Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Faribault celebrates community on the first day of October October 2, 2022

Plenty of people turned out to sample chili in downtown Faribault Saturday afternoon. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

DOWNTOWN FARIBAULT PROVED a busy place Saturday afternoon. It was good to see people out and about on a sun mixed with clouds kind of first day of October.

Some chili makers got creative with their serving stations. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Serving up “MARVEL-ous chili. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

MARVEL characters guard the chili. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

The Faribault Main Street Chili Cook-off drew me downtown to sample chili served outdoors in front of nonprofits and businesses and even on a street corner. For me the event was as much about socializing as tasting chili.

Chili servers get in the Halloween spirit. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Food always brings community together. And the cook-off effectively does that. I saw people I haven’t seen in a long time. Staying connected matters to me.

Mayor Kevin Voracek flanked by city councilmen Peter Van Sluis, left, and Royal Ross converse and serve chili. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Even the mayor made and served chili with city council members assisting. I appreciate their community involvement, this everyday kind of interacting. As I spooned the mayor’s chili, a woman praised the naming of a new city park as Fleckenstein Bluffs in honor of a long ago brewery. Hearing her positive comment encouraged me as I expect it did our elected officials.

An out-of-town team works on finding answers to clues during a scavenger hunt in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

The all-around vibe along and off Faribault’s Central Avenue on Saturday felt positive, welcoming, inviting. When I observed groups of people in matching tees and carrying clipboards, I finally asked what they were doing. They were part of an invitation-only scavenger hunt, HÖDAG, through southern Minnesota. I welcomed them to Faribault and invited them to return and spend more time in our city.

Serving chili with a smile. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

I’m a firm believer in making others feel welcome with a smile, friendly words and encouragement to return to Faribault.

Tami Resler’s art. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)
Johnnie Walker’s pottery. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Pet portraits by Julie Fakler. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

After eating and greeting, I headed to the Paradise Center for the Arts and the annual South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour. There I not only viewed the work of six talented artists, but also got some camera first aid from Johnnie Walker, a photographer and potter. While at the Paradise, my zoom lens locked and Johnnie, who teaches photography at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, offered to take a look. He couldn’t fix the sticky lens problem, but he semi-eased my mind and promised to reconnect with me about getting a different lens. I tend to panic if anything goes wrong with my camera gear given my limited knowledge of equipment. Johnnie’s kindness reaffirms for me that there are good, kind people in this world.

Spotted on the windshield of a jeep, identifying the owner as a scavenger hunt participant. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

The events in downtown Faribault on Saturday brought a whole lot of people together. To serve and sample chili. To converse and explore. To follow clues in a scavenger hunt. To showcase and appreciate art. But, mostly, to connect, to build a sense of, and an appreciation of, community. And that is how, from my perspective, the first day of October unfolded in historic downtown Faribault.

Outside the entrance to the Paradise Center for the Arts. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

FYI: The South Central Studio ARTour continues from 10 am – 5 pm Sunday, October 2, featuring 35 artists at 18 studios in Faribault, Northfield, Nerstrand and Farmington.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

So much to do this weekend in the Faribault area September 16, 2022

Performers at the 2019 Hispanic Heritage Celebration in Northfield. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2019)

IF EVER THERE WAS A WEEKEND packed with community activities, especially in Faribault, this is the weekend. Here’s a summary list of events, most of which I’ve attended through the years.

Let’s start with Friday, September 16:

The artsy front of a Ford Torino at a past car show. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

The final Faribault Car Cruise Night of the season takes place from 6 – 9 pm in the parking lot of Faribault Harley-Davidson. Besides vintage vehicles, there will also be food vendors and music.

Moving to Saturday, September 17:

Goats were a popular draw at Family Day in 2019. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo September 2019)

Start out early by shopping the Faribault Farmers’ Market, which opens at 7 am in Central Park and closes at noon. But this isn’t any ordinary market day. This is Family Day with farm animals, a bounce house and more for kids. That starts at 9 am and continues til noon.

Flea market vendors set up shop on the grounds of the Rice County Historical Society during a past market. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Blocks away to the north, the Rice County Historical Society hosts its popular Fall Flea Market from 8 am – 2 pm in the parking lot and on the grounds.

At 11 am, until 2 pm, Harry Brown’s is hosting a Car Show at the fairgrounds.

Riding her Harley during a June 2020 Car Cruise Night. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo June 2020)

Meanwhile, way across town, Faribault Harley-Davidson celebrates an Anniversary Bash from 9 am – 10 pm as the motorcycle dealer marks 45 years in business. There will be a bike show and ride, music and food vendors.

At Divine Mercy Catholic Church on the south edge of Faribault, folks will gather from 4 – 9 pm for the annual Spirit Fest. That features food, music, an auction, bake sale, hay maze, drive-in movie, fireworks and much more.

Out-of-town events on Saturday, September 17:

The Montgomery Arts & Heritage Center, 206 First Street North on the north end of downtown. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2020)

The Arts & Heritage Center of Montgomery has a morning full of activities that include a book-signing by Barbara Marshak of New Prague, author of Painted Skies, beginning at 10 am. Sister Anita Smisek presents on “Minnesota’s Big Woods Musicians” at 11 am. Guests can also view the work of wildlife artist Tom Miller, current exhibitor, and see the Czech dancer topiaries created by Meghan Petricka. The arts center opens at 9 am and closes at noon.

Dancers perform at the 2019 Hispanic Heritage Celebration. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2019)

From 11 am – 6 pm at Central Park in Northfield, Hispanic Heritage Celebration 2022 is happening. That event features food vendors, arts and crafts activities, dance and art, all themed to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

One more nearby event, on Sunday, September 18:

Wagon rides are part of the country social. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

The Valley Grove Preservation Society hosts the Valley Grove Country Social from 1 – 4 pm at its hilltop location near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. This is the site of two historic churches. The event includes an organ recital at 2 pm, Scandinavian music performed outdoors, prairie and cemetery walks, horse-drawn wagon rides, rope-making and more.

There you go. Rain, unfortunately, or fortunately since we need moisture, is in the forecast for Friday and Saturday…

For detailed information on all of these events, please search online.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Rural Dundas show prompts tractor memories September 4, 2022

John Deere tractors parked near the log cabin at the Rice County Steam and Gas Engines Show. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

GROWING UP ON A CROP and dairy farm in southwestern Minnesota, tractors are part of my history. I am familiar with the putt-putt-putt of an aged John Deere, the maneuverable size of a B Farmall, the necessity of a dependable tractor.

Rumely Oil Pull tractors were sold between 1910-1930. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

The tractor is the workhorse of the farm. That remains as true today as it did 50 years ago when I still lived in rural Redwood County.

The Massey-Harris is the featured tractor at this year’s show. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

So when I attended the Rice County Steam and Gas Engines Show in rural Dundas on Friday, I began reminiscing. I expect many others did the same while meandering among the rows of vintage tractors or watching the daily high noon parade. This event is heavy on the tractors, threshing machines and farm equipment in general. And that holds appeal for those of us rooted in farms.

Guiding a vintage Allis Chalmers along the parade route on Friday. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

I am old enough to remember tractors without cabs, air conditioning, GPS or other technology. Instead, my dad’s tractors were shaded from the hot summer sun by an umbrella, protected from the winter cold by canvas and guided solely by the skill of hands on the steering wheel.

John Deere tractors like the one I rode in winter to catch the bus to school. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

My most memorable tractor story is that of Dad driving my brother Doug and me the mile into Vesta on the open cab John Deere in the dead of winter so we could get to school. We were both in junior high then, attending school in the county seat some 20 miles to the east. It was a particularly snowy and brutal winter, so awful that buses couldn’t venture onto rural roads to pick up students. If we could get into town, we could catch the bus at the local cafe. From there, the bus took a state highway to the school in Redwood Falls.

Not a B Farmall, but an IH tractor none-the-less. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

Dad wasn’t partial to any tractor brand. He owned John Deere, International Harvester and Ford tractors. The B Farmall remains my favorite as I drove that small scale IH tractor in the farmyard, pulling the flatbed trailer up to the feed bunk to unload hay for the cows.

I found this toy John Deere tractor for sale from vendor Shippy’s Toys. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

John Deere likewise will always hold a special spot in my heart. I remember once a year attending John Deere Days at the farm implement dealership in Redwood Falls. That included a free meal followed by a John Deere promotional movie at the local theater. To eat ice cream from a plastic cup with a little wooden “spoon” and to see a movie on a screen were treats, not to mention the door prizes. Like silver dollars. And bags of seed corn.

Aged threshing machines, well before my time, on exhibit. There are threshing demonstrations during the show. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

Aging has a way of making us view the past through a nostalgic lens. Yet the reality of life on the farm in the 1960s and 1970s is one of hard work and challenges. Uncontrollable factors—weather, prices and more—have always made farming a gamble. Yet, for those of us who grew up on the land, there’s an undeniable sense of hardiness within us, even decades removed from the farm.

Allis Chalmers tractors are among those displayed in the field of tractors. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

When I attend an event like the Rice County Steam and Gas Engines Show, I reconnect to my past. Remembering. Appreciating. Thankful for the land and hard work that shaped me personally and professionally. I expect that’s true for many who walk the show grounds at this rural-rooted annual event in southern Minnesota.

A 1921 Titan International. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

FYI: The Rice County Steam and Gas Engines Show continues today (Sunday, September 4) with gates opening at 7 am and closing at 5:30 pm on the grounds south of Dundas along Minnesota State Highway 3. For more information, visit the club website and/or read my first post on this year’s event. This show is about much more than tractors and other farm equipment.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

All about dragonflies at Montgomery Orchard September 1, 2022

From an elevated platform, a bird’s eye view of the corn maze and the countryside at Montgomery Orchard in 2010. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2010)

THIS TIME OF YEAR, I see, hear, feel autumn on Minnesota’s doorstep.

Already the next-door-neighbor’s maple is turning color, red leaves spiraling into my yard. Goldenrod flag the landscape. Crickets chirp, their incessant chorus singing a refrain of autumn’s approach. Mornings feel pull-on-the-jeans-and-sweatshirt crisp until sunshine warms the day.

And apple season time is underway with area orchards opening, complete with apple picking, hay rides, corn mazes and other activities to draw in customers.

Montgomery Orchard signage in 2010. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2010)

This weekend Montgomery Orchard, located a mile east of the intersections of Minnesota state highways 13 and 99 in Montgomery Township, opens for the 2022 season. Now I could write about many other orchards opening, too, but chose this one to highlight because of a unique program there on Saturday, September 3. The Minnesota Dragonfly Society will present information on dragonflies at 11 am and again at 1 pm with dragonfly catching after each presentation.

A dragonfly. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2022)

Now, I’ve never heard of the Dragonfly Society whose mission is “ensuring the conservation of Minnesota’s dragonflies and damselflies through research and education.” I appreciate that as I find dragonflies fascinating.

The Dragonfly Band has also been booked for the Saturday event at the orchard.

Randy walks through the Minnesota Twins-themed maze in October 2010. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2010)

Montgomery Orchard is going all out with the dragonfly theme this year. The six-acre Be-A-Mazed corn maze is shaped like a dragonfly with interactive trivia about the insect posted throughout the cornfield. Two maze options are offered with a shorter half-hour route geared toward families with young children and a second longer route.

I last visited this orchard 12 years ago, not long after it opened. The business has grown substantially since then, now spreading over 105 rural acres. The Cider Haus is open Saturdays and Sundays, serving five in-house made hard ciders, like Northern Trek and Prairie Harvest, and wine, like the award-winning Plum Crazy and The Full Monty.

Montgomery Orchard bagged apples. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo October 2010)

Apples, in nearly a dozen varieties, are grown and sold here throughout the apple season. Currently ready for picking and/or purchase are Zestar and SweeTango.

In Minnesota, visiting an orchard has developed into an experience, exactly as Montgomery Orchard promotes with its tag, “where friends, family and nature come together.” Hikes and hayrides are also part of the offerings here.

Flamin’ Bleu pizza purchased in-house at Pizzeria 201 in April 2013. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2013)

And on Saturday, popular Montgomery-based Pizzeria 201 will be at the orchard vending pizza from its mobile wood-fired pizza oven. Visitors can also purchase caramel apples, jellies, jams and more from the orchard store.

This orchard is just one of many in my region which I’ve visited and recommend. Others include Apple Creek Orchard, rural Faribault; Trumps Orchard, Faribault; and Fireside Orchard & Gardens, rural Northfield.

TELL ME: Do you have a favorite apple orchard? What makes it a go-to destination for you?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Cars, community & history come together along Central in downtown Faribault July 19, 2022

A lovely lavender car drew my interest against a backdrop of historic buildings in downtown Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

ON A JULY EVENING, as the descending sun shone along the tops of historic buildings in downtown Faribault, I paused to take in the scene before me.

Although signage indicated only registered vehicles could park along Central, other vehicles were parked there. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Checking out the vehicles parked along four blocks of Central Avenue. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2022)

Vehicles outside the Signature Bar & Grill, a popular downtown dining and drinking spot. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Throngs of folks congregated around vehicles parked along Central Avenue during a monthly Friday Downtown Faribault Car Cruise Night.

Among the street-side food vendors, El Jefe, outside its downtown restaurant. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Others visited in groups or stopped to purchase food from food trucks or from a downtown restaurant.

Faribault’s Car Cruise Nights continue to draw crowds to Central Avenue. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I felt the energy, the pulse of people moving, of togetherness. I observed the mingling of cultures, of ages. I sensed a spirit of community which comes in a gathering of people on a lovely summer evening in southern Minnesota. It felt good to be part of this scene.

Vehicles began leaving as the car show wound down. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I arrived close to 8 pm, nearing the end of an event which began hours earlier with a car cruise around area lakes. Yet, I still found plenty of cars, trucks and motorcycles to appreciate. Some old, others new.

I consider hood ornaments, whether original or added, to be works of art. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

My approach to Car Cruise Night is not defined by my interest in cars. Rather, it’s defined by art, by my photographic perspective. By my creativity.

I always peer inside vehicles to see what unusual things I’ll discover, here a Smurf theme. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
I always see lots of dice dangling inside vehicles. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
A quilt covers a seat in an old truck. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I focus on details. Dice. Hood ornaments. Stickers. The gleam of wax-shined chrome. A Smurf. A patchwork quilt covering a truck seat. So much to take in.

A bold, jewel-toned truck drew my eye. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Like a Dreamsicle. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I appreciate, too, the colors. Some bold. Others as dreamy as a Dreamsicle.

Faribault’s downtown historic district is one of the largest in Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Banners identifying Faribault’s Historic District include a vintage photo. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Flashback to yesteryear in this vintage vehicle. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

And then my eyes shift to the setting. Central Avenue, lined with aged buildings of extraordinary architecture, creates an historic feel, adding to the experience of Car Cruise Night. As I watched an open air vintage car head north along the avenue, it was easy to imagine bygone years.

Not all vehicles are old. These sports cars were part of the cruise, parked near Cardboard Vault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

At street level, I see long-time businesses like the Signature Bar & Grill and Burkhartzmeyer Shoes and many new businesses like Good Day Coffee, El Jefe, Cardboard Vault and more, including the many shops opened by immigrants who now call Faribault home. Today’s diversity of ownership reminds me of yesteryear, when immigrants settled here, opened shoe and furniture factories, brewed beer, ran general stores, set up barber chairs and much more in a town settling and growing.

An historic building is reflected on the shiny chrome of a motorcycle parked along Central for Car Cruise Night. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Faribault remains a place of settlement and growth. And a place where, on a Friday evening, I glimpse history in buildings and vehicles. I see, too, the essence of community in this cohesive coming together on a lovely summer evening in July.

FYI: Faribault’s next car show is scheduled for 6-9 PM Friday, August 12, during the Blue Collar BBQ Festival at Teepee Tonka Park on the east side along the Straight River.

Please check back for more photos from the July 15 Car Cruise Night I attended in historic downtown Faribault.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Straight River Art Festival features fine art, music & more May 19, 2022

Promotional graphic created by artist Jeff Jarvis. (Credit: Straight River Art Festival)

WE ARE A CREATIVE BUNCH, we Minnesotans. And this weekend, 20 creatives from Faribault, Northfield and the surrounding area will showcase their work at the Straight River Art Festival.

The new event runs from 9 am–6 pm Saturday, May 21, at Heritage Park, alongside the Straight River, just a block from Faribault’s historic downtown. There fine artists will set up booths to vend their art, engage in conversation and, for some, demonstrate their crafts.

An example of Tami Resler’s pottery. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo March 2021)

Featured art includes stained glass, jewelry, pottery, apparel and accessories, photography, hand-blown glass, textile design, painting, drawing, fiber art, quilting and woodcarving. Some of the artists are familiar, others perhaps not as much. Yet each brings talent and enthusiasm to the creative process. To have them all together in an outdoor setting makes their art easily accessible and visible.

Mark Joseph. (Photo credit: Straight River Art Festival)

Performing artists are also part of the Straight River Art Festival with music by Lil’ Fun Band (11 am-1 pm), Pop Prohibition (1:30-2:30 pm) and Mark Joseph (3-4 pm).

Hands-on art created at a past arts-oriented event in Faribault and unrelated to this Saturday’s festival. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2019)

The Paradise Center for the Arts is involved, too, offering hands-on art activities for kids.

This mural on the back of The Upper East Side in downtown Faribault features the art of Jeff Jarvis, a multi-talented artist at West Cedar Studio, Morristown. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021)

Faribault-based food truck, El Jefe, will be on site vending authentic Mexican food. El Jefe has a restaurant just a block away along Central Avenue, next to Fleur de Lis Gallery. Jess Prill, jewelry artist and gallery owner, is one of the key organizers of the art festival, along with Faribault artists Tami Resler and Paula Person. They’ve also tapped into other artists, like Jeff Jarvis, for help with the fest.

Brigg Evans Textiles are fabric pieces printed from original scanned Seri Batiks created by Suz Klumb, aka Brigg Evans. (Photo credit: Straight River Art Festival)

Prill loves art festivals. And, obviously, art and artists given her creative bend and home-grown Fleur de Lis Gallery. “Faribault is an amazing town with a ton of talent to highlight so I knew this event would be a great way to do that,” she says. She also notes the need for “more fun things for people in the community to do in town.” Her desire to create a new arts festival drew her to Resler and Person, both actively engaged in the arts and with strong connections to local creatives.

Down to Earth Stoneware, pottery by Diane Lockerby. (Photo credit: Straight River Art Festival)

“We are all very passionate about the town and the arts and are very excited to bring this event to the community,” Prill continues.

Bending Sunlight Glassworks, artist Sandra Seelhammer. (Photo credit: Straight River Art Festival)

I’m excited, too, as I share Prill’s love of the arts. I cannot imagine a life without writing and photography. Both feed my spirit, my soul, my need to create. And this Saturday 20 creatives who share that passion will fill Heritage Park with their art and creative energy.

FYI: For more information about the participating artists, visit straightriverartfestival.com by clicking here.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Crafty scarecrows at a craft show in Kenyon October 27, 2021

Fall harvest underway near Kenyon in the Monkey Valley area. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

AUTUMN IN MINNESOTA. Ah, what a season.

A welcome sign at a Kenyon craft show. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo October 2021)

It is the season of harvest, of church dinners, of stunning fall colors. Of football games and simmering soups and visits to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch. September and October are, too, the season of craft shows here in southern Minnesota.

Celebrating the season with a yard full of scarecrows. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

Recently, while returning from a fall color drive into the Sogn Valley and then on to Cannon Falls and back, Randy and I stopped at the 100 Ladies and Gentlemen Craft Sale along Minnesota State Highway 56 on the north edge of Kenyon. This marks the event’s 48th year.

Creative signage outside the craft sale building. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

I’ve shopped here previously, perusing the handcrafted works of regional artists and crafters. From holiday decorations to art to baskets to candles to furniture to coveted homemade caramels and much more, the variety of items showcased inside a poleshed style building are endless. Although I walked in with my camera slung across my shoulder, I didn’t take any photos inside. As I recall, photography isn’t allowed to protect the works of creatives. I get that.

Recognized in a well-known publication. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)
A fancy lady scarecrow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)
Love the bright hues of this creative scarecrow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

Instead, I aimed my lens at the scarecrows entered in the outdoor Scarecrow Contest. On a grassy area, scarecrows stake their spots and vie for visitors’ votes.

My favorite, which calls for close attention to details. Look at the eyes and mouth. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

The gathering of scarecrows adds a festive, seasonal feel to the autumn event.

Traditional scarecrow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)
The scariest, in my opinion. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)
Perhaps the most unusual scarecrow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

It’s fun to meander among them, to view the traditional, the scary, the unusual.

Humor among the scarecrows. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

These scarecrows, too, define the season. They remind me that Halloween is fast-approaching—an anniversary year here in Minnesota. This October 31 marks 30 years since the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. That four-day weather event dumped 28.4 inches of snow in the Twin Cities, with even more, 36.9 inches, in the Lake Superior port city of Duluth. Strong winds accompanied the overwhelming snowfall. And, yes, I remember.

More than just a tad creepy, another favorite scarecrow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

But in this moment, at this place defined by the works of creatives, I appreciated the autumn day. Sunshine and blue sky. Scarecrows’ hair and clothing flapping in the October wind. Winter not yet welcome in this season of craft shows.

FYI: The 100 Ladies and Gentlemen Craft Show continues from 10 am – 8 pm October 28-31 and November 4-7 (closes earlier on the final day).

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Feed your body & feed your soul at weekend events October 8, 2021

An example of rosemaling from MODNordic Arts Studio in Faribault. Mother and daughter, Donna Johnson and Lyn Rein, create this Nordic art, which I photographed at the Valley Grove County Social in 2019. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo.

CHURCH DINNERS AND ART. I love both. And this weekend, I can indulge in each in my region of southern Minnesota.

The clay art of Faribault artist Tami Resler. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo March 2021.

The Studio ARTour of South Central Minnesota is already underway, kicking off from 4 – 8 pm today/Friday (at select studios) and continuing through Sunday. The annual event features 36 artists in 17 studios in the Faribault-Farmington-Northfield area.

It’s been awhile since I did this tour and I’m uncertain whether I can fit it in this year. But if you’re free and want to explore the arts at a grassroots level, then this is a must-do event.

Faribault artist Julie Fakler specializes in bold animal portraits. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo.

From jewelry-making to painting to textiles to photography to pottery to ceramics and more, this tour takes you into studios and/or art centers/spaces to meet the artists. To connect. To engage in conversation. To admire and purchase the work of these creatives.

Truly, talent abounds.

Just note that, with COVID-19 still running rampant, you need to mask up.

This year’s meal will be take-out only. In previous years, take-out was available. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo.

The pandemic has also affected the annual Fall Dinner at Trinity Lutheran Church, North Morristown. That’s the country church of July Fourth celebration fame. This year’s dinner will be take-out only, with meals delivered to vehicles. You’re encouraged to arrive early for the 11 am – 1 pm dinner on Sunday, October 10.

Diners pack the Trinity church basement during a past Fall Dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo.

In a non-pandemic year, crowds gather in the sanctuary and then cram into the church basement for this popular meal of turkey, ham and all the trimmings. I’ve attended numerous times and will tell you this home-cooked dinner is beyond delicious. And it’s yours for only $10.

Some of the food served at Trinity’s Fall Dinner. There’s more. It didn’t all fit on my plate. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo.

There you go. If you’re looking for an escape into art and/or crave a meal that’s like Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house or Thanksgiving dinner, then take in both of these events. And, bonus, you’ll probably also see some incredible fall colors along the way.

FYI:

Click here for more information (including a map of locations) about the Studio ARTour of South Central Minnesota. The tour runs from 10 am-6 pm Saturday, October 9, and from 10 am – 5 pm Sunday, October 10.

Click here for more info about the Fall Dinner at Trinity, North Morristown.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Racing woodticks in Cuyuna August 3, 2021

The Woodtick Inn in Cuyuna. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2021.

I GET GIDDY UPON discovering something totally odd and quirky or whatever word fits a place like the Woodtick Inn, host to the annual Woodtick Races in Cuyuna.

Cuyuna City Hall. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2021.

During a recent cabin stay in the Brainerd lakes region, Randy and I routed through Cuyuna on our way to Crosby some four miles to the south. We often follow the road less traveled because doing so can lead to fascinating finds.

Woodtick Races scoreboards posted on the side of the Woodtick Inn. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2021.

And for us on this day, it was the woodtick-dubbed bar and grill and, of all things, Woodtick Races. The Inn hosts the races annually on the second Saturday of June.

An artist’s rendition of a woodtick hangs on the bar’s exterior. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2021.

But let’s back up a minute. What, exactly, is a woodtick? It’s a parasitic arachnid. Yup, a nasty bug that will latch into your skin and suck your blood. Many varieties of woodticks exist. But those raced in Cuyuna are the common American Dog Tick. And, yes, these ticks will find a host in a dog.

The sign which first caught my eye when entering Cuyuna. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2021.

Many years have passed since a woodtick determined I would be a good feeding source. But, as a child, I often found ticks stuck to my skin after playing outdoors. And, yes, they can spread diseases. And, no, I don’t like them. Not one bit.

The Woodtick Inn also welcomes anglers in this big fishing region. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2021.

But I can embrace Woodtick Races. What a novel event that puts Cuyuna, a former iron ore mining town in Crow Wing County, on the map. Or at least on our map. Cuyuna, a community of about 350, sits on the Cuyuna Iron Range. While the local mine closed long ago, going from boom to bust between 1907-1925, the mine lakes left behind now draw vacationers into the region.

There’s plenty of outdoor space for racing woodticks. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2021.

And I expect the annual Woodtick Races also draw plenty of participants and curious observers. This year, the 42nd annual event, the top three cash prizes ranged from $224-$560. That’s a good chunk of change for a race with a $5 entry fee and an additional $1 if you buy a “caught” tick rather than bring your own.

Lots of original signage identifies the Woodtick Inn. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2021.

I wondered aloud how event organizers gather woodticks for the races. “Send a kid into the woods,” Randy joked.

Meat raffles are a draw at the Woodtick Inn also. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2021.

However those ticks are gathered, the rules call for racers to place their woodticks in the middle of a circle on a table. Whichever tick reaches the outside of the circle first wins. And, yes, referees oversee the races.

In 2021, Gopher Tackle, based in Cuyuna for 40 years, was sold and relocated to Milford, Iowa. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2021.

Some day I hope to witness these races at the Woodtick Inn in Cuyuna. And I need to further explore the spread-out town named after surveyor Cuyler Adams and his Saint Bernard, Una. The Cuyuna I saw is vastly different from a boom town that once housed a hospital, high school, theater, hotels, saloons, grocery stores and much more. A town once teeming with iron ore miners and their families. And today, woodticks.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating Faribault with Heritage Days June 17, 2021

A sweeping view of Faribault from City View Park shows the Shattuck-St. Mary’s campus. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2020.

SUMMERTIME IN MINNESOTA means cramming a whole lot of fun into our days. Lake time and family time. Backyard BBQs. Weddings and grad parties and reunions. And community celebrations. With limited months of sunshine and warmth, we are drawn to such gatherings, especially those that happen outdoors.

This week my community celebrates Faribault Heritage Days. The event kicked off on Wednesday and continues through the weekend.

From a Mayor’s Reception to concerts, BINGO, car and magic shows, cardboard boat and soap box races, fishing and medallion hunt contests, city-wide garage and farmers’ market sales, and much more—including the Grand Parade at 6:15 pm Saturday—there’s lots to see and do. Click here for the complete listing of events.

While Heritage Days doesn’t have the same emotional connection for me as those who grew up here, it still means something. I view the event as a way to connect and grow a sense of community. And, after a year of separation and isolation and canceled community celebrations due to COVID-19, we’re ready for this.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling