Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

North Morristown on the Fourth, the place to be in southern Minnesota July 2, 2019

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A glimpse of the North Morristown celebration grounds. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

NORTH MORRISTOWN, MINNESOTA, on the Fourth of July is grassroots Americana.

 

Buy your pie early for the best selection. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

From the country setting to the popular parade featuring the Candy House to a medallion hunt and flag-raising ceremony and concerts and offerings of homemade pies and much more, this celebration reflects rural America at its best.

 

 

If you haven’t experienced July 4 at North Morristown, I suggest you travel to this southern Minnesota holiday destination this week.

 

The BINGO callers of North Morristown. I won first place for this photo in a contest sponsored by National Mutual Benefit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

My husband enjoys his cheeseburger at the North Morristown Fourth of July celebration in 2016. This is one of my favorite close-up images and among those published in Fleur-de-lis. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Craig and Kathy enjoying the Fourth at North Morristown. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Here you’ll find BINGO and bands, burgers and beer, and, at day’s end, fireworks bursting over farm fields.

 

The popular bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing, performs twice at North Morristown, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

For many, this event represents an annual reunion with family and friends. Even with no roots to this place, I embrace this celebration, delighting in some really good food, visiting with friendly people and enjoying the music of crowd favorite Monroe Crossings, which returns year after year to perform at North Morristown on the Fourth.

 

One of several vintage kiddie carnival rides at North Morristown. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

If you appreciate the company of good folks who value country, community, family and hard work, then North Morristown will appeal to you. Bring your lawn chair. Bring your appetite. Bring your kids and/or grandkids. And be sure to express your gratitude to the volunteers who make this event happen. Thank them. And buy a $2 celebration button to show your financial support.

 

This food stand served tasty BBQ pork and beef sandwiches and other food during a past celebration.  Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Billed as the longest-running Fourth of July celebration in Minnesota at 127 years, this is a must-attend for anyone interested in an authentic, down-to-earth way to commemorate our nation’s birthday.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Celebrating May Day, Czech style May 3, 2019

Leaves unfurling in southern Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2018.

 

MAY IN MINNESOTA. Oh, how I love thy greening, they earthy scent, thy springing of new growth into the landscape.

These early days of May carry winds of warmth, clouds of rain and cause for celebration. In the small southern Minnesota Czech community of Montgomery, folks welcome spring on Saturday, May 4, with the annual Czech May Day Celebration.

It begins with the noon raising of a traditional Czech May Pole followed by a ribbon dance around that pole.

 

The New Prague Czech Singers. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Music by the Czech Concertina Band adds to the festivities which continue until 5 p.m. at the corner of Vine and First Streets. Other activities include a car roll-in, wagon rides and face painting.

No celebration is complete without food and drink—in Montgomery authentic Czech beer and cuisine. Chicken paprikash with dumplings, pork, dumplings and sauerkraut and jitrnice (sausage) sandwiches. For the non-Czech foodies, a hot dog stand will be open.

 

Kolacky, a Czech pastry. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

A bake sale also offers the popular Czech kolacky, poppy seed buchta, zeiniky and bread. And, no, I don’t pretend to know what those are except for kolacky, which I’ve eaten.

So if you want to experience the Czech culture while simultaneously celebrating spring, head on over to Montgomery on Saturday.

 

Singin’ in the Grain promo photo from Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival website.

 

And then, on Sunday, learn even more about the Czech in this region of southern Minnesota by attending the screening of the newly-released documentary, Singin’ in the Grain—A Minnesota Czech Story, at 1:30 p.m. in the New Prague High School auditorium.

 

FYI: Czech May Day attendees are advised to bring their own chairs due to limited seating. And, in the case of inclement weather, listen to KCHK radio for updates.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Filmmakers celebrate another year of documenting Faribault history May 2, 2019

Logan Ledman, left, and Samuel Temple. Photo courtesy of 1855.

 

THEY ARE ONLY SENIORS in high school. But already Logan Ledman and Samuel Temple have left their creative imprint on Faribault.

 

Photo courtesy of 1855.

 

On Sunday, May 5, the creators of the 1855 history series on Faribault Community Television host their annual Shindig to commemorate another year of producing documentaries. They’ve crafted films on topics ranging from the Peoples of Faribault to Bishop Henry Whipple, Burkhartzmeyer Shoes and more. And last year marked a debut theatrical performance of local history, The 1855 Live Show, at the Paradise Center for the Arts.

 

Samuel and Logan stand on the front porch of the Alexander Faribault house, home to town founder Alexander Faribault. Photo courtesy of 1855.

 

I can’t say enough good things about these two who launched their local films several years ago. Their work is professional, thoughtful, educational and inspiring. Every time I’ve connected with them, they’ve been responsive, kind, friendly, engaging and professional.

They and their work are worth celebrating.

Ledman and Temple recognize the value of connecting with community, something they’re done incredibly well. Their Shindig at the Rice County Historical Society offers another opportunity to connect and to showcase their work and that of musician Sam Dwyer, composer of the 1855’s score. Dwyer will perform and sell CDs of his latest symphony. The filmmakers will also sell copies of their works. And they will premiere several new episodes from their upcoming fourth season.

Join these young creatives at this free event. Plan to arrive at 1 p.m. to assure you don’t miss the screenings, musical performance and more. The Shindig runs until 4:45 p.m. with refreshments provided.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Photos courtesy of 1855

 

Embracing the holiday spirit in downtown Faribault November 30, 2018

A section of Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault photographed Thursday evening.

 

WITH FRESH SNOW LAYERING the ground, festive lights brightening streets and storefront windows, and an evening of holiday activities underway, it was feeling a lot like Christmas in downtown Faribault on Thursday.

 

 

For sale, animal portraits by one of my favorite local artists, Julie Fakler. Her art pops with color and simply makes me smile.

 

Shoppers peruse local art inside the Paradise’s main gallery. Holly Days Sale art also fills the gift shop and another smaller gallery room.

 

There’s a wide variety of art like this leaf pottery by Dianne Lockerby.

 

I was especially drawn to the stunning and diverse portraits created by Pam Buschow, this one titled “Indian Woman.”

 

Randy and I joined in the kick-off of the second annual Winterfest by popping into the Paradise Center for the Arts,

 

A musician performs inside Faribault’s newest event space, The 3 Ten Event Venue.

 

Artist Laura O’Connor, owner of Painted, shared her talents at a face painting art and glitter bar inside 3 Ten. Here my friends’ daughter, Nevaeh, shows off Laura’s work.

 

The 3 Ten Event Venue

 

One of my favorite new shops in town, Fleur de Lis, features art galore from paintings to…

 

handcrafted jewelry…

 

artisan Christmas ornaments…

 

Minnesota-themed mugs…

 

more mugs…

 

simply a beautiful shop brimming with artfully displayed art from Minnesota artists.

 

and Fleur de Lis Gallery;

 

Artist Adam Scholljegerdes sculpts a snowman from ice.

 

 

pausing on the corner of Central Avenue and Fourth Street to watch ice sculpting and listen to Due North carolers;

 

 

and then simply strolling along the sidewalks viewing storefront displays. I wish, though, that all of the downtown businesses had been open and we’d had more time.

 

Stars and holiday lights brighten a storefront window.

 

It was a beautiful and balmy—for Minnesota anyway—evening to enjoy the holiday spirit and the company of friends we met while out and about. That’s one of the things I love about living in Faribault—seeing people I know like Kelly from the Chamber and Faribault Main Street (event organizers), Julie at the Paradise, young and enthusiastic entrepreneur Jess at Fleur de Lis, friends Billie Jo and Neal and family…

A genuine warmth and sense of community exist in Faribault, a place I’ve called home for 36 years. I feel comfortable here, welcomed, appreciated and valued for who I am as a person and a professional. When I attend an event like Winterfest, I see, too, the appreciation others hold for this town, the incredible talent here and a caring spirit.

 

Horse-drawn wagon rides were offered Thursday evening.

 

This weekend presents a perfect opportunity to experience Faribault as Winterfest continues into tomorrow. Evening fireworks preceding a 5:30 p.m. Parade of Lights and a street dance afterwards cap the three-day celebration.

And just to make Winterfest even more wintry, Faribault and other regions of southern Minnesota are under a winter storm watch from Saturday morning through Sunday morning with up to a possible seven inches of snow predicted. That storm could begin with freezing rain, making travel challenging. So if you’re planning a trip to Faribault on Saturday, check the updated forecast and road conditions as this storm continues to evolve. The National Weather Service currently advises: Travel could be very difficult, especially along Interstate 90 and along Interstate 35 between the Twin Cities and the Iowa border.

 

Stained glass garden art for sale at Fleur de Lis Gallery.

 

Have a great weekend, no matter where you are and what you do to embrace the holiday spirit.

Here’s a list of some activities happening in Faribault on Saturday:

And on Sunday…The Paradise Children’s Theatre presents “The Nutcracker Prince” at 2 and 4 p.m.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Izzy at the Capitol August 12, 2017

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HER MAMA ONCE WORKED in the state office building next to the Minnesota State Capitol. Izzy, at 16 months, is too young to understand. But, on Friday, she was among Minnesotans celebrating the grand opening of the Capitol following a multi-year $310 million restoration.

 

Oh, where’s Izzy? Pun intended. Photos by Amber Schmidt.

 

 

 

 

When her mama, my eldest, sent photos of Izzy playing among the #ONLY IN MN letters on the front lawn, I just had to share the cuteness.

 

 

The rest of the weekend is jam-packed with activities ranging from concerts to tours to ongoing activities for families. Will I be there? No. I’m not a fan of mega crowds in the metro, plus lots is happening locally and I’m preparing for a family reunion.

 

The stunning Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo from my last visit in 2009.

 

So “The People’s House,” as the Capitol is being promoted to all of us, will have to wait. I last toured the Capitol in 2009, when Amber worked next door. Prior to that, I’d only been there once, on a sixth grade class trip.

It’s a beautiful building. With the renovations, the first since the Capitol was built in 1905, I expect it to be even more stunning.

Some day my granddaughter can look back at these photos and hear the stories her mama tells about their trip to the Capitol on August 11, 2017…and how she cared more about a live owl than the Capitol restoration.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
photos by and copyright of Amber Schmidt

 

Celebrating the Fourth of July for 125 years in North Morristown July 2, 2017

The popular bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing, performed twice at North Morristown in 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

IN RICE COUNTY, the Fourth of July and North Morristown are synonymous. For in this rural spot of corn, soybean and alfalfa fields, farm sites, and a country church and school, folks gather every Independence Day to celebrate. This July Fourth marks 125 years of patriotic and family togetherness.

 

Vehicles line county roads leading to the festival grounds and also filled parking areas in this Minnesota Prairie Roots photo from July 4, 2016.

 

You won’t find North Morristown by looking for a water tower or anything that resembles a town. Rather, head northwest of Morristown to 10500 215th St. West and the festival grounds across the road from Trinity Lutheran Church and School, North Morristown.

 

The vintage car ride for kids. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

Although I did not grow up in this part of Minnesota, I’ve lived here 35 years now and have celebrated many July Fourths at this rural location. I love the folksy simplicity of an event which began 125 years ago as a picnic. Today the celebration includes a 5K run/walk, parade, patriotic program, medallion hunt, silent auction, BINGO, musical performances (including the popular Twin Cities based Monroe Crossing), kids’ carnival style rides, fireworks shot over farm fields and more.

 

The homemade pies are a popular food choice. Buy your pie early for the best selection. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

And then there are the food and beverages: homemade pies, fresh-squeezed lemonade, ice cream, pork sandwiches, burgers, beer and more. This food is basic country at its best, served by volunteers who work tirelessly to feed the masses.

 

The bingo callers in 2013. I entered this image in a photo contest and won first place. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

Most who attend know each other. They either grew up here, married into a local family or have connections to the area. North Morristown on the Fourth of July is like a big family reunion. But even if you have zero connections to this place, you will feel comfortably welcome on the grassy, tree-filled festival grounds packed with friendly people.

 

By late afternoon last July 4, the crowd began thinning a bit. Festivities began at 9 a.m. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

As much as I’d like to attend, I may not this year due to the crowds and uneven walking surfaces. A friend, who is one of the grand marshals of this year’s 10 a.m. parade, expressed disappointment upon learning of my shoulder fracture. He was apparently counting on me to photograph the day’s events as I have many times in the past. Sorry, Al.

 

The old-fashioned barrel train draws lots of riders. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Click here to view my previous coverage of North Morristown’s Fourth of July celebration. From my photographic perspective, you can see why this event has endured for 125 years. It doesn’t get much more grassroots basic Americana than North Morristown on the Fourth.

FYI: Click here to reach the North Morristown July Fourth Facebook page.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

NOTE: I am taking a break from further blogging this week. Please check back because I’ll be back.

 

Faribault renames airport honoring WASP Liz Wall Strohfus, who proved that girls can fly June 22, 2017

SHE WAS AN AVIATION PIONEER for women, an advocate for female veterans and an inspiration to many. And Saturday afternoon, local celebrity Elizabeth “Betty Wall” Strohfus will be posthumously honored with renaming and dedication of the Faribault Municipal Airport as Liz Wall Strohfus Field. She died in March 2016 at the age of 96.

 

Elizabeth Wall Strohfus, circa 1943, at Avenger Field. (Photo from family archives.)

 

Strohfus served as a Women’s Air Force Service Pilot (WASP) during World War II. In that job, she trained infantry gunners for battle, taught instrument flying to male cadets and ferried warbirds around the U.S. After her service, she lobbied and succeeded in getting active military duty status for WASPs and burial rights for these service women at Arlington National Cemetery. She is best known perhaps, though, for her inspirational talks primarily to students in 31 states over nearly three decades.

Commercial pilot Cheri Rohlfing, who was inspired by Strohfus, will be among several speakers addressing attendees during a 2 p.m. program at the Faribault airport. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, with whom Strohfus worked on WASP veterans’ issues, will speak first. Others scheduled to talk are Strohfus’ son Art Roberts and Terry Baker, who worked on restoring a BT-13 like the one Strohfus piloted. That plane will be on-site at Saturday’s 1 – 4 p.m. event. Eventually the bomber will find a permanent home at the National WASP Museum at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, where Strohfus trained.

 

Faribault based Brushwork Signs designed and created this sign gracing the newly-renamed Faribault airport. Image is courtesy of Brushwork Signs.

 

The Faribault American Association of University Women, prompted by retired educator Gloria Olson, initiated renaming of the airport and has been planning Saturday’s tribute. “It fits our (AAUW’s) mission—recognition and support of women and girls, along with education of women and girls, which was important to Liz as well,” Olson wrote in an email.

In addition to the airport renaming and placement of new signage honoring Strohfus, a sculpture by renowned Faribault woodcarver Ivan Whillock has been completed just in time for the June 24 dedication. It will hang in the airport lobby.

Family activities and music are also part of Saturday’s celebration along with a display—including memorabilia, photos, posters and a continuously running video telling Strohfus’ story. After the airport event, the Village Theater in historic downtown Faribault will feature two free showings (at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.) of local filmmaker Steve Cloutier’s documentary, “Betty Wall: Girls Don’t Fly.”

Strohfus proved she could fly, joining the Faribault Sky Club and becoming the first woman to solo fly at the Faribault airport in 1942. She acquired a bank loan to join the club by putting her bike up as collateral.

Such tenacity impresses me as do this aviator’s numerous accomplishments. Among her many awards are two Congressional Medals of Honor and induction into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame.

 

Liz Wall Strohfus. Photo courtesy of Gloria Olson.

 

AAUW member Olson shared the importance of renaming the local airport in honor of Strohfus for “all her military accomplishments, what she did for women veterans, and women and girls in general, inspiring youth to follow their dreams, all her honors, Faribault icon, everyone’s friend, and…first local site of any significance honoring a woman.”

Strohfus will receive one more posthumous honor. The Faribault City Council recently passed a resolution designating June 24 as Liz Wall Strohfus Day in the city of Faribault.

Memorabilia donated by Strohfus’ son will be added to an exhibit on the aviator already in place at the Rice County Historical Society.

For a woman who was once told by a local banker that “girls don’t fly,” all these tributes prove she could. And she did. And on Saturday, Strohfus will be recognized in her hometown for her many accomplishments in the field of aviation.

FYI: Northfield-based KYMN radio (95.1 FM) will rebroadcast an interview with Strohfus at 10 a.m. Friday. The interview with radio personality Wayne Eddy originally aired on May 30, 2014.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Photos are courtesy of Brushwork Signs and of Gloria Olson