Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A photographic tour of downtown Fergus Falls May 30, 2013

A snippet of Fergus Falls' downtown.

A snippet of Fergus Falls’ historic and pedestrian friendly downtown.

I SINCERELY HOPE the fine people of Fergus Falls in west central Minnesota appreciate their historic downtown. It’s a gem.

A stroll through the downtown business district on a recent Thursday evening left me gaping at the detailed architecture, words imprinted in granite, sculpted eagles and sculpted otters, stately brick buildings, a lovely old theatre, quaint signage and art, yes, art.

This Otter Tail riverside community of nearly 14,000 along Interstate 94 an hour southeast of Fargo impresses me. Join me on a photographic tour and I expect you will feel likewise.

The Kaddatz Galleries features the work of noted Fergus Falls artist Charles Beck, known for his woodcut prints.

Kaddatz Galleries features, among other art, the work of noted Fergus Falls artist Charles Beck, known for his woodcut prints.

Examples of Charles Beck's woodcut prints in the Kaddatz Galleries.

Examples of Charles Beck’s woodcut prints in the Kaddatz Galleries.

Words chiseled in granite on the front of a building. I would love to know the story behind this.

Words chiseled in granite…I would love to know the story behind this. The inscriptions cover the bottom front of the building.

A Mexican restaurant adds a jolt of color to the downtown.

A Mexican restaurant adds a jolt of color to the downtown.

When I inquired at Kaddatz Galleries about the identity of this street corner statue, I didn't get an answer.

When I inquired at Kaddatz Galleries about the identity of this street corner statue, I didn’t get an answer. The gracious gallery tender says plans are in place to identify public art. Good idea.

I spotted The Fergus Falls Daily Journal tucked into a door handle downtown.

I spotted The Fergus Falls Daily Journal tucked into a door handle downtown.

Another stately corner building.

Another stately corner building.

I stared for awhile at this sculpture atop the historic River Inn before realizing these are otters. The inn sits along the banks of the Otter Tail River.

I stared for a while at this sculpture atop the historic River Inn before realizing these are otters. The inn sits along the Otter Tail River. I believe this building today houses only apartments and does not operate as an inn.

A downtown barbershop complete with a barber's pole charms visitors like me.

The Uptown Barber Shop, complete with a barber’s pole, charms visitors like me.

This hulking federal building houses courtrooms and the post office.

This hulking federal building houses courtrooms and the post office.

Stunning eagle sculptures span the entries into the federal building.

Stunning eagle sculptures span the front entries into the federal building.

Audience members filter into an historic theatre for a play presented at a Center for the Arts.

Audience members filter into an historic theatre for a play presented at A Center for the Arts.

Just another shot of businesses in downtown Fergus Falls.

Just another shot of businesses in downtown Fergus Falls.

FYI: To view previous posts from Fergus Falls, use my blog search engine to check my archives. I posted last week and during the week of June 12-18, 2011, on my first visit to Fergus Falls.  Also, watch for more posts from this community.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Touring a third-generation family print shop in Fergus Falls May 23, 2013

The Victor Lundeen Company, located in the 100 block of West Lincoln Avenue, downtown Fergus Falls.

The Victor Lundeen Company, located in the 100 block of West Lincoln Avenue, downtown Fergus Falls.

ON A RECENT IMPROMPTU TOUR of a third-generation family-owned print shop in Fergus Falls, I couldn’t contain my giddiness over drawers of aged logos/artwork, handcrafted stamps, stacks of paper, even the vintage cabinets and stools and carts.

I was just giddy over all this handcrafted vintage art tucked into drawers.

I was just giddy over all this handcrafted vintage art tucked into drawers.

The 99-year-old Victor Lundeen Company is the type of place that appeals to a writer like me, with ink flowing through my veins.

The 1960s Heidelberg offset presses, still used in the second floor print shop.

The 1960s Heidelberg offset presses, still used in the second floor print shop.

Ah, the ink. The smell of ink. I just stood there beside owner Paul Lundeen’s vintage 1960s Heidelberg offset presses, breathing in the distinct scent of ink imprinted upon my memory.

Cans of ink line shelves.

Cans of ink line shelves.

Decades ago, working at The Gaylord Hub as a young newspaper reporter and photographer fresh out of college, I first smelled that ink, heard the clack-clack-clack of ancient machines printing auction bills. I watched Frank “Chick” Deis set type on the old letterpress.

While digging through all that vintage art, we found this City of Fergus Falls Centennial Seal of an otter. The city is located  in Otter Tail County.

While digging through all that vintage art, we found this City of Fergus Falls Centennial Seal of an otter. The city is located in Otter Tail County. The Lundeens recently sold all but one letterpress.

Such memories endear me to places like Victor Lundeen Company, started in 1914 by Victor Lundeen, Sr., who bought out a Fargo print shop and moved the equipment to his hometown of Fergus Falls. Today the company is owned by Victor Lundeen, Jr., and his son, Paul Lundeen.

A portion of the print shop looking toward the bank of street-side windows.

A portion of the print shop looking toward the bank of street-side windows.

I find it especially impressive, in this advanced technological age, that printing businesses like the Lundeen Company can survive, even seemingly thrive. This Fergus Falls firm has apparently found its niche in focusing on agri-business needs primarily in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Montana, but also extending to grain elevator businesses nationwide.

That said, this family-owned print shop, which employs eight in production (30 total in all aspects of the company), also values the individual walk-in customer. Paul didn’t specifically tell me that during our tour. Rather, I surmised that when, for example, I noticed the corner area where employees engrave gold foil names onto bibles for Confirmation gifts. Just like my King James bible imprinted with my name and given to me by my parents on my Confirmation Day in 1970.

Tour guide Paul Lundeen inside his print shop.

Tour guide Paul Lundeen inside his print shop.

And then there’s Paul himself, who welcomed my husband and me on a Thursday evening like we were long-time friends rather than out-of-towners checking out his store and other downtown businesses during an overnight stay in Fergus Falls. I mean, what businessman shows you the original safe of the former First National Bank of Fergus Falls shortly after meeting you? Paul did just that.

The independent bookstore portion of Victor Lundeen Company on the first floor. Gifts and office supplies are also sold here.

The independent bookstore portion of Victor Lundeen Company on the first floor. Gifts and office supplies are also sold here. I even asked if the store carries Lake Region Review, a regional anthology in which I’ve been published. It does.

His office supply/bookstore/gift shop/printing business occupies two connected buildings, one of them the old bank, in the heart of this historic downtown.

History in the signage.

History in the signage.

Such hospitality reaffirms my belief that chain stores have nothing on businesses like Victor Lundeen Company, which clearly values the importance of outstanding customer service and friendliness.

You can bet, thanks to Paul Lundeen and to Pat Connelly, whom I met later that evening at Dairyland Drive In (that’s a forthcoming post), I left Fergus Falls the next morning with the warmest of feelings for this west central Minnesota community.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Paper packed near the presses.

Paper stacked near the presses.

A vintage stool caught my eye.

A vintage stool, between counters, caught my eye.

My husband noticed the wheels on a cart, made at the former Nutting Company in our community of Faribault.

My husband noticed the wheels on a cart made at the former Nutting Company in our community of Faribault.

I aimed my camera down to shoot this lovely old cabinet.

I aimed my camera down to shoot this lovely old cabinet.

The art of well-known Fergus Falls resident Charles Beck, noted for his woodcut prints, featured in two books printed by Victor Lundeen Company. The books are sold in the bookstore. Across the street, you can view Beck's art at the Kaddatz Galleries.

The art of well-known Fergus Falls resident Charles Beck, noted for his woodcut prints, featured in two books printed by Victor Lundeen Company. The books are sold in the bookstore. Across the street, you can view Beck’s art at the Kaddatz Galleries.

TO VIEW PREVIOUS posts from Fergus Falls, see yesterday’s post and check my mid-June 2011 archives. Watch for more stories from this delightful community.

© Copyright 2103 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Support regional writing this Christmas via the gift of words December 6, 2012

WITH ALL THE “SHOP LOCAL” buzz this time of year, have you ever considered how that applies to the printed word?

Are you supporting local and regional authors, writers from within your state?

Allow me to show you two Minnesota publications that would make ideal Christmas gifts for anyone who appreciates regional based writing. Both feature collections of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry.

Lake Region Review, volume two, with cover art by  Charles Beck

Lake Region Review, volume two, with cover art by Charles Beck

Lake Region Review, a literary magazine centered in Battle Lake in the northwestern part of our state, showcases work by writers from Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas selected in a competitive process. This year 34 pieces were culled from some 430 submissions for publication in volume two.

In their introduction to this 160-page soft-cover book-style collection produced by the Lake Region Writers Network, co-editors Athena Kildegaard and Mark Vinz write in part:

Our aim in selecting writing for this issue is simply to look for the best writing that engages and enlightens through attention to language. In these pages you’ll find characters challenged by circumstances (and weather), poems charged with vitality (and weather), and essays that will provoke and move you.

How true. With topics like polio and Alzheimer’s, installing a satellite dish on a snowy rooftop and falling through the ice, unemployment and death, and even some stories—“Norwegian Love” and “Julebukking”—of Scandinavian influence, you are certain to find writing that entertains and evokes emotional reactions.

The writers themselves range from beginners to seasoned.

Visitors to the Kaddatz Galleries in downtown Fergus Falls peruse the art of Charles Beck.

Visitors to the Kaddatz Galleries in downtown Fergus Falls peruse the art of Charles Beck. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

A bonus to both volumes of Lake Region Review is the original regional-based cover art. This year’s cover features “Cardinals,” a wood print by well-known Minnesota artist Charles Beck of Fergus Falls.

Stephen Hennings painting on the cover of Lake Region Review, volume one.

Stephen Henning’s painting on the cover of Lake Region Review, volume one.

Last year a detail of an original landscape painting, “Christina Lake: View from Seven Sisters,” by nationally-renowned artist Stephen Henning of Evansville graced the cover of volume one.

Like Lake Region Review, The Talking Stick produced by the Jackpine Writer’s Bloc based in Menahga (near Park Rapids) offers a quality selection of works in a book-style collection.

The cover of The Talking Stick, Volume 21, Nightfall, also has a Minnesota bend with a stock photo of loons on a lake from iStockphoto.com.

The cover of The Talking Stick, Volume 21, Nightfall, also has a Minnesota bend with a stock photo of loons on a lake from iStockphoto.com.

According to the Jackpine website, “…we publish to encourage solid writing that shows promise, creativity and brilliance.”

Especially heavy in poetry (94 poems), volume 21 of this literary journal features 130 pieces (chosen from 278 submissions) by writers from Minnesota or with a Minnesota connection.

With titled works like “Bologna Sandwich,” “Memories of Duluth,” “And a Bier for Dad,” “January Snow,” “Iceout,” “Blueberry Woods Symphony,” and more, the Minnesota influence presses deep into the 192 pages of this volume, subtitled Nightfall.

Therein lies the beauty of buying local in the printed word: a strong regional imprint.

That local connection also ties into the financial support provided to these two literary collections. Otter Tail Power Company, an energy company servicing western Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas, provided “generous support” to Lake Region Review. And a grant from the Region 2 Arts Council with funding from the Minnesota Legislature financed, in part, volume 21 of The Talking Stick.

HAVE YOU PURCHASED/or will you buy local books or literary collections as Christmas gifts this year? If so, please share your recommendations.

FYI: To learn more about the two literary collections highlighted here and how to purchase them, click here for the Lake Region Review. Then click here for The Talking Stick.

Some of the writers published in Lake Region Review, volume two, will read from their works beginning at 2 p.m. this coming Sunday, December 9, at Zandbroz Variety, 420 Broadway Avenue, in downtown Fargo, N.D. (If only I was going to be in Fargo this weekend. But I will read some of my poetry beginning at 6:00 p.m. Thursday, December 6, in the Great Hall at Buckham Memorial Library, Faribault.)

Disclaimer: My work has been published in both volumes of Lake Region Review and in several volumes of The Talking Stick. However, I received no monetary compensation for that or for this review, nor was I asked to pen this post.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Off I-94: Artsy Fergus Falls June 17, 2011

The vintage-looking sign on the side of a building in downtown Fergus Falls caught my attention. The Market sells a variety of merchandise from kitchen to bath and body, garden and home accent products and lots more.

UNTIL LAST SATURDAY, I’d never entered Fergus Falls, only driven past this west central Minnesota community along I-94 en route to the Dakotas. After miles and miles of interstate travel, the towns don’t seem to matter any more. On the fringes, one seems like the other—just another rest break, a place to tank up on gas or a quick stop for a bite to eat.

Sadly, that marks the reality of today’s fast-paced, get from point A to point B, world.

But then one day you have a reason to pull off the four-lane, to explore one of these interstate-side communities and you discover a town with a personality and identity, and you wonder why you have not come here before this day.

And so that is how I found Fergus Falls, population 14,500, when I traveled there last weekend to view my Roadside Poetry Project poem displayed on four billboards. (My spring poem has since been replaced by a summer poem.)

After photographing my poem and dining at the downtown Viking Café (click here to read my earlier post on this vintage restaurant), I explored this Otter Tail County seat with my husband, Randy.

Certainly, we saw only a small portion of this riverside town. But I toured enough of Fergus Falls to come up with a single word to describe it: artistic.

I wonder if the folks who live in Fergus also see their hometown as an art community. Or would they choose another word to describe their town?

Here are photos to back up my word selection.

Knit graffiti circled a tree downtown. Bottlecaps were strung on another tree by this one. What a simple and memorable art idea.

Fergus Falls Summerfest happened to be on when we were in town. Here's one section of the event.

Clear Lake, S.D., artist Karlys Wells of Back Porch Art created this gourd art, among my favorite art at the fair.

Even signage can be art, like this on a downtown bakery.

Call it art, or something else, but this Rice Krispie cake in a bakery window display made me laugh out loud.

Kaddatz Galleries, a nonprofit art gallery, showcases the work of Charles Beck and other local artists.

Woodcuts and woodblock prints by one of Minnesota's most-recognized artists, Charles Beck of Fergus Falls. His subjects are the landscapes and nature of Otter Tail County. Until I walked into this gallery, I do not recall having ever heard of Beck. His earthy, rural art appeals to me.

I was impressed with the number of visitors in the Kaddatz Galleries.

The doors to the Fergus Theatre were locked, or I would most definitely have gone inside. The vintage exterior adds so much to the charm of downtown Fergus Falls.

I am a big fan of vintage signs for the character they add to a community.

SO HAVE I CONVINCED you to pull off I-94 in west central Minnesota and explore Fergus Falls? Fergus lies 2 1/2 hours northwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul, mighty close to Fargo, N.D.

Here are several websites to check out and learn more about some of the places highlighted in my photos and story:

www.VisitFergusFalls.com

www.kaddatzgalleries.org

www.fergusarts.org

www.fergusfallssummerfest.com

www.roadsidepoetry.org

www.marketfergusfalls.com

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling