Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The joys of a July concert in the park July 24, 2017

The book on my lap wasn’t open for long before I focused on the concert and my surroundings.

 

UNDER THE CANOPY FRINGES of a locust tree, book in hand, I settled onto a lawn chair for an hour of music performed by the Owatonna Community Band at Faribault’s Central Park.

On this Thursday evening, as the sun lowered, a bandshell packed with musicians played a variety of tunes—The Entertainer, the best of Queen, a patriotic collection, Italian Feast, John Philip Sousa marches, 76 Trombones and more. Among my favorites, Prairie Dances, dedicated to the Old West Railroad and to those with an affection for Laura Ingalls Wilder and the prairie. That would be me. When the band began to play, a train whistled from across the city. Perfect.

 

 

Such detailed moments claim my attention, making an event particularly memorable. I observed the rise and fall of a small dog’s body in the declining heat of a hot and humid July day. Nearby another larger dog temporarily escaped its owner and then returned, leash in mouth. I laughed.

It’s important in life to grasp these moments for the joy they bring. I tipped my head back to a view of those locust leaves shadowed against the evening sky. Peace descended.

I watched as a widower unfolded his lawn chair then helped his lady friend with hers. Such old-fashioned manners impress me. Only minutes earlier, Randy carried my lawn chair across the park and opened it.

 

 

Several times I snapped photos with my smartphone, wishing for my Canon DSLR camera, currently tucked away due to my broken right arm/shoulder. Still, I could manipulate a few snapshots. I turned my camera phone toward the sun slanting through the trees in the golden hour of photography. I’ve always loved this time of day, of transition from light to dark, of busy to quiet.

And I love these summer evenings in the park, book on lap, if opened only briefly. Not even the words of New York Times bestselling author Karen White could compete with the beat of the band or the beauty of this July evening in my southeastern Minnesota community.

TELL ME: Does your community offer free outdoor summer concerts in a park? If yes, do you attend?

FYI: The Gold Star Band, a group of six Mankato-area musicians, will present a concert of classic and current music from 7 – 8 pm Thursday, July 27, during the Concerts in the Park series at Faribault’s Central Park. Two of the band members are in the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. The Community Cathedral Cafe will serve free root beer floats prior to the concert.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Beyond the music: A photo essay from a summer band concert in Faribault July 18, 2016

The Bavarian Musikmeisters, a 35-member band, perform on July 14 at Faribault's Central Park.

The Bavarian Musikmeisters, a 35-member band, perform on July 14 at Faribault’s Central Park.

CONCERTS AND SUMMER pair like music and dancing, paint and a brush, rain and an umbrella.

 

Concert in Central Park 091 - Copy

 

All defined a recent performance by the Bavarian Musikmeisters at Faribault’s Thursday evening summer Concerts in the Park series in Central Park. To an appreciative audience ranging from youth to elders and all ages in between, the Twin Cities based group presented traditional German band music. Waltzes. Polkas. The Schottische. Edelweiss crooned.

It's always fun to photograph dogs.

It’s always fun to photograph dogs.

For 130 years, my community has hosted these free summer concerts. I’ve attended sporadically, more often now that I’m an empty nester. I typically bring my camera because, if I didn’t, I would regret leaving it home. There are always optimal photo ops both on and off stage. I challenge myself to discover new ways of photographing familiar scenes.

Colorful umbrellas popped when the rain started.

Rain chased a few concert-goers home, but not many.

It's been awhile since I've seen a rain cap like this worn by a concert-goer.

This is my favorite photo of the evening, a portrait of a concert-goer in an old-style rain cap. I lover her sweet smile, the character lines in her face…

On this evening, I photographed between raindrops and showers, cognizant of protecting my Canon DSLR. Umbrellas popped and some folks scurried under the shelter of a tree when clouds showered rain.

Faribault artist Dana Hanson paints a portrait of Bob Dylan. She's painting Minnesota Music Hall of Fame members Prince, Judy Garland and Dylan.

Faribault artist Dana Hanson creates a portrait of Bob Dylan. She’s painting Minnesota Music Hall of Fame members Prince, Judy Garland and Dylan.

Using a photo as her guide, Dana works on her Dylan portrait.

Using a photo as her guide, Dana works on her Dylan portrait.

One artist slid her art under a picnic table to protect it from the rain.

One artist slid her art under a picnic table to protect it from the rain.

En plein air artists, protected under a tree, continued creating in the rain. They are part of the concert series artgo! group, started last summer. It’s a wonderful addition, this mixing of art and music.

 

Band concert, 42 band & director

 

When the sun re-emerged, concert-goers refocused on the music of lederhosen clad men and of women dressed in festive dirndls and blouses.

 

Band concert, 55 arms linked

 

At one point, musicians directed the crowd to lock arms and sway to the music.

 

Band concert, 100 dancing

 

Later a couple danced solo in each other’s arms.

 

Band concert, 38 young family

 

Music brings so much joy and togetherness. Smiles prevail. Feet tap a rhythm. Parents wrap kids in their laps.

 

Band concert, 47 man with ear flap cap

 

In typical Minnesota fashion, though, people groused about the unseasonably cool weather, cold enough for one man to pull on his ear flapper cap.

 

Band concert, 34 huddling under Twins fleece blanket

 

Others wrapped themselves in fleece throws.

 

Band concert, 50 dog on lap

 

Dogs warmed owners’ laps.

 

This pin belongs to Lis, pictured several photos above in the fuchsia jacket.

This pin belongs to Lis, pictured several photos above in the fuchsia jacket. Oma is the German word for grandma.

And one woman, especially, warmed my heart after I photographed a World’s Greatest Oma button pinned to her colorful bag. Lis’ fuchsia lips curved into a smile as she shared in a still detectable German accent that she has 21 grandchildren. She came to the U.S. 61 years ago after marrying an American serviceman.

En plein air artist

En plein air artist Irina Mikhaylova uses pastels to capture the other artists at work during the concert. I especially like how she’s sketched her right hand into the drawing.

These are the moments that delight me—these connections, this meeting new people. And all because music brought us here. Together on a July summer evening in southeastern Minnesota.

This Faribault resident and novice watercolor painter set up in the southeast corner of Central Park, from the crowd so he could work solo.

This Faribault resident and novice watercolor artist set up in the southeast corner of Central Park, far from the crowd so he could work undisturbed. I didn’t notice him until the concert nearly concluded, just as he wanted, not to be noticed.

FYI: The next Concerts in the Park concert at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 21, features the Owatonna Community Band.

On July 28, Red Bank ReUnion/Orphan Brigade Band will perform Civil War era music in Faribault’s Central Park as part of the Northfield-based Vintage Band Festival. That fest features 30 bands giving 100 concerts in four days in outdoor and indoor settings. While most concerts will occur in Northfield, some are also planned for Faribault, Owatonna, Nerstrand, Cannon Falls and Red Wing. Click here for more information.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Memorial Day in Faribault’s Central Park May 31, 2016

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A sizable crowd gathered Monday morning in Faribault's Central Park for the annual Memorial Day program.

A sizable crowd gathered Monday morning in Faribault’s Central Park for the annual Memorial Day program.

FOR ME, PHOTOGRAPHING any place or event is about the details as much as the whole. Details are like words, which when strung together, create sentences and then a story.

Details are as precise as the properly placed gloved hands of a veteran.

Details are as precise as the properly placed gloved hands of a veteran.

On Memorial Day at Faribault’s Central Park, details were written into the annual post parade ceremony honoring our veterans and war dead.

The honor/color guard.

The honor guard.

Veterans dressed in pressed uniforms, formal in attire. Crisp. Snap. Salute. Precision marked their movements. Such formality evokes evidence of honor, most suitable for this occasion.

A veteran plays taps at the conclusion of the program.

A veteran plays taps at the conclusion of the program.

Taps mourned and guns fired. Flags rippled. Protocol held utmost importance.

A patriotic cap hangs from a bicycle.

A patriotic cap hangs from a bicycle.

Dressed appropriately for Memorial Day.

Dressed appropriately for Memorial Day.

And in the audience I observed a dress code of patriotic reverence for this day. Red, white and blue prevailed.

I noticed even the flag on the back of this man's cap.

I noticed even the flag on the back of this man’s cap.

A child waves a flag.

A child waves a flag.

Nestled on his grandpa's lap, this young boy holds an American flag.

Nestled on his grandpa’s lap, this young boy holds an American flag.

American flags, too, were noticeable.

Wreaths placed on the cross represent the wars in which the U.S. has been involved.

Wreaths placed on and below the cross represent the wars in which the U.S. has been involved.

On occasions like this, I feel a deep sense of pride that my community cares enough about those who have served to present, participate in and attend a Memorial Day program in the park.

Veterans walk through the crowd after advancing the colors.

Veterans walk through the crowd after advancing the colors.

We care about this great nation of ours, about our freedom, about our family members and others who have served in the U.S. military.

A member of the honor guard.

A member of the honor guard.

I noticed this poppy pinned to a veteran's uniform.

I noticed a poppy pinned to a veteran’s uniform.

Veterans wait.

Veterans wait.

I am grateful to live in this country, grateful to gather in a city park, grateful to have the uncensored freedom to photograph the details, to document this event in images and words.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A must-see in New Ulm: German Park August 3, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS HAS THE LAKE HARRIET Rose Garden. St. Cloud has the Munsinger/Clemens Gardens. Chaska has the Minnesota Landscape Aboretum.

A view of German Park from the street-side steps that lead to the park at the bottom of the hill.

A view of German Park from the street-side steps that lead to the park. There’s also access at the bottom of the hill so you don’t need to take the steps.

And New Ulm has German Park, centered by a replica of the Bethesda Fountain in New York City’s Central Park.

Stroll the paths and enjoy the flower gardens.

Stroll the paths and enjoy the flower gardens. Or sit and contemplate.

If you haven’t discovered this park in the heart of Minnesota’s most German community, then you need to visit this oasis just a block from New Ulm’s downtown business district. I came across German Park a few years ago and revisited it on the Fourth of July while en route to a family gathering an hour farther west along U.S. Highway 14.

The Angel Fountain centers the park which features an abundance of plants and flowers.

The Angel of the Waters Fountain centers the park which features an abundance of plants and flowers, a picnic shelter and other amenities.

Here, in a tranquil setting of fountain and flowers, my husband, son and I lunched on sandwiches and fruit while delighting in the beauty of this place. There’s a reason the New Ulm tourism website lists German Park as one of the “Top Ten Things to See.” This place, this park, is poetic and pleasing, and just plain lovely.

Gigantic urns overflow with flowers.

Gigantic urns overflow with flowers like these petunias, lilies, marigolds and more.

This is a flower lover's delight.

This is a flower lover’s delight.

These roses, which remind me of the wild roses that grew in road ditches when I was growing up, were nearly done blossoming.

These roses, which remind me of the wild roses that bloomed in road ditches when I was growing up in southwestern Minnesota, were nearly done blossoming.

The pathways are designed to allow visitors a close-up look at the flowers.

The pathways are designed to allow visitors a close-up look at the flowers.

I love these rustic urns, which are so large and heavy it would take several people to move them.

I love these rustic urns, which are so large and heavy it would take several people to move them.

A shady spot to rest.

A shady spot to rest.

The fountain

The fountain is a small reproduction of the fountain in New York’s Central Park. French sculptor Jules-Felix Coutan created this fountain purchased in 1998 from an auction house in Atlanta. It is a gift to the city from Barbara Sweasy Haroldson.

Be forewarned.

Be forewarned.

Splashing your hands in the fountain is not forbidden.

Splashing your hands in the fountain is not forbidden.

Water spills over the fountain cherubs.

Water spills over the fountain cherubs.

Angel of the Waters

Angel of the Waters, the focal point of German Park.

In another section of the park, greenery and benches, marked by lovely columns, offer a place of respite.

In another section of the park, greenery and benches, marked by lovely columns, offer a place of respite.

Imprinted on columns is information about what I assume to be park supporters. The August Schell Brewing Company is a major New Ulm attraction.

Imprinted on columns is information about what I assume to be park supporters. The August Schell Brewing Company is a major New Ulm attraction and on the list of “Top Ten Things to See” in this city.

German Park was obviously a community effort. I love when a community works together to create something stunningly beautiful like his park.

German Park was obviously a community effort. I love when a community works together to create something stunningly beautiful like this park.

Local history is imprinted on pavers.

Local history is imprinted on pavers.

Along the street above the park

This granite statue along German Street just above the park honors the German-Bohemian immigrants who lived in the section of New Ulm known as Goosetown.

A portion of New Ulm's downtown business district with the Glockenspiel, another of the city's "Top Ten Things to See," in the background.

A portion of New Ulm’s downtown business district along N. Minnesota Street with the Glockenspiel in the background.

FYI: German Park is located at 200 N. German Street, several blocks south of U.S. Highway 14 and a block from N. Minnesota Street. The Summer Concerts in the Park series at German Park continues every Monday through the end of August. Music starts at 7 p.m.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Summertime in Minnesota: A boy & his lemonade stand July 29, 2015

Cooper Soderberg opened his lemonade stand in Faribault last week.

Cooper Soderberg opened his lemonade stand/snack bar in Faribault last week.

THERE’S SOMETHING INEXPLICABLY grassroots wonderful about a kid and a lemonade stand.

Lemonade stand details, misspelling and all.

Lemonade stand details, misspelling and all, and likely intentionally.

Last week, 11-year-old Cooper Soderberg decided he wanted to earn a little money for a new computer and also contribute to the Wounded Warrior Project. Half of his profits are going to help soldiers’ families.

Cooper is selling chips, candy and lemonade.

Cooper is selling chips, candy and lemonade.

So he and his grandma dug a handcrafted Kool-Aid stand—the one his mom used 37 years ago—out of her basement, spruced it up and set up a snack shop. His first day open on Division Street near the Faribault Senior Center, Cooper made $30. He got lots of tips.

Cooper tends his business while the Lakelanders Barbershop Chorus performs in the Central Park Bandshell.

Cooper tends his business while the Lakelanders Barbershop Chorus performs in the Central Park Bandshell. His grandma assists.

Thursday evening he parked his stand at Central Park for the weekly Concerts in the Park performance. Business didn’t appear especially brisk. But that didn’t seem to phase this young entrepreneur vending lemonade, chips and candy.

Preparing for customers.

Preparing lemonade for customers. You can find Cooper’s business along Division Street by the Faribault Senior Center.

I interviewed him and photographed him. Then, after I shot my last frame, Cooper strode over and shook my hand, a sure sign of a confident businessman destined for success.

BONUS PHOTOS from the concert:

This year's concerts also feature en plein air artists. These are Pat Johnson's brushes.

This year’s concerts also feature en plein air artists. These are Pat Johnson’s brushes.

Irina Mikhaylova created this pastel of a concert going couple.

Irina Mikhaylova created this pastel of a couple at the concert.

In the casual atmosphere of the park, some concert goers bring their dogs.

In the casual atmosphere of the park, some concert goers bring their dogs.

Dana Hanson's oil paints.

Dana Hanson’s oil paints.

A concert goer poses with a caricature created by Irina Mikhaylova.

A concert goer poses with a caricature created by Irina Mikhaylova, right.

FYI: Click here to read an earlier post about the artists who were part of the July 23 Concerts in the Park evening.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Melding music & art at Faribault’s Central Park July 28, 2015

The Lakelanders Barbershop Chorus performs in the Central Park bandshell on July 23.

The Lakelanders Barbershop Chorus performs in the Central Park bandshell on July 23.

WHILE BARBERSHOPPERS CROON, artists create. Music and art. Art and music. It seems the perfect mix for the annual summertime Concerts in the Park series held each Thursday in Faribault’s Central Park.

Pat Johnson has been at the concerts every week with her easel and paints.

Pat Johnson has been at the concerts every week with her easel and paints.

Last week I attended a concert for the first time this season and delighted in the en plein air artists scattered around the park with their easels and art supplies. They are new to the concert evenings, an idea of Jeff Jarvis, Faribault Park & Rec Enrichment & Communications Coordinator.

Pat Johnson paints en plein air.

Pat Johnson paints en plein air.

Jeff tells me the addition this year of artists injects even more spirit into the evening, provides an educational experience for concert goers and assists artists in developing en plein air painting skills in an openly musical and public setting. To keep the selected artists focused in the moment, they’re required to create music-themed artwork.

A vintage enamelware tray holds Pat Johnson's oil paints.

A vintage enamelware tray holds Pat Johnson’s oil paints.

Pat Johnson of Morristown was dipping brushes into oil on a vintage enamelware tray when I paused to watch her create a portrait of a young woman she’d previously seen at a concert. An artist for sixty years, she says painting is her passion. She’s happy to sit at the park, listening to the music and visiting. “I have been blessed with the people I’ve met,” she smiled.

Artist Tami Ochs

Artist Tami Resler

Tami's tools lie at her feet. Years ago, Tami designed the greyhound tatoo inked onto her leg in Vegas.

Tami’s tools lie at her feet. Years ago, Tami designed and got the greyhound tattoo in Kanub, Utah, after attending the Greyhound Gathering there. The Gathering raises monies for greyhound rescue.

Barbershopper details in Tami's art.

Barbershopper details in Tami’s art.

To the side of the bandshell, Faribault artist Tami Resler was surrounded by her “fan club,” a cluster of family and friends there to support her and enjoy an evening together. She was drawing with Sharpies and pencils—snippet details of a park sign, a trash barrel. Later I returned to see the faces of the Lakelanders Barbershop Chorus flared into the corner of her art piece.

Irina Mikhaylova works on a portrait of the couple in the background.

Irina Mikhaylova works on a portrait of the couple in the background.

Irina at work with her pastels.

Irina at work with her pastels.

Irina's pastels.

Irina’s pastels.

Nearby, Irina Mikhaylova used pastels to color the sketch she’d done of two elderly concert goers settled into lawn chairs. It was sweet, a lovely capture of older folks who primarily comprise this audience. There is something sweet, too, about Irina, about the thick accent that traces to her native St. Petersburg, Russia. She now lives in Morristown. Because she cannot work in the U.S. as a mechanical engineer—her former profession—she has thrown herself into her art.

Shadows and light play on Barb Bruns as she works.

Shadows and light play on Barb Bruns as she works.

Some of Barb's corralled pastels.

Some of Barb’s corralled pastels.

Barb's in-progress interpretation of the Central Park bandshell.

Barb’s in-progress interpretation of the Central Park Bandshell, in the background to the right.

On the other side of the park, Barb Bruns talked to me about blogging as she worked pastels across paper to recreate the bandshell, and the pet parade mural thereon. She is more than an artist. In Morristown, Barb operates Barb’s Custom Framing & Gift Shop with a local gallery at the front of her shop. It features the work of 27 local artists.

Artist Dana Hanson

Artist Dana Hanson

The sun shadows Dana's hand across her art as she paints.

The sun shadows Dana’s hand across her art as she paints.

Dana's dancer.

Dana’s dancer

A stone’s throw from Barb, the sinking sun spotlighted the mesmerizing art of Dana Hanson who, by freelance trade, creates art for her Lord Warmington Studio. Her grandmother, Frieda Lord, helped found Faribault’s art center. By day Dana works as a baker/cake decorator at Fareway Foods, just across the street from Central Park. On this evening, her art danced as she brushed oils into the shape of a hooded dancer in halal, the Hebrew word for praise.

Praise seems a fitting response for the addition of artists to the concerts. Jeff Jarvis confirms the enthusiastic reception. “Youngsters have emerged from the crowds to sit with ‘real’ artists—they even come back with their own art supplies to join in,” he cites.

Jeff, himself a visual artist, understands the financial and other challenges artists face in getting their work out there. “I wanted to elevate the status of visual artists by paying them to perform alongside the musicians,” he says. He accomplished that by securing a grant through the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

In addition to Jeff and the five artists I interviewed, Nicole Volk, Linda Van Lear and Julie Fakler have also been among the Concerts in the Park artists. Jeff selected local and emerging artists who enjoy working outdoors. The best works of each artist will be featured in a capstone exhibit September 8 – 11 at the Buckham Center Commons area with the opening reception from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. on Tuesday, September 8.

the sun sets behind the bandshell as the barbershoppers sing tunes ranging from "Sweet Caroline" to "God Bless America."

The sun sets behind the bandshell as the barbershoppers sing tunes ranging from “Sweet Caroline” to “God Bless America.”

FYI: The Concerts in the Park series continues for four more Thursdays with the Copper Street Brass Quintet performing July 30; Bend in the River Big Band on August 6; Jivin’ Ivan & The Kings of Swing on August 13; and The Bandshell Brass on August 20.

Please check back tomorrow for a story about a young entrepreneur who set up shop at the July 23 Concerts in the Park event. Plus, I will show you a few more concert images.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Music and people-watching in Faribault’s Central Park July 2, 2014

The Minnesota State Band plays in the Central Park Bandshell in Faribault.

The Minnesota State Band plays in the Central Park band shell in Faribault.

WHEN THE OLDEST BAND in the state of Minnesota, The Minnesota State Band founded in 1898, performed in Faribault on a recent Thursday evening, the audience was bouncing and tapping and directing from benches and from their lawn chairs scattered across Central Park.

A snippet of the crowd listening to The Minnesota State Band.

A snippet of the crowd listening to The Minnesota State Band.

I love people-watching at concerts nearly as much as listening to the music.

To my right, an elderly man, hands waving, mouthed the words to Ferde Grofe’s “Over There Fantasie,” a World War I song otherwise known as “Ode to an American Soldier,” as the band kicked off its selection of half American and half British Isles tunes.

Before that, conductor Charles Boody bemoaned the loss of a time prior to and during WW I when folks would gather to sing. With the invention of the phonograph and radio, that musical era ended and he termed that loss “a shame.”

I expect that on this Thursday evening, more than a few of the mostly senior citizen audience members would have agreed with him.

As drums beat, feet tapped and swayed and I momentarily confused the drum beat with thunder. Rain threatened, but never fell.

Some audience members pulled out blankets.

Some audience members pulled out blankets.

The wind stirred a cool breeze through maple trees and forced some concert-goers to wrap wool blankets around themselves. Lily leaves seemed to dance to the music and a preschooler hip-hop-marched to the rhythm, Grandma keeping an ever watchful eye on her.

A few kids, like Emmett, attended the concert.

A few kids, like Emmett, attended the concert.

At the audience perimeter, Emmett’s sisters brushed chalk from the 20-month-old’s shorts after he plopped onto the sidewalk to roll his toy truck across chalk art created by children during Faribault’s recent Heritage Days.

And the band played on. Selections like “Chorale and Shaker Dance,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “”Knightsbridge March.”

Sirens wailed, more than a few times. A semi truck packed with caged turkeys rumbled by, destined for the Jennie-O Turkey Store blocks away. A biker zipped through the park and a walker walked the sidewalk around the park.

Barbara Sells of Mojoe 2 go prepares fresh lemonade for a customer.

Barbara Sells of Mojoe 2 go prepares fresh lemonade for a customer.

During a brief intermission, Barbara Sells of Mojoe 2 go squeezed lemons for fresh lemonade. It was her first time vending at the concert. She noted that her drive-through business, located by the Faribo West Mall at 190 Western Avenue Northwest, sells more than just coffee. You’ll find lemonade, too, and other cool summer treats. She’ll be back at the park.

Then the band played on.

When conductor Boody stepped up to introduce Arthur Sullivan’s music from the comic opera HMS Pinafore, the repeated shrill of a train whistle quelled his soft voice. He went with the moment, stating how much he likes trains.

Darkness began to fall as the band finished its performance around 8:30 p.m.

Darkness began to fall as the band finished its performance around 8:30 p.m.

And I appreciate evenings like this when I can take in the music of a fine band right here in my community as part of the free, yes, free, Thursday night Concerts in the Park series. The Faribault concert was partially funded by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. The Minnesota State Band’s other performances are all in the metro. (Click here to see the band’s schedule.)

The New Prague Community Band plays in Faribault this coming Thursday, July 3, presenting traditional band and German band music at the concert which begins at 7 p.m. (To see the complete concert series schedule, click here.)

A free outdoor showing of the movie, Monsters University, follows that performance. Outdoor movies are new to this year’s schedule with The Lego Movie slated to show after the July 24 concert.

I’d like to see more families at these concerts. When my three kids were growing up, we’d come nearly every Thursday evening to listen to the music. A relaxed park setting offers the perfect opportunity to expose kids to music in a venue where they needn’t sit. I observed numerous concert-goers swivel their heads to observe an active preschooler, smiles spreading across their faces. There’s something about kids and music and the outdoors…

For a $20 donation to support the band, concert goers received a teddy bear.

For a $20 donation to support the band, concert goers received a teddy bear.

And there’s something, too, about band members like trombone player Patricia Ireland, whom we applauded after conductor Boody noted that she’s been with the band for 50 years. Remarkable. The Minnesota State Band is the only remaining state band in the country. While once a state-funded group, the band today operates as a non-profit with all-volunteer membership.

And because we clapped with enthusiasm, the band played an encore while a helicopter thump-thump-thumped overhead, aiming toward the hospital.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling