Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Exploring Madison’s Atwood Neighborhood via the bike trail, minus the bike, Part I September 15, 2020

A colorful cow sculpture stands next to the bike trail by the Goodman Community Center in the Atwood Neighbohood of Madison, Wisconsin.

 

BUTTERFLIES. BOOKS. BIKES. Even a bovine. And a sign for burgers and brats.

 

The bike path teems with bikers of all ages, and some walkers.

 

All defined a Labor Day weekend walk along the Capital City State Trail on Madison’s east side while visiting family. This Wisconsin state capital fully embraces biking via a city-wide system of connecting trails. Walk the paved pathways rather than wheel them and you best remain vigilant. And to the side. Most bikers zoom by.

 

By the community center, a Little Free Library sits right next to the bike trail.

 

With that awareness, I fully enjoyed this opportunity to see more of the thriving and vibrant Atwood Neighborhood.

 

Next to the trail, an electric bike rental station.

 

I almost wished I had a bike, though, and I suppose I could have rented an electric one from a rental station positioned along the trail, just another way to get those without bikes out, moving and exploring.

 

Flowers fill yards and sections of community garden plots.

 

But, given I had my DSLR camera, walking worked better. I could stop when I wanted—which was often—to document my surroundings. My walking companions—the husband and the son—often paced yards ahead and I finally told them to continue without me. They did. And later returned with an ice cream treat from a trail-side shop.

 

The community gardens are popular and filled with fruit, vegetables and flowers.

 

Even in the gardens, you’ll find art in signage.

 

This fence panel/art graces a corner of a garden plot. The gardens stretch along the bike path.

 

While they pursued ice cream, I snapped photos in the Atwood Community Gardens next to the trail. There I chatted briefly with a woman harvesting kale. I shared my appreciation for the lovely neighborhood and she told me of the long waiting list to get a garden plot.

 

Environmental concerns shared in art painted on a sidewalk by the trail.

 

She also tipped me off to concerns about groundwater and soil contamination from a resident industry (which I later verified online at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources).

 

Murals stretch along the side of the historic Madison Kipp-Corporation building next to the bike trail. Sail East, Goodman Center Youth, Kipp employees and the Dane Arts Mural Arts worked together on the 2017 project. Please check back for a post focusing on this public art.

 

It was on that industrial building that I found art. Murals of laborers at work, a fitting discovery on Labor Day weekend. The portraits show the strength of those who work with their hands. I spent many minutes photographing those paintings of blue collar workers.

 

Wisconsin and brats are synonymous.

 

A colorful cow sculpture by the Goodman Community Center also drew my attention. It seems fitting given Wisconsin’s “Dairyland State” motto and affinity for cheese curds. In addition to brats and beer.

 

This is the first photo I took as we walked the bike trail. You’ll find reaffirming messages like this throughout the Atwood Neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

In many ways, my walk along the bike trail offered a mini snapshot of Madison in the context of the Atwood Neighborhood. I saw an appreciation for the arts, for the land, for the outdoors. And I felt, too, a strong sense of community grounded in caring for one another. And that, more than anything, makes me feel…hopeful.

 

Please check back for more posts from my recent visit to Madison, including a second one of images from this same section of the Capitol City Bike Path.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Another view of Pelican Rapids, Minnesota October 18, 2019

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

A mural on the back of a downtown Pelican Rapids building.

 

VIEW A COMMUNITY ONLY from its public front face and you miss seeing the entire portrait of a place.

 

Pete the Pelican

 

On a recent visit to Pelican Rapids in northwestern Minnesota, a side pathway between buildings led me to the Pete the Pelican sculpture.

 

 

 

 

And more—a unique suspension footbridge

 

 

and art on the backs of businesses.

 

 

Pelican Rapids, as you might rightly guess, identifies itself with pelicans. An early history of the town states that enormous pelicans circled overhead as they moved towards their nesting area at the upper rapids.

 

 

And so the pelican became this town’s symbol…

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault welcomes F-town Brewing Company July 30, 2015

A logo on the taproom wall, which opens to a street-side patio. To the left in the photo, up the hill, is Central Avenue. That

The taproom, right, opens to a street-side fenced patio. To the left, up the hill, lies Central Avenue, the main street through Faribault’s historic business district. F-Town encourages patrons to order carry-out at local restaurants and bring the food to the brewery to enjoy with beer.

ONE OF MINNESOTA’S newest craft breweries, F-Town Brewing Company, has opened in the heart of historic downtown Faribault, in a community with a rich beer history. The Fleckenstein family brewed Fleck’s beer and other beverages here for 108 years, until 1964.

An overview of the Peterson building which houses architectural salvage and antiques, left, with the brewery on the left.

An overview of the Peterson Art Furniture building which houses architectural salvage and antiques, right, with the brewery on the left.

Now locals Noah Strouth, Chris Voegele and Travis Temke have brought beer back to Faribault, housing their operation in a section of the aged Peterson Art Furniture Co. complex with the taproom in an adjoining converted garage space.

We wanted to sample all of the beers on tap, so we ordered a flight.

A snippet photo of the F-Town flight staged on the brewery’s signature orange picnic table.

F-Town has proven a popular gathering spot for craft beer lovers since opening about a month ago. Saturday evening my husband and I stopped by for the first time, purposely allowing the initial hoopla to settle. We ordered a $12 flight—a sampling of six beers ranging from the FlexLess light lager to the robust Nutso which tasted of coffee to me.

The beers included in our flight.

The beers included in our flight.

I was hard-pressed to choose a favorite. But Randy picked FlexLess without a second thought. He found it the most similar to mass-produced beers, which can be a good thing or not, depending on the type of beer you like. He prefers a less hoppy taste. I wondered about that name, FlexLess, and the similarity to the historic Fleck’s name. The founders of F-Town early on hoped to bottle Fleck’s branded beer at a brewery they initially named Patriot’s Brewing. That all changed following legal and trademark issues.

A block from F-Town, you'll find a mural honoring Fleck's beer.

A block from F-Town, you’ll find a mural honoring Fleck’s beer, once brewed in Faribault.

Eventually, the brewery became F-Town with beers bearing monikers like #1 American (there’s that patriotism), Ipalicious (an IPA) and We’ve Gone Plaid (a Scottish ale). The beers (only Ipalicious and Nutso at this point) are sold in cans, not bottles, a disappointment since I think craft beer should be bottled. But my son-in-law noted that cans are becoming a more common choice for craft breweries, including at the wildly popular Surly Brewing Co. I have yet to purchase F-Town beer off-sale as the one time I tried, the liquor store was sold out. The beer is being distributed only locally, for now, by College City Beverage.

In this photo, you see the door into the taproom and the patio.

In this photo, you see the door into the taproom and then the patio.

About that brewery name. I’ve heard mixed reviews. Some dislike that the “f-word” pops into your head upon hearing F-Town. But, on the positive side, the name is short and memorable and connects to the town name, Faribault with an “F,”  and purposely or not to the long-ago Fleckenstein breweries, also with an “F,” at least in my mind.

The taps.

The taps.

F-Town's IPA beer, Ipalicious.

F-Town’s IPA beer, Ipalicious.

I’ll admit, though, I’m not impressed by the wild-faced creature graphics for the Ipalicious and Nutso beers, the two F-Town beers currently canned and retailed. I was expecting art and beer names reflective of our historic community, local heritage, geographic setting and/or even the historic former furniture building in which the brewery is housed. I’m sure much thought was put in to both. But I am not making the strong connection to Faribault with the choices. I hope that changes.

Here's where the beer is made, just down the steps from the taproom.

Here’s where the beer is made, just down the steps from the taproom.

Words matter. A guy drinking beer next to my husband and me at F-Town pegged us as “beer hippies,” folks who apparently wander about checking out craft breweries. We’re not hippie anything other than coming of age in the early 1970s. He assessed us as such after I asked if he’d been to Montgomery Brewing in neighboring Montgomery. He hasn’t. We haven’t. We’ve only ever visited August Schell Brewing Company in New Ulm. And now F-Town, new on the Minnesota craft brewery scene and right here in the heart of historic Faribault.

Except for the sidewalk flag, there's no identifying  exterior street-side signage on F-Town Brewing. It's needed and perhaps it's coming. The garage doors are opened, if the weather is nice, when the taproom is open.

Except for the sidewalk flag, there’s no identifying exterior street-side signage on F-Town Brewing. It’s needed. Perhaps it’s coming.

FYI: The F-Town Brewing Company taproom is open from 3 p.m. – 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; from 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. Fridays; from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; and from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday. It’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Tours are available at 3 p.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. Saturday.

The brewery is located at 22 Fourth Street Northeast/Minnesota State Highway 60, just half a block off Central Avenue.

BONUS PHOTOS:

The scene at eye level of the historic Peterson Art Furniture. Plan time to explore this multi-level complex stuffed with antiques and collectibles and architectural salvage.

This is an eye level scene of the Peterson Art Furniture Company building from the F-Town patio. Therein you will find 25,000 square feet of antiques and collectibles, architectural salvage, lighting, furniture and more. Plan time to explore this multi-level complex. Faribault has a rich history of furniture makers.

Another perspective of our flight.

Another perspective of our flight.

When you're sipping on the patio, don't miss this mural of iceskaters on the Straight River.

When you’re sipping on the patio, don’t miss this mural of iceskaters on the Straight River.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Small-town Minnesota murals: Grassroots art January 30, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:20 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

DRIVE INTO MONTGOMERY or New Richland, Ellendale or West Concord, or many small Minnesota towns, and you’ll find grassroots art, my term for Main Street murals.

It’s art that’s out-front and public, depicting the history and feel of a community.

Such murals typically offer a visual snapshot of the past, impressing upon visitors and locals a defined sense of place.

In Ellendale, for example, a locomotive and depot comprise about a third of the 16-foot by 32-foot mural on the side of the Ellendale Café. The train points to the community’s roots as a railroad town, established in 1900 when the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railroad passed through on its way to Minneapolis. Ellendale is named after the railroad president’s wife, Ellen Dale Ives, known for her humanitarian works.

The Ellendale Centennial Mural photographed last summer.

The Sweere brothers of the Twin Cities-based National Mural Company and natives of nearby Owatonna painted the 1999 Ellendale Centennial Mural.

The mural, by the way, is just across the street from Lerberg’s Foods, an old-fashioned grocery store established in 1901 and complete with a moosehead on the wall. (Click here to read an earlier post about this must-visit grocery store.)

The city section of the mural stretching along the side of the New Richland post office.

In neighboring New Richland, the Sweere brothers also created the 12.5-foot by 65-foot mural brushed onto an exterior cement block wall of the post office. In this 2003 grassroots art, train tracks visually divide the mural into city and country scenes. It is a point this community emphasizes—not the division of the two, but the link between rural and town. Each July this Waseca County town of 1,200 celebrates Farm and City Days.

The rural portion of the New Richland mural.

Should you be interested in moving to New Richland, you might want to click here and check out this deal: The city is offering free land to individuals looking to build a new home in the Homestake Subdivision on the northwest side of town within a year of acquiring the deed. (Note that you’ll need to pay the special assessments.) Just thought I’d throw that land offer out there.

A 1950s version of West Concord is showcased in the mural on the side of a bowling alley.

To the east, over in West Concord, cars, not trains, define that town’s mural on the side of Wescon Lanes next to West Concord Centennial Park. The art depicts a 1950s street-scape, a nod to a community that celebrates summer with weekly car cruises and an annual West Concord Historical Society Car and Truck  Show in July.

Just down the street, you can shop at Woody’s Auto Literature and More.

Montgomery, Minnesota's mural

Traveling back west over to Montgomery in Le Sueur County, you’ll spot a mural of Main Street just across from famous Franke’s Bakery, known for its kolacky (Czech pastry). Local sign-painter Victor Garcia painted the scene based on an early 1900s photo of this town founded by Czech immigrants.

A close-up shot of the Montgomery mural

So there you have it—abbreviated visual histories of four small southeastern Minnesota towns showcased in grassroots art. Think about that the next time you see a mural.

The Mural Society of Faribault created this mural honoring the Tilt-A-Whirl amusement ride, made in Faribault since 1926. Today Gold Star Manufacturing still produces the fiberglass cars for this ride.

DO YOU KNOW of any small towns that tell their stories via murals? In Faribault, where I live, five murals are posted on buildings in the downtown area. With a population of more than 20,000, Faribault isn’t exactly a small town, not from my perspective anyway. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to peruse the murals which depict differing aspects of this city’s history.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling