Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by 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.


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


From Farmington, Part II: Building community through art August 8, 2018

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I’M A MEGA FAN of accessible outdoor public art. Like murals.



Earlier this year, I came across a lengthy mural on the side of the Farmington Steak House in the heart of this south metro Minnesota downtown. It is the project of many—adults and youth—and funded by many.



“Reflections and Visions” embraces the idea of community, past, present and future. I like the concept of people coming together to create, to celebrate history and cultures and more in a work of public art.





In this age of so much conflict, so much hatred and anger and disagreement, I appreciate the efforts of these artists to focus on the positive, to see that each of us, though different, define community.





I am not so naïve as to think any singular mural will solve the issues that divide us. But we must start somewhere. And art seems a good place to begin.

TELL ME: Have you come across a similar outdoor public art installation that builds community and bridges differences? I’d like to hear.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


From Farmington, Part I: A quick look at downtown August 7, 2018


ON ONE OF THE FIRST warm weekends of spring here in Minnesota, Randy and I stopped in Farmington, a south metro community we’ve visited once prior. It was the kind of sunny late April afternoon ideal for meandering with my camera.





Farmington, given its nearness to the Twin Cites and population of 22,000-plus, surprises me with its small town feel. At least in the downtown business district. Here primarily professional services businesses and bars and restaurants occupy space along with minimal retail and government services.



We popped into two gift shops, but otherwise simply walked through the downtown. On this afternoon, steak on the grill—from the Farmington Steak House and the VFW Steak Fry—scented the gusty winds. Had it been any other time of day than mid-afternoon, we would have been tempted to dine at one or the other. We weren’t even hungry for ice cream from Cow Interrupted! Ice Cream Studio. Next visit.




Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.


Around the corner and a block away from the ice cream shop, this town’s agricultural roots remain visible in an aged grain elevator and grain bins. In too many communities, such vintage elevators have deteriorated or disappeared. I hope Farmington folks understand the historic and aesthetic value of these structures, real assets to the downtown.





Likewise the Lion’s Club street clock that marks a stunning brick building anchoring a corner in the heart of the business district. I love that clock. And the historic building.



And the mural on the side of the Farmington Steak House.





I delighted, too, in the humor of local marketing and the handwritten note posted by the barber. These are the details that give a town character, that personalize a place, that make me want to return.



HOW ABOUT YOU? What draws your interest in a community if you are viewing it for the first time during a pop-in visit?

CHECK BACK TOMORROW for a closer look at that Steak House mural as I publish a second post that has been in draft for a few months.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The place where everybody knows your name… August 12, 2014

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DO YOU EVER WONDER about a business name, how it came to be? I do.

A popular watering hole in Courtland, Minnesota. Look closely at the sign and you'll see a small crow perched on the letter "O."

A popular watering hole in Courtland, Minnesota. Look closely at the sign and you’ll see a small crow perched on the letter “O.”

Let’s take The Crow Bar and Grill in Courtland along U.S. Highway 14 just east of New Ulm. I’ve passed this bar countless times on my way to and from my native southwestern Minnesota. I even imbibed there many decades ago.

But not until this last trip, did my husband and I discuss the bar’s moniker. I’d always assumed The Crow Bar was linked to the obnoxious bird by the same name. I write “obnoxious” because crows  awaken me too many mornings with a raucous caw, caw, caw. I’m right, according to the miniscule crow perched on the “O” in the bar’s signage.

My husband, however, contemplated that the name could also refer to a crow bar, as in a tool. How clever. Perfect. The Crow Bar.

Never been inside this bar in downtown Farmington.

Never been inside this bar in downtown Farmington.

Over in Farmington, south of the Twin Cities metro, I came across Gossips Bar & Grill with the tag line, You heard it here first!

Now isn’t that the truth when it comes to bar talk and old crows.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Patriotic goodness & more at an occasional shop in Farmington June 28, 2014

Vintage Marketplace in Farmington

Vintage Marketplace in Farmington

I HAPPENED UPON a sweet little shop in Farmington today.

Nancy, left, and Nita.

Nancy, left, and Nita.

Nancy, the owner, and Nita, who sells at Vintage Marketplace, provided a warm welcome for my husband and me who were out on one of our “drives.”

This occasional shop at 302 Oak Street in the heart of downtown, is packed with antiques, collectibles and crafty goodness.

A summery patriotic scene outside the shop.

A summery, patriotic scene outside the shop.

With the Fourth of July only days away, I turned my camera lens to all things red, white and blue. Be assured, though, that this marketplace is filled with lots of great finds, not just Fourth of July related merchandise.

Here’s a sampling of the patriotic goodness you will discover inside:

Fourth of July, AMERICA


Fourth of July, embroidered flag


Fourth of July, banners


Fourth of July, Statue of Liberty


Fourth of July, light and banners


Fourth of July, star


Fourth of July, flag on ladder


However…if you want to purchase anything showcased here, you will have exactly five hours to do so. Nancy’s shop opens at 11 a.m. tomorrow (Sunday, June 29) and closes at 4 p.m. Remember, hers is an occasional shop, meaning she’s open only two weekends a month and on the third Thursday for Ladies Night.

When the Vintage Marketplace reopens on July 17, it will be filled with completely new inventory, Nancy tells me.

This is definitely a shop worth visiting as much for the merchandise as the friendly crew who run it.

FYI: Learn more about Vintage Marketplace by clicking here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling