Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Faribault’s secret garden grows community connections & pride September 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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IT’S AMAZING WHAT YOU CAN DO with a small space snugged between buildings along an alley.

Michelle's Garden, right next to the alley behind buildings along Faribault's Second Street and Central Avenue.

Michelle’s Garden, right, next to the alley behind buildings along Faribault’s Second Street and Central Avenue.

Faribault businesswoman Dee Bjork and team, including sisters Ann Vohs and Beth Westerhouse, created Michelle’s Garden several years ago. It’s an unexpected green space between concrete and brick—a place for gardening and hanging out among plants and flowers.

The back of The Crafty Maven is right across the alley from the garden.

The back of The Crafty Maven is right across the alley from the garden.

It’s a delight, a Secret Garden, unless you are privy to its presence or happen to drive through the alley behind the sisters’ businesses, The Crafty Maven and Vohs Floors.

That's Michelle's portrait hanging above the dining space in the garden.

That’s Michelle’s portrait hanging above the dining space in the garden.

Up close detail on the recently-painted posts. I love this artwork.

Up close detail on the recently-painted posts. I love this artwork.

The garden is in an alley space in the heart of historic downtown Faribault.

The garden is in an alley space in the heart of historic downtown Faribault.

Michelle’s Garden honors Michelle, who lives downtown with her family. Dee wanted a special place for kids like Michelle, whom she mentors.

The garden even includes a raised bed for veggies and flowers.

The garden even includes a raised bed for veggies and flowers.

Tomatoes are among the vegetables growing in pots.

Tomatoes are among the vegetables growing in pots.

Plants fill pots and, to the right, you can see the edge of a bike rack.

Plants fill pots and, to the right, you can see a bike rack.

I am impressed with all that’s packed into this mini garden. Flowers in the ground and in pots. Vegetables in the ground, pots and a raised bed. A bike rack. Art. A bench. Table and chairs.

This sign hangs on the garden gate.

This sign hangs on the garden gate.

There's even a picket fence around a section of Michelle's Garden.

There’s even a picket fence around a section of Michelle’s Garden.

Open the gate and follow the hosta lined path to a bench.

Open the gate and follow the hosta lined path to a bench.

A lavender trellis pops colorful art into the garden.

A lavender trellis pops colorful art into the garden.

You can lunch here and read here and dream here and garden here.

Greenery abounds.

Greenery abounds.

It’s perfect. A nook. A green space. A welcoming respite in the most unexpected of places.

Even this window is incorporated into the garden with a windowbox.

Even this window is incorporated into the garden with a windowbox.

But it’s much more. Michelle’s Garden represents what a community can do when individuals care, when people connect, see a need and fill that need. This garden is very much a community project that has involved more than the three sisters.

A banner welcomes all.

A banner welcomes all.

We can each make a difference, if we choose to take action. And in so doing, we build a sense of community and community pride.

FYI: Click here to learn about the Second Street Garden, an extension of Michelle’s Garden which was recently awarded a $500 Faribault Foundation Community Pride Grant.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Community Pride: Showcasing the Tilt-A-Whirl, a Faribault icon August 27, 2015

RED WING IS NOTED for its pottery and shoes. Darwin has the world’s largest ball of twine. And in northern Minnesota, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox draw tourists for lakeside photo ops in Bemidji.

Now my community, too, has an iconic attraction—the Tilt-A-Whirl. It’s been a long-time coming, this recognition that the iconic American carnival ride deserves a place of honor in Faribault. Herbert W. Sellner built his first Tilt-A-Whirl here in 1926 and production continued locally into early 2011 when Sellner Manufacturing was sold to a Texas company.

Herb Sellner invented the Tilt-A-Whirl, made in Faribault beginning in 1926.

Herb Sellner invented the Tilt-A-Whirl, made in Faribault beginning in 1926.

Until I moved into Faribault 31 years ago, just blocks from where the Tilt-A-Whirl was manufactured, I had no idea it was made here. I expect many remain unaware of its roots in this southeastern Minnesota community.

Tami Schluter on "Boy Meets Whirl."

Tami Schluter on “Boy Meets Whirl,” an episode on American Restorations featuring work done on the 1950s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl. A year ago a party was held in Faribault to view the show and unveil the amusement car. Earlier this summer, the car was installed in downtown Faribault.

But thanks to two local businesswomen who took the advice of a consultant following a 2011 Faribault Main Street market study, a restored 1950s Tilt-A-Whirl prototype now sits on a downtown Faribault street corner. And it’s getting the attention Tami Schluter and Peggy Keilen expected, first via the restoration itself, done by Rick’s Restoration of Las Vegas and featured on The History Channel’s American Restoration reality TV show.

The restored 1950s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl has been permanently installed by Burkhartzmeyer Shoes in historic downtown Faribault.

The restored 1950s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl has been permanently installed next to Burkhartzmeyer Shoes in historic downtown Faribault.

And now, with the vintage Tilt-A-Whirl permanently in place at 128 Central Avenue in front of the third-generation family-owned shoe store, Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, locals and visitors alike are sliding into the Tilt-A-Whirl car and posing for photos or taking selfies.

The restored Tilt-A-Whirl sits in downtown Faribault, just two blocks from Buckham Memorial Library.

The restored Tilt-A-Whirl sits in downtown Faribault, just two blocks from Buckham Memorial Library and the Faribault Community Center.

Faribault is claiming an identity as the home of the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Words imprinted upon the table in the Tilt-A-Whirl car honor those involved with the project:

Words imprinted upon the table in the Tilt-A-Whirl car recognize those involved with the project: the Faribault community, the Hutchinson House Bed & Breakfast, Harley’s Auto Salvage, Faribo Air Conditioning & Heating and the Sellner family.

Says Schluter:

“I believe the Tilt brings a feeling of community pride to Faribault. It is certainly a legacy to the 80 years of the ingenuity and creativity of Herb Sellner, members of the Sellner family, its employees and talented local artisans. Besides that, it’s a really fun and whimsical story that brings a smile to just about everyone when reminiscing about past rides.”

The Tilt-A-Whirl car before restoration was rescued from a junkyard.

The 1950s Tilt-A-Whirl car before restoration. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

Not ones to finish a project and then just sit, Schluter and Keilen are now on a mission to restore a second car gifted to Faribault Main Street by Harley’s Auto Salvage. Schluter originally convinced the owners at Harley’s to pull three Tilt-A-Whirl cars from storage for possible refurbishing.

Monies are now being raised to restore this 1940s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl car. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

Monies are now being raised to restore this 1940s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl car. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

Recently, the second Tilt-A-Whirl project was awarded a $500 Community Pride Grant from the Faribault Foundation for restoration of a 1940s vintage car that will rest by the State Bank of Faribault, several blocks to the north of the 1950s car. This time, though, the car will be restored locally by former Sellner employees.

Karen Bussert creates Tilt-A-Whirl themed t-shirts like this one modeled by Faribault native Janet Timmers.

Karen Bussert creates Tilt-A-Whirl themed t-shirts (and sweatshirts) like this one modeled by Faribault native Janet Timmers at a recent Faribault Car Cruise Night. When I spotted the t-shirt, I inquired and Janet directed me to Karen. Janet grew up near Sellner Manufacturing and today lives even closer to the former business. She’s an enthusiastic Tilt-A-Whirl backer, having donated monies toward the first car restoration. I’d love to see this Tilt-A-Whirl apparel sold perhaps at Burkhartzmeyer Shoes and/or other downtown businesses and at the Faribault Chamber office. For now, those interested should contact Karen Bussert at Design Specialties, 19557 Roberds Lake Boulevard, Faribault.

Among those planning to be involved in that restoration is Karen Bussert, a seven-year Sellner employee and now owner of Faribault-based Design Specialties. Bussert created the vinyl lettering and graphics for the first restored car (sending them to Rick’s Restorations) and will do so with the second, too. After Sellner Manufacturing closed, she purchased the screen printing, embroidery and vinyl graphics part of the business, claiming rights to the amusement ride decals. She has templates of the original graphics and still produces them for Larson International, Inc., which manufactures the Tilt-A-Whirl today in Texas along with other formerly made in Faribault spin rides like Dizzy Dragons and Berry Go Round. Bussert also sells Tilt-A-Whirl t-shirts and sweatshirts currently available only at her business.

Signage and seating inside the restored amusement car.

Signage and seating inside the restored amusement car.

With the $500 Community Pride Grant, $2,800 of the $6,500 goal have now been raised toward restoring the second Tilt-A-Whirl. Schluter and Keilen aim to have all of the funds needed for restoration by the end of the year. Tax-deductible donations are accepted at Reliance Bank, 2300 30th St. N.W., Faribault, MN. 55021. Checks should be made payable to the Faribault Foundation and noted for the Tilt-A-Whirl restoration.

The Tilt-A-Whirl faces north toward Central Avenue.

The Tilt-A-Whirl faces north toward Central Avenue and Faribault’s historic downtown.

Like, Schluter, Keilen and the owners and employees of Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, I’ve seen folks gathered at the Tilt-A-Whirl car. It has, indeed, become a Faribault icon and a source of community pride. I expect that interest to grow as word spreads and Faribault markets itself as home of the Tilt-A-Whirl. The possibilities (perhaps a museum and/or an operating Tilt-A-Whirl) exist to make this an even bigger draw.

The Mural Society of Faribault created and placed the Tilt-A-Whirl mural on the side of Jim's Auto & Tire this past fall.

The Mural Society of Faribault created and placed the Tilt-A-Whirl mural on the side of a downtown building in 2010.

FYI: The Tilt-A-Whirl is featured on one of several murals that grace Faribault’s downtown. The mural is displayed on a building along Fourth Street/Minnesota Highway 60, just a block west of Central Avenue.

Tilt-A-Whirl art

Art and lettering on the Tilt-A-Whirl car were created by Karen Bussert of Design Specialties from templates of original Sellner Manufacturing graphics.

If you wish to share your memories and photos of the Tilt-A-Whirl go to facebook.com/tiltawhirlfaribault.

Click here to read a previous post I wrote about another Faribault Foundation Community Pride Grant recipient.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling