Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part II: So much to appreciate at North Morristown’s July 4 celebration July 6, 2016

FROM THE COMFORT OF MY LIVING ROOM, I watched fireworks explode across the television screen in bursts of sparkling hues against the hazy New York City skyline. Simultaneously, smoke from neighborhood fireworks drifted through open windows in my Minnesota home, creating an enhanced sensory illusion.

Red, white and blue attired prevailed among fest-goers who settled in a gazebo, on lawn chairs and grass and on bleachers to hear musicians perform.

Red, white and blue attired prevailed among fest-goers who settled in a gazebo, on lawn chairs and grass and on bleachers to hear musicians perform.

As I enjoyed the live broadcast, I considered how different my observance of our nation’s birth. Hours earlier I’d roamed the festival grounds of the North Morristown Fourth of July celebration. At this rural southern Minnesota location, I experienced a down-to-earth grassroots event that is still going strong after 124 years.

In New York City, boats shot fireworks. In North Morristown, the only body of water was a kids' wading pool holding rubber duckies for a carnival game.

In New York City, boats shot fireworks. In North Morristown, the only body of water was a kids’ wading pool holding rubber duckies for a carnival game.

Some 1,200 miles away on the East Coast, fanfare and orchestrated precision capped the evening. In North Morristown the day also ended in fireworks—shot from a farm field along a country road with fireflies dancing in the road ditches.

A couple listens to the music while sitting on portable bleachers under a canopy of trees.

A couple listens to the music while sitting on portable bleachers under a canopy of trees.

What a contrast of parties.

Parked on the festival grounds following the parade.

This 1940 Farmall owned by John Krause was parked in the festival parking lot.

I’ve been to New York once, nearly 40 years ago. I have no desire to return. But I’ll return to North Morristown as I have many times for the Fourth or for the annual fall harvest dinner at Trinity Lutheran Church. This rural location suits me and my agricultural upbringing.

Cooper rides a vintage car while his mom watches.

Cooper rides a vintage car while his mom watches. The homemade kids’ rides are signature North Morristown.

No fancy signage needed.

No fancy signage needed to deliver information.

Games, rides and the ticket booth are housed in this red poleshed.

Games, rides, the ticket booth and more are housed in this red poleshed.

A strong sense of community and of family, of nostalgia and of tradition define this place and this celebration.

The barrel train ride is by far the most popular of the kids' rides.

The barrel train ride is by far the most popular of the kids’ rides.

There’s a certain comfort in the simplistic rustic charm of North Morristown on the Fourth of July. It’s a place you want to bring your kids and grandkids, where you come to meet friends and make new friends. It’s a place to reunite with family, to remember the past and to create memories.

The barrel train chugs away across the lawn.

The barrel train chugs away across the lawn.

You'll see lots of duct tape used here.

You’ll see lots of duct tape used here, including on this vintage horse ride.

Games of skill draw many a player.

Games of skill draw many a player.

The carnival style rides are novel, the food homemade delicious, the atmosphere welcoming and kicked back.

Craig, whom I know from Faribault Car Cruise Nights, showed up (with his wife Kathy) dressed as Uncle Sam.

Craig, whom I know from Faribault Car Cruise Nights, showed up (with his wife Kathy) dressed as Uncle Sam.

A biplane buzzes the festival grounds mid-afternoon.

A biplane loops over the festival grounds mid-afternoon.

The Rev. Juan Palma of Trinity Lutheran Church North Morristown teams up with his son to call bingo.

The Rev. Juan Palm of Trinity Lutheran Church North Morristown teams up with his son to call bingo.

Here you can strike up a conversation with a bluegrass fan from nearby New Prague; love up a 12-week-old puppy named Max; encourage Noah, Hannah and Jack in their search for the medallion; catch up with Rose whom you haven’t seen in years; delight in a biplane writing smoke across the sky; listen to the pastor’s son call bingo numbers…

An appreciative crowd listens to Monroe Crossing, a popular bluegrass band.

An appreciative crowd listens to Monroe Crossing, a popular bluegrass band.

It’s nothing like NYC. And that’s absolutely alright by me.

BONUS PHOTOS:

This banner marks the intersection of two county roads near the North Morristown festival site.

This banner marks the intersection of two county roads near the North Morristown festival site.

Kids' activities are to the left, food and beverage stands to the right and the entertainment stage straight ahead.

Kids’ activities are to the left, food and beverage stands to the right and the entertainment stage straight ahead.

New to the skill games this year is the target shooting game using a spring-loaded gun.

New to the skill games this year is the target shooting game using a spring-loaded gun.

A flag bedecked car passes the festival grounds.

A flag bedecked car passes the festival grounds.

Kids loved the blow-up prizes ranging from animals to an inflatable ice cream cone.

Kids love the blow-up prizes ranging from animals to an inflatable ice cream cone.

A fest goer crochets while musicians perform.

A fest goer crochets while musicians perform.

The names of all parade grand marshals are displayed on the main stage backdrop.

The names of all parade grand marshals are displayed on the main stage backdrop.

Next year will be a big year as North Morristown marks its 125th Fourth of July celebration.

Next year will be a big year as North Morristown marks its 125th Fourth of July celebration.

FYI: Click here to read my first post on North Morristown’s 2016 Fourth of July celebration.

I’d like to thank all of the hardworking men, women and children who organize and volunteer at the North Morristown celebration. You are giving all of us a delightful way to celebrate the Fourth. Whether you grilled burgers, scooped ice cream, sold tickets, operated a carnival ride, picked up garbage, sold buttons and more, know that you are valued and deeply appreciated. These events don’t happen without your tireless efforts and dedication. So thank you.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating the Fourth of July the old-fashioned way in rural North Morristown July 5, 2016

The popular bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing, performed twice at North Morristown.

The popular bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing, performed twice at North Morristown.

NORTH MORRISTOWN on the Fourth of July is grassroots Americana. It is also Minnesota’s longest running celebration of our nation’s birthday.

Vehicles lined county roads leading to the festival grounds and also filled parking areas.

Vehicles lined county roads leading to the festival grounds and also filled parking areas.

By late afternoon, the crowd began thinning a bit. Festivities began at 9 a.m.

By late afternoon, the crowd thinned a bit.

In 2015, Mathea, now one, was recognized as the youngest in attendance. Fest planners also honor the eldest in attendance and those who travel the greatest distance.

In 2015, Mathea, now one, was recognized as the youngest in attendance. Fest planners also honor the eldest in attendance and those who travel the greatest distance. I didn’t stay for that 5 p.m. announcement. My husband noted a sign up sheet showing a 9-day-old baby there as well as visitors from both coasts.

For 124 years, through generations of families, folks have gathered here in the farmland of southwestern Rice County on July 4.

The old-fashioned barrel train draws lots of riders.

The old-fashioned barrel train draws lots of riders.

Kids love the barrel train.

Kids love the barrel train complete with bicycle horns to toot.

The homemade carnival rides have been around forever.

The homemade carnival rides have been around forever.

Iolla, in her 70s, remembers coming here as a child, riding some of the same kids’ rides still operating today. Jen, in her 30s, remembers too and now brings her children, including the youngest, only two months old.

A fest-goer left this vintage wooden folding chair sitting behind the ice cream stand. In the background you can see Trinity Lutheran Church and School across the road.

A fest-goer left this vintage wooden folding chair sitting behind the ice cream stand. In the background you can see Trinity Lutheran Church and School across the road.

On July Fourth, this spot in the middle of farm fields, edged by several building sites and across the street from Trinity Lutheran Church and School, draws thousands.

The winners of the medallion hunt are introduced and presented with a $100 check.

A member of Monroe Crossing introduces the winners of the medallion hunt and presents them with a check for $100.

Players packed the bingo hall inside a poleshed style building.

Players packed the bingo hall inside a poleshed style building.

Even Superman rode the barrel train.

Even Superman rode the barrel train.

They come for the mid-morning parade, the patriotic program, the medallion hunt, the food, the music, the carnival rides, the bingo, the fireworks and much more. And they come for the reunion with family and friends. Many grew up in the area. But many didn’t. Like me.

This food stand serves tasty BBQ pork and beef sandwiches and other food.

This food stand serves tasty BBQ pork and beef sandwiches and other food. The stand was already out of roast beef when I arrived at around 1 p.m. However, several hours later the supply had been replenished.

My husband enjoys his cheeseburger.

My husband enjoys his cheeseburger.

There was always a line for the ice cream.

There was always a line for the ice cream.

That matters not. I’ve lived in nearby Faribault for 34 years now, enough to know a lot of people. When my husband and I walked onto the North Morristown festival grounds early Monday afternoon aiming for the food stands, it took us awhile to get our pork sandwich, burger, onion rings and fresh-squeezed lemonade. Not because service was slow. Rather, we ran into a lot of friends.

Ice cream to eat and ice cream to

Ice cream to eat and ice cream to go.

Signs mark the various food booths.

The pie shop is always popular given the homemade pies.

The barrel train engineer was so busy that he had to eat on the job.

Marlin the barrel train engineer was so busy that he had to eat his sandwich on the job.

North Morristown was the place to be this Fourth of July as organizers reported record crowds. I don’t have stats to share, only knowledge that food stands were running out of or low on food. That’s a good problem to have given more people equals more income for Trinity Lutheran School, the beneficiary of this annual fest.

North Morristown will be celebrating its 125th Fourth of July in 2017.

North Morristown will be celebrating its 125th Fourth of July in 2017.

There’s something about this rural celebration that is uniquely charming and appealing in the sort of old-fashioned way that makes you want to return every summer. Nothing really changes much.

These vintage plastic jumpy horses were repurposed decades ago into a carnival ride.

These vintage plastic jumpy horses were repurposed decades ago into a carnival ride.

The food stands and kids’ rides seem from another era.

No fancy bingo cards here.

I wonder how many generations have used these vintage bingo cards.

Even the bingo cards feature sliders rather than daubers.

By the time I decided I needed a slice of pie, the selection was dwindling. However, I enjoyed a slice of blueberry-peach.

By the time I decided I needed a slice of pie, the selection was dwindling. However, I enjoyed a slice of blueberry-peach.

The pies are still homemade. The oily scent of crispy onion rings drifts through the air, drawing crowds to the hamburger stand. Polka bands still play in the beer shed.

Musicians performed throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

Musicians performed throughout the afternoon and into the evening. The names imprinted upon the boards (the stage backdrop) are of past parade grand marshals.

Music blasts a bluegrass beat.

Looking toward the festival site among farm fields.

Looking toward the festival site among farm fields.

It is an idyllic place to celebrate the Fourth of July, in the heart of rural Minnesota.

FYI: Check back for a second post on North Morristown’s July 4, 2016, celebration.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating Amber & Marc’s marriage October 1, 2013

Eleven round tables, which will seat up to 10, filled the reception space. The groom's parents and grandparents and other family members were seated at the table in the foreground.

Eleven round tables, which will seat up to 10 each, filled the reception space. The groom’s parents and grandparents and other family members were seated at the table in the foreground.

WHEN THE BRIDE AND GROOM, my eldest daughter and her new husband, envisioned a reception venue, they pictured a warehouse type space.

The couple arrives at the reception venue in the Bachrach Building in historic downtown Faribault. The social hour was held in the first floor Atrium and the reception in the second floor The Loft. The exterior floral pieces were created by my floral designer sister, Lanae Feser of Waseca Floral. Photo by and courtesy of Rochelle Louise Photography of Minneapolis.

The couple arrives at the reception venue in the Bachrach Building in historic downtown Faribault. The social hour was held in the first floor Atrium and the reception in the second floor The Loft. The exterior floral pieces were created by my floral designer sister, Lanae Feser of Waseca Floral. Photo by and courtesy of Rochelle Louise Photography of Minneapolis.

Marc specifically wanted exposed brick walls. Initially, I could not think of any place in Faribault fitting their vision. And then I remembered The Loft (probably Faribault’s best kept secret) in the historic Bachrach Building and invited the engaged couple to drive down from the metro to view the venue.

The couple looks at The Loft space with the bride's dad earlier this year.

The couple looks at The Loft space with the bride’s dad earlier this year.

The minute they walked into the second floor Loft, I knew they had found the perfect place to celebrate their marriage.

Beautiful natural light filters in through west facing windows as the newlyweds settle in at their sweetheart table.

Beautiful natural light filters in through west facing windows as the newlyweds settle in at their sweetheart table.

And celebrate we did in this room of exposed brick and limestone walls, a wooden floor upon which to dance and a bank of western windows flooding the room with natural light. Professional photographers Rochelle and Tom Muellenberg of Minneapolis based Rochelle Louise Photography raved about the beautiful lighting.

The bride's sister and maid of honor, Miranda, speaks and toasts the couple.

The bride’s sister and maid of honor, Miranda, speaks and toasts the couple.

As the sun set, we laughed and dined and talked and danced and raised our glasses thrice to toast the newlyweds.

BONUS RECEPTION PHOTOS:

wed

One of my favorite photos, converted to black and white to avoid the distraction of color. I love the emotions caught in this image.

The groom walks past the bride's parents' table.

The groom walks past the bride’s parents’ table, left.

The bride was beautiful in her stunning vintage replica dress.

The bride was beautiful, from all sides, in her stunning vintage replica dress.

Just look at how the natural light plays on the brick walls as the Rev. Robert Snyder, retired pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, leads the group in prayer.

Just look at how the natural light plays upon the brick walls and faces as the Rev. Robert Snyder, retired pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, leads the group in prayer.

Faribault based Arna Farmer Catering catered the meal of chicken breast in white wine sauce, roasted sweet potatoes and a mixed vegetable medley. Dessert of apple crisp and bars was served later. There was no wedding cake.

Faribault based Arna Farmer Catering & Cakes catered the meal of chicken breast in white wine sauce, roasted sweet potatoes, a mixed vegetable medley and bread (which is not shown here because I seldom eat bread). Dessert of apple crisp and bars was served later. There was no wedding cake. The food was outstanding. I’d recommend Arna and crew for the food and service anytime. Excellent.

The father of the bride, my husband Randy, starts his speech. He asked me to help write the speech since I am, um, yes, a writer. It was a hit with a mix of memories, humor and seriousness.

The father of the bride, my husband Randy, starts his speech. He asked me to help write the speech since I am, um, yes, a writer. It was a hit with a mix of memories, humor and seriousness. Our daughter and her husband watch from their corner sweetheart table.

My husband and I agreed that he should use several props to make his speech memorable. Here he pulls out Amber's favorite childhood doll, Sal, whom she dragged everywhere. Randy introduced the groom to Sal before handing over Amber's treasured doll.

My husband and I agreed that he should use several props to make his speech memorable. Here he pulls out Amber’s favorite childhood doll, Sal, whom she dragged everywhere. Randy introduced the groom to Sal before handing over Amber’s treasured doll. We also gave Amber a complete set of the Fox easy reader chapter books, including “Fox in Love,” by the Marshall brothers. They were among her favorites as a little girl. The DJ, per our request, also played a snippet of a Spice Girls song. That all-female band was one of Amber’s favorites as a teen. Randy concluded his speech by focusing on a parent’s love and welcoming Marc to our family.

The obliging DJ, Taylor from Taylor Made Tunes.

The obliging DJ, Taylor from metro based Taylor Made Tunes.

The Kletscher cousins (my side of the family) and significant others minus my daughter (who was out decorating the wedding car) and my niece Hillary, who'd already left.

The Kletscher cousins (my side of the family) and spouses/significant others minus my daughter (who was out decorating the wedding car) and minus my niece Hillary, who’d already left. That’s my son, Caleb, third from the left in the white shirt in the back row. He was an usher.

Meet the Schmidts: Jon Eric, the groom's brother and best man, left; the bride, Amber; the groom, Marc; and Jon Eric's wife, Stephani. Photo courtesy of Jon Eric Schmidt.

Meet the Schmidts: Jon Eric, the groom’s brother and best man, left; the bride, Amber; the groom, Marc; and Jon Eric’s wife, Stephani. Photo courtesy of Jon Eric Schmidt. Jon Eric and Stephani were married earlier this year in their native California.

The single ladies celebrate after one of them catches the bouquet.

The single ladies celebrate after one of them catches the bouquet. Much to my relief, there was no garter toss.

The celebration ended shortly after the couple left at 9:30 p.m.

The celebration ended shortly after the couple left at 9:30 p.m. That’s Sal peeking out of the cloth bag carried by the bride.

FYI: Click here to see photos of the reception set-up in the second floor Loft and the first floor Atrium, where the social hour was held.

You will find more information about Arna Farmer Catering & Cakes by clicking here.

For info about Rochelle Louise Photography, click here. And to view Rochelle’s blog post about Amber and Marc’s wedding, click here.

To learn more about Waseca Floral, click here.

To view earlier wedding posts, check Minnesota Prairie Roots archives from the past week.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photo by Rochelle Louise Photography is copyrighted and used here with permission.

 

Showering the bride-to-be (my daughter) with gifts & love August 6, 2013

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MY HUSBAND’S ELDEST SISTER suggested early on that I put away my camera.

But how could I, with no other camera in sight, set aside my Canon and simply allow the events of the afternoon to imprint upon my memory only?

Guests filled the living room and spilled into the dining room for my daughter's Saturday afternoon bridal shower.

Guests fill the living room and spill into the dining room for my daughter’s Saturday afternoon bridal shower.

I needed to visually capture these moments in which my eldest daughter, Amber, was showered with gifts and love at her bridal shower.

The bride-to-be opens gits.

When I look back now on these images, I remember the laughter, the emotions, the excitement, the joy, the delight that comes in knowing your daughter has grown in to this incredible young woman who is head-over-heels in love…

Shower, gift

White lace and white bows.

My floral designer sister Lanae created these bouquets, which include flowers that will be among the wedding flowers.

My floral designer sister Lanae created these bouquets, which include blooms that will be among the wedding flowers.

Flowers and chocolate and “fu fu.”

The most emotional moment of the shower came when Amber opened linens hand embroidered by her future husband's maternal grandmother, who died in 1992. She embroidered the linens to be gifted to her grandson's future bride.

The most emotional moment of the afternoon came when Amber opened linens hand embroidered by her future husband’s maternal grandmother, Beatrice (who died decades ago). The linens were to be gifted someday to Beatrice’s grandson’s bride-to-be. And this was the day when my daughter’s future mother-in-law delivered the precious packages. The embroidered hues of the flowers are the wedding couple’s colors, making this gift even more remarkable as Grandma Beatrice could not have known this.

Linens, a legacy of love and tears.

The gift of a clothes hamper prompted me to share that 30-plus years ago, the aunts on my father's side always gifted brides-to-be with a hamper and a bathroom scale.

The gift of a clothes hamper prompted me to share that 30-plus years ago, the aunts on my father’s side always gifted brides-to-be with a hamper and a bathroom scale. After much laughter, the group consensus was that a scale would not be a welcome gift. Times have changed. I still have my brown hamper, which looks quite similar to my daughter’s, but not the scale. That broke years ago.

Pots and pans and knives. A hamper for their clothes. The tools to create their new home.

Shower, recipe

Her husband-to-be’s favorite recipes handwritten by his mother, Lynn, who flew in from California for the bridal shower.

Personal messages written from the heart inside cards.

Hugs and well wishes.

Wishes shared...and read.

And lovely words to read.

She was gifted with a personalized bag bearing her new last name of Schmidt.

She was gifted with towels and a personalized bag bearing her new last name of Schmidt.

Soon Amber Helbling will become Amber Schmidt.

The bride-to-be with her soon-to-be husband.

Amber and Marc

My daughter. My sweet girl. All grown up. And, oh, so in love with Marc.

BONUS PHOTOS:

The wonderful family and friends who gathered at my sister-in-law Joanne's house for the bridal shower.

The wonderful family and friends who gathered at my sister-in-law Joanne’s house for the bridal shower.

As always, my floral designer sister created a beautiful gift package.

As always, my floral designer sister created a beautiful gift package.

The delicious food, especially the dessert on the right. That's my 81-year-old mom to the right. She traveled several hours to attend her granddaughter's shower.

The delicious food, especially the dessert on the right made by my husband’s eldest sister. That’s my 81-year-old mom to the right. She traveled several hours from southwestern Minnesota to attend her granddaughter’s shower.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Christmas fun with the family December 28, 2011

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CHRISTMAS WITH THE KLETSCHERS could never be termed as uneventful. Thanks to my fun-loving family (typically led by one especially crazy sister), we are always assured that our time together will be laced with laughter, love and a few surprises.

This year the party planning sister arrived at our middle brother’s house on the southwestern Minnesota prairie with an armful of vintage hats for the women, and occasionally the men, to wear. We were remarkably chic. Not a single hat resembled the hideous ribbon-style fascinator sprouted by Princess Beatrice at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. We Minnesota women possess far better taste than English royalty.

My party-planning sister and her daughter in their hats. My niece's hat is actually a re-purposed baby birds hand puppet that matches her mom's bird nest hat.

I suggested my eldest daughter start a new fashion trend in Minneapolis with her hat.

A few of the guys, including this unidentified family member, briefly wore vintage hats.

I can’t say the same for all attire worn at the holiday gathering. At one point my eldest daughter donned a Christmas sweater, duly admired by her grandmother who likely did not realize the sweater was a joke.

Look to the center of this image and you'll see my sister in her Grinch outfit ready to lead us in the gift exchange.

However, we all roared at the outfit my sister slipped into for the entertaining gift exchange that involves much hoopla and swapping of presents. Only this sister could carry off wearing a Grinch shirt with such fashionable flair.

My fun-loving middle brother suggested this photo op contrasting the modern Kindle with the antique crank wall telephone. There's also a crank phone in the basement and sometimes we pretend to call from the basement to the upstairs, shouting as loud as we can.

Later, a Kindle quickly became a source of entertainment for, ahem, those of us who’ve never seen such technology.

Santa surprised us all. Much laughter and many hugs and lots of photos followed.

Santa swooped in for a surprise visit, bringing back memories for the 20 – 30-something age group who remember past family Christmases with the old young jolly man in attendance.

For the second Christmas in a row we gathered outside for...sorry can't tell you.

We topped off the evening by shrugging into our winter coats and gathering outside the garage for…well…I can’t reveal that part of our family celebration. Suffice to say you would be impressed.

HOW DOES YOUR FAMILY make Christmas fun and memorable? Let’s hear. We’re always open to new entertainment options.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Happy birthday, Miranda! November 16, 2011

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Miranda, five days old

MY SECOND BORN turned 24 today.

Miranda lives 5 ½ hours away in eastern Wisconsin so I had to settle for texting a birthday wish to her this morning. Finally, around 4:30 p.m., she got back to me after a long work day that began at 4:30 a.m. She had to be at an area hospital by 6 a.m. to interpret for a Spanish-speaking patient undergoing surgery.

She didn’t have much time to chat; her friend Greg was arriving soon and they were going out for a birthday dinner. Miranda hadn’t eaten all day and she was hungry.

Afterward she was having friends over to celebrate. One of them, Gerardo, planned to bring the cake.

I don’t know if they ate any of the cake. But my husband, who just talked to our daughter, told me the cake was smashed in her face. Knowing several of the invited guests, I expect it was Julio’s idea. Miranda said she saw it coming.

Now I don’t think I’d much like a cake or pie or anything smashed in my face. But I’m not 24 either.

I had to think for a minute today about exactly how old my daughter was.

“Mom, you don’t know how old I am?” she asked, a strong tone of disbelief tingeing her question.

I had to do the math quick-like in my head. I didn’t tell her, but thought, “I can’t even remember how old I am sometimes.”

And sometimes I find it hard to believe that my two daughters are in their 20s, my son turning 18 in a few months. Where did the years go? Honestly.

No one smashed cake into Miranda's face when she was almost two; she managed this all on her own.

Miranda with her Little Mermaid birthday cake on her fifth birthday in 1992. That's a troll she's clutching and a homemade birthday hat with her nickname, Tib (after Tib in the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace). Everyone loved Miranda's curly hair.

 

One year later: A thank you party in flood-damaged Hammond September 21, 2011

An aerial view of Hammond during the flash flood of September 2010. Photo courtesy of Micheal and Tina Mann.

NEARLY A YEAR AGO, residents of  Zumbro Falls and nearby Hammond were evacuating their homes during a devastating flash flood.

They were not prepared—could not have been prepared—for the rapidly rising Zumbro River that would inundate their homes and businesses on September 23/24, displacing them for months and many of them permanently.

Within three weeks of the flooding, while on a Sunday afternoon drive to view the fall colors, my husband and I drove into Zumbro Falls. There I met Jackie, Tracy and Susie. Just down the road in Hammond, I met Katie.

Tracy Yennie of Zumbro Falls, whom I photographed shortly after the flood which left her without a home and living temporarily in a shed.

These four women shared their stories and frustrations and worries with me. In return, I published what I today consider some of the most powerful posts I have ever written. Click here to read this flood series published on October 11, 2010.

Flooding in Hammond, one year ago. Photo by Susie Buck.

My coverage of the flood did not end then. These women so impressed me with their fortitude, their strength and their outspokenness that I continued to follow one of them, Katie Shones of Hammond, throughout the year. Katie was my go-to person any time I wanted an update from her Wabasha County community of 230. Not once did she suggest that I was intruding into her life. In fact, she has gone above and beyond in answering my many questions. She also introduced me to her dear friend, Tina (Marlowe) Mann.

Tina and I have never met, but we’ve corresponded numerous times via e-mail. Like Katie, Tina has always, always, been forthright and open with me. She allowed me to share her story in a March 13-19 series. Click here to read the first of those six posts.

Via my connections with Katie and Tina, I was able to inform you of the need for volunteer help in Hammond. And at least two readers responded with crews to assist in Hammond. Others of you may have responded in ways that I’ll never know.

This weekend Hammond is celebrating its recovery with a “Thank You” party. “We would like anyone who was impacted, donated, volunteered, or showed compassion for Hammond to come back down and see how far we’ve come and allow us to show our appreciation – the Hammond way!!!” Tina wrote in a recent e-mail. She invited me to attend and said I could spread the word.

So, if you fall into that “impacted, donated, volunteered or showed compassion for Hammond” category, make your way to this picturesque riverside berg on Saturday, September 24, to celebrate with Tina and Katie and their families and the other residents, and former residents, of Hammond.

The first day back into their flooded Hammond home, Vicki and Dallas Williamson had 20 minutes to grab whatever they could carry on the back of a four-wheeler. The family did not move back. Photo by Sheri Ryan.

Tina, who now serves on the city council; Hammond Bar co-owner Janice Farris; Hammond Café co-owner Cindy Campbell; former Mayor Judy Radke; and flood-affected resident Beau Mischke did the initial planning for the party and pulled in many local residents to help with activities, according to Tina.

Here’s the schedule of events:

  • 2:30 p.m., park dedication
  • 2:45 p.m., Kiddy Carnival
  • following the carnival, horseshoes at the Hammond Bar & bean bags at the Hammond Cafe
  • 3 p.m., corn husking in the park
  • 5 p.m., free sweet corn and hot beef sandwiches
  • Also, live music by Led Penny and Bad Logic and fireworks at dusk.

As you might guess in a small town, the entire event and door prizes are being covered by donations from businesses, residents, friends of Hammond and clubs. I’m not going to list them for fear of omitting someone.

Suffice to say you would be impressed.

And just one more thing. Tina tells me that by the end of the month, 12 crab apple trees will be planted on Main Street and in the east end of the park in honor of the children of Hammond affected by the flood.  Those, too, have been donated, by a Rochester nursery and garden center. Click here to read an earlier post about the affect of the flooding on Katie Shones’ children.

I never doubted that the folks of southeastern Minnesota would rebound from the devastating flood of September 2010. I knew it when I met Jackie, Tracy, Susie and Katie. These are strong, determined women. Nothing would stop them from reclaiming their communities.

The bridge connecting east and west Hammond is barely visible during the flood, which also overtook the town's park. Photo courtesy of Micheal and Tina Mann.

CHECK BACK FOR A POST tomorrow in which Tina Mann shares her thoughts on the past year and how her community has worked toward recovery. As in the past, Tina speaks with an honest, open voice that will touch your heart.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
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