I love that these kids have been together for hours—romping on the mini playground, playing hide-and-seek, searching for a geo-cache stashed in a treeline behind the cemetery… This setting invites such play, reminding me of my own upbringing in a small town Lutheran church.

The scene reflected in the shiny bumper of a car.

The scene reflected in the shiny bumper of a car.

Guys chatted next to tractors.

Guys chatted next to tractors.

Lovely crabapple trees edge the parking lot. St. John's members make their famous apple jelly from these apples to sell at Germanfest.

Lovely crabapple trees edge the parking lot. St. John’s members make their famous apple jelly from these apples to sell at Germanfest.

On this Saturday, this cruise-in is not just a gathering of car, truck and tractor enthusiasts showing off their vehicles. This event is about memories and socializing, about slowing down and appreciating the beauty and quiet of this reverent country place. It’s about being neighborly.

Volunteers served up a generous plate of a BBQ pulled pork sandwich, potato salad and beans, all for $5.

Volunteers served up a generous plate of a BBQ pulled pork sandwich, potato salad and beans, all for $5.

That delicious food.

That delicious food.

And it’s also about the food, this time delicious BBQ pulled pork sandwiches from the Rice County Pork Producers.

I always leave St. John's feeling happy and smiling.

I always leave St. John’s feeling happy and smiling.

St. John’s, from my experience, has always nourished the body, soul and spirit. And on this late July morning, this cruise-in accomplishes that mission in food, setting and friendly conversation.

FYI: Check back tomorrow and the day after for more photos from the St. John’s Cruise-In Car Show.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling