ON FARIBAULT’S EAST SIDE, students from across the country and world come to learn at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, a private college preparatory boarding school. The upper campus is especially beautiful, entered through a stone arch, historic buildings ringing a vast green space. This time of year, Shattuck is decked out in festive holiday décor. Inside and out.
Across the Straight River in Faribault’s Central Park, a team of Shattuck students and staff recently shared their artistic skills with the community by creating a snow sculpture of the historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Savior. The massive cathedral sits within view of the sculpture along Second Avenue.
Although I didn’t see the carvers crafting this snow art, I enjoyed the results of their creativity during a walk through the park. The sculpture is centered near the historic bandshell.
I appreciate when Shattuck engages with the community, this time adding another element to Faribault’s Winterfest. While that event has ended, the snow cathedral, weather permitting, should remain in place for awhile.
This Saturday, December 10, Shattuck opens its campus to the public during the annual Christmas Walk. That begins with the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas Ice Show” at 12:30 pm in the Sports Complex. Shattuck is known for its excellent figure skating and hockey programs. I’ve attended these holiday ice shows several times and thoroughly enjoyed watching athleticism and creativity merge on the ice.
The holiday event also includes visits with Santa, crafts for the kids and cookies, all from 1-4 pm in The Hub. Sleigh rides are available, too. At 3:30 pm, students will perform a holiday concert in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd.
Both of these—the Christmas Walk and the snow sculpting—are such positives. Open doors and open hearts make for a better, more connected community.
WHENEVER I FEEL DISCOURAGED by disparaging attitudes in my community, I need only shift my focus to change my mindset. So many people in Faribault are doing really good things to help each other in a time when individuals and families are struggling. Never is that more evident than during the holiday season.
One example of community generosity is currently displayed at Central Park, where 47 decorated Christmas trees line the sidewalk along Second Avenue. These are more than simply trees adding a festive flair to Faribault. These are trees purchased and decorated by non-profits, businesses, service organizations and more through the city Parks and Recreation Department’s Adopt a Tree Program.
The city works with local non-profit St. Vincent de Paul, just across the street from the park, to give the trees to families in need. This Thursday, December 8, the trees come down for distribution to those selected to receive this bit of holiday cheer.
As I view it, these donated trees stretch beyond decorating homes that would otherwise be without Christmas trees. These trees are about giving hope. These trees are about showing care, compassion and love. Both donors and recipients likely experience those feelings. A sense of community connection flourishes.
In these assuredly tough economic and divisive times, we need, more than ever, to be there for one another. To see the humanity in each other, to respect one another, to support and care for one another. To connect as a community.
Only several years into Adopt a Tree, the program is growing with 15 more trees than in 2021. Such generosity of spirit touches me, shows me that the Faribault community cares. For that I feel grateful.
STRIPPING IMAGES OF COLOR lends an historic context to several aged buildings I recently photographed near Central Park in downtown Owatonna. It’s easier for me to see the past, to appreciate these long-standing structures through the lens of time when I view them in black-and-white.
First, I feel such gratitude that these buildings still stand. A time existed when the thought was that new is better. Out with the old, in with the new. I’m not of that camp and I’m thankful for the shift in attitudes.
On a recent visit to Owatonna’s Central Park, I pivoted to observe those key historic buildings and others in a downtown of multiple core business streets.
The park, with a replica of the 1899 community stage, serves as the “town square,” the physically identifiable point of focus and gatherings. Here folks gather for concerts, the farmers’ market and other events. Music and the undeniable human need to socialize connect the past to the present.
I feel inspired now, via my recent stop in Central Park, to return to downtown Owatonna and further explore its history and architecture. Sure I’ve been here before, but not in awhile and not with a focused purpose of intentional appreciation for and photographic documentation of this historic district.
I encourage each of you, wherever you live, to pause. Strip away the color to black-and-white. See the basics, uncolored by time or attitudes or that which detracts. Observe how the past and present connect. Value the “good” in your community. Appreciate the place you call home.
TELL ME: What do you appreciate about your community?
But on this cold Saturday in late February when I stopped by, only a few people used the park. A couple walked their dogs. And two women crossed to the center fountain, purses angled across downy winter coats, stocking caps clamped on and shopping bags looped over three gloved hands, take-out coffee clutched in the fourth.
As the women paused near the centerpiece fountain placed here in 1909, I studied the scene before me, camera ready. Only moments earlier, I finished my packed lunch inside the cozy warmth of the van. Randy and I had planned to eat at nearby Rice Lake State Park. But that all changed when hiking trails proved too icy for safe walking. So here we were in Owatonna, shifting our plans.
I was determined that the cold weather would not keep me from photographing the park. Dressed in a warm hand-me-down parka from my son layered over tee and flannel shirts, long johns under jeans, practical winter boots, hand-knit cap and mitten/gloves, I felt prepared. The combo mitten/gloves were a gift from Randy years ago. They work great for winter photography. I flip back the fleece ends to reveal open fingertips. That allows me to manipulate my camera without exposing my entire hand.
Even with all of that, I soon found myself hurrying my creative pace. My fingertips were freezing.
But I was determined to document the setting on an afternoon that looked deceptively warm. Bold blue skies. Sunshine. Artsy fountain. Stout community stage. Historic buildings bordering the park. Remnants of snow sculptures.
I regretted that we missed Owatonna’s Bold & Cold Winter Festival at the end of January. Then those sculptures would have been newly-built, pristine. But now I could only imagine kids slipping down the slide at the deteriorating snow castle.
I also imagined how, in a few months, this scene will change. How leaves will unfurl on the birch trees. How the fountain will spill water. How Farmers Market vendors will set up shop. How music will create a joyful rhythm that welcomes spring, then summer. And warmth.
This I contemplate as I snap frames, fingertips freezing, hurting now in the cold of winter. Back in the van, I hold my fingers close to the blower, seeking heat while the sun shines bright, bold over Central Park.
WICKED WINDS SWEEPING from the northwest into Faribault Sunday afternoon into Monday brought more than cold temps. The strong winds also toppled Christmas trees displayed in Central Park.
Randy and I headed out to view the Holiday Tree Display, a project of the City of Faribault Parks and Recreation Department, after the Vikings game. When we pulled up, we observed numerous trees lying on the ground, ornaments littering the lawn, tree toppers askew.
Several tree sponsors arrived to deal with the unexpected damage. A Wunderlich family member who, along with his sister set up a tree honoring loved ones and community members who died of cancer, headed across the street to Ace Hardware for sandbags. I noticed sandbags anchoring several trees. And when two women came to upright their trees, Randy and I convinced them to let the trees lie given the prevailing winds.
When Randy drove by the holiday display Monday morning on his way to work, he reported more trees down with only perhaps 10 of the 34 still standing. Winds still blew, with the temp dipping into the single digits. It feels a lot like winter now. No snow here, though. But central and northern Minnesota got enough to create travel issues and necessitate late school starts.
Ah, Minnesota. I expect next year precautions will be taken to keep those holiday trees standing straight.
This is only the second year of a project which spreads Christmas joy. All trees are sponsored and decorated by local businesses, organizations, civic groups, etc., and then donated to families/individuals without a tree. It’s a great idea, one which garnered the 2020 Minnesota Recreation and Park Association Award of Excellence for Faribault Parks and Rec.
I feel thankful to live in a community of generosity.
None of us ever knows when strong winds will sweep into our lives and knock us down. None of us ever knows when we will need the kindness of others to uplift us, to help us stand, to support us. To give us hope. There is something to be learned from wicked winter winds. We need one another, even if sometimes we think we don’t.
FYI: The trees have now been placed upright and staked, and will be displayed until December 10.
If I’m sounding a bit giddy, it’s because I am. I love the arts and feel grateful for our local Paradise Center for the Arts. Yet, I often yearn to see more. But I don’t want to go into the metro. And, truth-be-told, there’s always cost to consider. Even in attending local arts events. I expect others in Faribault face the same barriers.
When Mixed Precipitation brought its The Pickup Truck Opera, Volume 1: The Odyssey to Faribault on August 26, I wondered how I would respond. I didn’t quite know what to expect. I needn’t have concerned myself as the adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey proved lively and entertaining with dancing and over-sized puppets and toe-stomping music. Plus opera. And it was performed on the grass, in front of the historic bandshell from the bed of a blue pickup truck. I felt like I was in a small village of yesteryear being entertained by a traveling troupe.
The feel was completely different on September 2, when I set up my lawn chair in Central Park to hear and watch Dalmar Yare, a Somali entertainer from Minnesota and with family ties to Faribault. He describes his music as a blend of traditional Somali styles with hints of western influence.
I quickly found myself swinging my crossed left leg to the tempo of the upbeat music. I didn’t understand what Yare sang in a language foreign to me. But I understood the joy I felt, the joy I saw. Throughout the park, local Somali children, teens and adults gathered to listen. Many danced, especially the kids. It seemed part concert, part celebration, part reunion. Simply joyful.
While I listened, I observed the crowd. I noted the open affection of Somali youth for one another. Young men draped arms over shoulders as did teen girls. Preschool girls in their flowing dresses and hijabs ran hand-in-hand across the park. I noticed, too, a stunningly beautiful 20-something layered in a golden dress and matching hijab, fashionable mini purse dangling from her shoulder. The vibrant colors and patterns of dresses and hijabs swirled like a kaleidoscope. An ever-changing gallery of art.
Dressed in my casual attire of jeans, a tee and a zipped sweatshirt with the hoodie occasionally pulled up to provide warmth and protect me from the rain, I felt under-dressed and conscious of my white-ness. And that’s OK; I needed to feel this. I only wish more long-time Faribault residents would have attended.
Now this week I’ll learn about booyah, a rich and flavorful stew that is supposedly an Upper Midwest tradition, although I’ve never eaten it. Booyah will theme the Sod House Theater musical comedy about Arla Mae, a rural Minnesotan claiming to operate the state’s first food truck out of which she serves her famous booyah. The play aims to spotlight buying and eating fresh local food. Thus the involvement of James Beard Award-winning chef Ann Kim in creating a special booyah recipe for the production. So what goes into this stew, which is traditionally cooked outdoors in large kettles over a wood fire? You name it: a mix of meats and an assortment of vegetables—onion, potatoes, rutabagas, cabbage, carrots, celery, peppers…
I envision a collage of shapes and colors. Art in a kettle. Art that is new to me. Served to me. Right here in Faribault. In Central Park.
NOTE: “Arla Mae’s Booyah Wagon” will also be performed in neighboring communities on these dates and at these locations:
Keepsake Cidery, rural Dundas, 6 pm on Thursday, September 23
Pleasant Grove Pizza Farm, rural Waseca, 6 pm on Friday, October 1
Northfield Central Park, Northfield, 6 pm on Thursday, October 7
GRATITUDE. PRIDE. POSSIBILITIES. Those topics theme a new opportunity for locals and others to voice their thoughts on the positives in my community via a public Message Board.
The Faribault Foundation, which aims to promote and enhance the quality of life for the greater Faribault area, recently developed and then crafted a portable public board from wood and fencing and stationed it along Second Avenue NW in Central Park.
I love this concept of inviting people to ponder, and then post, their Faribault pride, gratitude and hopes for the future of our southern Minnesota city. Too often we hear the complaints, the negatives. This emphasis on the good qualities and the possibilities is much-needed. And appreciated.
So what are people writing on the colorful tags wired onto the fence? On the Saturday afternoon I stopped to photograph the Message Board and then leave my thoughts, I counted 23 comments. Among the positives in Faribault—history, River Bend Nature Center, murals, historic buildings, diversity and more.
As I aimed my camera, I looked across the street toward the historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Savior. In the other direction, I noted the historic Bandshell, where our community gathers on Thursday summer evenings for free concerts in the park. On the side and back of that bandshell are two historic-themed murals. Although I didn’t grow up here, I appreciate Faribault’s rich history and the beautiful old buildings that grace our downtown and other parts of the city.
Then I meandered through the park, admiring the flowerbeds tended by Faribault Gardeners Reaching Out With Service (GROWS). That reminded me just how much I appreciate the natural beauty of Faribault. And also how grateful I am to the Faribault Farmers’ Market vendors who set up here on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the growing season.
Just as many of those vendors grow produce to feed the body, so this new Message Board can grow positivity to feed the spirit. I hope my community embraces this Faribault Foundation project. When we shift our focus to that which is good, to hopes and dreams and gratitude, then the possibilities for this place we call (or called) home are endless.
FYI: The Message Board will be moved to different locations throughout Faribault for greater accessibility and exposure.
THIS WEEKEND IN FARIBAULT, we would have celebrated Winterfest, complete with a lighted holiday parade, fireworks and more. But, due to COVID-19, organizers canceled the celebration. And rightly so.
But then the Faribault Parks and Recreation Department got creative, coming up with a Drive-by Tree Display as part of the community’s annual Hometown Holidays celebration, which typically centers at the library with activities and the arrival of Santa on a fire truck. None of that happened.
This year we have Christmas trees—a line of 19 decorated evergreens stretched along one block on the east side of Central Park next to Second Avenue and across from the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour.
Randy and I checked out the display around sunset Saturday evening. It’s beautiful. In daylight. And even more lovely when the sun colors orange into the sky and darkness edges in and the holiday lights switch on.
Meant to be a drive-by look-and-see, Randy and I opted to walk by. The timing of our visit meant few people in the park. We had our masks in hand if needed.
Walking by and stopping at the trees provided a close up look of ornaments, of tree toppers, of all the details that made each tree a holiday delight.
Each of the 19 trees was decorated by a business or non-profit or organization. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and effort put into decorating the trees, which will be given to St. Vincent DePaul and donated to needy families.
But most of all, I appreciate this gift to my community. Now, more than ever, we need to feel uplifted, joyful, happy. And I felt all of those when I photographed these decorated trees.
If I would change one thing, it would be to leave these trees displayed for more than a few days. They went up on Thursday. Sunday, December 6, marks your last time to view the Drive-by Tree Display.
What a gift. Thank you, Faribault Parks and Recreation and all who participated in what I hope will become an annual community tradition.
Just a small portion of the people attending a concert in Faribault’s Central Park on Thursday evening.
IN THIS SUMMER OF COVID-19 limitations, I feel fortunate to live in a community where at least one bit of normalcy remained—weekly Thursday evening concerts in Faribault’s Central Park.
People walk, bike and drive to the park in downtown Faribault.
With concert-goers spreading out throughout the block square park and wearing masks when needed, I am comfortable in the outdoor space listening to music. Randy and I missed only a few concerts, one due to rain, the other because we didn’t want to be in the park following the annual pet parade. I love kids. But they tend to forget about COVID and the need to keep their distance. Who can blame them? They’re just kids.
Jivin’ Ivan and the Kings of Swing perform in the Central Park Bandshell.
This past Thursday evening we went to the final scheduled concert in this summer series organized by the Faribault Parks and Rec Department. It was a lovely evening relaxing in our lawn chairs listening to Jivin’ Ivan and the Kings of Swing. Minus Ivan Whillock. The aging musician and noted woodcarver is being extra cautious during COVID and stayed home. Instead, we were treated to an audio of him singing. It was a nice personal touch, Ivan’s way of connecting with fans of his rich, golden voice. The Kings perform Golden Era swing music. Soothing. A journey back in time.
I’ve seen more families at this summer’s concerts than in recent years.
As I listen, I watch. And I observed children running, playing, painting, tossing hula hoops and multi-colored scarves, doing back flips. It all looked so normal. Just like any summer evening. Except for the face masks occasionally seen on kids and adults. And except for the lack of people mingling and visiting as typically happens at these summer concerts.
Art in the Park, an opportunity to paint, has been added to this year’s concerts. Here Paula creates.
I also noted the size of the crowd, much larger than in past summers. That comes as no surprise given many of us in the aging demographic are limiting who we see and what we do. And this is the one event we can attend because it’s outdoors and people (mostly) follow safety protocol.
As the evening closed in on 8:30 and the bandshell lights switched on, the air chilled and some concert-goers began leaving. But my friend Valerie didn’t leave before we met up. She’d texted earlier wondering if I was at the concert. I haven’t seen her in forever, long before COVID started. And so we stepped to the side of the crowd, both in our face masks and caught up. It was so hard not to hug one another. But we didn’t. And even though I couldn’t see Valerie’s smile, I could see the smile in her eyes. In our brief conversation I felt reconnected, overjoyed, as if COVID exited and we were just two friends chatting with each other on a summer evening.
I can only hope that by this time next summer, COVID-19 will be history and we will all be vaccinated and life back to normal, whatever that may be.
Art in painting. Art in music.
But for now, for this summer, this is life. Masks and social distancing. Few or no social activities. Except for these concerts in the park—with an encore concert set for 6 pm Thursday, September 3, featuring instrumentalist Doug Madow and vocalist Barb Piper. To that announcement, the crowd reacted with raucous applause. One more evening of music to help us sort of forget about this global pandemic.
The middle mural panel features a portrait of Bishop Whipple and a summary of information about him.
Just across the street from Central Park, the stunning Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour.
The historic marker posted on the Cathedral bell tower.
He is a prominent figure in the history of my community and the history of Minnesota. Explore Faribault, and you will find Whipple’s name on numerous plaques, including across the street from the park at the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour, the cathedral he helped build as Minnesota’s first Episcopal bishop. He’s buried in a crypt beneath the chancel there. The bell tower was dedicated in his honor by his second wife, Evangeline, as “a monument of love and Christian unity.”
Posted outside the front door of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. The church is on the National Register of Historic Places. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.
On the east side of town, Whipple’s name graces an historical marker at The Chapel of the Good Shepherd on the campus of Shattuck-St. Mary’s School. He helped found the school, separately first as Shattuck School for boys and St. Mary’s Hall for girls, along with St. James and Seabury Divinity schools, all in Faribault.
The soaring tower landmarks the Cathedral. Ralph Adams Cram, architect of St. John the Divine in New York City, designed the Cathedral tower. The tower was added as a memorial to Whipple after his death in 1901.
The inscription, in stone, on the bell tower.
An historic marker on the Cathedral grounds.
As admirable as Whipple’s role in founding educational institutions, it is another facet of this man—his humanitarian efforts—which are often cited in history. The inscription on the Cathedral bell tower states that Whipple’s “unfailing love and hope for humanity have made his life an inspiration far and near.”
This panel depicts the relationship between Native peoples and Bishop Whipple.
Bishop Whipple’s portrait, up close.
Details on a sign outside the Cathedral reference Whipple as “Straight Tongue.”
What, exactly, does that mean? To understand, one must consider the time period in which Whipple arrived in Minnesota, just years before the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. He was a missionary and, as such, worked to educate and convert the Native peoples to Christianity and agrarian ways. (Not necessarily the adaptive approach one would take today toward other cultures, but the mindset then.) In his work, Whipple observed poverty among the Dakota and Ojibwe and mistreatment by the government and began to advocate for their rights. The Native peoples called the bishop “Straight Tongue.” That title speaks to their trust and respect for him.
The mural, in full, including the right panel recognizing Whipple and his first wife, Cornelia, and his second wife, Evangeline.
Whipple was among the few leaders who publicly pressed for sparing the lives of 303 Dakota warriors sentenced to death following the war. President Abraham Lincoln spared or pardoned most, but 38 were still hung during a mass execution in Mankato.
Whipple’s strong public stances on behalf of Native peoples were not necessarily widely-embraced. Rice County Historical Society Executive Director Susan Garwood shared at a presentation I attended several years ago that several assassination attempts were made on the bishop’s life. Following the U.S.-Dakota War, about 80 Native people, under Whipple’s protection, moved to Faribault. Some helped build the Cathedral, a construction process which took from 1862-1869. Additionally, several Dakota and African Americans attended Seabury Divinity School, Garwood noted. That, too, caused concern.
But through it all, from the information I’ve read, Whipple remained steadfast, unwavering in his compassion toward Native peoples, advocating for them, loving humanity.