Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thanksgiving reflections November 26, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , ,

I created this Thanksgiving centerpiece using a vintage tray, vintage candles, pinecones from friends, shells from Detroit Lake and letters from my 1970s Scrabble game. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

THANKSGIVING. That singular word sparks strong visuals of family gathered around a table laden with a platter of sliced turkey, bowls heaping with potatoes and stuffing, steaming brown gravy, a small bowl of cranberries, salad, and, for dessert, pumpkin pie. I’ve missed a few foods. But I’ve covered the essentials.

 

Frazee, MInnesota’s claim to fame. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

That image is the traditional view of this day. Yet, it is not necessarily accurate. Not for everyone. Too many families, because of distance or other reasons, can’t be together on this holiday that focuses so much on family. I’ve been in that spot many times.

 

Randy shuffles meals and bags around as we prepare to deliver them during a previous Thanksgiving. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

But I’ve learned through the years that I can feel sad about the absence of loved ones or I can choose to be thankful and celebrate the day in ways that remind me of gratitude. In recent years Randy and I celebrated by delivering meals for Faribault’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner. We experienced such joy in bringing turkey and the trimmings to those unable to otherwise enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. Their genuine gratitude blessed us. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

 

A message on a bulletin board at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church, Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

This year, though, we will celebrate Thanksgiving at our house with family surrounding a food-laden table. All three of our adult children will be home, for the first time in years. I cannot wait. A son-in-law (one can’t be here) and two grandchildren, ages 3 ½ and almost 11 months, will add to the fun. I am a happy mama. I don’t ever take the presence of my family for granted because I’ve experienced many holidays minus the “kids.” I admit to feeling a bit melancholy through the years when I’ve heard friends talk about their Thanksgiving plans that often include multiple family gatherings. A lot of those friends grew up here and their kids live either in town or nearby as do a large contingent of extended family. But that is not me.

So this Thanksgiving I am especially grateful for the presence of those I love. I wish for you also a full table and a gathering of family or friends to bless your day.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends!

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thank you, veterans November 11, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:56 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

A star marks a veteran’s grave. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I AWAKENED EARLY this morning writing this post in my head, before I fell back into a fitful sleep. Words flowed earlier. Now, though, I’ve forgotten the precise phrasing. But the essence of my thoughts remains. Thank you, veterans.

 

Howard Homeier, a WW II veteran from Kenyon, Minnesota, in his cherished 1950s pick-up truck. When I photographed him in 2009, he’d just participated in a ceremony honoring veterans. He was a member of the Kenyon Color Guard. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2009.

 

Thank you for all you sacrificed to serve, to protect our freedom and that of other nations and peoples. Thank you for placing country before self. Thank you for your bravery and fortitude, for your resilience and strength, for your ability to forge on in the most difficult of circumstances.

Thank you for setting aside your personal and family lives, for all those days and nights apart from those you love. That could not have been easy. Separation never is.

Thank you to your families for enduring this separation, for supporting you, for recognizing the importance of your work.

 

My father, Elvern Kletscher, on the left with two of his soldier buddies in Korea.

 

Those two words—thank you—don’t seem nearly enough. But I write them with sincerity and a depth of understanding founded in the experiences of my Korean War veteran father. I saw the toll war took on him, decades after he left Korea. He fought there in the rugged mountains of that nation, rifle in hand, firing at the enemy, hugging the earth of foxholes, taking out a sniper who killed too many of his brothers. War is hard.

And so thank you seems insufficient. But it is what I offer to you today. From my heart.

 

A veteran salutes during the Memorial Day Program at Faribault’s Central Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2018.

 

ADDITIONALLY, I want to share that the above photo I took of a veteran at the 2018 Memorial Day program at Central Park in Faribault, recently won third place in the People category of National Mutual Benefit’s 2019 Photo Contest. National Mutual is a fraternal life insurance society based in Madison, Wisconsin and through which my parents purchased a policy for me as a baby.

I am honored to have this image chosen for recognition and publication. It is just one more way for me to say, “Thank you, veterans.”

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

North Morristown on the Fourth, the place to be in southern Minnesota July 2, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

A glimpse of the North Morristown celebration grounds. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

NORTH MORRISTOWN, MINNESOTA, on the Fourth of July is grassroots Americana.

 

Buy your pie early for the best selection. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

From the country setting to the popular parade featuring the Candy House to a medallion hunt and flag-raising ceremony and concerts and offerings of homemade pies and much more, this celebration reflects rural America at its best.

 

 

If you haven’t experienced July 4 at North Morristown, I suggest you travel to this southern Minnesota holiday destination this week.

 

The BINGO callers of North Morristown. I won first place for this photo in a contest sponsored by National Mutual Benefit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

My husband enjoys his cheeseburger at the North Morristown Fourth of July celebration in 2016. This is one of my favorite close-up images and among those published in Fleur-de-lis. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Craig and Kathy enjoying the Fourth at North Morristown. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Here you’ll find BINGO and bands, burgers and beer, and, at day’s end, fireworks bursting over farm fields.

 

The popular bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing, performs twice at North Morristown, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

For many, this event represents an annual reunion with family and friends. Even with no roots to this place, I embrace this celebration, delighting in some really good food, visiting with friendly people and enjoying the music of crowd favorite Monroe Crossings, which returns year after year to perform at North Morristown on the Fourth.

 

One of several vintage kiddie carnival rides at North Morristown. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

If you appreciate the company of good folks who value country, community, family and hard work, then North Morristown will appeal to you. Bring your lawn chair. Bring your appetite. Bring your kids and/or grandkids. And be sure to express your gratitude to the volunteers who make this event happen. Thank them. And buy a $2 celebration button to show your financial support.

 

This food stand served tasty BBQ pork and beef sandwiches and other food during a past celebration.  Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2016.

 

Billed as the longest-running Fourth of July celebration in Minnesota at 127 years, this is a must-attend for anyone interested in an authentic, down-to-earth way to commemorate our nation’s birthday.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Memorial Day reflections May 24, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , ,

A veteran salutes during the Memorial Day Program at Faribault’s Central Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

IN THE BUSYNESS of this holiday weekend, please take time to remember the real reason for Memorial Day. It is about honoring the men and women who died in service to our country.

I direct you to a blog post I wrote for Warner Press and which published earlier this week. Click here.

 

My dad carried home a July 31, 1953, memorial service bulletin from Sucham-dong, Korea. In the right column is listed the name of his fallen buddy, Raymond W. Scheibe.

 

Read about my dad’s war memories in a shoebox and how he kept the faith on the battlefields of Korea. Read, too, about his buddy Ray, who died there.

Pause. Reflect. Honor. That is the essence of Memorial Day. Not the start of summer.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In honor of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. January 21, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Photographed in 2018 in a storefront window of a business in downtown Faribault, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo August 2018.

 

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. —from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.

 

© Photo copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A glimpse of Northfield during the holiday season December 21, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Outside an antique shop in historic downtown Northfield, Minnesota.

 

NORTHFIELD RATES AS ONE of my favorite Minnesota cities. It’s a charming/quaint/picturesque river town with a timeless small town feel.

 

Photographed through the front window of Quality Bakery, a snippet of the bakery’s holiday window display.

 

Signage directs families to Santa’s house in Bridge Square.

 

The Christmas tree in Bridge Square brightens the wintry landscape with bold red decorations.

 

For someone like me who prefers rural to urban, a 22-minute drive there with no traffic hassles, visual delights in a historic downtown, an artsy vibe (including sidewalk poetry) and more, make this college city of some 20,000 particularly appealing. Especially at Christmas.

 

Bridge Square in the heart of downtown Northfield.

 

An ornament on that community Christmas tree.

 

Santa’s house, where Santa has always been absent whenever I’ve stopped at Bridge Square.

 

Fancied up holiday window displays, a Santa House and Christmas tree in Bridge Square (the downtown community gathering spot), an annual Christmas Walk, the renowned St. Olaf College Christmas Concert and more transform Northfield into a magical place during the holiday season.

 

 

I recently spent some time Christmas shopping in the downtown made famous by The James-Younger Gang’s robbery of the First National Bank on September 7, 1876. Today that bank building houses the Northfield Historical Society. The museum sits right across the street from Bridge Square.

 

A wagon load of Wisemen awaits shoppers outside an antique shop.

 

It’s not that I like shopping—I don’t. But I’d rather shop in one-of-a-kind local shops than in Anywhere Mall, USA. Northfield offers an abundance of home-grown retail stores.

 

 

There’s a lot of creativity in Northfield. And an appreciation of that creativity. I once participated in a beer poetry reading at a local brewery. How cool is that?

 

Beau inside Marketplace @ 416.

 

Christmas or not, the Americana small town-ness of Northfield endears this river town to me.

 

 

TELL ME: Have you been to Northfield and, if so, what about it appeals to you? Or what town do you find especially charming wherever you live?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The magic of Faribo Frosty December 19, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 

WHEN I POSTED ABOUT #faribofrosty last week, a blogger and reader from Pittsburgh asked for under-construction photo documentation of the mega snowman in the front yard of the Hoisington family home in Faribault.

Well, I didn’t have any sculpting images. I knew only that Andy Hoisington, assisted by other family members, shapes the gigantic snowman by hand, literally, and by shovel. Andy pulls out a ladder (he’s a painter) when Frosty grows beyond his reach. Andy is tall, btw.

All of this handcrafting is quite an accomplishment really given the snowman’s height, which is maybe 15 feet (just guessing here). Magical, you might say.

Visual proof of how Faribo Frosty came to be eluded me. Until Saturday. My 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter was in town for a long overdue overnight stay. And on our list of to-do items was posing for photos with Frosty. Izzy is at that magical age of discovery. Frosty would impress her.

But, when we pulled up to view Frosty, we saw a snowman stripped of his bright red scarf, his top hat, his pipe, his arms, even his face. Not particularly exciting, a blob of snow.

 

Andy and Jake work on Faribo Frosty early Saturday afternoon.

 

Then I remembered the request from Ruth in Pittsburgh to take photos of the snowman under construction. While this was repair rather than an original build, it still documents the process. I rolled down the van window and shot a few frames. Then I asked Andy when he and his son Jake would be done with their work. Frosty was suffering from heat-related issues. Yes, a day of 30-plus-degree temps in December sunshine is not good for a snowman, even one as big as Faribo Frosty.

 

Andy, lead snowman builder.

“Come back in two hours,” Andy shouted from high on the ladder.

 

Grandpa and Izzy build their own Frosty in our backyard.

 

 

Well, that wouldn’t work for us. We had a vintage snowmobile show to attend, a stop at the library for books and then back home so Izzy could build a snowman with Grandpa before making roll-out Christmas cookies. Then we had to get to the children’s Christmas service at church by 5:30 p.m. Frosty would have to wait until Sunday. Izzy seemed fine with that given she could now glimpse her very own snowman from the kitchen window. She refused, though, to pose for a photo. In fact, she told me to “Go back inside, Grandma,” when she spotted me poking my head out the back door with my camera.

 

Izzy gets her first close-up look at Faribo Frosty in Grandpa’s arms.

 

 

 

 

Thankfully on Sunday, Izzy mostly cooperated. She even hugged Frosty when I prompted her. It was a sweet and magical moment. This would be a much better world if we all paused to hug a snowman.

 

 

We fit in our photo shoot before a group of Vikings, and Faribo Frosty, fans arrived. While we were there, drivers and passengers in two vehicles also slowed down for a look. This snowman’s popularity has soared given his new social media presence. He’s making a lot of people happy, including me and my granddaughter.

 

 

Thank you, Hoisington family, for your ongoing efforts to bring holiday joy to the Faribault community. I appreciate you. And so does Izzy.

FYI: Faribo Frosty is located at the intersection of First Street Northwest and Third Avenue Northwest in Faribault (18 Third Ave. N.W. precisely).

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling