Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The B’s have it with bargain books, bluebirds, Big Bang Boom & beer April 21, 2017

I LOVE BOOKS. And I love a bargain.

Combine the two and you have a used book sale. This week and next, book lovers in my area have opportunities to shop two used book sales.

The first, the annual Faribault American Association of University Women’s Book Sale opened Thursday at the Faribo West Mall and continues through April 25. Hours are from 10 a.m. to mall closing on April 21 – 23 and then from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. April 24 – 25. There’s an added activity—a Kids’ Karnival from 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.


Books I selected from the “Minnesota table,” albeit Prairie Perpendicular (one of my all-time favorite fiction books) is set in small North Dakota farming community and written by a North Dakotan. I bought these at a past AAUW Book Sale. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I try to shop this sale every year, looking primarily for vintage and Minnesota-themed/authored books. But now that I have a one-year-old granddaughter I likely will also spend more time in the children’s books section.


Books my son purchased at a past AAUW sale. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


When my son was still home—he’s 23 now and living in Boston—he would haul home bags of fantasy and science fiction titles. He’s a voracious reader.

Just up the road about 15 miles, the Northfield Hospital Auxiliary is hosting its 56th annual book sale from April 25 – 29 at the Northfield Ice Arena. This is a mega sale where you can easily spend hours perusing books, puzzles, DVDs, CDs and vinyl. Hours are from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. April 25, from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. April 26 – 28 and from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. April 29. Books are free from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. on the final day.


I found this vintage (perhaps 1960s) booklet at last year’s AAUW Book Sale. I love the graphics. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I appreciate the efforts of the many volunteers who collect, haul, organize and sell these used books and more as a service to the community and as a way to raise monies for scholarships, community projects and more.

TELL ME: Do you shop an annual used book sale? Where? What draws you there?


Promo courtesy of the Bluebird Recovery Program.


NOW ABOUT THOSE BIRDS…the Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota holds its annual expo from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday at the Northfield Middle School. If bluebirds interest you as much as books interest me, then consider attending this event. Click here to learn more about “bringing back bluebirds for future generations.” Expo registration cost is $15 or $25 for registration and lunch.


Big Bang Boom. Photo courtesy of the Paradise Center for the Arts.


IT WON’T COST YOU anything to attend a concert at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue North, Faribault. The free concert by the pop/rock music trio Big Bang Boom is geared toward families.


Faribault artist Rhody Yule (now deceased) created this oil painting of the Fleckenstein Brewery in 1976. The building, and the brewery, no longer exist. The 20-foot Fleck’s beer bottle on the right side of the painting sat near the brewery entrance. Children often had their pictures taken here when their parents took a brewery tour. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


ADULTS WITH AN INTEREST in Minnesota brewing history will want to attend the Fleckenstein Brewery Walking Tour in Faribault on Saturday. Sponsored by the Rice County Historical Society and led by local Fleckenstein historian Brian Schmidt, the popular tours will be offered at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Good walking/hiking shoes are a must. Click here for more info and/or call 507-332-2121 to reserve a tour spot. The tours are filling quickly; don’t expect to get in if you just show up.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Experience holiday festivities this weekend in Faribault December 8, 2016

Mike Fuchs guides his team or horses southbound on Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault late Saturday afternoon.

A scene along Central Avenue during the 2015 holiday season. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON blankets Faribault this weekend with holiday events ranging from a figure skating show to a kids’ Christmas party to concerts to a home-grown theatrical production and much more.

Dark wood and stone define the cathedral interior.

Dark wood and stone define the sanctuary at The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

When I started jotting a list of events, even I was astounded. I could schedule my entire weekend around enjoying myself rather than focusing on holiday prep. If I wasn’t donating blood on Friday evening, I could kick my weekend off by attending Handel’s Messiah, presented at 7:30 p.m. by the Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra at The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour, 515 Second Avenue Northwest.

Some of the cast members of "Wrapped in Love & Glory" pose inside the Faribault Woolen Mill. Photo by Edward Brown.

Some of the cast members of “Wrapped in Love & Glory” pose inside the Faribault Woolen Mill. Photo by Edward Brown and courtesy of The Merlin Players.

I already have tickets for The Merlin Players performance of “Wrapped in Love & Glory,” an original play written by Faribault native Michael Lambert. “The show weaves together the letters, history and music of the women working in the Faribault Woolen Mill to make blankets for the troops fighting overseas during WW II,” according to a TMP press release. Twenty-six songs from that era are incorporated in to the production.

The show opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue, with additional evening performances set for December 10 and 15 – 17. Sunday shows are at 2 p.m. on December 11 and 18. Click here for more information or call (507) 332-7372.

This jar of veggies carries the perfect name, "Summer in a Jar."

Canned produce sold at the summer Faribault Farmer’s Market. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Also at the Paradise are the creations of area artists. Perfect for holiday giving. Additionally, from 1 – 4 p.m. Saturday, the Winter Farmers’ Market opens inside the Paradise with local vendors selling everything from eggs to maple syrup to soap, baked goods and more.

Historic buildings in downtown Faribault are decorated for the holiday season.

Historic downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Historic downtown Faribault will be one busy place Saturday as Faribault Main Street also hosts its second annual Holiday Snack Contest from noon – 3 p.m. While you shop, you can sample tasty treats at local businesses. All through-out the downtown, local shopkeepers (and even a pop-up shop) offer a variety of goods—shoes, home décor, antiques, electronics, specialty gifts, baked goods, cheese

We wanted to sample all of the beers on tap, so we ordered a flight.

A sampling of flight offerings at F-Town. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

And let’s not forget the beer. Drink it on-site at F-Town Brewing, just off Central, or purchase a growler to take home. Or check out a local liquor store for F-Town beers.

The cast, with the little Snowflakes on the right as audience favorites.

A scene from the 2012 ice skating show at Shattuck. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

If you’re out and about with your family, drive to Faribault’s east side for Shattuck-St. Mary’s School’s annual Christmas Walk. The free community event begins with a “Christmas Spectacular on Ice” show at noon in the SSM Sports Complex. Festivities continue thereafter until 4 p.m. on the Shattuck campus with musical performances; activities for kids in Morgan Refectory; visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus (from 1:30 – 4 p.m.) in The Inn; and a 3:30 p.m. holiday concert in The Chapel of the Good Shepherd.

Kids worked on holiday crafts in the dining hall.

Kids worked on holiday crafts in the dining hall at Shattuck. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

On Sunday, there’s more family-oriented fun, this time at the Faribault Eagles, 2027 Grant Street, as the club hosts its annual free Kids Christmas Party from noon to 3 p.m. for kids 12 and under accompanied by an adult.

Nearby at the Faribo West Mall, shoppers can take in a 3 – 3:30 p.m. Sunday concert by the Faribault High School Orchestra followed by the Faribault Area Community Band’s “A Christmas Concert for Busy People.” That concert title seems especially fitting given the season and all that’s happening in Faribault. These pre-Christmas weekends are busy ones in my southeastern Minnesota community.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A chicken even I can love December 14, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:13 AM
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SOMETIMES I TAKE photos and then have nowhere to weave them into the fabric of a blog post. So you never see them.

Take two images I shot last Saturday afternoon at the Faribo West Mall in a store selling a hodge podge of collectibles, clothing and other, well, stuff. I can’t tell you the name of the place because I don’t recall seeing a business sign. And when I purchased two items (not these), the shopkeeper simply stuffed my five $1 bills into his pants pocket.

All of that aside, I spotted so many objects that I wanted to photograph simply for the color, the art, the shape, the uniqueness, the nostalgia. But, I also did not feel comfortable clicking away unfettered while other shoppers browsed.

Thus, I focused my camera on only two pieces of colorful merchandise—a rainbow-hued glass elephant and a vibrant wind-up chicken.

When I show you those two unedited images, you might be impressed. But probably not. Here are the original untouched photos:

Except for resizing, I've done nothing with this photo of a glass elephant.

Except for resizing, I’ve done nothing with this photo of a glass elephant.

The original chicken photo, only resized.

The original chicken photo, only resized.

Then I opted to play with my photo editing tools, of which I understand little. I once edited and posted some winter photos here and then a reader asked “How did you do that?” Seems she wanted to duplicate what I had done. I could not tell her.

But this time, oh, this time, I am going to exercise my smartness by telling you I simply clicked on the “posterize” editing tool and these were the results:

I clicked on "posterize" and this was the result.

A bolder and more modern looking posterized chicken.

Isn’t this fun?

Ta-da, the posterized elephant.

Ta-da, the posterized elephant.

I took plain ordinary images and, with the click of my mouse, transformed them into works of art that really don’t resemble photos at all.

I’m especially smitten with that chicken. And for me to admit any fowl love…

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS on these two transformed photos or photo editing in general? Do you use photo editing tools to enhance your photos and/or create art?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Christmas gift possibilities crafted in southern Minnesota December 10, 2012

THIS TIME OF YEAR the crafters emerge, peddling their wares at malls and craft shows.

I am nearly always impressed and, in all sincerity, envious of their talents. How do they manage to transform a simple piece of wood into a work of art, a skein of yarn into something beautiful and wearable, food ingredients into the most delectable treats…?

Saturday’s craft show at the Faribo West Mall presented an array of crafters showcasing their work for sale.

I couldn’t possibly photograph everyone, so here’s a sampling of the offerings.

Beautifully-packaged Cheryl's Turtles.

Beautifully-packaged Cheryl’s Turtles.

Let’s begin with Cheryl’s Turtles, sinfully delicious candy created by Cheryl Morris in her south Faribault home. Cheryl was parceling out samples of her treat prepared, she emphasized, with her homemade caramel. I was especially impressed with Cheryl’s lovely product packaging; this woman clearly understands the value in presentation. She even told me that her sons, who are sales reps, will gift their customers with these delightful mini packages of sweetness. Cheryl stirs up candy year-round and these same packages will fit her Valentine’s Day marketing plan.

JENean Mortenson's art painted onto a box.

JENean Mortenson’s art painted onto a box.

JENean Mortenson, who shared a table with Cheryl, was selling her hand-painted pieces and stained glass art by her husband. Although she did not specifically tell me this, JENean’s love of gardening clearly influences her art. I’m not sure how we even got on the topic of gardening, but this rural Faribault woman’s gardens have been on the local garden tour many times.

Chuck Henry's cutting boards crafted from reclaimed wood scraps.

Chuck Henry’s cutting boards crafted from reclaimed wood scraps.

Nearby, Faribault resident Chuck Henry takes an approach to crafting that truly fits today’s trendy green living. He uses reclaimed wood from his brother Dave’s custom cabinet shop to saw, glue and press pieces of otherwise cast-off wood scraps into one-of-a-kind cutting boards, trivets and cheese trays. Chuck calls his creations “usable and kind of pretty.” He’s nailed it with that modest description.

Nyla Wille knits while she and her husband tend their table.

Nyla Wille knits while she and her husband tend their table.

Yarn flies across the needles in Nyla's crafty hands.

Yarn flies across the needles in Nyla’s crafty hands.

Next table over, Nyla Wille of Morristown was knitting faster than I could photograph. She asked if I was from the local daily paper and I explained that I’m a blogger simply passionate about writing and photography and sharing my discoveries with readers. Then she tipped me off to a recent visit to the Mall of America by ABC resulting in the Faribault Woolen Mill Co. making “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer” on December 5. The mill’s MOA store was highlighted in a segment called “Made in America, Christmas Edition: The Store America Built.” How cool is that? You can watch that video by clicking here. And you can check out the woolen mill’s on-site store in Faribault by clicking here.

A snippet of the cross Bud Paschke crafted honoring veterans from all branches of the military.

A snippet of the cross Bud Paschke crafted honoring veterans from all branches of the military.

Anyone with a veteran on their Christmas gift list could find the perfect gift among Faribault resident Bud Paschke’s scroll-sawed fretwork designs. It amazes me how anyone can cut such fine details into a piece of wood without sawing off one’s fingertips.

One of Cheryl Anderson's creations from her Nana's Hat Shop.

One of Cheryl Anderson’s creations from her Nana’s Hat Shop.

I absolutely fell for Cheryl Anderson’s array of Nana’s Hat Shop hats, mittens, baby sweaters and other handiwork crocheted in often vibrant hues. This Faribault woman even allowed me to position a Styrofoam head for the best photo op. How “Minnesota Nice” is that?

A sampling of Linda Kooyer's jewelry.

A sampling of Linda Kooyer’s jewelry.

Linda Kooyer’s table was splashed with jewelry, where she sold bracelets for as low as 6 for $5. I snapped up one made of wood.

A holiday doily crocheted years ago by some crafty crafter.

A holiday doily crocheted years ago by some crafty crafter.

Finally, Verna Bahl, a long-time Avon collector, was selling a few of the remaining items in her collection as well as some vintage stuff like this Christmas doily. I contemplated purchasing the crocheted poinsettia piece for the pure kitsch art aspect, but decided, yeah, I really don’t need this. But that did not keep me from snatching up several delicate vintage floral handkerchiefs for a quarter apiece.

TELL ME. Are you a crafter crafting gifts for family and/or selling your creations at holiday craft shows?

IF ANYONE WISHES to connect with any of the crafters featured here, I can connect you. Submit a comment with your contact info (I won’t publish the contact info) and I will pass it along.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Thrifting at the mall March 28, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:28 AM
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Terry's Curiosities and Collectables offers mostly collectible glassware, not at thrift store prices, but lower than at an antique store. So for purposes of this post, I'm terming Terry's a thrift store.

LONG BEFORE thrifting became fashionable, I thrifted. I shopped primarily at garage and rummage sales because second-hand stores simply weren’t all that common nearly 27 years ago.

Yes, I’ve been thrifting that long, since before my first-born was born. Baby clothes and kids’ clothes, books and toys comprised those early bargain purchases.

As the years passed, my shopping habits shifted away from the needs of my growing-into-teenagers kids toward myself—to the vintage tablecloths, drinking glasses and prints/paintings/miscellaneous artwork I collect.

And as the years have passed and thrift stores have opened in my community of Faribault, I find myself turning more to those stores than to rummage sales to shop on the cheap.

I also focus more on nostalgia, discovering that which connects me to days gone-by. The older I grow, the more I appreciate my past.

Let me show you some of the merchandise I perused on a recent stop at Terry’s Curiosities and Collectables (sic) and the Salvation Army Store in the Faribo West Mall.

As long as you’re tagging along with me on this shopping trip, let’s play a little game. I’ll show you the goods and you guess which I purchased.

Here we go:

I remember when my mom popped these Sylvania flashbulbs into her camera.

I remember the time my son saw a rotary dial phone in a thrift store and had no clue how to use it. Heck, I remember life without a phone growing up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie.

This vintage piece is as much clock as art. I call her "The Girl with Attitude."

A working General Electric alarm clock made from wood.

A hand-stitched rural scene.

I found games packing shelves at the Salvation Army, including this vintage version of Password.

Alright then, have you made your guesses? Which of the above two did I buy?

And which of the above two did I wish I’d purchased?

PURCHASED: The General Electric alarm clock for $4 and the needlework art for $2.

SHOULD HAVE PURCHASED: The Password game at the Salvation Army and “The Girl with Attitude” clock (which I think was out of my thrifty price range) at Terry’s Curiosities and Collectables.

Would you have bought any of these items?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Let’s have some chili February 26, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 2:04 PM
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YESTERDAY THE FARIBO WEST MALL sponsored a first-ever Chili Contest. I posted about this already.

But I have more photos to show you; I didn’t want to cram all of them into a single drawn-out post.

So join me at the mall as we grab some chili.

If you’re entering on the west end of the mall, just follow this sign, posted on the door of KLIK Photography, …

…past the Lucy statue to the crowd way down at the east mall entrance.

After you’ve purchased a plastic spoon for $1, with those proceeds benefiting the Faribault Food Shelf, peruse the 16 chili offerings.

Don’t miss the condiments served by some contestants. However, if you want a true, pure taste of the chili or you are trying to avoid calories, you may want to skip the enticing extras.

But do not skip checking out the table decor like this chili station tended by Hannah Plath serving her dad Jeff Langmeier’s hot chili. I would have awarded this table top prize in decorating.

 As you’re served chili, observe the details like the pepper necklace and devil horns worn by Hannah Plath to emphasize the heat in her dad’s chili. Note the judge (Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism President Kymn Anderson) with her clipboard.

Keep a watchful eye on the judges (Faribault Mayor John Jasinski, left, and Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn) while they sample Kristen Langmeier’s chili, or any chili for that matter. 

You can tell a lot about a chili by watching the facial expressions of those tasting it. Yes, when I sampled one particular chili, the entrant and his family (Bill Frogge, winner on the celebrity judging), fixed their eyes on me. I willed myself not to flinch at Frogge’s fiery chili.  

Afterward, when they weren’t watching, I sneaked over to the water cooler.

But what the chili contestants don’t know…

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A Saturday afternoon sampling chili & more at the mall February 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:22 PM
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The Faribo West Mall, just off Interstate 35 and Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault.

FROM FIERY PEPPER HOT to cinnamon sweet to overpowered by tomatoes, chilies served at the Faribo West Mall’s Saturday afternoon Chili Contest offered enough variety to satisfy any taste.

My husband and I paid $1 each for a plastic spoon with which to sample the 16 chilies like those offered by Kristen Langmeier and her daughter Hannah Plath. Serving side by side, Kristen said she was competing against her husband, Jeff. Hannah scooped up her dad’s “very spicy” no-bean chili laced with bacon and grilled steak. Kristen ladled her “regular spicy” chili infused with beer.

Faribault residents Hannah Plath, left, and her mom, Kristen Langmeier, served two types of chili. Entries were judged on taste and presentation by celebrity judges. The dining public simply chose one favorite.

Celebrity judges Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn, left, Faribault Mayor John Jasinski and President of the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Kymn Anderson sample the chili.

At another table, a former Texan removed the seeds from the jalapenos to quell the heat in his no-bean chili. He noted that in Texas you don’t add beans to chili.

But there were plenty of beans in the Minnesota chilies along with a variety of meats from ground pork to turkey to chicken, beef and more.

Once we’d tried the chilies, in between watching performances by the Joy of Dance Academy II dancers, Randy and I wandered the mall. That’s exactly what contest organizers hoped—that diners would also explore businesses housed in the shopping center.

Dancers performed outside the mall's main tenant, JC Penney.

Young dancers watch an older, more experienced dancer perform.

I’ll be honest here. I rarely get beyond the mall’s anchor store, JC Penney on the north end, or the Salvation Army on the opposite end.

Everything in between seems mostly a changing landscape of empty space and retail stores that come and go, with a few businesses, like Maurices, that have been around for awhile.

Organizers of the Chili Contest, which benefited the Faribault Food Shelf, were aiming to dispel the belief among locals that “there’s nothing at the mall.” The recent closure of the mall’s movie theater, the only one in Faribault, prompted discussion around town about the mall’s future within the community.

I’m here to report that, yes, the Faribo West Mall definitely has plenty of empty space for tenants. But it also has many businesses, albeit businesses that weren’t particularly busy when we toured at mid-afternoon Saturday.

I was delighted to discover this shop crammed with collectibles. Note: It's not open every day.

I loved the colors in this vintage clock at Terry's shop.

Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a shop like Terry’s Curiosities and Collectables (sic) which has been in the mall for three years (who knew?) and sells everything from clothing to collectibles to sports cards and more. It’s a place I’ll return to.

A snippet of the mall's "Freedom Shrine."

And how could I have failed to notice the “Freedom Shrine” along a mall wall featuring framed copies of the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence and more? It’s been there since 1983, a year after I moved to town, for gosh sakes.

That’s the problem. All too often we fail to notice and appreciate what we have. So let me show you more of what the Faribo West Mall offers rather than lamenting what it’s missing.

More mall businesses.

Bella's, a cozy shop, sells these vivid shoes, helps with party planning and more.

Reading a newspaper while waiting at the mall barbershop.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling