Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From car to military shows & more, there’s plenty to do in Rice County this weekend May 18, 2017

A scene from the July 2016 Car Cruise Night. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

INTERESTED IN VINTAGE CARS, flea markets, running for charity, gardening, military history, or comedy? If you are, check out activities in Rice County this weekend.

 

The U’s solar car at the August Car Cruise Night last summer. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Kicking off the weekend is Faribault Car Cruise Night slated for 6 pm. – 9 p.m. Friday along Central Avenue in the heart of historic downtown Faribault. The University of Minnesota solar vehicle is a special draw to this first of the summer cruise event. The car shows are held on the third Friday of the month from May through August.

 

An absolutely beautiful work of hood ornament art, in my opinion. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

 

I’m a Car Cruise Night enthusiast. It’s a perfect time to mill around the downtown—appreciating the vehicles, the historic architecture and the people who attend. With camera in hand, I always find something new to photograph. Often, I view the artistic angle of the vintage vehicles. That interests me way more than what’s under the hood.

 

A Minnesota souvenir, an example of what you might find at a flea market. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

Saturday morning brings the Rice County Historical Society spring flea market from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the RCHS, 1814 N.W. Second Avenue in Faribault. One of my favorite activities is poking through treasures. As a bonus, the county museum will be open at no charge.

 

The Drag-On’s Car Club graphics, photographed through the window of a vintage car. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Right next door, at the Rice County Fairgrounds, the Faribo Drag-On’s Car Club hosts its annual Car/Truck Show and Automotive Swap Meet from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday. The show includes pedal car races for the kids.

 

Edited image from Color Dash.

 

Also along Second Avenue Northwest, but at Alexander Park, Rice County Habitat for Humanity will benefit from a Color Dash 5K  sponsored by the Faribault Future’s class. On-site packet pick-up is at 9 a.m. followed by the race at 10 a.m.

 

Hosta will be among the plants sold at the GROWS plant sale. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

If you’re a gardener, you’ll want to shop the Faribault GROWS Garden Club perennial plant sale from 8 a.m. – noon in the Faribault Senior Center parking lot along Division Street. Sale proceeds will go toward purchase of trees for city parks and flowers for Central Park.

 

This piece of military equipment was exhibited last September when the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall came to Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Military history is the focus of the 8th annual Armed Forces Day—Military Timeline Weekend gathering at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines grounds just south of Dundas/Northfield on Minnesota State Highway 3. I’ve never been to this event, which recently moved to the Rice County location. For military history buffs, this presents a unique opportunity to learn and to view living history as re-enactors role play noted military battles and more. The event opens at 10 a.m., closing at 5 p.m. on Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

 

The Looney Lutherans. Photo credit, The Looney Lutherans website, media section.

 

Wrapping up the weekend is “The Looney Lutherans” music and comedy show at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue North in downtown Faribault. I expect this trio of actresses will work their magic on even the most stoic among us. I could use some laughter.

Before or after the show, check out the gallery exhibits, including one by 13-year-old Mohamed Abdi, a young artist already exhibiting a passion and strong talent in art.

There you go. All of this is happening right here. Not in the Twin Cities. But here, in greater Minnesota. Let’s embrace the opportunities in our backyard. Right here in Rice County. And, if you don’t live within county lines, we’d love to have you here exploring our part of Minnesota.

FYI: If you plan to attend any of the above events, please check Facebook pages and websites for any possible changes due to the rainy weather and also for detailed info. With the Paradise show, check on ticket availability in advance.

For more events happening in Rice County, visit the Faribault and Northfield tourism websites.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part III: A muddy mutt, not of the canine variety August 8, 2016

Car show, 78 message on trail truck

 

Get in. Sit down. Shut up and hang on!!!

 

Car show, 85 The Mutt close-up

 

The warning seems appropriate given the vehicle upon which the words are posted. I’d hang on, too, if I was strapped inside The Mutt.

 

Car show, 86 Shane's trail truck back of

 

Splattered with dried mud and sporting heavy duty traction tires and a framework of protective bars, Shane Hirschey’s custom made trail truck commands respect.

 

Car show, 83 Rochester Rough Riders decal

 

He’s clearly proud of this multi-pieced branded vehicle that takes him through muddy terrain as a member of the Rochester Rough Riders 4×4 Club.

Shane has participated in some of the events listed on the back of his club t-shirt.

Shane has participated in some of the events listed on the back of his club t-shirt.

On a recent Saturday, though, this 20-something drove The Mutt to a more pristine landscape—the parking lot of St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, for a Cruise-In Car Show. There I met this off-road enthusiast and talked to him about his truck.

 

Car show, 81 inside trail truck

 

I was most intrigued by the steering wheel propped between bucket seats rather than locked in place on the steering column. Since no key is needed to start the truck, Shane simply removes the steering wheel to keep The Mutt from being stolen.

After I got over that oddity, I commented on the mud layered inside and out. Shane quickly noted that he cleaned the truck before the show. Alright then.

 

Car show, 87 sign for Shane's truck

 

While this sort of motor vehicle sport holds no appeal to me, other than the photographic aspect, I recognize there’s strong interest among a certain sector. I wonder, did these off-road enthusiasts love splashing in mud puddles as kids?

BONUS PHOTO:

Not a mutt, but a rescue dog a woman brought to the car show.

Not a mutt, but a newly-adopted dog a woman brought to the car show.

FYI: Click here to read my first post from the St. John’s Cruise-In Car Show. And then click here to read my second post.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

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

 

Cruisn’ to church, but not for a sermon July 27, 2016

UCC-CarShow-page-001

 

FOR ST. JOHN’S UNITED CHURCH of Christ, Wheeling Township, a weekend Cruise-In Car Show offers an opportunity to bring the community together.

There’s no ulterior motive. This isn’t a fundraiser. The church isn’t trying to get folks to join.

Rather, says Steve Wille of the St. John’s Revitalization Group, the Car Show is strictly a social event aimed at bringing folks together in a neighborly sort of way. I like that. Visiting with your neighbors, he says, seems to be a lost art.

The parking lot at St. John's United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, is nearly full 20 minutes before the congregation's annual performance of The Last Supper Drama.

St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

St. John’s, a country church located east of Faribault near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, is good at reaching out to the community. The congregation hosts annual events like the Big Woods Run, The Last Supper Drama, German Fest, an ice cream social and more. I’ve been there many times, often enough that congregants know me. These folks are country friendly and welcoming. And they’re fantastic cooks and bakers.

No St. John’s event is complete without food. Pork sandwiches and snacks will be available at the 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Saturday, July 30, Cruise-In Car Show.

Car Show is a bit of a misnomer, though. Trucks and tractors are also welcome with first place trophies awarded to each of the top three.

If you enjoy cruise-ins, country churches, a rural setting and visiting, consider attending (or participating in) St. John’s first-ever Cruise-In Car Show.

FYI: St. John’s is located 10 miles northeast of Faribault. Take Minnesota State Highway 60 east for eight miles and then turn north onto Rice County 24. Drive two miles to 19086 Jacobs Avenue.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In downtown Faribault: Cars, a friendly competition and a sense of community July 14, 2016

I love love love this car. It helps that green is my favorite color.

Look at this beauty I photographed in June at the Faribault Downtown Car Cruise Night. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

NOT THAT MANY YEARS AGO, you couldn’t have dragged me to a car cruise. I had no interest. Then something changed. I accompanied my husband, an automotive machinist by profession, to a car show. And while my interest is not the same as his, I found reasons to enjoy perusing the showcased vehicles.

Consider the Plymouth ship emblem on the Plymouth. Thoughts of immigrants, past and present, filtered through my mind. The emblem is, in many ways, symbolic of downtown Faribault. Many of our town's newest immigrants live above businesses along Central Avenue.

The Plymouth ship emblem on this Plymouth features art and history. Photographed at the June Car Cruise Night. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

For me, the draw is all about photo ops, art, history, stories, the people and a sense of community.

A 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, parked along Central Avenue in downtown Faribault during the July 20 Faribault Car Cruise Night.

A 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, parked along Central Avenue during a previous Car Cruise. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

For Randy, it’s more about what’s under the hood and about the vintage vehicles. He’s my go-to guide for all things automotive.

In a month, 10 people will be awarded these Car Cruise t-shirts if their car club is chosen as a winner in the Car Club Show Down.

In a month, a car club will be awarded a trophy, 10 Car Cruise t-shirts (with the above logo) and bragging rights if chosen as  winner of the Car Club Show Down. To participate, car clubs must register with the Faribault Chamber of Commerce (phone 507.334.4381 or email chamber@faribaultmn.org) by July 29. Each competing club will feature its 10 best cars at the August 19 Faribault Downtown Car Cruise Night. Image courtesy of Faribault Main Street.

This Friday evening Faribault Main Street, with the backing of nine local businesses and the local Faribo Drag-On’s (car club), hosts its monthly summer Faribault Downtown Car Cruise Night from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. on the 200 and 300 blocks of Central Avenue.

The Gopher Motorsports car and team. Photo from Gopher Motorsports Facebook page.

The Gopher Motorsports car and team. Photo from Gopher Motorsports Facebook page.

The event is growing in popularity as Faribault Main Street changes things up and adds new attractions. This Friday Gopher Motorsports, the University of Minnesota student Chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), team will appear with their global Formuala SAE Series race car. The U will return to Car Cruise Night on August 19 with its solar vehicle.

Parts from this engine block are being used to create a unique trophy.

Parts from this engine block are being used to create a unique trophy. Photo courtesy of Faribault Main Street.

But there’s more. Car Cruise organizers will also unveil a one-of-a-kind trophy to be awarded on August 19 to a single car club in a Car Club Show Down. The trophy, billed as “ridiculously huge,” features parts pulled from an engine block and more. That’s sure to draw interest as a friendly competition begins among car enthusiasts.

A local restaurant set up its food trailer along Central Avenue.

Bashers, a local restaurant, set up its food trailer along Central Avenue at the June Car Cruise. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

Also new this year is the availability of food and beer from street vendors. Downtown restaurants, bars and a brewery have also always been an option for attendees.

A beautiful historic setting.

Central Avenue in downtown Faribault provides a lovely setting for Car Cruise Night, this one photographed in June. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

I love what Car Cruise Night is doing for Faribault. It’s bringing folks together on a beautiful summer evening into the heart of our city. It’s building a sense of community, of closeness. It’s generating interest in our historic downtown. And it’s offering a venue for car enthusiasts to showcase their vehicles to those who are motorheads and those, like me, who are not.

My husband and I would love an old pick-up like this, restored, of course.

Photographed at the June Downtown Faribault Car Cruise Night. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

FYI: Car enthusiasts will have another opportunity to view cars, trucks and tractors during the first-ever Cruise-In Car Show set for 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township. The country church is located at 19086 Jacobs Avenue, rural Faribault. Watch for more information in a future post.

Additionally, on August 26, the North Iowa Vintage Auto Club is traveling from Iowa for a weekend of exploring Faribault.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

For the love of photographing a car show August 31, 2015

These two vintage cars staged side-by-side with the simple building back drop caught my eye.

These two vintage cars staged side-by-side with the building back drop caught my eye. I love the repetition of lines and shapes in vehicles and building. Plus the signage and USA plate add to the visual interest.

I’M NOT INTERESTED in car shows like my husband. He can spout off makes and models and years without hesitation. Rather my interest focuses on color, curves, reflections, light, art, words—the details.

I've discovered that vintage car owners possess a sense of humor, the reason I always examine the plates.

I’ve discovered that vintage car owners possess a sense of humor, the reason I always examine the plates.

The difference in our approaches rises from our professions. He is an automotive machinist. I am a photographer and a wordsmith.

What's under the hood interests Randy far more than me.

What’s under the hood interests Randy far more than me.

He can no more frame a great photo than I can do a valve job. We fail at each others’ work.

Our friend Larry with his restored

Our friend Larry with his restored Ford Econoline truck. Car shows are also about connecting with others, not just about showing off and viewing vehicles.

Still, we delight in attending car shows together. He sees what I miss. I see what he misses. We learn from each other. I wander with my Canon DSLR. He chats up cars with those who appreciate vintage vehicles for the same reasons he does. It works for us.

I love the shiny bumpers and the reflections therein. Here

I love the shiny bumpers and the reflections therein.

About a year ago I nearly hit the jackpot with my car show meandering. I was contacted by a Chicago ad agency regarding an image I’d taken of a shiny bumper. The photo was among half a dozen in the running for a national ad campaign for a major car care product. I would have been paid a significant amount of money for use of the image. In the end, another photo was selected.

I set my camera on the street and tilted it up to take this shot. That's my husband on the left, already moving onto the next vehicle.

I set my camera on the street and tilted it up to take this shot. That’s my husband on the left, already moving onto the next vehicle.

That’s how it goes. I will keep shooting car show photos as I always have, for the joy and fun of sharing that which I discover through the lens of my camera, from my unique perspective.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Spotted in a rear window.

Spotted in a rear window.

The colors, oh, the colors.

The colors, oh, the colors.

Clamped atop a VW.

A Pioneer plate denotes a collector class car.

Clamped atop a VW van.

Clamped atop a VW bus.

This VW

This 1958 VW bus Westfalia drew lots of onlookers.

There's something about vintage vehicles lined up along the curb that is so visually appealing.

There’s something about vintage vehicles lined up along the curb that is so visually appealing.

Another vintage cooler, this one in the back of a wagon.

Another vintage cooler, this one in the back of a wagon.

A work in progress.

A work in progress.

Leaving the final Car Cruise Night of the season in historic downtown Faribault.

Leaving the final Car Cruise Night of the season in historic downtown Faribault.

FYI: The photos here were shot at the last Faribault Car Cruise Night of 2015, held on a recent Friday evening.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling