Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Post Super Bowl thoughts from southern Minnesota February 5, 2018

I started my Super Bowl Sunday (after attending worship services) by dining at the Faribault Lions Club Super Sunday Pancake & Sausage Feed with my husband, Randy, and his brother. Neil was on his way home to Missouri after visiting family in Minnesota for the weekend. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

FOR ME TO STAY UP past 11 p.m. rates as rare. But I did last night. Until nearly 12:30 a.m. Monday. I wanted to watch The Tonight Show from Minneapolis, ending way too much time for me in front of the TV on Super Bowl Sunday. But, you know, when the championship game plays out in your home state, you get caught up in the excitement—even if you don’t much care about sports, which I don’t. I finally have it down that a touchdown earns a team six points.

 

Not a ref from the Super Bowl…image used here for illustration only. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

During past Super Bowls, I’ve focused primarily on the commercials and the half-time show. I still did this year. But, for the first time ever, I watched most of the game. Except for the 33 minutes and 35 seconds I missed when my Wisconsin daughter called during the third and fourth quarters. Family trumps football any day, even on Super Bowl Sunday.

 

Icy cold beer served up in a Minnesota Vikings mug chilled in the snow. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

It was an exciting game. I found myself rooting for the underdog Philadelphia Eagles, even if they kept the Vikings from the biggest game in football and even though I can’t stand those creepy dog masks worn by some Eagles fans. I did, though, feel, for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has a strong Minnesota connection via his mom, born and raised here. Up until a few weeks ago, I’d never heard of Brady. That just shows how much of a football fan I am not.

As for that half-time show…I’m not raving like most are about Justin Timberlake’s performance. But then I’m not a Timberlake, nor a Prince (gasp), fan. Unfamiliar with the songs performed, I couldn’t understand the lyrics. And when Minneapolis lit up in purple during half-time, I didn’t even notice the Prince symbol displayed.

 

Two weeks ago a major storm dumped 16 inches of snow on Faribault and other parts of Minnesota. Snow also fell on Super Bowl weekend. But it is the cold, below zero temps and minus double digit windchills that marked the weather. I was delighted with the weather, which played perfectly off Minnesota’s Super Bowl tag as the “Bold North.” Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2018.

 

I saw many, but not all, of the commercials. My favorites focused on the theme of bringing our country together in an especially divisive year. Strength. Unity. Togetherness. Diversity. I especially liked T-Mobile’s “Little Ones” spot featuring babies of multiple ethnicities paired with empowering words. Most, but not all, of these social cause ads worked for me. In the didn’t like/work would be the Dodge Ram Truck ad using the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I didn’t appreciate his inspiring words used for a commercial purpose.

TurboTax nailed the humor, at least for me, with ads themed on convincing viewers they have nothing to fear in doing their taxes. A monster creeping from under a bed, a ghost in an attic—both were memory relatable. I just hope no little kids got scared.

The Mucinex spot that zoned in on post Super Bowl Monday as a sick day also tickled my funnybone and, in a round-about way, connected to that daughter who called me during the game. Thirty years ago she also used boogers to illicit laughter. “How do you make a Kleenex dance?” she asked kids and parents during a family skate time at a (now closed) Faribault rollerskating rink. “You put a little boogie in it,” she delivered in her sweet preschool voice.

 

A wonderful blend of textures is presented in Wild Rice Hotdish, another popular Minnesota dish. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

A year from now I likely will have forgotten who played in Super Bowl LII. I will have forgotten the record low game time kick-off temp of one degree above zero. (An effort is underway to collect cold weather gear for Minnesota homeless from Super Bowl attendees returning to warm weather destinations via “Pass Your Parkas.”)  I will have forgotten the Mucinex and other commercials. I will have forgotten who performed at half-time. I will have forgotten how Jimmy Fallon gushed about Minneapolis and the Tater Tot Hotdish (not casserole) served to him by a Champlin family. But that memory of my sweet preschooler—now a grown woman—telling that joke about boogers, that I still, and will always, remember.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Lions Club serves Faribault community at 52nd annual Super Bowl breakfast February 2, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS AND ST. PAUL are getting lots of media attention these days as host cities of Super Bowl LII and related events. That’s to be expected. I’m grateful for that exposure, as long as Minnesotans aren’t portrayed as characters right off the set of Fargo. (Ahem, Minneapolis-based Surly Brewing.) Sure we draw out the vowel “o,” but we don’t talk with exaggerated accents. Not even in Greater Minnesota.

I digress.

I pulled this breakfast promo from the Faribault Lions club Facebook page.

 

Super Bowl LII in Minnesota reaches beyond the Twin Cities metro. There’s Browerville in central Minnesota, home to extended family of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. And then there’s Faribault, about an hour south of U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis and home to a 52-year Super Bowl tradition—the annual Lions Club Super Sunday Pancake & Sausage Feed. Yes, you read that right. Fifty-two years.

 

The featured foods, pancakes and sausage. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

Sunday from 7:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., the Lions will serve this all-you-can-eat Super Bowl Day breakfast to hundreds at the local Eagles Club in my community. I’ve attended once or twice. I’m not a fan of pancakes. But I am a fan of this Lions Club endeavor to raise monies for local causes such as the Basic Blessings Backpack Program, scholarships, dictionaries for local third graders and more.

 

Posted in the dining area at the 2015 breakfast. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

With a club motto of “We Serve,” the Lions are also collecting used prescription eyeglasses and hearing aids to redistribute to those in need. And, for the first time, they are offering a free vision screening to children ages six months to six years through Lions Kidsight USA, a community eye screening endorsed by Lions Club International. The focus on vision and hearing is especially fitting for Faribault, home to the Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and for the Blind.

 

Making pancakes at the 2015 breakfast. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

Serving up pancakes and sausage. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

Lions Club member Otto serves sausages. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

I love how Faribault Lions members and others, year after year after year, for 52 consecutive years, have sold tickets, flipped pancakes, fried sausages and more on Super Bowl Sunday. That’s dedication. That’s commitment. They showcase the best of Minnesota as a place of kind, caring and compassionate people, from rural to metro.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Of Vikings, a blizzard & Minnesota Nice January 22, 2018

The Vikings’ loss and fan reaction headlined news late this morning on a Twin Cities TV station.

 

NOT WANTING TO SOUND like a poor loser the day after the Minnesota Vikings’ loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship game, I pondered what to post here. Watching the second half of the game, which ended with a 38 – 7 win for the Eagles, proved difficult. I mostly read a book, diverting my attention from the disaster unfolding on the TV screen.

But rather than wallow in the disappointment of the Vikings not advancing to the Super Bowl in their hometown, I choose to remember the seven days in which Minnesotans united in exuberance over the Minneapolis Miracle. It felt good, really good, to be part of such a positive experience, the pride in our state strong.

As the Vikings-Eagles game ended Sunday evening, I turned to my husband and asked, “Now who are you going to cheer for in the Super Bowl?” His answer was swift. “The Eagles,” he said, explaining that he often roots for the underdog. Me, too. Typically. But our son lives in greater Boston and the New England Patriots hail from Massachusetts…

And then I read a post by Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins, whom I respect as a news blogger. He wrote this morning about the way some Eagles fans treated some Vikings fans yesterday in Philadelphia. It wasn’t pretty with taunting, foul language and even beer cans tossed. Is this normal behavior? I hope not. Collins points out that in just two weeks, Eagles fans will arrive in Minnesota from the City of Brotherly Love. Will we show them our signature Minnesota Nice? I am confident we will.

 

Minnesota kids need warm hats and mittens during these cold and snowy Minnesota winters.

 

An email which arrived in my in-box this morning from Thrivent Financial, a Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Partner, confirms my premise that we Minnesotans are good at heart and we’ll show the world that during Super Bowl LII. Thrivent is partnering with Hats and Mittens for a Super Hats & Mittens event the day before the game to make (or collect) 52,000 hats and mittens for those in need. Attendees will craft hats and mittens from fleece during the gathering which also features food, an author, music and more. If this event wasn’t located just blocks from US Bank Stadium, I’d consider attending. But I don’t want to be anywhere near the stadium around Super Bowl time.

 

The view from my home office window this morning as a blizzard rages outside.

 

And this would be my kitchen window which is totally covered by wind-driven snow.

 

Early this morning I took this shot from an upstairs window of the van parked in my driveway near the garage.

 

All of this aside, we here in southern Minnesota have another, much more important, distraction today. The weather. My county of Rice and several other Minnesota counties are in a blizzard warning until midnight. Fierce winds are driving snow nearly horizontally across the landscape. It’s not pretty out there.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Minnesota: When a football team brings a state together January 21, 2018

 

I photographed this billboard along the northbound lane of Interstate 35 near Lakeville. Kwik Trip is headquartered in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, with many convenience stores in southern Minnesota.

 

EIGHT DAYS AGO, I couldn’t have identified a single Minnesota Vikings player. But this morning, only hours from the NFC championship game and one week after the Vikes’ stunning win over the New Orleans Saints, I know the names Stefon Diggs and Case Keenum.

 

The “true Minnesota” reference refers to Old Dutch, started in St. Paul in 1934 and still based in Minnesota, in Roseville. Photographed at Fareway Foods, Faribault.

 

And I know something else. This state has come together in a way I haven’t seen in a long long time. We needed the Minneapolis Miracle. We needed a reason to celebrate that stretches far beyond simply winning a football game. We needed this win to bring us all together during an incredibly divisive time in our country.

 

At Fareway Foods in Faribault, the push is on to sell snacks for the play-off game today and then for the Super Bowl.

 

The level of excitement and enthusiasm and pride in Minnesota right now has created a strong sense of community here. We are Bold North proud. We are hardy Minnesotans united in our desire to see the Vikings, our team, in the Super Bowl that we are hosting in just a few weeks. We. Us. Good, typically stoic folks who are now chanting Skol! Skol! Skol! from small town school gymnasiums to the Mall of America.

You’ll see Vikings pride on interstate billboards and in grocery stores. Everywhere.

On this morning before the NFC championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles, this feels like our year. To win. Big.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Vikings fan for a day plus January 15, 2018

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Chilling beer Minnesota style in the snow. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I CAN’T RECALL the last time I watched a professional football game on TV.

But there I was Sunday afternoon, hunkered down on the couch watching the Minnesota Vikings take on the New Orleans Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium. Yes, I suppose you might term me a fair weather fan, if that. Until yesterday, I didn’t know any of the players’ names. And until several days ago, I knew nothing of SKOL, the Vikings’ fan chant.

 

Vikings pride displayed atop a home in Waterville. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

After a smashing first half, the home team seemed poised to easily win the play-off game. So Randy and I broke for supper, only to return to a stalled game and then an upset lead by the Saints. About that time I could barely bear to watch, diverting my attention instead to a John Sandford mystery.

 

The car of a Vikings fan photographed in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Randy, though, insisted the Vikes could still win. I didn’t believe him. Then it happened, in the last play of the game. Quarterback Case Keenum fired the ball to Stefon Diggs who nearly slipped, then regained his footing and ran in for the winning touchdown. And, yes, I saw the game winning play.

 

US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings, in downtown Minneapolis and site of Super Bowl 2018. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2016.

 

With a Vikings win of 29-24, the team is now one game from competing in the Super Bowl right here in Minnesota.

 

My snow boots. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

After a bit of whooping and hollering, I launched myself from my reclining spot, grabbed by winter coat, scarf, hat and gloves, laced my boots, and stepped outside. To shovel snow.

TELL ME: Did you watch the game? Do you think the Vikings will make it into the Super Bowl?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Up on the housetop in Waterville September 29, 2016

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vikings-house-14

 

THERE ARE VIKINGS fans and then there are Vikings fans.

 

vikings-house-15-helmet-atop-close-up

 

When I spotted this ginormous Vikings helmet atop a roof recently in Waterville, just a half block off Main Street, I thought it marked a bar. Waterville seems to have a sizable number of drinking establishments.

But, upon closer inspection, I determined this building is a residence.

There’s a story here.

What story would you spin from these photo prompts?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The place to be on a fall Friday evening in Waterville September 28, 2016

buccaneers-64-scoreboard-at-a-distance

 

VISIT THE HOMEPAGE of the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown School District and you’ll see team sports photos front and center.

 

buccaneers-63-stand-bench

 

Sports are big in these southern Minnesota communities, as they are in most small towns.

 

buccaneers-65-scoreboard-close-up

 

WEM is the home of the Buccaneers, a fitting mascot for Waterville situated on two lakes. Resorts, campgrounds and cabins ring the lakes, drawing locals and vacationers to Sakatah and Tetonka lakes and the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail.

 

buccaneeres-62-close-up-of-stand

 

But on Friday evenings in the fall, it’s football that brings folks into town to cheer on the champion Buccaneers. Nine seems to be the team’s good luck number with state championships claimed in 1989, 1999 and 2009.

 

buccaneers-66-football-field

 

I’ve never attended a football game here, but my husband did years ago when his alma mater, Healy High School, played here. He remembers an uneven playing surface and muck.

 

buccaneers-68-concession-stand

 

Last week, when heavy rain fell and flooded this area of southern Minnesota, the Buccaneers moved their game against Le Sueur-Henderson to neighboring New Prague. But that didn’t deter them. Pirates are, after all, transient, extremely resourceful and not easily intimidated away from their home turf. They defeated the Giants 38-14.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault mural honors Heisman Trophy winner & native son Bruce Smith November 3, 2015

ATTEND A FOOTBALL GAME in Faribault, and you’ll cheer from Bruce Smith Field.

Peruse the Rice County Historical Society, a short distance from the football field, and you’ll discover an exhibit about Bruce Smith.

In mid-June, pop over to the Faribault Golf Club for the annual Bruce Smith Golf Classic.

Head downtown to Buckham Memorial Library and you’ll find a locally-produced DVD titled Bruce “Boo” Smith #54: 1941 Heisman trophy winner.

Faribault's newest mural honors native son and Heisman Trophy winner Bruce Smith.

Faribault’s newest mural honors native son and Heisman Trophy winner Bruce Smith.

Now Faribault has added one more item to its Bruce Smith list—a mural. Last Friday the Mural Society of Faribault installed a downtown mural honoring Smith, who won the 1941 Heisman Trophy for most outstanding college football player. He was the first Minnesotan to garner that prize from the Sportswriters and Sports Broadcasters of America. Smith, a team captain and All-American halfback for the University of Minnesota Gophers, received the award on December 9, 1941, in New York City. That’s two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Bruce Smith, as painted by Dave Correll of Brushwork Signs.

Bruce Smith, as painted by Dave Correll of Brushwork Signs.

After college, Smith would go on to serve his country as a Navy fighter pilot during WW II. He also played football with the Navy.

The mural includes substantial information about Bruce Smith, a nice addition to the mural.

The mural includes substantial information about Bruce Smith. Click on the image to enlarge.

While researching Smith, born in Faribault in 1920, I learned that he:

  •  played professional football for four years—for the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams.
  •  starred in a 1942 Columbia Pictures movie about himself, Smith of Minnesota.
  •  nearly died of a ruptured kidney during a 1947 football game.
  •  retired from football at age 29.
  •  co-owned a sporting goods store in Northfield and worked in sales for a clothing store and a beer distributor. (Perhaps F-Town Brewing,  Faribault’s new craft brewery, could name a beer after him; makes marketing sense to me.)
  •  died of cancer in August 1967 at the age of 47.
  •  was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1972.
  •  had his number, 54, retired by the Gophers, a first for the U.
The mural honors Faribault's most-renowned athlete.

The mural honors Faribault’s most-renowned athlete.

Probably the most interesting fact I uncovered is Smith’s 1978 nomination for sainthood in the Catholic church. A man of strong faith, he prayed before and after games and also ministered to young cancer patients. I find this nomination especially notable given today’s often less than saintly behavior among many football players. But from all accounts I’ve read, Smith was a wholesome hometown boy, much beloved by his community. And that, in my opinion, holds an honor as great as winning the Heisman Trophy.

The mural is tucked away on the back of an historic downtown building.

The mural, comprised of panels rather than painted directly onto brick, is displayed on the back of a flooring business.

FYI: The Bruce Smith mural is located on the back of Floors by Farmer at the corner of Central Avenue and Fifth Street Northwest in historic downtown Faribault. The latest mural joins murals of town founder Alexander Faribault (directly across from the Smith mural), Fleck’s Beer, the Tilt-A-Whirl, Ice Skating on the Straight River, historic downtown Faribault overview and the annual Pet Parade. Faribault based Brushwork Signs designed, created and installed the murals.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Sources:

http://heisman.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=8&path=football

http://www.minnesotaalumni.org/s/1118/content.aspx?pgid=1307

http://rchistory.org/exhibits/

https://www.facebook.com/rchistory/

http://selco.ent.sirsi.net/client/en_US/far/search/results?qu=bruce+smith&te=&lm=FAR_LIMIT

 

When watching high school football is about more than just the game November 2, 2015

The St. Croix Valley Crusaders and the Jackson County Central Huskies line up before the game starts Saturday afternoon.

The St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders and the Jackson County Central Huskies line up on the football field before the game starts Saturday afternoon.

I DRESSED IN MY BUFFALO PLAID red and black on Saturday. Not because I wanted to portray Mrs. Paul Bunyan on Halloween. Rather, I was showing my support for the St. Croix Lutheran High School football team which Saturday afternoon competed against Jackson County Central in state play-offs. My nephew, Stephen (number 87), plays tight end for the red-attired Crusaders.

 

Football, 120 scoreboard

 

Sometimes the action looked like nothing but a pile of players to me.

Sometimes the action looked like nothing but a pile of players to me.

While the St. Paul based school pushed hard to win, they couldn’t defeat the Huskies, a husky and formidable team from southwestern Minnesota. The final score: 44 – 26.

Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter hosted the game.

Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter hosted the game.

The Halloween themed sign held by the JCC cheerleaders.

The back of the Halloween themed sign held by the JCC cheerleaders.

JCC players run through the sign and onto the field for the start of the second half.

JCC players run through the sign and onto the field for the start of the second half.

Certainly, seeing my nephew’s team win on the football field at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter would have been a Halloween treat. But, JCC dominated, proving the truth in the words the players busted through before starting the second half:

Trick or treat, smell our cleats. The Huskies can’t be beat.

JCC cheerleaders fire up the crowd.

JCC cheerleaders fire up the crowd.

Crusaders fans, including Winnie the Pooh. Some students dressed in Halloween costumes.

Crusaders fans, including Winnie the Pooh. Some students dressed in Halloween costumes.

My brother, right, and friends watch the game.

My brother, right, and friends watch the game.

The Crusaders pep band infused school spirit.

The Crusaders pep band infused school spirit.

The spirit of JCC fans, led by enthusiastic cheerleaders, impressed me. Not that Crusaders fans weren’t supportive. We were. I can vouch for my sister-in-law’s continual encouraging screams. My youngest brother stood behind us, several bleacher rows away in an aisle, chewing gum super fast and focusing his eyes on the field the entire game. St. Croix Lutheran came with a pep band. But no cheerleaders. Students seemed subdued for a play-off game.

Occasionally, the clouds parted and sunshine shone upon the football field.

Occasionally, the clouds parted and sunshine shone upon the football field.

Ready for action...that's my nephew, Stephen, #87 in the front.

Ready for action…that’s my nephew, Stephen, #87 in the front.

Crusaders fans cheer on their team.

Crusaders fans cheer on their team.

I’m a quiet fan, too. I was here on this Saturday to support my nephew. Not in a super vocal way. Simply by my presence. If his team won, good. If they didn’t, they didn’t.

The Crusaders huddle.

The Crusaders huddle on the sidelines.

A ref makes a call.

A ref makes a call.

I found myself studying the varying footwear and leggings.

I found myself studying the varying footwear and leggings.

Repeatedly during breaks in the action, the announcer emphasized respect as highly-important in competition. I value respect; both teams showed respect for each other. But, bottom line, these teams play to win. That’s why they’re on the field.

A sign proclaims Husky Power.

A sign proclaims Husky Power.

It is easy, when you are as far behind as the Crusaders were during the game, when plays just aren’t working, when the other team repeatedly scores, to give up. I felt that in a sense Saturday. JCC was the stronger team. Even I, someone who does not watch football much, could see the Huskies’ dominating power.

Stephen, #87, tackles the JCC player carrying the football.

Stephen, #87, tackles the JCC player carrying the football.

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St. Croix Lutheran and Jackson County Central in action.

A JCC player prepares to throw the football, left.

A JCC player prepares to throw the football, left.

This is the first football game I’ve attended in probably 40 years. I don’t know many of the nuances of the game. But that’s OK. I understand the basics.

Several Crusaders players left the field with injuries.

Several Crusaders players left the field with injuries. Here teammates support one another.

And I understand the value in being with family—on this Saturday four of my five siblings and their spouses—to support Crusaders number 87. This is what families do. They support and encourage one another. In good times and difficult times.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: Meet, Brenda, a Minnesota Vikings fan October 16, 2015

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Portrait #43: Minnesota Vikings fan Brenda

 

MN Vikings fan, 66 rear view of Vikings car

 

I noticed the purple Ford Focus in the parking lot of a Faribault convenience store late on a Sunday morning. Lucky for me, I had my camera. I sprang from the van, striding toward the car on a photographic mission.

 

MN Vikings fan, 67 Brenda

 

Lucky for me, the driver, Brenda, granted permission to photograph her and her car, painted her favorite purple for her favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings.

 

MN Vikings fan, 71 front of Vikings car

 

She doesn’t have a favorite player. I asked.

 

MN Vikings fan, 73 wheel of Vikings car

 

But it’s clear, from the purple rims to the purple steering wheel cover to the Vikings seat covers to the Vikings hood art to Brenda’s purple hair, that she loves the color purple and the Minnesota Vikings.

 

MN Vikings fan, 72 hood art close-up

 

And to think, this wasn’t even a game day.

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Minnesota Faces is featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots

Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling