DECADES AGO, in high school and then in college, I studied the German language. I grew fluent in the native tongue of my forefathers. I felt a sense of accomplishment as my skills advanced. I decided I would major in German in college, until I determined journalism would be a better path. I’ve never regretted that decision because I love words, no matter the language.
My second daughter, though, pursued a foreign language major, earning her college degree in Spanish (much more practical than German) and then becoming a Spanish medical interpreter. Until the pandemic ended that career.
I share this to lay the foundation for my personal appreciation of other cultures. I’ve never traveled internationally and not all that much domestically, so I welcome the opportunity to experience other countries and cultures locally. From 10 am – 4 pm this Saturday, July 10, diverse cultures focus the 16th annual International Festival Faribault in Central Park.
The fest is promoted as “a global bazaar-style event featuring food, music, dance, presentations and goods from around the world.” I’ve attended several times, although not recently, and always enjoyed this Neighbor Meeting Neighbor celebration. Many of those participating in the fest are local residents, shopkeepers and vendors.
Faribault truly is an ethnically diverse community with a size-able immigrant population and with long-time residents rooted in many countries. Founding father Alexander Faribault, for example, was of French-Canadian and Dakota heritage. Our newest residents come from places like war torn Somalia.
While we’ve struggled in the past to accept one another, I feel like things are settling, that we are beginning to celebrate our differences and recognize the value of those differences.
Newcomers to Faribault are here to stay. They live, work and play here. Attend school. Own businesses. And that’s reason to celebrate. We are a stronger community because of our diversity.
I encourage locals and people from out of town to attend Saturday’s International Festival Faribault. International dancers, music, a flag ceremony, arts and crafts, kids’ activities (including the popular pinata breaking), henna and food from around the world will be among the offerings. Perhaps someone will represent the German heritage by serving sauerkraut and brats or pumping out polkas on an accordion…
NORTH MORRISTOWN on the Fourth of July suits me and my rural roots. Not that I’m rooted to this place in the middle of farm country in southwestern Rice County. But the down-to-earth basics of this nearly 130-year-old Independence Day celebration appeal to the raised-on-a-Redwood-County-farm girl in me.
I appreciate how this event, held annually on festival grounds in a rural Minnesota landscape, remains basically unchanged. Just like North Morristown, which is not a town, but rather farm sites, fields, a Lutheran church and school, and the grassy, shaded celebration site.
The rural character of July Fourth here prevails. In tractors and grain trucks. In barns, machine sheds and farmhouses. But it stretches beyond that to the people, to families rooted in North Morristown for generations. In many ways, Independence Day here is as much a celebration of our nation’s birthday as it is one big family reunion. With guests, like me, welcomed.
The event feels friendly and comfortably homey. I recognize that doesn’t come without a lot of planning, time, effort and hard work on the part of volunteers. I’ve coordinated and led events much smaller than this and fully realize the work and commitment.
So to those who spearheaded this year’s Fourth of July in North Morristown, thank you. And to those who have led in the past, thank you also. You are bringing joy to a lot of people. You are preserving the past. You are bringing people of all ages together from all over, this year from as far away as the Philippines. You are strengthening families and building memories. You are offering an alternative to high tech everything.
In a fast-paced world, we need a place and event like North Morristown on the Fourth to remind us to slow down, to sit for a spell. To listen to the music. To savor a slice of homemade pie or a pork sandwich. To visit with friends and family and strangers. To watch babies toddle in bare feet and kids climb onto vintage horses. To play BINGO or hunt for a hidden medallion. To feel grateful for faith and family and health and country.
At its core, North Morristown on the Fourth represents so many things I hold dear. I expect others feel the same.
TELL ME: Did you attend the North Morristown July 4 celebration or one similar? I’d like to hear.
Although the selection was limited by this time in the day-long event, we still found tasty pies. I chose fresh strawberry while Randy opted for rhubarb, both parceled in generous portions.
While we forked our pies, the ever-popular bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing, performed to an appreciative audience on the nearby Main Stage. The crowd settled onto bleachers, folding chairs inside the gazebo and onto plank benches, and also spilled onto the grassy area in lawn chairs and on blankets.
Several musical groups performed throughout a day packed with family-friendly events: A parade, patriotic program, BINGO, kiddie rides and games, and so much more.
Once we finished our pie, we roamed the festival grounds, a grassy space shaded by towering trees (including aged oaks) and next to farm sites and fields. Across the street sits Trinity Lutheran Church and School, the school benefiting from funds raised at this long-running July Fourth celebration.
I love everything about this event. The timeless quality. The step back in time. The connecting with friends (and for many, with family). The music. The food.
To be in North Morristown on the Fourth of July is to experience a sense of community, to feel comforted by the sameness of this celebration, to understand that this is about more than Independence Day. This is about rural America and how family and community and tradition are valued and cherished here.
As I watched the engineer of the barrel train steer his lawn tractor, I thought, what wonderful memories these kids will have of riding that homemade train. The same goes for the other kiddie rides and carnival games which remain unchanged. I need to bring my grandchildren here to experience this.
Generations of families run the rides and booths, stitching stories into their family histories. The kids will always remember going to North Morristown on the Fourth—to pluck a yellow rubber duck from a pond, to throw a ball toward a hoop or toward spinning “dolls,” to drop a line into the fish pond…all for some prize that is more treasure than trinket on July 4.
North Morristown on the Fourth truly rates as an American treasure.
Although Randy and I did not grow up here, we have lived in neighboring Faribault for 40 years and know a lot of people. So we saw many there—Mel, Carl, Leroy, Shirley, Virgil, Jane, Jen, Mike…and a college friend, Annette, whom I haven’t seen in decades. We made new friends, too, Kevin and Brenda from Elysian and another couple from Monticello. That’s the thing about this celebration. Sit at a picnic table and you’ll find yourself engaging in conversation with strangers.
After we completed our tour of the festival grounds and enjoyed the music by Monroe Crossing, Randy and I ordered sandwiches. I got barbecued pork. He chose a burger. The food, served from vintage stands, is always, always delicious. And, yes, we ate our dessert before our main meal because we weren’t willing to risk the pie running out.
Several hours after arriving in the less-busy, less-crowded late afternoon, we left, taking the scenic route home along gravel roads winding past farm sites. I felt so appreciative of this rural setting, of North Morristown on the Fourth of July and of the people who make this event happen. What an exceptional example of a holiday celebration which, at its core, remains unchanged and rooted in community and family.
FYI: Please check back for a second post with more photos from North Morristown on July Fourth.
NORTH MORRISTOWN OFFERSa July Fourth celebration unlike any other in Minnesota. It’s grassroots Americana, billed as the longest-running Independence Day celebration in the state. Since 1892 (with the exception of 2020 due to COVID-19), folks have gathered on a plot of land across from Trinity Lutheran Church and School in western Rice County for this rural-rooted community event.
I’ve attended many times (click here to view past blog posts), even though I hold no familial connection to this place. Yet, I always feel welcome. I’ve lived in nearby Faribault for 39 years and know a lot of people in the area. The Fourth of July in North Morristown is, at its core, about reconnecting with family and friends. Or, if you’re new to the event, meeting new people and experiencing an old-fashioned, down-to-earth Independence Day celebration.
While some activities, such as a Remote Control Demolition Derby and Bean Bag Competition, have been added to the event, most activities are long-standing. A Patriotic Program, 10 AM parade complete with Candy House, silent auction, BINGO, Medallion Hunt, games, vintage kiddie rides and more endure. There’s something incredibly comforting and charming about keeping things the same.
From the Pie Stand to the Hamburger Stand, the food offerings are basic and delicious. I’d advise purchasing a slice of pie early on given the popularity of the pies. Vintage buildings house the food stands where volunteers prepare and serve food and beverages. Onion rings, pork sandwiches, ice cream, cold beer…
The music also draws many, especially the popular Monroe Crossing, set to play at 1:30 PM and 4 PM on July 4 at the Main Stage. Believe me, it’s worth coming just to hear this bluegrass band. Other musical performers include Potluck String Band, Red Dirt Road and more.
Fireworks cap the day of celebration.
Words really cannot fully describe North Morristown on the Fourth of July. It’s something you have to experience. I’d encourage you to attend. Bring your lawn chairs or blankets (seating is limited for the concerts), your money, and a joyful attitude. Then celebrate America’s birthday in the middle of the countryside—among soybean and corn fields—with people who love this land and each other.
TO YOU, MY DEAR READERS: Have a safe and wonderful Independence Day celebration whether you are at home or traveling, among lots of people or simply with family. Or even just relaxing alone. Please take time on July Fourth to reflect on the blessings of living in a free country. I, for one, feel grateful.
TO CELEBRATE MEMORIAL DAY in Faribault means coming together as a community. First during a ceremony at the Rice County courthouse, then the 10 a.m. parade through the heart of downtown followed by a program at Central Park.
This represents Americana. Tradition. A public way to honor those who died in service to our country.
It’s a day when politics are set aside and the focus shifts to patriotism and gratitude. We are simply Americans, thankful for freedom.
As has been our tradition for decades, Randy and I unfolded our lawn chairs along Central Avenue to watch the parade pass by. Little changes. Veterans and flags and fire trucks and Scouts and vintage vehicles and horses define the 15-minute parade. Absent this year were high school bands and the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Crack Squad.
But we were happy simply to have a parade, canceled last May (and rightly so) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On this Memorial Day 2021, American flags stretched in the morning breeze. Parade participants waved. And kids waved mini flags distributed by Scouts and American Heritage Girls. Veterans clutched flags. And flags adorned vehicles. It was all about the red-white-and-blue.
While this parade rates as short and simple, I none-the-less cherish it. I cherish the tradition. I cherish the opportunity to come together as a community. And I cherish the opportunity to remember and honor those Americans who died while serving our country. Our America.
Please check back for photos from the Memorial Day program at Central Park.
I ADMIT THAT WHEN ILEARNED my young grandchildren were going trick-or-treating, I was concerned. The CDC labeled the door-to-door tradition to be high risk during this global pandemic. Yet, I knew my daughter and her husband would be careful, as I expected others in their suburban Minnesota neighborhood would be. And that’s exactly how Halloween played out.
As I stayed behind to replenish the individually bagged candy and stickers and the glo-sticks arranged on an unattended table on the front porch, the rest—Isabelle as Thomas the Tank Engine, Isaac as a dinosaur, Randy as a divided Minnesota, and the parents as themselves, warmly dressed Minnesotans—set out to gather treats.
I settled on the couch with the newspaper, occasionally hearing voices outside the front door. Then I’d wait a few minutes, until I knew the trick-or-treaters and their parents were gone, before stepping out to restock.
Eventually, the cold, fierce wind drew my family back to the house, where Isaac was more interested in his light-up candy bag than the candy. The kids each got one treat before we left and they transitioned toward bed.
Earlier, Randy and I sat with the kids and frosted and decorated homemade carrot cupcakes I baked the previous day. Isaac, at 22 months, was more interested in slicing the cupcakes with his child-sized knife. Izzy, 4, struggled with the thick frosting (note to self: next time make homemade cream cheese frosting), but managed the sprinkles quite well. When she later ate a cupcake overloaded with black sugar, her tongue turned black and black ringed her mouth. Coal residue from Thomas the Tank Engine, perhaps?
All in all, it was a fun Halloween. The kids were happy. The grandparents were happy to spend time with the grandchildren. And the parents, and the neighborhood, managed Halloween in a safe way, with all treats set outside and social distancing followed.
Randy noted one other difference. Trick-or-treating, without doorbell ringing and interaction, simply did not feel the same. He’s right. But this year, health and safety mattered more than tradition.
My granddaughter, Isabelle (“Izzy” for short). Photographed when she was about 17 hours old in April 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.
MY CELLPHONE PINGED YESTERDAY with a notification. For my granddaughter’s fourth birthday party. Today. At an interactive indoor play area in the northern Twin Cities metro. The party was canceled a few weeks ago, but I’d forgotten to delete the notice from my phone.
So today, instead of celebrating with my darling Isabelle, her parents and little brother, and a whole bunch of Izzy’s friends, I am home. Separated from the ones I love because of the COVID-19 crisis. I have no reason to complain. Everyone in my immediate family is healthy and in the extended family, too, although we had a bit of a scare recently. My mom remains on hospice in a care center 120 miles distant.
We are all making the best of this pandemic which now shapes our lives. We do what we must to stay healthy and to keep others healthy. While out grocery shopping earlier and then on to a Big Box store to buy a garage door because, you know, the garage door just had to break right now, I saw some people with masks. Not a lot. But I noticed more social distancing signs and the larger retail store banning anyone under age 16 from entering. I also saw too many folks not heeding social distancing. I steered clear of them, including employees at one local grocery store which has no COVID-related signs, nothing.
Izzy’s first birthday cake. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo April 2016.
Yes, I should have been hugging my granddaughter today instead of grocery shopping and buying a garage door. I should have been watching Izzy blow out candles while singing happy birthday to her and celebrating with gift-opening and cake. The year before last, I missed her party because of a blizzard. In retrospect, that is nothing compared to missing a birthday party due to coronavirus.
Isabelle, in a video chat earlier this week, seemed unfazed by the change in plans. She excitedly shared, “I’m celebrating with my family!” She told me about the planned pink birthday cake—her favorite color—frosted and decorated with unicorn sprinkles. I inwardly thanked her parents for stressing to their daughter what she will still have, not what she’s lost in the postponed (until October) party.
One of my favorite photos of Isabelle is this one I took of her in September 2019. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.
I decided to add to Izzy’s celebration by reaching out to friends and family with a request to send birthday cards to my granddaughter. Many responded and for that I am grateful.
This afternoon, while returning home with the $470 garage door strapped to the top of our van, I saw a family celebrating what appeared to be a birthday. A clutch of colorful balloons decorated the front stoop and people stood in the yard. Social distancing. The scene made me think of my sweet Isabelle and how much I miss her. Especially on her birthday. And I wonder just how long it will be until I can hug her again.
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.
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.
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.