Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by 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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THERE ARE VIKINGS fans and then there are Vikings fans.




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


Driving toward Minneapolis & “a blazin’ ball of fire” November 30, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Along Interstate 35 in Burnsville.

Northbound along Interstate 35 in Burnsville.

DRIVING INTO AND AROUND downtown Minneapolis always makes for an interesting experience.

The Minneapolis skyline appears in the distance as we drive along Interstate 35 in Burnsville.

The Minneapolis skyline appears in the distance as we drive along Interstate 35 in Burnsville.

This trip late Black Friday afternoon—not to shop but to visit family in the north metro—did not disappoint. I noticed a businessman texting on his drive home in heavy traffic. I spotted a junker van with a padlock attached to the exterior driver’s door, at about the location of the lock. I don’t have photos to prove either because by the time I realized what I’d really seen, we’d bypassed both.

Duluth Trading Company's billboard along Interstate 35 in the south metro.

Duluth Trading Company’s billboard along Interstate 35 in the south metro.

However, I did not miss photographing a Duluth Trading Company billboard for Buck Naked Underwear. I find these ads amusing.

Signage for the "sane lane" nearing downtown Minneapolis.

Signage for the “sane lane” nearing downtown Minneapolis.

The blinding reflection of the sun.

The blinding reflection of the sun.

And I didn’t miss photographing the reflection of the setting sun off skyscraper glass blazing a blinding ball of fire into our eyes as my husband aimed our van toward downtown Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis skyline as the sun sets.

The Minneapolis skyline as the sun sets.

Creeping along in a congested area near downtown Minneapolis.

Creeping along in a congested area near downtown Minneapolis.

As traffic thickened, Randy remarked that he is thankful he does not need to deal with rush hour on a daily basis. But at least we were moving, albeit sometimes barely, and traffic volume was less due to the holiday weekend. The slow-down gave me time to study the Minneapolis skyline. I can identify only the Foshay Tower and the IDS Center; it’s been decades since I’ve been downtown.

Driving through the Lowry Hill Tunnel.

Driving through the Lowry Hill Tunnel.

Low light and a slow shutter speed created this effect inside the Lowry Tunnel.

Low light and a slow shutter speed created this effect inside the Lowry Tunnel.

And then we were curving and zooming through the Lowry Hill Tunnel, which always feels visually surreal, as if we are inside an auto racing video game.

That was Friday.

Driving toward downtown Minneapolis from the north.

Driving toward downtown Minneapolis from the north.

Saturday morning, after staying overnight with our eldest daughter and son-in-law, we headed back toward the city on our way home.

Behind the building in the foreground, you can see the pointed end of U.S. Bank Stadium.

Behind the buildings in the foreground, you can see the pointed end of U.S. Bank Stadium.

Another view of the stadium from the Interstate.

Another view of the stadium from the Interstate.

My focus was on the new U.S. Bank Stadium under construction in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. To me, it resembles a ship rising from the urban core. A Minnesota Vikings ship.

And so we drove south, clear sailing. No crashes. Light traffic. Out of the city. Back home to Faribault, fifty miles distant.

© 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.


Minnesota Faces is featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots

Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling



A peek at Wisconsin’s Packers obsession on game day against the Vikings January 5, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:15 AM
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I PERHAPS SHOULD NOT even publish this post, being a Minnesotan and a Minnesotan who does not watch football.

But even I can’t ignore all the hype about the big play-off game this evening between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers.

Have I watched a football game yet this season? No.

Have I watched a single sporting event yet this season? Yes, I did watch parts of the summer Olympics.

Within that context, you might rightly surmise that I don’t care much about sports. While I can appreciate an individual athlete’s talent, sports as entertainment (for some, but not me), and the value of athletics in teaching discipline and teamwork and in making for a good physical work-out, I dislike the adulation of/obsession with athletes in our sports-crazed world.

Father and daughter Green Bay Packers fans from Appleton. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Father and daughter Green Bay Packers fans from Appleton. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

That segues us right into Wisconsin. Not until my second daughter moved to Appleton, 30 miles south of Green Bay, two years ago, did I understand just how devoted/obsessed/crazed Wisconsinites are about their Packers, but in a fun-loving sort of way.

For example, when my husband and I shopped at Appleton’s Festival Foods last October, the day before a Packers game, we came across a display of gold and green brat buns. We  just stood there and laughed and I wished I’d had my camera. Next time I’m buying some of those Packers buns and sneaking them into Minnesota. That would be easier than trying to do a food photo shoot at Festival Foods.

If you check out the Festival Foods’ website, you will note that the website colors are, not surprisingly, green and gold.

Game Time Kettle Korn. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Game Time Kettle Korn. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

A year ago, while shopping at Lamers Dairy in Appleton, I spied Game Time Kettle Korn, dyed green and gold, of course.

Packers fans houses in Wautoma? Or simply a gold house and a green house?

Packers fans houses in Wautoma? Or simply a gold house and a green house? Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

And then there are the two neighboring houses in Wautoma, which is west of Oshkosh. I still wonder whether those houses were painted green and gold because of the Packers or because the homeowners especially like those colors. I’d have to vote for the Packers connection.

Near Omro along Wisconsin Highway 21, I saw this Packers-themed BEEF-FENSE! sign for McDonalds.

Near Omro along Wisconsin Highway 21, I saw this Packers-themed BEEF-FENSE! sign for McDonalds earlier last year. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Billboards offer another prime venue for Wisconsinites to express their devotion to the Packers.

A tribute to Aaron Rodgers.

A tribute to Aaron Rodgers. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

But perhaps the most creative public display of Packers support is along Wisconsin Highway 10 west of Appleton near the New London exit. Here, on a highly-visible barn, you’ll discover a tribute to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. We spotted that Packers notation last trip since we, once again, skirted the unending road construction on U.S. Highway 41 between Oshkosh and Appleton (and around Green Bay; be forewarned).

So, you see, as much as I don’t care about football, I find Wisconsin’s devotion to the Packers both amusing and entertaining.

Icy cold beer served up in a Minnesota Vikings mug.

Icy cold beer chilling in a snowbank in my Minnesota backyard. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Go, Vikings!

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Really, the unbeatable Vikings? And what about that stadium? January 12, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:34 AM
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WITH A CURRENT 3 – 13 regular season record, the Minnesota Vikings rate as anything but unbeatable. You know this. I know this.

So when my husband and I spotted this misplaced “unbeatable” signage posted above a rack of Vikings shirts at a major discount retailer in Faribault recently, we simply had to laugh at the clearly inaccurate message as it relates to the football team’s wins and losses.

Sometimes you have to find the humor in this whole Vikings fiasco. And I’m not talking just the season record here.

NOW THAT I’VE OPENED that topic to discussion, how do you feel about plans for a new Vikings stadium? Do you support a new stadium? Why or why not? If yes, where should the stadium be built and how should it be financed?

Stadium proposals are due in to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton by 5 p.m. today. State legislators are then supposedly going to resolve the stadium issue during the upcoming legislative session. One can only hope.

Go ahead, submit a comment and tell them what you think.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photo by Randy Helbling


Packers mania as documented by a Minnesotan January 2, 2012

UNTIL MY SECOND DAUGHTER moved to Wisconsin a year ago, I never realized how fanatical Wisconsinites are about their Packers. Suffice to say that football doesn’t interest me, nor do sports for that matter, which would explain my ignorance on this topic.

But once I grasped the importance of the Green Bay Packers to Wisconsin residents, I decided to make my own sport of this football fanaticism by documenting Packers mania. Now, on every trip across the state to Appleton on Wisconsin’s eastern side, I pull out my camera and scout for signs of Packers craziness. And I mean signs. Literally.

Look at the three billboards I photographed along Wisconsin State Highway 21 and U.S. Highway 41 New Year’s weekend.

Near Omro along Highway 21, I saw this Packers-themed BEEF-FENSE! sign for McDonalds.

Look closely in the middle to read the Miller Lite "Catch great taste" Packers billboard posted along U.S. Highway 41 and photographed late Friday afternoon between Oshkosh and Appleton.

Now if I knew my Packers, I could tell you the name of this player featured on a billboard. Someone help me out here. Who is this player who needs a haircut?

Driving through the community of Wautoma, where my cousin Bev, a former Minnesotan, lives, I spotted these neighboring houses.

Packers fans' houses in Wautoma? Or simply a gold house and a green house?

Now, since I didn’t stop to ask the homeowners, I am uncertain whether these green and gold houses truly symbolize team loyalty or whether the paint color choices were totally based on individual hue preferences. What would you guess? I’d go with the gold as representing the Packers and the green as representing personal color preference.

Walk into almost any Wisconsin business, and you’ll likely see Packers merchandise. At Lamers Dairy in Appleton, where bottled milk is sold along with plenty of Wisconsin cheese, I found Game Time Kettle Korn. I also saw an employee wearing purple. Oh, don’t for a second think it was a Vikings t-shirt. The college freshman was sporting a Winona State University shirt, having crossed into Vikings land for his higher education.

Studio 213, a downtown Appleton business featuring art, handcrafted items and collectibles, yielded customized Bears traps meant to be set by Packers fans.

The traps I found at Studio 213 in downtown Appleton.

Game Time Kettle Korn from Medley Popcorn on the shelves at Lamers Dairy.

And then, of course, Packers jerseys, sweatshirts, t-shirts, jackets and more seem to define Wisconsin fashion. If you want to blend in with the locals, simply slip into Packers attire. They’ll never suspect you’re from Minnesota…

At several months old, baby Leo is already a Green Bay Packers fan.

One more tip: Best travel time through Wisconsin is during a Packers game.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


We don’t “need” new stadiums February 2, 2011

I’VE ABOUT HAD IT with Minnesota sports teams thinking taxpayers should help them finance construction of new stadiums.

First the University of Minnesota got their new TCF Stadium. Then the Twins got Target Field.

And, as we know, the Minnesota Vikings have been pushing for a new stadium for years.

The St. Paul Saints have now hopped on the gotta-have-a-new-stadium bandwagon and are proposing a $45 million facility in downtown St. Paul, subsidized, of course, by taxpayer dollars.

Over at Target Center in Minneapolis, a proposal is now on the table to make $150 million in renovations to that building, home to the Timberwolves.

Come on, team owners, athletes, government officials, lobbyists, etc., have you heard of budget shortfalls, the bad economy, unemployment, struggling to make ends meet, high healthcare costs, high gas prices, high food prices, etc.?

I have no time, none, to listen to your list of so-called “needs.” You might “want” a new stadium, but in these difficult economic times, when the average Minnesotan is struggling, you don’t “need” a new stadium.

Here are some real needs:

  • Jobs (and pu….lease don’t tell me stadium projects will create new jobs; those are temporary)
  • Affordable healthcare
  • A decent wage for those who work long, hard hours to provide for themselves and their families (no multi-million dollar contracts here)
  • Lower gas prices
  • Better highways in outstate Minnesota (ever drive Minnesota Highway 3 between Faribault and Northfield or U.S. Highway 14 between Mankato and New Ulm?)

Readers, what’s your opinion on the whole gotta-have-a-new-stadium issue? Choose to agree or disagree with me, but you better have a really, really good reason for supporting a new stadium if that’s your stance.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling