Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Faribault: More than a car cruise on Central June 21, 2016

Aged buildings, most restored, define Faribault's Central Avenue.

Aged buildings, most restored, define Faribault’s Central Avenue.

FRIDAY EVENING, AS I STROLLED along the 200 and 300 blocks of Central Avenue, I considered how lovely the downtown in this place I call home.

My husband and I would love an old pick-up like this, restored, of course.

My husband and I would love an old pick-up like this, restored, of course.

Perhaps it was the slant of sunlight upon historic buildings or the conversations with friends or this gathering of car enthusiasts which prompted such a contemplative mood. It really doesn’t matter.

A beautiful historic setting.

A beautiful historic setting.

What matters is that events like Car Cruise Night bring people together on a beautiful summer evening in the heart of an equally beautiful downtown. Faribault’s Central Avenue, with its historic buildings rising up, provides a lovely backdrop for the vintage and other vehicles showcased on the third Friday evening of the month, May through September.

A local restaurant set up its food trailer along Central Avenue.

A local restaurant, Bashers Sports Bar & Grill, pulled a food trailer onto Central Avenue.

The addition of food trucks this year and downtown eateries vending outdoors encourages folks to linger and to talk, to be neighborly, to claim community pride.

Consider the Plymouth ship emblem on the Plymouth. Thoughts of immigrants, past and present, filtered through my mind. The emblem is, in many ways, symbolic of downtown Faribault. Many of our town's newest immigrants live above businesses along Central Avenue.

Consider the Plymouth ship emblem. Thoughts of immigrants, past and present, filtered through my mind. The emblem is, in many ways, symbolic of downtown Faribault. Many of our town’s newest immigrants live above businesses along Central Avenue. In the background is the historic marquee of the Paradise Center for the Arts.

I appreciate signage both in English and Spanish.

I appreciated signage both in English and Spanish.

American pride inside a vehicle.

American pride inside a collector car.

We are a diverse community. As diverse as the vehicles angled to curbs on Car Cruise Night. I’m sensing more and more that we are growing more welcoming of one another. And that is a good thing.

One of Faribault's newest businesses, Bluebird Cakery, held a cupcake eating contest. I missed it as I was unaware.

One of Faribault’s newest businesses, Bluebird Cakery, held a cupcake eating contest. I missed it as I was unaware of the event.

It’s a good thing, too, that Faribault seems to be working harder to bring people into the heart of downtown. We’re no Stillwater or Red Wing or Wabasha, all southern Minnesota communities that draw lots of visitors to their historic downtowns. But we’re moving that direction—one Car Cruise Night, one brewery, one cupcake shop, one coffee and chocolate shop, one cheese shop, one arts center, one shoe store, one BBQ and arts fest…at a time.

BONUS PHOTOS:

I love love love this car. It helps that green is my favorite color.

I love love love this car. The color and style.

For awhile I watched this little guy follow the double center lines along Central. Oh, to find joy in such a simple action.

For awhile I watched this free-spirited little guy follow the double center lines along Central. Oh, to find joy in such a simple activity.

Details matter when you're a car collector. This Belvedere manual was laying on the dash.

Details matter when you’re a car collector. This Belvedere manual was lying on the dash.

I was naturally drawn to this car because, as a teen, my bedroom was painted lime green. I still love that vibrant hue.

I was naturally drawn to this car because, as a teen, my bedroom was painted lime green. I still love that vibrant hue.

Elvis was not in the house, but in the car.

Elvis was not in the house, but in the car.

A vintage Plymouth cruises onto Central.

A vintage Plymouth cruises onto Central. To the left, The Signature Bar & Grill vends food.

These snappy sports cars drew lots of admirers, including...

These snappy sports cars drew lots of admirers, including…

...this boy so intent on photographing the sports cars that he didn't notice me photographing him.

…this boy so intent on photographing the sports cars that he didn’t notice me photographing him. Car Cruise Night draws enthusiasts of all ages.

A graceful looking Bel Air Chevy.

A lovely Bel Air Chevy.

I always admire the shiny bumpers and the reflections therein.

I always appreciate the shiny bumpers polished to perfection and the reflections therein.

Probably the most unsual vehicle on display: the German Luftschutz motorcycle. I need to hear the story behind this.

Probably the most unusual vehicle on display: the German Luftschutz motorcycle. I need to hear how (and why) the owner acquired this bike.

So graceful, these sailing ships, a hood ornament on a Plymouth.

So graceful, this sailing ships hood ornament on a Plymouth.

The art on the hood of the Pontiac impresses.

The Pontiac hood art always impresses.

FYI: The next Faribault Car Cruise Night is set for 6 – 9 p.m. on Friday, July 15.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thoughts from Faribault in the week before Christmas December 19, 2015

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

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

MY COMMUNITY OF FARIBAULT offers an array of holiday events ranging from theatrical productions to a holiday figure skating show, concerts and more. Each year I try to take in some of those activities not only because I enjoy them, but because it’s important to pause in the busyness of the season. We can get so wrapped up in gifts and decorations, baking and other holiday stuff that stress, rather than joy, dominates our days.

This rendition of Linus, on loan from the Faribault Woolen Mill, stood in the lobby of the Paradise Center for the Arts during the recent holiday play.

This rendition of Linus, on loan from the Faribault Woolen Mill, stood in the lobby of the Paradise Center for the Arts during the recent holiday play.

Months ago, upon learning that the Paradise Community Theatre was performing Twice the Cheer: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and A Charlie Brown Christmas in a single showing, I purchased four tickets to a Sunday matinee performance. I invited my eldest daughter and her husband to join my husband and me. Twenty-four years ago, Amber and her little sister played Baby Angels in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at our church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault. Thus, this play means something to our family.

The Paradise version wasn’t exactly like the one produced at my church. It was updated with the main characters, a family of unruly and outcast children, modernized. It worked. They were believable and memorable.

Yet, for me, the most memorable line in the play (and I can’t recall who said it) referenced Mary and Joseph as refugees. I’d never thought of them in that way and it seems particularly fitting given the world today. There are times in life when we all feel somewhat displaced, whether by circumstances or challenges or an actual physical move. Sometimes life is just plain hard.

Skaters pose for photos after presenting The Chronicles of Narnia.

Skaters pose for photos after presenting The Chronicles of Narnia.

Which is precisely why it’s helpful to occasionally escape into a make-believe world. And that I did during the recent holiday figure skating show at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault. The annual December performance is a free gift to the community. This year students presented their version of The Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve never read the fantasy book series nor seen the movie, which left me clueless. Still, I could admire the young women gliding across the ice, twirling and skating with the carefree abandon of youth.

Beauty in the details of a holiday themed outdoor arrangement in downtown Faribault outside Bluebird Cakery.

Beauty in the details of a holiday themed outdoor arrangement outside Bluebird Cakery in downtown Faribault.

In these final days before Christmas, I hope you take the time to slow down, to savor the moments, to appreciate the people around you, to do something thoughtful for a “refugee” (someone in need) in your community.

Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

 

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Horse-drawn wagon rides honor Christmases past in Faribault December 14, 2015

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

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

 

BELLS JINGLED AS HORSES clopped along Faribault’s Central Avenue late Saturday afternoon pulling Santa’s Wagon, although Santa was missing.

 

Santa's horse-drawn wagon, 79 close-up

 

Traffic jammed and shoppers paused to watch.

 

Santa's horse-drawn wagon, 84 close-up of Mike & horses

 

And occasionally along the route, Mike Fuchs reined his team to a halt for exiting and boarding passengers.

 

Santa's horse-drawn wagon, 89 near Security Bank clock

 

The horses trod past aged buildings and the recently-refurbished Security Bank Building clock.

 

Santa's horse-drawn wagon, 92 red car following

 

Time slowed for drivers trailing Santa’s Wagon. But no horns honked.

 

Santa's horse-drawn wagon, 94 horses in motion

 

For a few hours on a December Saturday afternoon, time flashed back to yesteryear, to days when horse power truly meant horse power.

 

Santa's horse-drawn wagon, 101 by print shop

 

It is good to slow down, to travel at the pace of a horse’s stride, to listen to the repeat rhythm of hooves upon pavement, to hear sleigh bells ring.

 

Santa's horse-drawn wagon, 106 by State Bank

 

There is time in the haste of life, in the crazy busyness of the Christmas season, for a horse-drawn wagon ride.

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Check back for more weekend holiday stories in and around Faribault, including a precious portrait you won’t want to miss tomorrow.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Focusing on festive Faribault December 11, 2015

Looking down Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault.

Looking down Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault.

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK a lot like Christmas in historic downtown Faribault, despite the lack of snow.

Peanuts characters adorn the former Kay's Floral building on the corner of Central Avenue and Fourth Street/Minnesota State Highway 60.

A Peanuts theme plays on the windows of the former Kay’s Floral building at the corner of Central Avenue and Fourth Street/Minnesota State Highway 60.

Evergreen boughs adorn wrought iron fences. Snowflake lights and holiday banners hang from vintage style street lamps. White lights drape trees, creating a festive mood. And, throughout the downtown, merchants showcase Christmas displays in storefront windows. There’s something magical about a business district transformed for the holidays.

Lights adorn trees in the downtown including next to the Signature Bar & Grill, Faribault's version of "Cheers." Here you'll find, in my opinion, the best pizza in town.

Lights wrap trees in the downtown including next to the Signature Bar & Grill, Faribault’s version of “Cheers.” Here you’ll find, in my opinion, the best pizza in town.

A snippet of the festive window display at Vohs Floors.

A snippet of the festive window display at Vohs Floors, which celebrates 70 years in business in 2016. Harry Vohs started the business in his living room. The second-generation flooring store is owned by his son, Karl, and Karl’s wife, Ann.

Even the clothing on the mannequins in The Crafty Maven display is vintage.

The Crafty Maven created this window display for the vintage theme division of the holiday window decorating contest. The display highlights businesses that were open in Faribault when sisters and Maven owners, Beth Westerhouse and Dee Bjork, were growing up here. Many of those businesses are no longer open. The Crafty Maven also will close in January.

Wednesday evening, in balmy weather that is more September-like than December, I grabbed my camera in an attempt to capture some of the magic that is Faribault. Mine is a city of some 23,000 that takes pride in its downtown, a place of aged, well-kept buildings. There’s a sense of history here, a sense of community connection. Small town appeal.

Santa at Vohs Floors.

Santa inside Vohs Floors.

From sleigh rides to visits with Santa to a holiday window decorating contest and more, there’s much to see and do. Faribault Main Street and downtown merchants are working hard to welcome locals and visitors alike with “Hometown Holidays” events.

The Paradise Center for the Arts presents "Twice the Cheer: A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."

Paradise Community Theatre presents “Twice the Cheer: A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” this weekend at the Paradise Center for the Arts.

This Saturday, for example, you can participate in the following activities:

Keepers Antiques

Keepers Antiques shows some holiday glitz in its window display.

Wedding and party glam spotlighted at Weddings by Deb.

Wedding and party glam spotlighted at Weddings by Deb.

Festively dressed dolls snug at sewing machine at B & J Sewing Center.

Festively dressed dolls snug a sewing machine at B & J Sewing Center.

If you’ve never been to Faribault, come, spend an afternoon and/or evening here in a city that’s all decked out for the holidays. Meander through our one-of-a-kind shops. Enjoy the hospitality of friendly merchants. Celebrate the magic of the season in southeastern Minnesota.

BONUS PHOTOS:

This winter wonderland in the window of Dufour Cleaners was voted the all-around favorite in the holiday window decorating contest.

This winter wonderland in the window of Dufour’s Cleaners was voted the all-around favorite in the holiday window decorating contest. Thousands of cotton balls were used to create the snow in the scene.

Studio 14 Salon & Spa placed first in the Peanuts themed division of the window decorating competition.

Studio 14 Salon & Spa placed first in the Peanuts theme division of the window decorating competition.

Here's the other side of the Peanuts display at Studio 14.

Here’s the other side of the Peanuts display at Studio 14.

Charlie Brown and crew also occupy a window space at the Paradise Center for the Arts.

Charlie Brown and crew also occupy a window space at the Paradise Center for the Arts. The PCA won for best vintage theme.

Nearby is this holiday display at Paul Swenson Portraits.

Nearby is this holiday window at Paul Swenson Portraits.

A vintage sled rests in a front window at Vohs Floors,

A vintage sled rests in a front window at Vohs Floors.

The Crafty Maven created this window display for the vintage themed division of the holiday window decorating contest. The display highlights businesses that were in Faribault when Maven sisters and owners Beth Westerhouse and Dee Bjork were growing up here.

An overview of the vintage themed window display at The Crafty Maven.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Exploring La Crosse Part V: A great place to visit October 26, 2015

Pearl Street in historic downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Pearl Street in historic downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin.

ON THE FRIDAY and Saturday I visited La Crosse, Wisconsin, the city pulsed with people. Driving. Walking through the downtown. Dining. Everything I saw pointed to a vibrant community of some 51,000.

A billboard in La Crosse depicts the natural appeal of this Mississippi River city.

A billboard in La Crosse depicts the natural appeal of this Mississippi River city.

The La Crosse Queen offers cruises on the Mississippi River.

The La Crosse Queen offers seasonal cruises on the Mississippi River. The paddlewheeler docks in Riverside Park near downtown.

A bridge spanning the Mississippi in La Crosse.

A bridge spanning the Mississippi in La Crosse, photographed from Riverside Park.

This is a college town, a regional hub in western Wisconsin, a place of rugged natural beauty, especially in autumn with trees blazing color in the valley and along bluffs.

You can listen to everyday stories of the city by dialing the number posted on street level signs. In the audio, you'll hear first person accounts of events that happened at that exact location. Go ahead, dial the number seen in this image.

You can listen to everyday stories of the city by dialing the number posted on street level signs. In the audio, you’ll hear first person accounts of events that happened at that exact location. Go ahead, dial the number seen in this image.

A snippet of the historic buildings in downtown La Crosse.

A snippet of the historic buildings in downtown La Crosse.

Several businesses are housed in Pearl Street West.

Several businesses are housed in Pearl Street West.

This city presents an architecturally pleasing downtown with the five-block La Crosse Commercial Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. More than 100 buildings in the Historic District about a block from the Mississippi River.

Downtwon La Crosse features stunning architectural details in its downtown Commercial Historic District.

Downtwon La Crosse features stunning architectural details in its downtown Commercial Historic District.

You'll find down-home shops in historic buildings. Cheddarheads offers Wisconsin-themed gifts and t-shirts focusing on cheese and the state's dairy industry.

You’ll find down-home shops in historic buildings. Cheddarheads offers Wisconsin-themed gifts and t-shirts focusing on cheese and the state’s dairy industry.

I could spend an entire afternoon simply strolling through the downtown, eyes focused upward to study curves of windows, artsy architectural details and other aspects of these mostly aged brick buildings. This community obviously cares about these stately structures of the past. And that pleases me.

Corralling wedding balloons in downtown La Crosse.

Corralling wedding balloons in downtown La Crosse.

La Crosse evokes a small town Main Street feel. Yet, for someone like me who grew up in rural southwestern Minnesota, La Crosse is anything but small. This city throbs with energy. Heavy downtown traffic. Foot and motor. Busy shops and eateries.

If I could afford the price of a downtown hotel, I would have stayed there rather than along Interstate 90 in an overpriced room (for the condition and age) in a hotel badly in need of updating.

Strolling through downtown La Crosse.

Strolling through downtown La Crosse.

I’ll return to La Crosse. I need more time in this community. More time to explore the downtown. More time to check out the parks. More time to visit museums and art centers and other places of interest. It’s one of those cities that appeals to me. It is large enough to offer lots to do, yet small enough that I feel comfortably at home.

BONUS PHOTOS:

A sign reminds me that I'm in Dairyland.

A sign reminds me that I’m in America’s dairyland.

I notice details, even graffiti on a business side door.

I notice details, even graffiti on a business side door.

This concludes my five-part series from downtown La Crosse. Check back for related posts from the area.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Restored clock telling time again in historic downtown Faribault September 14, 2015

This restored 1915 clock was installed on the Security State Bank Building, 302 Central Avenue, on Saturday.

This restored 1915 clock was reinstalled on the Security Bank Building, 302 Central Avenue, on Saturday. This photo was taken Sunday morning.

THE TRANSFORMATION IS REMARKABLE, a stunning addition to a busy street corner in the heart of historic downtown Faribault.

Up close...

Up close…

It is the restoration and reinstallation of a 100-year-old clock suspended from the Security Bank building.

Mike Elwood at work on the clock.

Clock “doctor” Mike Elwood, whose clock shop is a block away, peers inside the clock.

Mike's son, Charlie, waits at the bottom of the ladder.

Mike’s son, Charlie, waits at the bottom of the ladder.

Another view of Mike Elwood working on the clock.

Another view of Mike Elwood working on the clock.

Mike's other son, Tommy, dressed in a Superman shirt, watches.

Mike’s other son, Tommy, dressed in a Superman shirt, watches his dad at work Saturday afternoon.

Saturday afternoon, much to my delight, I spotted Mike Elwood of the Hickory Dickory Doc Clock Shop atop a ladder peering inside the clock. His goal, he shouted down to me, was to get the clock working by the end of the day. He led the restoration and repair of the clock’s inner workings while Faribault artist Jim Pichner crafted the stained glass clock facing and lettering.

The beautiful glowing clock photographed at 9 p.m. Saturday.

The beautiful glowing clock photographed at 9:37 p.m. Saturday.

Steve and Peter McDonough check out the clock Saturday evening.

Steve and Peter McDonough admire the clock Saturday evening.

When I checked back at 9:30 p.m., the clock was aglow, working and being admired by Steve McDonough and his son, Peter. Like me, they were transfixed by its beauty. Steve, who owns the Village Family Theater several blocks away, says he loves his hometown’s downtown.

Telling time Sunday morning.

Telling time Sunday morning.

Although I didn’t grow up here, I’ve lived here 33 years and also hold a deep appreciation for historic downtown Faribault. The refurbished clock is just one more example of how much this community values history and its downtown.

The clock that graces the corner of the Security Bank building has fallen apart.

The clock before the restoration. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.

The late Al Burkhartzmeyer, second-generation co-owner of Burkhartzmeyer Shoes a block to the south of the Security Bank building, was instrumental in efforts to get the clock refurbished. After his death in 2012, all memorial funds given in his honor went toward the clock restoration fund. The Faribault Rotary Club, of which Al was a member, also worked hard to raise monies for the project. The city of Faribault provided additional funds to get the restoration going with the stipulation that the Rotary repay those monies. Clock ownership remains with the city.

Looking south on Central.

Looking south on Central.

Truly, this was a community effort to raise the $25,000-plus to restore what is now a beautiful piece of working historical art in the heart of historic downtown Faribault.

BONUS PHOTOS:

In 1964, Rhody Yule painted this picture of the Security Bank in downtown Faribault.

A 1964 painting of the Security Bank by Faribault artist Rhody Yule. The clock was restored to the 1950s era. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The former Security Bank, today, along Central Avenue in downtown Faribault.

The former Security Bank, photographed in December 2011. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 18: The renovated clock will be dedicated at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday, September 22, at the Security Bank Building site on the corner of Central Avenue and Third Street. The Faribault Rotary Club and Faribault City Council are co-hosting the event.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One of the reasons I appreciate my community of Faribault February 5, 2015

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I NEVER WANT TO TAKE my community for granted, as cliché as that sounds. But sometimes I do. We all do, I suppose.

We need to appreciate the place we call home as much as we sometimes criticize or yearn for whatever we think is better. The grass is always greener. Or so we think. Often it’s not.

A beautifully restored building a block off Central Avenue at 31 Third Street N.E. houses a restaurant and pub on the lower levels and a ballroom on the second floor.

A beautifully restored building a block off Central Avenue at 31 Third Street Northeast houses Alexander’s Supper Club and Pub 31 on the lower levels and a ballroom on the second floor.

Today I want to show you a photo snippet from downtown Faribault. These images reveal one of the reasons I value this community where I’ve lived for 31 years.

A mural, one of several in the downtown area, promotes historic Faribault.

A mural, one of several in the downtown area, promotes historic Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

My southern Minnesota city is old, historic old. Fur trader Alexander Faribault established a fur trading post here in 1834. That was 15 years before Minnesota became a Territory. The city of Faribault was platted in 1855, three years before Minnesota statehood.

Sturdy, aged buildings define most of the downtown. It’s lovely.

Situation across from the post office, this former warehouse was restored. Today it houses Alexander's Supper Club and Pub 31.

Situated across from the post office, this former warehouse is home to Alexander’s Supper Club and Pub 31.

Just up the hill you'll find the Vintage Ballroom and Suites at 129 Central Avenue North. Bernie's Grill occupies the first floor.

Just up the hill a few blocks away from Alexander’s, you’ll find the Vintage Ballroom and Suites at 129 Central Avenue North. Bernie’s Grill occupies the first floor.

Historic buildings are reflected in the windows of Studio 14 Salon and Spa at 204 Central Avenue North. The salon created a "Frozen" display for a downtown holiday decorating contest.

Historic buildings are reflected in the windows of Studio 14 Salon and Spa at 204 Central Avenue North. The salon created a “Frozen” display for a downtown holiday decorating contest, earning first place.

Grampa Al's, 28 Third Street Northwest, claims to be one of Minnesota's oldest bars.

Grampa Al’s, 28 Third Street Northwest, founded in 1929, claims to be one of Minnesota’s oldest bars. The business website says Grampa Al’s has been “serving hamburgers and cold refreshments since the end of Prohibition.”

Crafty signage suspended high in a window at The Crafty Maven hints at the crafty goodness you will find inside this historic building at

Crafty signage suspended high in a window of The Crafty Maven hints at the crafty goodness you will find inside this historic building at 212 Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling