Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

United Way opening community-focused used bookstore in Faribault January 31, 2023

Rice County Area United Way is opening a used bookstore in the vacant Dandelet Jewelry building. A bookstore was once located in the corner building. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

ONCE UPON A TIME, Faribault was home to bookstores, the first inside the mall, the second downtown on Central Avenue. Both closed years ago. But soon we’ll have a bookshop back in town, located in the former Dandelet Jewelry store, right next to the corner building that once housed Central Avenue Books.

Elizabeth Child (Photo source: E. Child)

This new as yet unnamed bookstore, though, will be decidedly different. The bookshop, a project of Rice County Area United Way, aims to do more than simply provide the community with a place to purchase gently-used books. It will also become a welcoming community gathering space, according to United Way Executive Director Elizabeth Child. She envisions a colorful children’s area in the back of the store where kids can mingle and read. She envisions adults dropping in, coffee in hand, to browse bookshelves and engage in conversation. She envisions local art displayed and perhaps events featuring artists and writers.

Gordon Liu, board chair of the United Way, created a book-themed display for the Faribault Winterfest holiday window decorating contest. It reflects the bookstore plan for the Dandelet building and Liu’s love of books and reading. He was recently reappointed to the Library Advisory Board. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

A sense of community involvement defines the vision for this used bookshop. Child and her board of directors are open to ideas and possibilities and are actively seeking community input. They want this gathering place to reflect Faribault’s multi-cultural population; to add value to the downtown; to promote literacy via access to books; to inspire people to read; and to increase the United Way’s visibility in Faribault. The United Way currently has an office in Northfield following the merging of the Faribault and Northfield United Ways into a county-wide entity in 2019.

A small United Way sign lies atop “snow” in a window display inside the former Dandelet Jewelry building. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

The nonprofit, funded primarily by workplace partner and individual donations, aims “to mobilize caring resources to improve lives,” Child said. That’s further defined on the website: Our focus is on education, health and financial stability—the building blocks for a good quality of life.

Faribault is a diverse community, shown here in Gordon Liu’s “Frosty the Snowman” window display. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

A bookstore fits within that mission with a focus on literacy, bringing people together and providing affordable books. The United Way is already collecting books, with an emphasis on “gently-used” in all genres. No textbooks, encyclopedias, business or outdated books needed.

The Art Deco style can be seen in the black and cream colors and the strong lines. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Planning and work continue on the bookstore with an anticipated spring opening at 227 Central Avenue North, hours to be determined. The 1882 building, which is in Faribault’s Historic Commercial District and on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of 13 purchased by a local investment group in an effort to revitalize downtown. Originally, the structure housed Dandelet Dry Goods. It became a jewelry store and watch repair business in 1925 with the Dandelet family modernizing the original Italianate facade in the Art Deco style during the 1930s. Child noted the vacant building retains Art Deco elements inside, including a chandelier. Built-in shelves, which once displayed jewelry, remain. Those will be repurposed for books as the United Way readies the space with mostly cosmetic changes like painting, adding display tables and more. A first floor bathroom will be installed. Any exterior changes/improvements will be made by the building’s owners.

From jewelry to books, both gems… (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Volunteers will run the bookshop with United Way board member Dave Campbell overseeing the operation. There’s already a sense of excitement within the community about the bookstore, Child said. She expects that interest to grow once the shop opens.

Faribault boasts a downtown brimming with aged, historic buildings. Revitalization and renovation are ongoing. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Child’s efforts to open a United Way bookstore began seven months ago in a most unexpected way—in a conversation during a three-hour ride from North Carolina to the Atlanta airport. Her friend Florence, whom she first connected with via an online pandemic-inspired poetry group, mentioned how much she enjoyed volunteering in her small town nonprofit bookstore. That proved an enlightening moment for Child, who took the nonprofit bookstore idea and ran with it…to her board. And now, in a few months, Faribault will have a new, welcoming place to gather, a place to buy gently-used books, to engage in conversation, to connect as community.

#

FYI: If you have gently-used books to donate, contact Dave Campbell at 507-210-4066 or email him at Davec1953 at gmail.com

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Historic mercantile building on the market in Faribault January 6, 2023

The Fleckenstein building centers this row of historic buildings in the 200 block of Central Avenue North, Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

LONG BEFORE SHOPPING MALLS, downtown Faribault had everything…Fleckenstein’s Dry Goods, as an example, sold many household necessities like sewing machines, hats, cloth, and ready-to-wear clothing.

Information about the Fleckenstein mercantile imprinted upon a bench in downtown Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2020)

That information printed on an historic-themed bench in downtown Faribault references an iconic building that has stood since 1884 at 220 Central Avenue North. Today that impressive brick structure with signature green trim is on the market for $679,000. It’s among many aged buildings that have been renovated and restored through the years, defining downtown Faribault as architecturally and historically appealing.

My image from the July 2016 Car Cruise Night was printed on the Faribault tourism magazine cover in 2017. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2016)

Many times, I’ve photographed the long ago mercantile owned by Frederick Fleckenstein. In 2017, my image of a Faribault Main Street Car Cruise Night scene with the Fleckenstein building as a backdrop graced the cover of the local tourism magazine. My eye is continually drawn to this majestic structure.

This image from a July 2022 Car Cruise Night shows a building under repair next to the Fleckenstein building. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2022)

I appreciate the business owners and developers who value Faribault’s historic commercial buildings enough to maintain, improve, renovate and restore them. Funds are currently available through the Faribault Main Street Economic Revitalization Program to assist business owners and developers in repairing, renovating, developing and redeveloping properties in downtown Faribault, according to information on the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism website. Faribault Chamber Trust received a $750,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to fund the program.

This is great news for my community. While many buildings, like the Fleckenstein building, have been restored through the decades, many have not. One need only walk along Central Avenue and adjoining side streets to see failing facades, boarded up windows and other issues. And that’s just the exterior. I expect more problems inside. I recognize it takes money, lots of money, to keep up aging structures.

The lovely Fleckenstein building. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

The Fleckenstein building, though, is ready-to-go with a beautiful interior of original tin, exposed brick and beamed ceiling, according to the listing agent at Edina Realty. A diversity of small businesses currently occupy the 12,155 square feet.

Businesses come and go in Faribault, as in any community. But the buildings that once housed mercantiles and other businesses of yesteryear along Central Avenue mostly remain, repurposed, meeting the needs of today while retaining the architectural charm of the past.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Downtown Faribault: Festive & friendly December 13, 2022

One of the many festively-decorated storefront windows along Central Avenue in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

AS PART OF ITS RECENT WINTERFEST, Faribault Main Street sponsored a Holiday Window Decorating Contest. I love this idea, which inspires downtown merchants to share the spirit of the season in an artistically festive way.

Keepers Antiques always features beautiful window displays, not just during the Christmas holiday. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

Window displays can create a joyful mood that encourages people to step inside a shop, to peruse merchandise and perhaps buy local. We all want to feel welcome when we approach a shop. Creatively-decorated storefronts present an inviting front door welcome that says, “Come on in.”

These simple stars seen in a downtown business window shine light and joy. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

For those who are trying to make a go of it as independent businesses owners, efforts like this can make a difference. A window decorating contest tells me shop owners care and want me as a customer.

In these challenging economic times, supporting local businesses like those in the heart of downtown Faribault is more important than ever. I want to see these entrepreneurs doing well. I want to see vacant buildings filling with new businesses. I want to see a healthy and vibrant business community.

Frosty has always been a holiday favorite of mine, so I really liked this Frosty-themed window display. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

On Saturday, I popped into The Junk Monkey, which recently relocated to a larger space at the corner of Fourth Street/Minnesota State Highway 60 and First Avenue in downtown Faribault. This shop brims with antiques, collectibles, thrift finds and some new merchandise. There’s a lot to take in. I left with a Minnesota-made, Minnesota-themed puzzle. What I love about this store, besides the sheer volume of unique merchandise, is shopkeeper Theresa. She engages with customers in a friendly, yet unobtrusive, way and genuinely loves what she does.

Even the Faribault Community Center set up a window display, including this Santa. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

That can be said for many a merchant in our historic downtown area. A few weeks ago when my second daughter and her husband were visiting from Madison, Wisconsin, we stopped by Cry Baby Craig’s. There Craig’s marketing lead took the time to chat with us about the hot sauces crafted right here in my community. The sauces are wildly popular in the Twin Cities metro. The Wisconsin pair left with three bottles of sauce. I already had mine.

The evening streetscape with December’s holiday lights and decorations is especially beautiful along Faribault’s Central Avenue. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

Half a block away in the 300 block of Central Avenue, artists vend their creations at the Paradise Center for the Arts Holly Days Sale and, across the street, at Fleur de Lis Gallery. Jewelry artist and gallery owner Jess Prill always greets me with a smile and conversation. A few summers ago I ran into Jess, her husband and little girl at the park just up the hill from my house. Her daughter and my granddaughter hit it off, playing together until thunder sent us all scurrying toward home. I love seeing these business owners out and about in my community, part of the fabric of Faribault. Jess also owns the women-run Good Day Coffee right across the hall from Fleur de Lis. I love the energy and enthusiasm this young business owner brings to our historic downtown.

Also women-led are Finally A Gift Store (18 NE Second Street) and Janna’s Market Grill, further down Central. Janna Viscomi has been an important part of the downtown business community for many years. She also serves on the city council.

Love this family theme at Heartman Insurance. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

Across the street from Jana’s restaurant sits third-generation family run Burkhartzmeyer Shoes. This fall Randy purchased work boots there. We can always count on excellent customer service with high-quality footwear and a great fit. Plus engaging conversation reflecting the care and compassion of a much-beloved family.

Any visit to Faribault should include a stop at 10,000 Drops Craft Distillers for a locally-made cocktail or non-alcoholic drink served in a beautiful historic setting that encourages lingering and conversation in cozy spaces. A mural of ice skating on the Straight River adorns the building and is among the many murals found downtown. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

If I sound like I’m pitching downtown Faribault, I am. This time of year especially, when many storefront windows are decorated for Christmas, it’s particularly visually appealing. But even more, I feel comfortably at home here among friendly shopkeepers. And that matters to me.

FYI: This post highlights only some of the businesses in downtown Faribault. There are many more to explore. I’d also encourage you to check out the Eclectic Alliance inside the Faribo West Mall. It features primarily locally-made, collectibles/antiques and more.

 

Hearing horses’ hooves during the holidays December 9, 2022

A horse-drawn wagon rounds the corner from a side street onto Central Avenue during Winterfest. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

LAST WEEK THURSDAY EVENING, I hurried down the sidewalk in pursuit of horse-drawn wagons along Faribault’s Central Avenue. I hoped to catch a few photos, realizing the challenges of night photography with a moving target and a new-to-me camera.

Those beautiful horses up close. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

I try to be in the moment also, noticing details so I can convey the experience in words. But mostly on this evening I focused on catching up to those horses without falling on occasionally snow-packed and slippery sidewalks. It wasn’t easy. Hurry with caution.

And while I hastened, I felt the cold nipping my exposed fingers. Another hazard of winter photography in Minnesota. I own mittens that flip open to reveal partially-gloved fingers. But on this evening, those were stuffed inside my coat.

The horse-drawn wagon, one of two, giving free rides on a Winterfest evening. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

In the end, I got some photos. None clear. But I rather like the blurred images, which convey a sense of movement. At one point during the chase, I was nearly slammed into by a man exiting a restaurant. It wasn’t intentional. I was walking close to the building to avoid snow and he happened to exit at the exact time I passed by.

Almost back to the starting point at Buckham Center. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

The whole chasing-the-horses episode seems a misadventure. I should have prepared better, planned ahead, given myself more time to photograph this Winterfest event before I had to be elsewhere. But I didn’t. I expect many of you are feeling like me, somewhat overwhelmed by all you need to get done during the holidays. Shop. Bake. Write out Christmas cards. Attend holiday events. It’s a lot.

But too often we put this pressure on ourselves. We don’t have to do it all. We can choose to slow down, to hear the clomp of horses’ hooves on pavement, to hear the jingle of bells on harnesses and, yes, even to feel the bite of cold on our fingers.

A banner in downtown Faribault recognizes Winterfest sponsors last week. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

Enjoy a slow-paced December weekend.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Car show perspectives from downtown Faribault July 20, 2022

Randy tells me the unpainted condition is intentional, that this is “a thing.” (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

EVERY TIME I ATTEND a car show, like the Downtown Faribault Car Cruise Night last Friday evening, I discover new details that draw me in for a closer look. Often that means peering inside a vehicle. And often that means asking my automotive machinist husband for information. He’s knowledgeable about anything vehicle-related from under the hood to exterior to interior.

A beautiful vintage car interior. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Because of Randy, I attended my first car show many years ago. Mostly I tagged along, expecting to be bored. But I wasn’t as I viewed the displayed cars and trucks through a creative, rather than an automotive, lens. That’s still my perspective.

Old and new vehicles parked outside Janna’s Market Grill, formerly Bernie’s Restaurant. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Randy sees the whole of a vehicle, verbalizing how he wishes he still had his 64 Chevy, his first car. His mind is like a data bank of information on vehicle makes, models, years, original or not. It’s nice to have an automotive tour guide of sorts while meandering at a car show.

Dice are a popular adornment on vintage cars. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Photographed through a car window, a footprint gas pedal. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
On the hood of a Cobra. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

My enthusiasm heightens when I spot something like a purple die atop a door lock or a footprint-shaped gas pedal. Randy noted some cars also had mini footprint dimmer switches. Who knew? Not me. And when I saw a Cobra emblem, he told me of their rarity.

The car show features a mix of vintage and newer vehicles. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I appreciate his insights as we wind among the vehicles along three blocks of Faribault’s Central Avenue (we skipped the fourth block) on a lovely mid-July evening in southern Minnesota.

On the former bank building to the left, a ghost sign remains. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Aged buildings flank the avenue, rising high, shadowing the street. I appreciate the architecture of these mostly well-kept buildings in this Historic District. I spot a ghost sign on the Security Bank building.

In the 300 block of Central Avenue, a sports car parks in front of the Paradise Center for the Arts. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
In the window of Good Day Coffee. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Amazing how this windshield opens. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

At the Paradise Center for the Arts, marquee lights are visible in the dusk of day. Directly across the street, the neon of a Coffee sign glows in the window of Good Day Coffee. At 210 Central Avenue, two lights hang above double red doors. I notice them when Randy points to the open windshield of a car. Or maybe it was a truck. I don’t recall. But I’ve never seen anything like that—windshield hinging open.

I heeded this message, exercising extra caution while skirting this car. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
A car with a name, Tootie. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
I always spot interesting stickers on vehicle windows. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Such nuances delight me, hold my interest, draw me to look closely. I notice stickers, license plates, messages to keep my hands off.

A mini model tops a car roof. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Custom detailing on a Chevy. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Sports cars join in the Car Cruise. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Attending a car show is about so much more than looking at and admiring vehicles. It’s about viewing the whole from hood to trunk and everything in between, inside and out. It’s about appreciating those who own these vehicles and are willing to share them with the public. It’s about art and history, memories and stories, and if you have a personal tour guide like me, an opportunity to learn.

Cars evolve. So do communities. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

And it’s about community. A coming together. Appreciating each other and this place, Faribault. Sometimes I don’t think long-time residents value our city enough. We need to pause, look up, look around, reflect. See the beauty in the historic buildings and in the people who live here. Respect and celebrate those who call downtown home. Faribault is evolving, growing, changing. Just like the cars at Car Cruise Night.

FYI: Please click here to read my first post on the July 15 Car Cruise Night in Faribault. And please check back for one final post in this three-part series.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Cars, community & history come together along Central in downtown Faribault July 19, 2022

A lovely lavender car drew my interest against a backdrop of historic buildings in downtown Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

ON A JULY EVENING, as the descending sun shone along the tops of historic buildings in downtown Faribault, I paused to take in the scene before me.

Although signage indicated only registered vehicles could park along Central, other vehicles were parked there. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Checking out the vehicles parked along four blocks of Central Avenue. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2022)

Vehicles outside the Signature Bar & Grill, a popular downtown dining and drinking spot. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Throngs of folks congregated around vehicles parked along Central Avenue during a monthly Friday Downtown Faribault Car Cruise Night.

Among the street-side food vendors, El Jefe, outside its downtown restaurant. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Others visited in groups or stopped to purchase food from food trucks or from a downtown restaurant.

Faribault’s Car Cruise Nights continue to draw crowds to Central Avenue. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I felt the energy, the pulse of people moving, of togetherness. I observed the mingling of cultures, of ages. I sensed a spirit of community which comes in a gathering of people on a lovely summer evening in southern Minnesota. It felt good to be part of this scene.

Vehicles began leaving as the car show wound down. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I arrived close to 8 pm, nearing the end of an event which began hours earlier with a car cruise around area lakes. Yet, I still found plenty of cars, trucks and motorcycles to appreciate. Some old, others new.

I consider hood ornaments, whether original or added, to be works of art. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

My approach to Car Cruise Night is not defined by my interest in cars. Rather, it’s defined by art, by my photographic perspective. By my creativity.

I always peer inside vehicles to see what unusual things I’ll discover, here a Smurf theme. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
I always see lots of dice dangling inside vehicles. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
A quilt covers a seat in an old truck. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I focus on details. Dice. Hood ornaments. Stickers. The gleam of wax-shined chrome. A Smurf. A patchwork quilt covering a truck seat. So much to take in.

A bold, jewel-toned truck drew my eye. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Like a Dreamsicle. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I appreciate, too, the colors. Some bold. Others as dreamy as a Dreamsicle.

Faribault’s downtown historic district is one of the largest in Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Banners identifying Faribault’s Historic District include a vintage photo. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Flashback to yesteryear in this vintage vehicle. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

And then my eyes shift to the setting. Central Avenue, lined with aged buildings of extraordinary architecture, creates an historic feel, adding to the experience of Car Cruise Night. As I watched an open air vintage car head north along the avenue, it was easy to imagine bygone years.

Not all vehicles are old. These sports cars were part of the cruise, parked near Cardboard Vault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

At street level, I see long-time businesses like the Signature Bar & Grill and Burkhartzmeyer Shoes and many new businesses like Good Day Coffee, El Jefe, Cardboard Vault and more, including the many shops opened by immigrants who now call Faribault home. Today’s diversity of ownership reminds me of yesteryear, when immigrants settled here, opened shoe and furniture factories, brewed beer, ran general stores, set up barber chairs and much more in a town settling and growing.

An historic building is reflected on the shiny chrome of a motorcycle parked along Central for Car Cruise Night. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Faribault remains a place of settlement and growth. And a place where, on a Friday evening, I glimpse history in buildings and vehicles. I see, too, the essence of community in this cohesive coming together on a lovely summer evening in July.

FYI: Faribault’s next car show is scheduled for 6-9 PM Friday, August 12, during the Blue Collar BBQ Festival at Teepee Tonka Park on the east side along the Straight River.

Please check back for more photos from the July 15 Car Cruise Night I attended in historic downtown Faribault.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Take a (story) walk along Central in Faribault September 2, 2020

 

A page from Eric Carle’s book, From Head to Toe, photographed inside a StoryWalk display case.

 

“I can do it!” What an empowering statement, especially for young children. Those four words refrain in an installment of pages from the children’s picture book, From Head to Toe, now posted on street corners in the heart of historic downtown Faribault.

 

Posted next to Burkhartzmeyer Shoes and looking down a side street off Central.

 

I love this latest addition to my community as part of a StoryWalk® CENTRAL project coordinated locally by Buckham Memorial Library. The idea is rooted in Vermont and seems to be a trend right now in the library world. River Bend Nature Center in Faribault and the public library in neighboring Northfield are hosting similar story walks.

 

Looking north on Central Avenue, you can see one of the StoryWalk pages posted next to an historic-themed bench.

 

Last week one evening, Randy and I walked Central Avenue with our four-year-old granddaughter, viewing the colorful story crafted by noted author and illustrator Eric Carle. He is perhaps best-known for his children’s picture book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I’ve long been a fan of Carle’s creativity. He understands how to connect with the littlest of people through colorful illustrations and simple, repetitive and engaging language.

 

Historic Central Avenue provides the backdrop for StoryWalk CENTRAL.

 

Bold colors and strong shapes define Carle’s art.

 

The book engages.

 

It took Isabelle a bit to get into From Head to Toe. But when she observed Grandma and Grandpa wriggling their hips like crocodiles, bending their necks like giraffes and stomping their feet like elephants, she joined in. Carle’s book calls for the reader and listener to actively participate in the book by doing the actions associated with each animal. It’s a great way to get kids up and moving. Adults, too.

 

The thoughts behind StoryWalk.

 

And that, according to information posted on one of the 12 signs, is part of the motivation behind the interactive StoryWalk® concept. The book “combines early literacy learning, family engagement and physical activity.” And promotes brain growth and physical health through exercise.

 

The animals lead the action.

 

The book also highlights diversity in the different ethnicities of the children and in the different animals Carle has created in his story. I especially appreciate that in our diverse community of Faribault. Buckham Memorial Library Director Delane James echoes my thoughts, praising From Head to Toe as a book that “resonates with everybody in the community…anyone can enjoy it no matter who they are.” And that means even those who can’t read or whose native language is one other than English. Like me, she calls Carle’s book “empowering.”

There are plans for more, and longer, book installations, all funded by a federal grant and coordinated with multiple city departments, James says. She noted the joint efforts of library, economic development, engineering and public works staff in getting the first StoryWalk® CENTRAL in place. From Head to Toe will remain posted for several months. This will be an ongoing and evolving public art and literacy project with five years worth of books included in the funding. The library buys multiple copies of the featured books, then removes and laminates the pages for posting in the weather-proof display cases.

 

The 12th, and final, story board is located outside the entry to Buckham Memorial Library. This is looking north toward Central Avenue. The final board is designed to get kids and others inside the library, although the library is currently open by appointment only.

 

I appreciate, in this time of a global pandemic, a safe activity I can do with my granddaughter when she’s visiting. Only after we arrived home did Izzy share, “That’s Isaac’s favorite book.” That means we’ll be back on Central with her 20-month-old brother, wriggling our hips, bending our necks, stomping our feet and repeating, “I can do it!”

 

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Walk, sit & then study Faribault’s history via educational benches August 1, 2020

 

“Faribault supports the military” themes a recently-installed bench.

 

SEVERAL DAYS AGO, I featured historic-themed benches recently installed in historic downtown Faribault. Well, more have been added to Central Avenue. And some I missed during my first walking tour. More are yet to come.

All 12-plus (I’ve lost count) highlight important aspects of my community’s history in images and words.

 

Alexander Faribault and the fur trade focus a bench on the north end of Central Avenue.

 

This depiction of Alexander Faribault trading with a Dakota trading partner stands in Faribault’s Heritage Park near the Straight River and site of Faribault’s trading post. Faribault artist Ivan Whillock created this sculpture which sits atop a fountain known as the Bea Duncan Memorial Fountain. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

The home of town founder Alexander Faribault, located just a block off Central Avenue. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.

 

One bench focuses on town founder, Alexander Faribault, and the local fur trade he began with the Dakota peoples. He was of French-Canadian and Dakota heritage. One of his fur trading posts eventually became the site for the town of Faribault.

 

Focus on downtown.

 

This mural on the corner of Minnesota State Highway 60 (Fourth Street) and Second Avenue, welcomes people to our historic downtown. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

A 1950s scene along Faribault’s Central Avenue is shown in this mural in our downtown district. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Another bench shines a light on the core business area with Downtown: The Place to Be.

 

An historic photo of students and staff at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind backs one bench.

 

Honoring a teacher and leader at the school for the blind.

 

Another bench highlights the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf.

 

Across the river on the east side of Faribault, sit the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind and the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf, schools still in operation and each getting their own benches along Central Avenue.

 

WASP Pilot Liz Strohfus, after whom the Faribault airport is named.

 

Finally, Faribault’s support of the military themes another bench that showcases WASP Pilot Liz Strohfus and Brigadier General Lewis Beebe, a veteran of WWI and WWII, a POW and more of notoriety.

 

The bench honoring the school for the deaf sits on the north end of Central Avenue.

 

There’s a lot of historic information to take in on these benches, a project coordinated by the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and Faribault Main Street and supported by local businesses. My posts only summarize what you will discover on these locally-crafted park style benches that now enhance our downtown.

 

Here you see the fleur de lis symbol.

 

No detail is too small. On the bench ends, the branding symbol of Faribault—the fleur de lis—has been incorporated into the iron work. Depicting a lily, the symbol honors Faribault’s French roots.

 

Markers like this tag historic buildings throughout downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

There’s so much to learn about my southeastern Minnesota community from these benches. I invite you to walk along Central Avenue, sit for a spell, shop, admire the historic buildings, enjoy the many historic murals in the downtown core. Faribault truly is an historic gem. In so many ways.

 

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Honoring Faribault’s history in a functional, public way July 28, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:01 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

This shows a portion of Central Avenue, in Faribault’s historic downtown. Historic-themed benches now grace street corners.

 

MY COMMUNITY OF FARIBAULT is proud of its rich history, reflected most noticeably in our downtown historic district of primarily well-kept aged buildings. It is one of the aspects I most love and appreciate about this southeastern Minnesota city where I’ve lived since 1982.

 

This bench, on the south end of Central Avenue, is themed “Central Avenue, Heart of the City.”

 

 

The Central Avenue focused bench features a photo of a parade welcoming home WW I veterans.

 

Now another dimension has been added to the downtown with the street corner placement of park style cast iron benches that feature stories and photos on local history. Functional, educational and lovely.

 

A bench on the corner of Central and Minnesota State Highway 60/Fourth Street highlights government in Faribault, the county seat of Rice County, Minnesota.

 

Diagonally across the street, a bench focuses on milling in Faribault.

 

A close-up on the milling bench shows a flour mill that once operated here.

 

Sunday morning Randy and I walked along Central Avenue, pausing at each bench to read the brief text and view the accompanying images.

 

The Tilt-A-Whirl amusement ride was invented in Faribault and themes one bench. Two refurbished vintage Tilt-A-Whirls located downtown also provide photo ops for locals and visitors.

 

Details on the Sellner Manufacturing/Tilt-A-Whirl bench.

 

The restored Tilt-A-Whirl and themed bench are located by Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, a third-general family-owned shoe store, which includes a repair shop.

 

A project of the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and Faribault Main Street, the business-sponsored benches provide a quick lesson in Faribault’s history. I was curious to see what topics would be highlighted. None surprised me.

 

Peony farms are an important part of Faribault’s history.

 

Likewise, Farmer Seed & Nursery, a long-standing business icon now closed, focuses a bench.

 

The “Famous People of Faribault” themed bench includes Heisman Trophy winner Bruce Smith, Red Jackson and Marlo Brandon (who attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s School). The local athletic field is named after Smith.

 

From milling to manufacturing (of the Tilt-A-Whirl), from education to floriculture, from famous people to noted buildings and much more, Faribault’s history is well-covered. I noted, though, that the fur trade, brewing history and Women’s Air Force Service Pilot Liz Wall Strohfus (after whom our airport is named) missing. But benches are in the works for those.

 

A broader view of Central Avenue, where the benches are located. This one is of Bishop Henry Whipple and Shattuck-St. Mary’s School.

 

This bench honors Bishop Whipple, important in founding Shattuck-St. Mary’s School and construction of The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour.

 

Thomas and Anna Buckham gifted a library to the city.

 

For anyone new to or visiting Faribault or even those who grew up here or have lived here for a long time (like me), I’d recommend a stroll along several blocks of Central Avenue to view these 12 benches. History is such an important part of a community in defining its identity. Past and present link. And sometimes it’s good to review that history, to understand and appreciate a place.

 

The restored Security State Bank clock is also an important part of Faribault’s preservation efforts.

 

This local graciously moved so we could look at the WPA bench.

 

Works Progress Administration projects in Faribault highlight this bench. Those include noted local landmarks like the Faribault waterworks, the viaduct and the Rice County Courthouse.

 

Parents, grandparents, educators, take the kids downtown Faribault for a walk and a quick history lesson. Along the way, notice businesses and how diverse our community.

 

Faribault’s newest mural, left, honors Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple. The one to the right features the Faribault Pet Parade and was placed on the Central Park Bandshell several years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

This banner hangs in downtown Faribault as part of a branding campaign defining areas of our city. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Buckham Memorial Library. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Reflect on the stories you read on these benches and perhaps plan additional side trips to take in places highlighted. Also seek out the many historically-themed murals in our downtown core.

 

The talented artisans bench honors Grace McKinstry,internationally-known portrait painter, and woodcarvers Ivan Whillock and Marvin Kaisersatt.

 

Quarrying of limestone was once a major industry in Faribault and is evidenced in the many historic limestone buildings..

 

The WPA bench sits outside the local pawn shop.

 

I am grateful to those in our community who continue to preserve and showcase Faribault’s past. This bench project is just another example of how history is valued locally. History is, and always will be, an important part of our identity.

 

Several benches are currently unadorned, awaiting final art.

 

And today, the people who live and work here continue to write history for future generations as Faribault grows and changes.

#

FUN FOLLOW-UP FACTS:

  • Local and regional businesses crafted the benches, including Jeff Jarvis of West Cedar Studio, Morristown, leading the art work; MRG Tool & Die, Faribault, crafting the steel seats; Mercury Minnesota, Faribault, painting and assembling, Alliant Castings, Winona, creating the bench ends; and Sakatah Carvers, Signs and Creations, Faribault, ordering and applying the decals.
  • The bench end design is based on a set of antique bench ends.
  • Faribault’s identifying brand symbol, the fleur de lis, is custom reverse engineered into the bench ends.
  • A ribbon cutting and history walk around the benches is planned once the project is completed.

Facts source: Kelly Nygaard, Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Updated at 7:40 am July 29, 2020

 

In the spirit of the holiday, I’m grateful for local businesses December 20, 2019

Urns filled with greenery add a holiday flair to the historic Bachrach building in downtown Faribault.

 

IF YOU’RE OLD SCHOOL—and that would be me—you appreciate homegrown brick-and-mortar businesses. These are the places that make our communities unique, the places that offer excellent customer service, the places that connect us as people, the places that boost our local economies.

 

Faribault Print Shop offers lots of options and promotes shopping local with the I GET IT! in Faribault campaign.

 

I can walk into the local hardware store to a greeting of “What can I help you find?” I can walk into a local third-generation family shoe store, be greeted by name, get my feet measured, shoes fitted. I can walk into a local gallery and chat it up with other creatives. People I know by name.

 

The only Grinch you will find in downtown Faribault is this painted one.

 

I love this about my community of Faribault. The interaction between business owners and customers. The feeling that I matter, as an individual as much as a potential customer.

 

In its window display this December, Heartman Insurance honors the Olympia Cafe, once housed in the firm’s building.

 

Historic buildings line Central Avenue in Faribault.

 

I love, too, the historic buildings that define our downtown and the care most property owners take in maintaining those structures.

 

At the Cheese Cave, windows promote the cheese sold inside, including bleu cheeses made and aged in Faribault.

 

Keepers Antique Shop always does an exceptional job with window displays, any time of the year.

 

On the antique shop door.

 

I love how, this time of year, businesses spread holiday cheer through creative window displays, encouraged by an annual competition.

 

An assortment of art in the front window of The Upper East Side Gallery.

 

Not everything here is perfect, of course. Nowhere is. There are vacant eyesore storefronts, negative attitudes still about immigrants who call downtown home (although that seems to be improving), perceived problems with parking…

 

 

But, overall, Faribault frames a positive image in a place I’ve called home for 37 years.

FYI: For another shop local option, check out the Solstice Market from 1 – 4 p.m. Saturday, December 21, at Keepsake Cidery, rural Dundas. Styled after outdoor European markets, the event will feature bonfires, grilling and 20-plus vendors from the Cannon Valley region vending their wares/food/creations inside a heated tent. The cidery is open from noon – 8 p.m.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling