Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Oh, the joy of autumn days with the grandkids October 13, 2020

Randy walks with the grandkids at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault on Saturday afternoon.

NOTHING BRINGS ME more joy than time with my grandchildren, Isabelle, 4 ½ and Isaac, 21 months. This past weekend they spent all of Saturday with us, overnight into early Sunday evening so their parents could have some much-needed time alone. Randy and I love having the kids. They are easy-going, fun and just plain happy.

Our living room, kid central this weekend with toys pulled from totes and cupboards.

At their young ages, the siblings are content doing most anything from coloring to “helping” make apple crisp. This visit, Izzy headed straight for her Uncle Caleb’s Brio train set. And Isaac, besides pushing any toy with wheels, loved putting together puzzles. The same ones, over and over. (We think he’s pretty smart.) And this visit, Grandpa’s vinyls spinning on the record player also fascinated him.

We stopped often at River Bend to view the colorful leaves.

But, for me, it was our time outdoors that proved most engaging and memorable. We took the kids to River Bend Nature Center on Saturday afternoon, arriving to a parking lot filled with vehicles, including several school buses. Unbeknownst to us, a cross country meet was taking place. We stayed as far away from that busyness as possible, although a cluster of several teens out for a practice run in the woods veered way too close for comfort. That aside, it was a mostly solo walk for the four of us.

Our grandson, 21 months, runs along a trail at River Bend. Once taken out of the stroller, he never went back. Our walk ended with his sister riding in the stroller.

We started out with Isaac in the stroller given the distance we planned to walk. Part way in, we let him walk, or shall I say, run. Even with legs much longer than his, Randy and I struggled to keep up with our grandson. Occasionally he would stop, though, to examine a leaf or pick up a stick.

That’s the part I appreciate about being with little kids. You see the world through their eyes, at their level, from their inquisitive perspective. And that’s refreshing. There are many stop and smell the roses moments.

The street by the MSAD shows the beautiful fall colors gracing Faribault.

We experienced those at River Bend and again on Sunday when we looped our way around the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf campus. Izzy zoomed ahead of us on her scooter. And Isaac likewise moved as fast as his legs could carry him. Fast enough for these grandparents.

Randy lifted Isaac for a closer look at these bold berries on a tree at the MSAD.

Occasionally the kids paused to gather pine cones, colorful leaves and berries or to pick petunias (shhh) from a flowerbed. I bagged their nature finds for them to take home.

I hope we are instilling in them an appreciation for the outdoors and for nature. But, more than that, I hope they will remember these times with us—the minutes and hours and days together. Connecting, sharing, learning and loving each other as only grandparents and their grandchildren can. What a joy. What a blessing.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Scarecrows from around the world at MSAD October 29, 2011

FROM EGYPT TO INDIA TO MEXICO…, you’ll find those countries and more represented at this year’s Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf Scarecrow Fest.

Autumn wouldn’t be quite the same without this annual display at the school’s picturesque campus on the east side of Faribault. For years my family has toured the scarecrows showcased in the school’s green space edged by lovely, historic limestone buildings.

Unlike past festivals, the scarecrows this year hadn’t been ravaged by the brisk winds that often sweep across this hilltop location. Durability is a requirement in construction of the scarecrow scenes, which are also judged on use of materials, overall appearance and creativity.

I don’t know how judges decided on the winners this year because so many entries in the themed “Cultures of the World” contest ranked as outstanding. MSAD classes, public school classes, dorm groups, community groups, families and staff can enter the competition.

This year’s theme, especially, pleased me given the ever-growing cultural diversity that defines Faribault.

If you want to see the scarecrows in person, you best hurry. The displays went up a few days ago, will remain up until Halloween, and must be removed from the campus on Tuesday.

"International ECE Children" by the MSAD ECE with historic Tate Hall in the background.

A close-up of "Barn Raising Rebels" by the Faribault High School American Sign Language Group 3.

A detail in the "Barn Raising" scene that made me pause and wonder if this blackbird was about to take flight.

"Italian Pizzeria" by the MSAD ECE won third place.

Animal art in the "Kenya" display by MSAD grades 2/3.

"Welcome to Egypt" by the MSAD Class of 2015 included an Egyptian, a camel and three pyramids.

Viking Leif Erickson was part of the "Greenland" scarecrow scene by MSAD grades 4/5. The entry won second place.

Several skulls were incorporated into "Mexico's Day of the Dead" by MSAD Class of 2013.

Faribault High School's American Sign Language Group 1 created this Jamaican.

The Baker family built the Taj Mahal, which mimics the shape of Noyes Hall in the background, for their "Welcome to India" scarecrow display. The Bakers won first place.

The Baker family got the details, right down to the jewel on the Indian woman's forehead.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Exploring Minnesota at the MSAD Scarecrow Fest October 18, 2010

 

 

A sign welcomes visitors to the Scarecrow Fest at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault.

 

EVERY YEAR IN FOREVER, my family has crossed the viaduct to Faribault’s east side to view the scarecrows at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf. Autumn would not be autumn without this annual tour.

Years ago we loaded up the kids. Today it’s just me and my husband. But we still get the same kick out of seeing exactly what MSAD students, Faribault High School American Sign Language students, families and others have created for the October Scarecrow Fest.

This year, undoubtedly, has been my favorite with scarecrow scenes themed around Minnesota’s great outdoors. The displays are completely family-friendly—nothing scary or macabre or remotely frightening.

I suppose, though, that the sizes of the mosquitoes could frighten non-Minnesotans. But, shhhhhh, we’ll just let them think that our “state bird” grows as big as a bird and that we really do need Paul Bunyan-sized cans of OFF mosquito repellent.

 

 

With mosquitoes this big...

 

 

...swarming and droning...

 

 

...you really do need a mega can of bug repellent.

 

And, yes, Paul Bunyan was depicted in two of the creations. Unfortunately, in one case, Babe the Blue Ox, Paul’s side-kick, had toppled in the wind. But my husband set him upright for a photo op before Babe tumbled back to earth—at the mercy of Paul’s axe, noted a little girl who was touring the fest grounds.

Then I had to add, in a garish Halloween comment, that Paul was making Babe into steak. So much for keeping this family-friendly…

 

 

This Babe the Blue Ox had toppled in the wind, but he stood briefly for this photo.

 

 

This second Babe the Blue Ox sculpture stood his ground in the elements.

 

Honestly, I had to admire the ingenuity of the contestants with gourds transformed into fish and mosquitoes, a loon with a sock head and a pumpkin painted red to represent the cherry on Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

 

 

MSAD's version of the cherry and spoon sculpture.

 

 

One of my favorite entries, this sockhead loon.

 

Unfortunately Split Rock Lighthouse had fallen by the time we arrived for our tour. Typically the weather takes a toll on this wind-swept campus.

But, for the most part, these exhibits need to be durable, durability being one of the criteria considered by judges evaluating the vignettes. They also look at use of materials, overall appearance and creativity.

I bet the judges had a tough time this year deciding who should win. The entries were that good. Of course, why wouldn’t they be? With an “Explore Minnesota” theme, competitors had a whole wide state of 10,000 lakes and loons and land to create a scarecrow scene of this place we Minnesotans love, despite our over-sized “state bird.”

 

 

Pumpkins were painted to resemble animals in the Como Zoo entry.

 

 

Detail. Detail. Even the name on this mock tombstone reflects Minnesota.

 

 

As you might expect, with an "Explore Minnesota" theme, many of the 17 Scarecrow Fest scenes included boats.

 

FYI: You have only a few hours to view the scarecrows, if any remain on the MSAD campus. They will be gone by 3 p.m. today.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling