Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

About those holiday lights on my tree December 14, 2021

This paper angel, saved from my childhood Sunday School class lesson, tops my Christmas tree. I treasure this nearly 60-year-old angel. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted, edited photo December 2021)

AS I WRITE, Christmas music plays on the radio. Snow falls.* And in my living room, an angel-topped tree graces a corner near the front picture window.

On a day like today,* when grey infiltrates the house, I typically plug in the holiday lights. But they remain unplugged, no lights brightening the room.

There’s a problem. One strand no longer works and, on the other, only half of the bulbs flash color. A brief search for Christmas lights locally proved futile. “You can’t find them anywhere in Faribault,” a cashier at a local chain store told me. The two stores I checked validated that. Sort of.

I didn’t necessarily believe that lights can’t be found anywhere locally. But then I heard the co-hosts of an Owatonna radio talk show say the same. No holiday lights to be found.

UPDATE: I found Christmas lights in Faribault. At ACE Hardware early Saturday afternoon. Shelves were adequately stocked with a variety of lights.

The challenge then was to replace the burned out strings. And, let me tell you, putting lights on a tree after it’s been decorated with ornaments and tinsel rates as frustrating and difficult. Eventually Randy finished the task after my pleas to, please, help me.

So…if you live in Faribault and need Christmas lights, stories of their lack of availability anywhere in town are greatly exaggerated.

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* I wrote the beginning of this post on Friday, December 10.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault: Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree December 5, 2020

A star shines atop a tree at Central Park as the sun sets Saturday evening.

THIS WEEKEND IN FARIBAULT, we would have celebrated Winterfest, complete with a lighted holiday parade, fireworks and more. But, due to COVID-19, organizers canceled the celebration. And rightly so.

Santa at Central Park.

But then the Faribault Parks and Recreation Department got creative, coming up with a Drive-by Tree Display as part of the community’s annual Hometown Holidays celebration, which typically centers at the library with activities and the arrival of Santa on a fire truck. None of that happened.

Decorated trees line the sidewalk in Faribault’s Central Park.
Each tree is uniquely decorated.
The display is just across the street from the historic cathedral.

This year we have Christmas trees—a line of 19 decorated evergreens stretched along one block on the east side of Central Park next to Second Avenue and across from the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour.

We arrived around 4 pm with plenty of time to view the trees before dark.
Detailed ornaments grace many of the trees.
The lights turned on as the sun set.

Randy and I checked out the display around sunset Saturday evening. It’s beautiful. In daylight. And even more lovely when the sun colors orange into the sky and darkness edges in and the holiday lights switch on.

Randy walks ahead of me, northbound along the row of trees.
Among the many simple and beautiful toppers.
Looking to the south…

Meant to be a drive-by look-and-see, Randy and I opted to walk by. The timing of our visit meant few people in the park. We had our masks in hand if needed.

An angel tops a tree.
I loved viewing and photographing the wide variety of tree toppers.
Especially beautiful as the sun colored the sky.

Walking by and stopping at the trees provided a close up look of ornaments, of tree toppers, of all the details that made each tree a holiday delight.

A downtown hair salon decorated this tree.
A local church created a faith-themed tree.
Another tree sponsor: Faribault Heritage Days.

Each of the 19 trees was decorated by a business or non-profit or organization. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and effort put into decorating the trees, which will be given to St. Vincent DePaul and donated to needy families.

I’m reflected in a bulb as I photograph it.

But most of all, I appreciate this gift to my community. Now, more than ever, we need to feel uplifted, joyful, happy. And I felt all of those when I photographed these decorated trees.

A group participating in the Faribault Parks & Recreation Department’s version of The Amazing Race poses for a photo in Central Park.
Posted in Central Park for participants in Faribault’s The Amazing Race.
Santa is centered in the tree display.

If I would change one thing, it would be to leave these trees displayed for more than a few days. They went up on Thursday. Sunday, December 6, marks your last time to view the Drive-by Tree Display.

A star glows atop a tree.
The lovely trees drew both motorists who slowly drove by and also pedestrians.
The largest tree stands in front of the historic Central Park Bandshell.

What a gift. Thank you, Faribault Parks and Recreation and all who participated in what I hope will become an annual community tradition.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Lighting up the holiday season in Faribault December 3, 2017

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Among the units in Faribault’s first-ever Parade of Lights holiday parade, this beautiful sleigh.

 

HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES DEFINED the weekend for me in Faribault. From ringing bells for the Salvation Army for four hours to lunching at a church craft and bake sale, to buying a Christmas tree to touring an art gallery nativity display to shopping the Faribault Winter Farmers’ Market to touring the historic Alexander Faribault house to viewing Faribault’s first lighted holiday parade, my Saturday was jam-packed. But what fun to get into the Christmas spirit right here in my community.

 

Crowds gather along historic Central Avenue for the Parade of Lights as the sun sets.

 

While vehicles were banned from the parade route, one driver headed south on Central directly toward the parade just as it began. She was directed off the roadway.

 

Parked on a side street just off Central, this Chavis Vacuum & Sewing Center truck awaits the start of the parade.

 

Local merchants showcase the holiday spirit in window displays.

 

 

Large groups of people congregate outside Burkhartzmeyer Shoes for the parade. Co-owner Bruce Burkhartzmeyer served as parade grand marshal.

 

I especially delighted in the 20-minute holiday parade along Central Avenue in our historic downtown. As the sun slipped into darkness Saturday evening, families and others gathered to watch trucks and cars and floats roll by in bright holiday lights. Snowmen, penguins, elves, candy canes, Christmas trees and more incorporated into the units added holiday cheer. Kids scrambled for candy tossed by those dressed in festive attire.

 

This classic vintage pick-up truck decorated by Brushwork Signs rated as one of my favorite parade entries.

 

Students from Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault march in the parade, their holiday lights blurred by my camera shooting in too-low light conditions. Still, I like the results, showing motion.

 

Lots of snowmen on floats, but not a flake of snow on the ground.

 

Faribault’s sweet version of the Polar Express.

 

An oversized vacuum cleaner promotes as local vacuum cleaner store.

 

I loved this Parade of Lights, part of Faribault’s first-ever Winterfest which began on Thursday. And based on the crowds, they shared my enthusiasm. I could sense the excitement, heard the positive comments, felt the energy of a community embracing the joy of the season.

 

A Faribault fire truck follows police cars as a lead in the parade.

 

Kids await candy tossed from those walking alongside floats.

 

A city of Faribault snowplow ablaze in lights.

 

To those who organized this event (the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Faribault Main Street and local businesses) and to those who participated in the parade, thank you. You brought the Christmas spirit into the heart of our downtown, into our community, into the hearts of those gathered on a balmy December evening in southeastern Minnesota.

 

The back of the parade as it heads north along Central Avenue in downtown Faribault.

 

I expect the Parade of Lights to be back next year with even more entries and an even larger crowd.

 

Note: Check back for more stories featuring some of the holiday activities I enjoyed on Saturday in Faribault.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Lighting up the holidays in rural Faribault December 28, 2015

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WHEN OUR KIDS were little, we made it a late December tradition to drive around Faribault viewing residential holiday light displays. It is a lovely, cherished family memory that connects to my childhood. Each December, my parents, five siblings and I packed into our Chevy and twisted through the Tangle Town neighborhood of Redwood Falls to see the lights.

Fast forward to 2015. My three kids are now adults, two of whom live out of state. Only one was home on Christmas Day. Three evenings before Christmas, my husband slid behind the wheel of our Chevy. I buckled into the front passenger seat. And the college son folded into the backseat. We were on our way to view a rural holiday light display about two miles east of Faribault.

 

Holiday lights, 6 trees and stars

 

Pulling into the driveway at Cathy Hoban and Pat Spence’s place, a sign advised us to tune into 103.1 FM and to turn on our parking lights. Before us, lights flashed as the magic unfolded.

 

Holiday lights, 15 1939 Ford pick-up truck

 

From towering Christmas trees to stars, Santa, snowmen, reindeer, candy canes, a Nativity and even a light-bedecked 1939 Ford pick-up truck, this dazzling music-synchronized show is wondrous.

 

Holiday lights, 17 circling the driveway

 

Randy crept the Chevy along at a snail’s pace, then stopped so we could take it all in. I stepped outside the car to snapshot the scene, hoping for a few good frames. He followed the circle drive then retraced his route.

 

Holiday lights, 14 star atop tree

 

We were mostly silent as we watched and listened, delighting in this gift from Cathy and Pat to the Faribault community. The couple loves Christmas. And it shows in the strings and strings and strings of colorful lights, in the effort it takes to put this all together, in the creativity and music.

 

Holiday lights, 21 reindeer

 

I couldn’t help but smile and feel propelled into the Christmas spirit while touring here. And I felt, too, the connection between past and present, in memories remembered and those being formed.

 

Holiday lights, 9 Nativity

 

How about you, do you drive around your community, or elsewhere, to view holiday light displays?

FYI: Cathy and Pat’s holiday light show is open from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. daily through the holidays. However, because of warm temps, which led to a muddy driveway, the display closed some evenings. That shouldn’t be a problem this week. The address: 4531 197th Street East, Faribaut.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling