Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A photo essay from the Dam Days carnival in Morristown, Minnesota July 17, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

TIS THE SEASON of small town celebrations and county fairs here in Minnesota. We pack a lot of activities and events into the summer months. Carnival rides, games and concession stands pop up on Main Streets and in city parks. Folks flock to fairgrounds, this week locally in Faribault for the Rice County Fair.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Whether you embrace these events or steer clear of them and the ensuing crowds, they are part of our history, our culture, our communities.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

 

In June I photographed snippets of the annual Dam Days celebration in Morristown to the west of Faribault. And later in the month, I took my camera to the Midway at the Faribault Heritage Days celebration in Central Park.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Today I invite you to peruse selected photos from my Sunday afternoon walk among the amusement rides, games and food stands in Morristown.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

On this day mostly locals and those come back to their hometown for Dam Days, enjoyed the festivities and each other’s company in the sunshine of a sweet summer day in southern Minnesota.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots photo.

 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Photographing the midway at Dam Days in Morristown June 1, 2013

SET ALONG THE CANNON RIVER in Rice County, Morristown, population around 1,000, bills itself as “The Best Little Town by a Dam Site!”

And this weekend, this southeastern Minnesota community celebrates its annual Dam Days, which continue through tomorrow. It’s one of the first summer celebrations in the area, an event that typically draws large crowds, especially for the Friday evening parade.

The compact Midway in downtown Morristown.

The compact midway in downtown Morristown.

I’ve never attended the parade, but Saturday afternoon my husband and I toured the historic grist mill and schoolhouse and also took in the carnival and kids’ tractor pull.

Dakota waves to his dad who is photographing his little boy's ride on the merry-go-round.

Dakota waves to his dad who is photographing his little boy’s ride on the merry-go-round.

As always, I found an abundance of photo ops. Today I’ll show you the midway. Oh, my gosh, a carnival is a photographer’s playground with colorful characters, happy kids, young love, and just so much to take in.

Enjoy.

In front of the local Legion, the choppers.

In front of the local Legion, the choppers.

The coveted prizes hang high.

The coveted prizes hang high.

Young love. No other words needed.

Young love. No other words needed.

A riot of color.

A riot of color.

The Old Town Tavern advertises its Dam Days specials. Great place to eat.

The Old Town Tavern advertises its Dam Days specials. Great place to eat.

Trying to win a prize.

Trying to win a prize.

One of the healthier food choices.

One of the healthier food choices.

Walking (or falling) in the water balls.

Walking (or falling) in the water balls.

A slow afternoon on the Midway...

A slow afternoon on the midway…at the Dizzy Dragons ride, originating in Faribault.

Shooting to win.

Shooting to win.

One final look at the Midway.

One final look at the carnival.

If you want to experience a small town celebration, head over to Morristown, located about 10 miles west of Faribault on Minnesota State Highway 60, tomorrow. Click here to read the entire list of events happening on Sunday.

Among Sunday events is the 2nd annual Amateur Backyard BBQ Contest, beginning at 1 p.m. in the park by the river. You can sample five BBQed items for $5.

Among Sunday events is the 2nd annual Amateur Backyard BBQ Contest, beginning at 1 p.m. in the park by the river. You can sample five BBQed items for $5.

CHECK BACK FOR MORE POSTS from the Morristown Mill, the old schoolhouse and the kids’ tractor pull.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Tilt-A-Whirl tradition continues in Faribault May 13, 2011

The Mural Society of Faribault created and placed this Tilt-A-Whirl mural on the side of Jim's Auto & Tire along Fourth Street in downtown Faribault in the fall of 2010.

AN AMERICAN ICON amusement ride made in Faribault since 1926 will remain here despite the sale of Sellner Manufacturing to a Texas company.

Jim Hermel and Mike Featherston, co-owners of Gold Star Manufacturing, recently purchased the fiberglass and staging portions of Sellner, I learned in a recent e-mail exchange with Hermel.

That’s good news for Faribault, where the Tilt-A-Whirl, perhaps America’s best-known carnival ride, has been made by the Sellner family since 1926.

If you didn’t realize the Tilt-A-Whirl was produced in Faribault, don’t fret your lack of knowledge. Not until I moved in 1984 into a house blocks away from the carnival ride maker, did I even know this icon ride was made in Minnesota, let alone Faribault.

Local State Representative Patti Fritz tried to get the word out in 2007 by introducing a bill to make the Tilt-A-Whirl Minnesota’s official amusement ride. However, that legislation failed.

My community has also missed the mark on tapping into this home-grown carnival ride as a tourist attraction. But now that the fiberglass ride car portion will continue to be produced here, I believe the opportunity still exists to promote the Tilt-A-Whirl. I’ve always envisioned a fun-focused carnival atmosphere museum and gift shop complete with Tilt-A-Whirl rides, cotton candy, popcorn, activities for kids and more.

Given the current economy, I doubt my vision for a Tilt-A-Whirl tourist site will happen any time soon, unless…

For now I’m content with the fact that Faribault-based Gold Star Manufacturing is contracting with Larson International, Inc., of Plainview, Texas, to manufacture the fiberglass cars for the Tilt-A-Whirl and for other amusement rides. The working machinery part of the business went toTexas.

Gold Star Manufacturing shipped its first carnival ride, Bear Affair, to Toronto, Canada, earlier this month.

Dizzy Dragons, one of the carnival rides that Gold Star will continue to manufacture.

Gold Star will also continue to make the fiberglass bodies for other Sellner-created carnival rides: the Bear Affair, Dizzy Dragons, Ships Ahoy and Pumpkin Patch. Another ride is in the works, Hermel says, and three other fiberglass products are in the development stage.

If anyone can succeed at revitalizing a company which fell into financial hardship, Hermel and Featherston would be the men.

Hermel comes to Gold Star Manufacturing with nearly 30 years in the tire business (selling almost 2 million tires, he says) and with 14 years as executive secretary and manager of the Rice County Fair.

“I wanted to get into something that would offer me a challenge,” the 59-year-old Hermel says.

His partner, Mike Featherston, brings a life-time of experience in the outdoor amusement industry to the new company. Featherston and his family own GoldStar Amusements, Inc., a traveling entertainment business with amusement rides, food and games based in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, and Louisiana. GoldStar contracts for the midway at the Rice County Fair.

Featherston was recently elected second vice chair of the Outdoor Amusement Business Association which aims “to encourage the growth and preservation of the outdoor amusement industry through leadership, legislation, education and membership services.”

Now, as co-owner of Gold Star Manufacturing, Featherston is certainly fulfilling one of those missions by keeping an iconic American carnival ride in production, in Faribault. He and Hermel are continuing the legacy of Herb Sellner who built the first nine-car wooden Tilt-A-Whirl 85 years ago.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Bear Affair photo courtesy of Gold Star Manufacturing