Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Wisconsin’s version of Frosty the Snowman December 9, 2014

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WISCONSINITES ARE CRAZY about their Green Bay Packers. That I’ve learned in the four years since my second daughter moved to eastern Wisconsin.

From Packers billboards to barn signs, Packers apparel and green and gold brat buns in the grocery store, Packers craziness abounds.

My daughter photographed this display of Green Bay Packers themed holiday items at Shopko.

My daughter photographed this display of Green Bay Packers themed holiday items at Shopko.

You can even find holiday décor promoting this much beloved football team, as discovered by my daughter on a shopping trip to the local Shopko. She couldn’t resist texting an image of Cheesehead Green Bay Packers snowman ornaments.

A clearer image of the Packers Cheesehead snowman from the Green Bay Packers Shop.

A clearer image of the Packers Cheesehead snowman from the Green Bay Packers Shop.

Cheesy or cute? You decide.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Photo courtesy of Miranda Helbling
Second image from the online Green Bay Packers Shop


Did they crown her with a ……….? January 16, 2012

SATURDAY EVENING while flipping through television channels, I came across the talent portion of the Miss America Pageant.

I have not watched this competition in years so, when I saw that Miss Wisconsin was still in the running for the crown, I remained tuned in. I had to root for the Midwest girl. And now that my second daughter lives in eastern Wisconsin, I also have taken a greater interest in Minnesota’s neighbor.

When Miss Wisconsin, 23-year-old Laura Kaeppeler, was crowned Miss America, I fired a text off to my daughter.

ME: Miss Wisconsin was just crowned Miss America.

I photographed this couple modeling cheesehead hats in a Wisconsin cheese store last spring.

DAUGHTER:  Was she wearing a green dress w/ a yellow sash? Did they crown her w/ a cheesehead instead of a tiara?

(Note, dear readers, that I am, at this point, laughing so hard that I can’t immediately text back. My daughter is, of course, referring to the gold and green colors of the Green Bay Packers and to the popular cheesehead hats worn by many a Packers fan. Since we were on a humor roll, I decided to tell a little fib.)

ME:  She has a big G tattooed on her shoulder.

DAUGHTER:  Are u making that up?

ME:  What do u think? U live in Packerland.

DAUGHTER:  Lol. Well it was probably a wash off one then.

ME:  Maybe.

(Dear Wisconsinites, I know you possess a sense of humor or I would not have shared this exchange with you. I love your state and your Packers mania and your cheese and your Spotted Cow beer and your cranberry wine and your old barns and small towns and historic buildings and beautiful, changing countryside…)

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Say cheese, a Wisconsin experience April 30, 2011

TO TRULY EXPERIENCE Wisconsin, you must, must, visit a cheese store, like Simon’s Specialty Cheese Retail Store in Little Chute, northeast of Appleton. Simon’s offers a Wisconsin experience you’ll long remember.

Simon's Specialty Cheese is one of the retail outlets for Trega Foods, Ltd., which produces natural curds and mozzarella sticks right next door at its Little Chute plant.

And, yes, bring your camera to Simon’s for some touristy photos. Photo ops abound in every aisle.

Start by trying on the cheesehead hats. They’re perfect if you’re a Packers’ fan or are looking for a Halloween costume or, ummmmm, just want to make a fashion statement say in some place like London. I would not, however, recommend wearing a cheesehead hat in Minnesota.

Shoppers, aka tourists, don cheesehead hats and pose for photos at Simon's.

If this boxy style or color doesn’t suit you, then scoot down the aisle and try on a wolf or moose head piece. I would not, however, recommend wearing a furry animal hat in the Wisconsin woods, especially during hunting season.

A wolf disguise... Just a thought here, Simon's, but since your geographical region is called "the Fox Cities/Fox Valley" after the Fox River, how about stocking some fox hats?

If you’re looking for truly unique sunglasses that will turn heads at the beach this summer, then select cheese shades. I promise no one will even consider stealing your chic eyewear. I would not, however, recommend wearing these to, say, Minnesota’s Lake Calhoun, Lake Mille Lacs or Gull Lake.

Chic Wisconsin eyewear modeled by a Minnesotan who likely prefers anonymity.

Now, if you’re hosting a party, you’ve come to the right place. Simon’s offers plenty of conversation starter food choices. Grab a handful or two of cheddar cheese shapes. Cows. Barns. Cupcakes. Beer mugs. I would not, however, recommend purchasing the green and gold Packers and football cheese shapes if you are hosting a football (or any other) party in Minnesota.

Cheddar cheese shapes that are kitschy cute.

Along that same party line, pick up a few bottles of beer fish batter or bread mix. I would not, however, recommend stashing these near Spotted Cow (or any other beer) lest you mistakenly toss the bottled mix into the cooler before leaving on that annual fishing trip up north.

Wisconsin fish batter and beer bread mix, not to be confused with a Wisconsin beer like Spotted Cow.

Finally, even the romantic can find a gift at Simon’s. What better way to say “I love you” for a non-occasion than with a jug of bottled milk? A heart logo on the glass bottle adds just the right romantic touch. I would not, however, recommend this as a replacement for flowers no matter your state of residence.

Romantic or nostalgic, bottled milk is available at Simon's.

There, you have it, directly from someone who’s experienced Simon’s Specialty Cheese and enjoyed every aisle of photo op kitschy-ness. This store is a must-see for anyone visiting Wisconsin.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling