Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Watching Winterfest fireworks December 8, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Fireworks explode in Faribault, the historic viaduct in the background (left) and Buckham Center to the right, background. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

FIREWORKS SOARED, bursting in sound and light against the December night sky. Festive red clouding the air with red smoke. Streaks of light, uncolored. Circled jolts that made me look away.

I stood near Randy on the footbridge, aiming my camera lens skyward, toward the celebratory display launched from a nearby grassy space by the Straight River. Near the viaduct which carries foot and vehicle traffic from east to west and west to east.

This image is the result of moving my camera at a slow shutter speed during the fireworks. I love the artsy results. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

In the distance, I noticed holiday lights shining along Central Avenue, decorated vehicles awaiting the start of Winterfest’s Parade of Lights. We’d already decided, before leaving home, that we wouldn’t attend this year due to expected stationary crowds. That exceeds our comfort level during COVID.

Lots of seasonal red fireworks… (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

But for 10 minutes, as I delighted in fireworks, I nearly forgot about the pandemic…until a man edged too close and engaged in conversation. I shifted away from him and he soon moved on, perhaps reading my body language.

It was an ideal evening for viewing fireworks. Not too cold, although by display’s end, my exposed photographing fingers felt winter’s nip. But there’s something especially wonderful about December fireworks—no mosquitoes.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Faribault celebrates Winterfest December 3, 2021

A city of Faribault snowplow in a past Winterfest parade. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

THROUGHOUT MINNESOTA, including in Faribault, December brings holiday and winter-themed events. In a typical year, I’d embrace all of these celebrations. But, like last December, we are still very much in the middle of a pandemic. And, for me, that means skipping most crowded events. Even those which are outdoors. If people masked and were mostly (all) vaccinated, I would feel more comfortable. But that isn’t happening. At least not locally.

Crowds gather along historic Central Avenue as the sun set prior to a past Parade of Lights. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2017)

With that as a disclaimer, I want to share that Faribault is celebrating Winterfest, which began on Thursday and continues through Saturday. It’s a wonderful celebration with a wide range of activities. And I expect because COVID-19 canceled Winterfest in 2020, lots of folks will join in this year’s festivities. I encourage you, if you attend, to remember that our county is still in a high community transmission rate for COVID and to take care to protect yourself and others.

The dining room table set for the holidays during the Christmas open house at the Alexander Faribault house. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2017)

Friday, December 3:

  • Horse-drawn wagon rides along Central Avenue
  • Shattuck-St. Mary’s snow sculpting by Burkhartzmeyer Shoes (weather permitting)
At the 2018 Sleds on Central Vintage Snowmobile Show. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2018)

Saturday, December 4:

  • Sleds on Central Vintage Snowmobile Show, 1 – 4 pm, 400 block of Central Avenue (food and beverages available for purchase)
  • Fireworks, launched near the viaduct, 5:30 pm
  • Parade of Lights on Central Avenue between 1st and 6th Streets, 5:50 pm
  • Street Dance with music by Fender Bender, 400 block of Central after the parade (food and beverages available for purchase)
  • Elf, The Musical, 7:30 pm at the Paradise Center for the Arts (also showing at 2 pm Sunday, December 5, and other dates; check the Paradise website) Masks recommended per CDC guidelines.
Last year’s Holiday Tree Display. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2021)

Also check out the Faribault Parks & Rec Department Holiday Tree Display in Central Park, now through December 9.


© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


From fireworks to face masks… July 9, 2020

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An over-sized American flag flies along Interstate 90 near Madison, Wisconsin, on the Fourth of July.


MADISON, WISCONSIN on the Fourth of July is, if anything, noisy. Loud with fireworks. We sat on the balcony of our son’s apartment in the Atwood neighborhood the evening of July 4 and watched and listened as fireworks spread across the night sky. Left. Right. And in between. No fireworks from an organized official public show, but from neighborhoods.


A pop-up fireworks tent in Mauston, where we stopped for a picnic lunch.


Randy and I arrived in the capital city in the early afternoon, passing numerous fireworks businesses en route. A temporary tent in Mauston. A permanent fireworks building in some other location along Interstate 90 that I can’t recall.


A large-scale fireworks business just off I-90 near Madison.


Wisconsinites like to do it up big with their fireworks, brats, beer and cheese.


Lots of campers on I-90.


Traffic volumes were heavy along I-90 and the city of Madison thrumming with people and traffic. You could forget for a moment or ten that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic except for the people wearing masks and the electronic road signs advising travelers to “buckle up and mask up.”


A public service announcement flashes over I-90. I saw this message numerous times along I-90. Thank you, Wisconsin, for the reminder.


I appreciate the message. And I appreciate, too, the many people I saw in Madison wearing face masks, showing their care and concern for others. We could learn a thing or two from the good folks of Madison about the importance of wearing masks. (At least here in many parts of greater southern Minnesota. Thank you, Rochester, Mankato and Winona, Minnesota, for mandating mask wearing. St. Paul and Minneapolis, too.)

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Winterfest, Take Two December 10, 2018

Source: Faribault Main Street Facebook page


A spectacular fireworks show, sort of July 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:49 AM
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The most magnificent of fireworks displays, viewed by millions.

THIS WAS, WITHOUT QUESTION, the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen.

Multiple fireworks shot simultaneously above the water, exploding non-stop in the night sky like “the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air.”

I sat riveted, in awe, wondering how the pyrotechnicians managed this show, this exact timing, this magnificence before me.

Coordinated with patriotic songs like The Battle Hymn of the Republic and The Star Spangled Banner, this Fourth of July fireworks show impressed and inspired. I’d never seen such a spectacular scene on Independence Day.

Yet, something was missing. And, truth be told, watching fireworks from the comfort of a La-Z-Boy recliner in your air conditioned living room simply does not measure up to sitting outdoors on a lawn chair in a mid-sized Minnesota town watching fireworks soar, one by one, into the air.

For the first time in forever, my family skipped the local fireworks show, choosing instead to view the annual Macy’s fireworks extravaganza televised from New York.

Although the show ranked beyond impressive, I missed the experience of lounging outside, gazing at the expansive sky, anticipating each burst, hearing the ooooohs and the aaaaahs, the cheering, the clapping.

But I didn’t miss the mosquitoes, droning and diving, circling and attacking, and the reason we opted for a bug-free front row seat beside the Hudson River.

Fireworks over the Hudson River, as seen on my television from my La-Z-Boy recliner in Minnesota.

Text © Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling