Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Prairie Roots needs your nomination July 11, 2015

Best of Southern MN 2015 logo

ONCE AGAIN, I INVITE YOU to nominate Minnesota Prairie Roots as the best local blog in southern Minnesota, this time for 2015. But nominate my blog only if you consider me worthy of the honor bestowed by SouthernMinn Scene, a regional arts/entertainment/lifestyle magazine.


Minnesota Prairie Roots has been voted the best in southern Minnesota.

Minnesota Prairie Roots was voted the best local blog in southern Minnesota in 2014.


Last year, because of your support, my blog was chosen as the best in southern Minnesota. Thank you.

To nominate Minnesota Prairie Roots, click here to reach the miscellaneous section of the ballot and scroll to the bottom. You are allowed one nomination per category per email address. You can vote for lots of other southern Minnesota favorites, too. Nomination deadline is July 31.

Top nominees will then move on to the official ballot with voting beginning August 3.

Thank you for your consideration and for reading Minnesota Prairie Roots. I am grateful.


A give-away: Win a down comforter January 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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IF YOU LIVE in a cold weather state like me, where winters can be brutal and staying warm presents a challenge, I’d like to help.

Or more accurately, one of my readers, Virginia, would like to help.

The prize: a toasty warm white down comforter, left, with a green duvet cover, right.

The prize: a toasty warm white down comforter, left, with a green duvet cover, right. Photo courtesy of Virginia.

Virginia lives in Arizona. She has a king-sized down comforter that she can’t use because, well, Arizona is too warm. She wanted to gift the white comforter and accompanying green duvet cover to me after reading my recent post, “How I deal with some of winter’s challenges here in Minnesota.” I had complained about staying warm at night. Her king-size comforter, though, would be way too large for my full-sized bed.

That's Virginia, our generous donor, on the left.

That’s Virginia, our generous donor, on the left with children from Mexico, where she volunteers with Liga International, The Flying Doctors of Mercy. Virginia photographs the work Liga (means “League” in Spanish), a non-profit, does in Mexico providing free health care and education to the people there. For more information, go to ligainternational.org.

Then I had this thought. Maybe Virginia would be willing to give the warm bedding to someone else. I pitched the idea. She agreed.

Thus The Great Down Comforter Give-Away.

If you would like to win a gently-used (like half a dozen times) down comforter and duvet cover that Virginia will ship to you at no cost, then read on. Note that the bedding was used in a smoke-free home. Virginia has a cat, but the cat has not been on the comforter and she will have the bedding cleaned.

Here are the contest rules:

1) Will ship only within the United States, and preferably to a cold weather location.

2) Enter by submitting a comment on this post. You must state, in a maximum of five sentences or less, why you want to win this comforter. Hint: Judges (Virginia and I) are looking for creative answers that prove a true need for this bedding.

3) Entry deadline is noon Central Standard Time on Monday, January 19, 2015. The winner will be announced in a post published here on Thursday, January 22, 2015. The winner must reply with name and mailing address by Sunday, January 25, 2015, via the comments box to secure the prize. This information will not be published.

4) Members of my or Virginia’s immediate or extended families are not eligible to enter.

There you go. Enter The Great Down Comforter Give-Away. Now.


Thanks to Virginia for her kind and generous spirit.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Winona Winhawks represent Minnesota for “most unique high school mascot” honor March 6, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:04 PM
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WinhawksTHE WINONA WINHAWKS beat out four other Minnesota high schools this week to advance in the next round of selecting the nation’s most unique high school mascot.

In an online contest sponsored by the High School Sports Staff of USA TODAY, the Winhawks defeated the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms, the Roosevelt Teddies, the Jordan Hubmen and the Sauk Centre Mainstreeters to represent Minnesota in Region 4.

Results show the Minnesota voting was close—between two of the schools—with the Winona Winhawks grabbing 52 percent of the online votes and the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms nearly 46 percent.

That’s an impressive showing for the Awesome Blossoms given the considerable population difference between the two southern Minnesota communities. Blooming Prairie is home to about 2,000 people while Winona has some 27,500 residents.

Tom Ressler created Blooming Prairie's logo, a black-and-white Awesome Blossom , in 1979.

Tom Ressler created Blooming Prairie’s logo, a black-and-white Awesome Blossom , in 1979.

Blooming Prairie High School substitute teacher Tammy Wolf noted that difference in a comment posted on the USA TODAY Minnesota voting page:

Great Job Blossom Fans! For a community of 2,000—we did ourselves real proud with 143,376 votes! Proud to be an “Awesome Blossom!” Thanks to all of you who voted for BP!

Voting began today for six regional winners who will then advance to the finals. The Winhawks are now competing against eight other mascots:

  • Hodags (a fictional monster) from Rhinelander, Wisconsin
  • Kernels (yes, after the Corn Palace) from Mitchell, South Dakota
  • Honkers from Kenmare, North Dakota
  • Norsemen from Roland-Story High School in Story City, Iowa
  • Orphans from Centralia, Illinois
  • Nimrods from Watersmeet, Michigan
  • Fighting Jeeps from Northeast Dubois in Dubois, Indiana
  • Zeps from Shenandoah, Ohio

So, Minnesotans, here’s your opportunity to put Minnesota, specifically Winona, into the national spotlight by voting for the Winhawks between now and March 14. Just click here to vote.

And what exactly is a Winhawk, you ask?

According to the online ballot, Winhawks is a nice play on words that transforms the stereotypical “Hawks” mascot into a winning proposition. Blackhawks. Seahawks. Plain-old Hawks. They have nothing on the Winhawks. Winona’s mascot, Herky, is a cartoon bird with bulky arms.

Prizes ranging from $100 – $2,000 will be awarded to the winning high school athletic departments. And in these days of cash-strapped schools (speaking generally here and not necessarily referencing Winona), that money, I’m certain, would be welcome by any district.

TO READ A PREVIOUS post I wrote about this mascot contest, click here. I really wanted the Awesome Blossoms to win. Sorry, Winhawks. But good luck now. Go Winhawks!

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Meet 10 Minnesota bloggers, a contest winner & more January 11, 2012

THEY WRITE FROM EVERY section of the state—from the southwestern Minnesota prairie to up north on the Gunflint Trail and the Iron Range to the heart of the Twin Cities metro area and places in between.

They are your next-door neighbor, the guy in the office, the young mother down the street, the 20-something…just regular folks who write online.

They are bloggers.

Thus, dear readers of Minnesota Prairie Roots, begins a feature package on 10 Minnesota bloggers, plus one (that would be me), just published in the winter issue of Minnesota Moments.

As a writer for this central Minnesota based magazine, I have the opportunity to present story proposals to the editor and then, when approved, pursue those ideas.

In the blogger package, you’ll meet these Minnesota bloggers with distinct voices: Aaron J. Brown, Nina Hedin, Ada Igoe, Beth Johanneck, Laura Karsjens, Gretchen O’Donnell, Gary Sankary, Brenda Score, Michael Wojahn and Emily Zweber. (Click here to read the story online.)

Prior to my search, I’d already been following about half of these writers. Finding the remaining five proved more challenging than I anticipated. Eventually I found them and if you check out their blogs, I think you will agree that they write in a way that’s as comfortable as sharing conversation over a cup of coffee.

MY SECOND MAJOR PROJECT for this issue focused on a contest, “Snapshots of Love,” which I created and curated. Magazine readers were invited to submit vintage black-and-white candid photos on the theme of love and then share what the photos told them about love.

We received some truly impressive images and stories that made selecting a winner difficult. However, in the end, Jeanne Everhart of Erhard was chosen as the winner with a 1948 picture of her and her sister riding the tricycle they shared. Her story will move you. View all of our contest entries by clicking here.

Jeanne Chase hitches a ride from her sister Sylvia in this 1948 photo taken at the sisters' home in Inman Township, Otter Tail County, Minn.

Since I came up with this contest idea, I also had to find prizes for our winner. I didn’t need to look far. Nina Hedin, one of the featured bloggers, also runs an etsy shop, Camp Honeybelle, and agreed to contribute a $25 gift certificate toward the prize package.

Bernie Nordman Wahl, a Duluth native now living in Billings, Montana, graciously created a card-a-month collection of vintage style greeting cards for our winner. Bernie sells her handmade cards on her Budugalee etsy shop. You simply must see her cards; this artist possesses a delightful sense of humor. Be sure also to visit Bernie’s One Mixed Bag blog. If Bernie still lived in Minnesota, she most definitely would have been included in my Minnesota bloggers feature.

But…, Bernie is in this issue. Her story, “A simple wooden plate equals love,” was published in our “moments in time” reader-submitted stories section. It’s a sweet story of family love.

Mary Bruno of St. Joseph-based Bruno Press and the subject of a story in Minnesota Moments’ fall issue, rounded out the prize package by contributing a letterpress, vintage graphics fine art print. If you’ve read my post on the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, you know how much I appreciate vintage printing.

One of the 26 handmade cards with a vintage flair crafted by Bernie Nordman Wahl for contest winner Jeanne Everhart.

VINTAGE COULD ALSO DEFINE the subject of one other story I  wrote for this issue—a “back in the day” piece on The Last Supper Drama which will be presented for the 50th time this Palm Sunday at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, rural Faribault. Yes, that’s right: 50 consecutive years.

I’ve attended this interpretation of The Last Supper twice and blogged about it. Click here to read that blog post. The photos published in the magazine printed way too dark, so the quality is not what you have come to expect in my photography. Please try to overlook that when you read the story.

A scene from the 2011 Last Supper Drama at St. John's UCC.

FINALLY, THIS CANNOT GO without mentioning. Swanville, Minnesota, native Joanne Fluke, who is a New York Times best-selling author, has a full-page ad on the inside front cover of this issue. She writes the “Hannah Swensen Mystery with Recipes!” series. She was the subject of a feature I wrote several years ago for the magazine. Her “Hannah” stories are set in fictitious Lake Eden, Minnesota.

Anyway, Joanne’s publisher, Kensington Publishing, is sponsoring a contest right now with a chance to win a Joanne Fluke gift basket.

So there, dear readers, you have just one more reason to check out the winter edition of Minnesota Moments.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Autumn in words and photos, plus a contest October 8, 2011

I shot this cover image of pumpkins at Twiehoff Gardens & Nursery in Faribault.

WHEN YOU CONSIDER autumn, what comes to mind?

Pumpkins. Colorful leaves. Crisp nights. Harvest. Those top my list.

Because I’m a magazine writer, I pay attention to seasonal details probably more than your average person. If I want to submit a seasonal story and/or photos, I need to plan a year in advance of publication.

And so I did with the current issue of Minnesota Moments magazine. Inside the just-published fall issue, you’ll find 20 of my photos, all taken last fall.

I’m particularly proud of my 11-image, 5-page photo essay titled “Oh, fleeting days of autumn in Minnesota.” Not only will you find fall scenes from rural Minnesota, but you’ll read copy that is more poetic than straight-forward writing. For example, in the opening paragraph of that photo essay piece, I write:

Autumn slips into Minnesota on wisps of wind whirling wayward leaves onto sun-washed grass. And so summer fades and a new season begins.

You’ll also read my poem, “Preparing for winter, circa 1960,” based on embellished memories of my mother canning and freezing garden produce for the winter ahead.

I enjoy writing poetry that connects to my rural roots. And I’ve been fairly successful in getting published with seven poems printed in five anthologies, one on Roadside Poetry billboards and another recently published in a debut literary magazine. I really ought to write more poetry.

But, I have those magazine articles to work on and blogging and… I’m already pursuing stories for the winter issue of Minnesota Moments.

This contest promo image of Mary Nachicas and Don Anderson comes from Nina Hedin of Glencoe, who blogs at ArtsyNina. We are seeking these types of vintage black-and-white candid photos.

THEN I HAD THIS FABULOUS contest idea, “Snapshots of Love,” for our winter edition. And you know how that goes, when you have the idea you follow through and make it happen.

To summarize, we are seeking vintage black-and-white candid photos on the theme of love. Contest submission also requires a bit of writing—a maximum 75-word paragraph answering this question: “What story does this photo tell me about the theme of love?”

The winner, selected by me and other magazine staffers, wins a $150 prize package comprised of handcrafted greeting cards from Bernie (a former Duluth resident) at Budugalee, a $25 gift certificate from Camp Honeybelle (an etsy shop operated by Nina Hedin of Glencoe), a letter press, vintage graphics fine art print from Bruno Press and a one-year subscription to the magazine.

For “Snapshots of Love” contest details, click here.

For info about Minnesota Moments, with the current cover photo, 23 inside photos, and four stories and book reviews by me, click here.

To check out the ArtsyNina blog, click here. And to shop at Camp Honeybelle, click here.

To read Bernie’s One Mixed Bag blog, click here. To view her card collection at Budugalee, click here.

For more information about Bruno Press, click here. You’ll find a feature story about owner Mary Bruno in the fall issue of Minnesota Moments.

Enjoy! And get your contest entries in to “Snapshots of Love.” Entry deadline is November 15, 2011.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Guess that state April 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:17 AM
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After two days without posts, which rates as totally out of character for me, you may be wondering why I haven’t written. Well, simple. I’ve been in another state for the Easter holiday.

Where have I been?

I could just tell you. But I’d rather make you guess. So today we are going to play “Guess that state.”

Scroll through the photos and clues below and then submit your guess. If you guess correctly, you do not win a prize. Rather you can take pride in the knowledge that you have learned more about one of our 50 states.

So…, let’s get started.

This helicopter on a trailer offers minimal info as to the identity of the mystery state. But it was the only photo I took as we drove here Friday afternoon, through rain, for more than three hours. On Saturday, some areas of this state were under a flash flood warning. Sirens wailed in the town where we were staying.

This natural rock formation known as the Ship Rock is located near the middle of the state.

Beer and bars. No additional words needed.

Residents of this state appreciate their dairy farmers.

Ah, nothing like the tropics to brighten my mood after a long winter. OK, you got me. This is actually a Mexican restaurant in a resort town in the central part of our mystery state.

At this museum, you will see an exhibit featuring magician Harry Houdini, who claims this state as his birthplace. If you know the name of the town, you score bonus points for your smartness. Do not cheat by googling.

Pockets of Amish, or maybe it's Mennonite, or both, reside in areas of this state. I was fortunate to capture this image Sunday afternoon while driving past this farm place.

This photo offers three clues: snow, brats and Piggly Wiggly. Along this stretch of highway on Saturday afternoon, we could have stopped at three brat fries at three grocery stores. (The husband did purchase a brat at The Festival Foods brat fry fundraiser for the Boy Scouts.)

This photo clue should be the clincher. Fire hydrants in the town where my family stayed are painted gold and sometimes green and gold.

PLEASE SUBMIT your guesses along with any comments you wish to make regarding these images or these clues or this state.

Good luck!

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A creative contest to celebrate a church anniversary June 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:10 AM
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EVERY YEAR FOR AS LONG as I can remember, the Faribault Daily News has sponsored a “Lord of the Things” contest during our community’s annual Heritage Days celebration. A photographer photographs snippets of items—maybe a sign, a decorative cornice on an old building—to be published in the newspaper. Entrants then identify the objects and their public locations.

Recently I adapted that idea for a 140th anniversary celebration at my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault. Wanting a scriptural theme, I pegged the contest “SEEK & FIND,” based on Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

I photographed half of Jesus' face in a stained glass window as a focal point for a posterboard displaying 4 x 6-inch contest photos.

I aimed to provide a fun family activity, to increase worshipers’ awareness of their church surroundings, to focus on church history and to get people to our 140th anniversary reception. All of those goals were achieved in a process that began months ago.

Back in April, before anyone knew I was planning this activity, I roamed the church campus photographing perhaps two dozen items, which I narrowed down to 14. I discovered, then, that I’ve not even noticed some of what surrounds me.

How long has that painting of Christ, gazing at a baby, hung above the drinking fountain?

How long has “Trinity Lutheran School” been chiseled in granite?

Why have I not seen that angel in the stained glass window until today?

This contest, I determined, could present a challenge to those who entered. I was right.

Dennis, one of the contest winners, shares with me on Sunday—the day SEEK & FIND winners’ names were posted at the anniversary reception—that he puzzled over a single photo. “I thought it was a window,” Dennis tells me, explaining how he searched for 45 minutes. But his story takes a humorous twist. After informing his wife, Pat, that he can’t identify the geometric pattern, she instructs him to look down. Dennis is standing on the elusive tile floor in the photograph.

That entertaining story makes all of the time and energy I invested in this contest worth the effort. But so does the story from Marilyn, who brought her three grandchildren to church—twice—to ferret out the photographed objects. The first time, a carpet cleaning crew kept the group from entering the sanctuary. The second time, they tread quietly within the church as a musician tuned a piano.

Then you have Lee and Laurel, who began hunting for the photographed items after the late church service one Sunday. With the clock ticking toward noon and morning worship volunteers wanting to go home, the couple finally had to give up and leave, or be locked inside the church.

Such stories amuse, and please, me.

I would have been even more pleased had more people entered the contest. Only 31 entries in the two divisions—adult and youth—were submitted. I expected three times that many, especially after publicizing the competition in church newsletters and bulletins, via word-of-mouth, by e-mail, via announcements and by handing entry sheets directly to church members.

But…, I tried. And I am confident that the 17 entrants who won are quite pleased with prizes that included homemade pies from the Trinity Pie-makers, gorgeous lily bouquets from Virgil and Jane’s garden, Ryan and Sara’s homemade maple syrup, Roy’s handcrafted fretwork cross, gift certificates to local businesses, and more.

I’m not discouraged by the lack of response, only disappointed.

But I’m also encouraged. Already, one contestant has asked: “Are you going to do this again next year?”

Uh, no, but maybe in 10 years, when Trinity celebrates its 150th anniversary.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling