Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Loving the settings & beer at these greater Minnesota breweries July 14, 2017

A flight of craft beer from F-Town Brewing in my community of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

FIVE YEARS AGO if anyone had suggested I would drink (and like) craft beer, I would have laughed. I was only the occasional have-a-beer-with-your-pizza or on a hot summer evening type of beer drinker. And at that, I drank whatever mass produced beer the husband had stocked in the fridge.

How my tastes have changed. I can no longer drink beer that flows by the gallons into bottles or cans inside a sprawling factory. Those beers taste like water to me. Rather, I’ve become a beer snob, preferring hoppy IPAs crafted at small breweries.

I’ll be the first to tell you my preference for craft beer developed over time as an acquired taste. But once acquired, I was hooked, enough so that I, along with my husband, seek out craft breweries. These specialty businesses are an experience, not just a place to try new beers.

 

Reads Landing Brewing Company in Reads Landing, Minnesota.

 

Two recent road trips took us to Reads Landing Brewing Company (between Lake City and Wabasha) and to Imminent Brewing Company. They are distinctly different breweries, but both with excellent beer. And I don’t say that about every craft beer.

We almost missed the Reads Landing establishment in the same named unincorporated community along U.S. Highway 61 in southeastern Minnesota. The brewery sits at the base of a hillside, a train track away from the Mississippi River. Housed inside an historic 1870 former dry goods store, the setting hearkens to bygone days. As an appreciator of old buildings, I delighted in the location and the wide window view of the Mississippi.

 

Randy and I shared a sampler flight of Reads Landing beer.

 

With the exception of slow service on a weekday afternoon when the place wasn’t overly busy, I rate Reads Landing Brewing highly. Randy and I settled onto high chairs at the front window for a perfect view of the river and a slow moving train. Then we waited and waited until the bartender/waiter finally got off the phone, noticed us and then made excuses for his lack of attention. Thankfully, the house-made beers in the sampler flight and accompanying Bavarian Style Soft Pretzel Sticks with homemade beer cheese and mustard dipping sauces compensated for the inattention and left us with a mostly good impression of this brewpub.

Of special note is the Cap’n Amber beer, a beer into which Cap’n Crunch cereal is incorporated in the mash. All of the beers were to our liking; we’d recommend this beer and brewery.

 

The patio outside Imminent Brewing Company in Northfield, Minnesota.

 

Farther inland to the north and east in the riverside college town of Northfield, we checked out the recently-opened Imminent Brewing. I love this place, declaring to Randy that this was my absolute favorite brewery. Located in a former National Guard Armory garage, the brewery has an industrial look and a welcoming vibe. There’s just something about this place that seems particularly comfortable for anyone from a blue collar worker to a college professor.

The brewery also features an expansive patio. And, bonus, food trucks. On this particular weekday evening, Randy and I enjoyed arepas from Noris Cuisine. We didn’t stick around for the live music.

We shared a flight sampler of simply superb craft beers. We’ll be back, given the location some 15 miles from our home.

And we’ll be checking out Tanzenwald, the other new brewery in Northfield, sometime soon.

TELL ME: Do you drink craft beer and/or visit craft breweries? Share your favorites.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Snapshotting Northfield on a Sunday afternoon in April April 25, 2017

 

THE TEMPERATURE ON THE FIRST National Bank of Northfield sign flashed 68 degrees. Sixty-eight glorious degrees on a Sunday afternoon as sunny and beautiful as they come in southern Minnesota in April.

 

Unhooking a fish and fishing in the Cannon River by Bridge Square in the heart of Northfield’s downtown.

 

Daffodils, accented by curly willow, make a simple art statement in planters scattered throughout the downtown area.

 

Lots of downtown Northfield restaurants offer outdoor dining, including here at The Hideaway.

 

Everywhere people ranged in this river city. Bikers, outdoor diners, walkers, anglers, an auburn-haired child navigating across grass sprouted with dandelions, a woman smoking a cigarette in a doorway, an elementary-aged boy drawing an owl in a sketchbook, a line of families waiting outside a dance studio, college co-eds walking in pairs…

 

Poetry is imprinted in downtown sidewalks, this poem across a side street from Bridge Square.

 

Randy and I meandered the river walk, pausing to talk with a biker couple from Hartland asking about Froggy Bottoms, a riverside eatery. We chatted with the red-haired toddler’s mom who admired my camera and shared her passion for photography. She does the social media photos for her and her partner’s BlueNose Coffee in neighboring Farmington. We traded business cards and wished each other a good day and I thought how warm and friendly this young woman with the beautiful baby girl.

 

MakeShift Accessories is one of my favorite downtown Northfield shops given its creative uniqueness.

 

In all the times I’ve visited Bridge Square in downtown Northfield, I’ve never noticed the Civil War Monument topped by this eagle. This time the adjacent fountain was turned off, shifting my focus to the memorial and not to the water.

 

Handwritten notes on business doors always amuse me.

 

Reaching the end of the river walk, Randy and I circled to Division Street, slipping into the occasional business to peruse gifts, antiques and art. As we strolled, I paused to snap photos of whatever caught my eye. A haphazard collection of images.

 

Toys were corralled in a wagon outside a downtown Northfield antique shop.

 

The James-Younger Gang robbery of the First National Bank draws many visitors to Northfield. The original bank now houses the Northfield Historical Society and sits across the street from the current bank.

 

On the side of the historic bank building are holes ringed in black, supposedly marking bullet holes made during the bank raid.

 

Had a company party not drawn us indoors to a pizza and sports bar, I would have lingered longer outdoors, gathering with my camera those details, those Northfield scenes that perhaps remain unnoticed by too many.

 

BONUS PHOTOS:

The window of a barbershop across from Bridge Square.

 

One of two murals on the Northfield Union of Youth building.

 

Another mural on The Key (youth center) building caught my eye.

 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Lots happening in Faribault (and next-door Northfield) this weekend September 9, 2016

WHETHER YOU’RE SHOPPING for fresh food or antiques or looking for some free family fun this weekend, you’ll find them all in Faribault.

A Minnesota souvenir.

Flea markets yield all types of finds, including commemorative plates like this one from an area flea market. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday and continuing until 2 p.m., vendors will offer antiques, collectibles, crafts, art and more on the Rice County Historical Society grounds, 1814 N.W. Second Avenue, during the RCHS Fall Flea Market. I’ve attended the event several times and enjoy not only the treasure sleuthing but also visiting with friends. If you want to learn about local history, the RCHS Museum of History will be open, too, with free admission during the market.

All ages flocked to the market for Family Day.

Family Day at the Faribault Farmer’s Market in September 2015. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Also along Second Avenue, but blocks away in Central Park near Faribault’s downtown, two more events are slated for Saturday. The Faribault Farmer’s Market celebrates Family Day with games, freebies, a scavenger hunt and more from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. The market itself runs from 7 a.m. – noon. I attended Family Day last year and was pleased with this family-focused addition to the market. It adds an extra element of fun and education and attracts younger people.

recoveryfest-copy

 

When the farmer’s market closes, more fun begins in Central Park with RecoveryFest, an event “to celebrate the positive impact of recovery from chemical dependency.” Music, kids’ activities, art, speakers, a bean bay tourney, food and more are part of the celebration that ends at 9 p.m.

The James-Younger Gang shooting it out during The Defeat of Jesse James parade perhaps five years ago.

The James-Younger Gang shooting it out during The Defeat of Jesse James parade. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2009.

Through-out the weekend, our neighbors to the north in Northfield continue to celebrate The Defeat of Jesse James Days. From bank raid re-enactments to a rodeo to a carnival to the grand finale parade (at 2 p.m. Sunday) and way more, the DJJD is jam-packed with activities commemorating the defeat of the notorious outlaw and his gang in this southeastern Minnesota community in 1876.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, enjoy. In a week that’s been especially difficult here in Minnesota, we need to find joy in time with family, with friends, and with others in our community. We need to appreciate one another. And life.

TELL ME: What are your plans for the weekend?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One artist’s interpretation of his walk from Minneapolis to Northfield April 4, 2016

An overview of The Via Northfield exhibit at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota.

An overview of The Via Northfield exhibit at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota.

WHEN EXPECTATIONS DON’T MATCH reality, it is initially disappointing. But then, when you reflect, perception sometimes changes and an aha moment emerges. Such was the metamorphosis for me regarding Minneapolis artist and writer Andy Sturdevant’s The Via Northfield project  showing now through April 17 at the Flaten Art Museum on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield.

The introduction to Andy Sturdevant's project.

The introduction to Andy Sturdevant’s project.

I expected a straight-forward documentary exhibit with journaling and photos of Sturdevant’s two-day, 40-mile trek from Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis to St. Olaf in September 2015. The Via Northfield was anything but. And if I’d bothered to research in advance of my recent exhibit tour, I would have realized Sturdevant would not follow my expected path. He walks a detoured path of creativity. And it works in the kind of artistic way that weaves the present and the past, stories with facts, visuals with words, into a multi-faceted exhibit.

A copy of a newspaper clipping summarizes the death of a man in a profoundly succinct way.

A copy of a newspaper clipping summarizes the disappearnace of a man in a profoundly succinct way.

Pinpointing 15 locations (way stations) along his route, this artist focuses on specific place details through photos, newspaper clippings, artwork, stories and atypical items like a lost cat flier and a gravestone rubbing.

This photo of two Carleton students and their story captivated me.

This photo of two Carleton students and their story captivated me.

My personal favorite is a photo of Carleton College students and an accompanying note. The trio walked from Northfield to the Mall of America, stopping to rest on a couch in a supercool yard in Eureka Township. The note, addressed to dear wonderful people, is signed Kathy, Wren and Bettina. The writer in me latched onto those names, especially the poetically-pleasing Wren.

Sturdevant focuses on places as specific as Eureka Township.

Sturdevant focuses on places as specific as Eureka Township.

Sturdevant’s exhibit calls for close study. And, I’ll admit, I didn’t give it the complete focus it deserves as my energy waned at the end of a long day exploring rural Minnesota.

But I caught some details that caused me to laugh—like Sturdevant’s use of the words soybean farms to describe farms upon which soybeans are grown. I’ve never heard the term. I’ve ever only known such Minnesota farms as crop farms. I grew up on one.

And I laughed at a story about a Dundas man’s journey to a Fargo convention and a subsequent question, Is the Corner Bar still there? Yes, Dawn’s Corner Bar remains a corner anchor in downtown Dundas.

A snippet look at The Via Northfield.

A snippet look at The Via Northfield.

These are the types of stories that connect an exhibit like The Via Northfield in a personal way to those who view it.

Sturdevant personalizes, too, by memorializing pedestrians who died along his traveled route. He uses black circles with name, date and sparse details.

A strong visual.

A strong visual at the end of the exhibit.

Even his ripped pants hang on a wall.

At one of two tables, exhibit visitors can sit and file a Pedestrian Report...

At one of two tables, exhibit visitors can sit and file a Pedestrian Report…

...by following these instructions...

…by following these instructions…

...and then using a typewriter...

…and then using a typewriter…

...or a pencil...

…or a pencil…

...to record a personal story.

…to record a personal story.

This exhibit isn’t just about reading and viewing. It’s also participatory. Viewers are welcome to file their stories in a Pedestrian Report typed on a manual typewriter or written in pencil. Not with any pencil, though, but rather with one imprinted:

I WALKED
“THE VIA NORTHFIELD”
MINNEAPOLIS TO NORTHFIELD, MINN.

The exhibit is promoted on a screen outside The Flaten Art Museum.

The exhibit is promoted on a screen outside The Flaten Art Museum.

FYI: You can view The Via Northfield exhibit from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Wednesday, from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Thursday, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, and from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. weekends at the Flaten Art Museum in the Dittmann Center on the campus of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota. Admission is free.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Mobile graffiti March 18, 2016

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Photographed on the campus of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota.

Photographed on the campus of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota.

THIS TIME OF YEAR, vehicles in Minnesota can get mighty filthy. Road spray films windows with grime. Mud kicks onto fenders.

And the graffiti artist sees opportunity on a mobile canvas.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

When March springs into May-like weather in Minnesota March 13, 2016

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Visiting early Saturday afternoon in downtown Wanamingo.

Visiting early Saturday afternoon in downtown Wanamingo.

I NEEDED A DAY TRIP. A day to explore small town and rural Minnesota. A day to pull my Canon DSLR out of winter hibernation. A day to document life in this place I call home.

My husband, Randy, crosses the bridge across Shingle Creek in Wanamingo.

My husband, Randy, crosses the bridge across Shingle Creek in Wanamingo.

So my husband and I headed east on Saturday, through Kenyon and then on to Wanamingo for lunch, a tour of a church, a stop in Riverside Park and a short walk through the woods along Shingle Creek.

Water rushing over limestone. Sun shining. The smell of creosote on a bridge deck. Blue sky striped with thin white clouds.

Lovely.

Walking the puppy in downtown Wanamingo.

Walking the puppy in downtown Wanamingo.

Walking with the baby and the dog in Northfield.

Walking with the baby and the dog in Northfield.

And everywhere, people. Walking. Alone. In pairs. With babies and dogs.

Going fishing in the North Fork of the Zumbro River, Wanamingo.

Going fishing in the North Fork of the Zumbro River, Wanamingo.

Fishing.

Biking along Goodhue County Road 30 past Riverside Park in Wanamingo.

Biking along Goodhue County Road 30 past Riverside Park in Wanamingo.

Or biking.

This bike was parked outside the elementary school in Wanamingo on Saturday.

This bike was parked outside the elementary school in Wanamingo on Saturday.

From Faribault to Wanamingo to Nerstrand to Northfield and back home.

Two bikers stopped at Nerstrand Meats.

Two bikers stopped at Nerstrand Meats.

In the throngs of people outdoors, I saw spring. Glorious spring, here unseasonably early with temps nearing 70 degrees. Saturday was the sort of day that we Minnesotans think impossible in mid March.

Rollerblading near St. Olaf College in Northfield late Saturday afternoon.

Rollerblading near St. Olaf College in Northfield late Saturday afternoon.

It was a day for lying in a hammock stretched between trees on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield. Or walking hand-in-hand. Or for rollerblading back to campus.

Motorcycles were out everywhere, including this biker on Division Street in downtown Northfield late Saturday afternoon.

Motorcycles were out everywhere, including this biker on Division Street in downtown Northfield late Saturday afternoon.

It was a day for riding motorcycle. It was a day to do anything that took you outdoors.

A spring-like scene in Nerstrand.

A scene more like May than March in Nerstrand.

It was perfect.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Insights into domestic violence & a Minnesota father’s mission after his daughter’s murder February 2, 2016

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Local clergy, representatives from crisis centers and many others gathered to hear Dan Kasper's powerful message on domestic violence.

Local clergy, representatives from crisis centers and many others gathered to hear Dan Kasper’s powerful message on domestic violence.

IN A NEARLY TWO-HOUR presentation Sunday afternoon to a crowd of around 50 gathered at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Owatonna, Dan Kasper of Northfield spoke from the heart—of losing a daughter to domestic violence.

In April 2013, Becky Kasper, a 19-year-old marketing major at Arizona State University, was murdered by her former boyfriend, Luis Soltero. He is currently serving 25 years in an Arizona prison for second-degree murder, plus an additional five for kidnapping, followed by a lifetime of probation with mental health terms.

Dan Kasper delivered a powerful message that personalizes domestic violence. With a portrait of Becky to his left, Dan remembered his daughter—with the beautiful brown eyes of her mother, Sheryl—as determined, a go-getter, a leader, a problem solver. Friends described her as strong, bold, brave, independent and a loyal friend.

“Becky did everything right in life,” her father said, dispelling preconceived notions about victims of domestic violence. “No one could see this coming. Doing everything right got her killed.”

He explained: Becky was trying to help Luis deal with drug and alcohol abuse. But his daughter, he said, “didn’t know what she was up against.” Luis was dealing with mental health issues and had previously attempted suicide, as recently as six weeks before Becky’s murder. “Trying to help puts you in a vulnerable spot…we are losing a lot of young women.”

On April 9, Becky and Luis ended their relationship. On Saturday, April 20, within the two-week time frame that is most dangerous for any domestic abuse victim leaving a relationship, Luis killed Becky with a 10-pound dumbbell. The following Tuesday Luis turned himself into police, after using Becky’s bank card, going to a movie within hours of her murder and attempting suicide. His plan was murder-suicide.

We need to get rid of the “he snapped” notion, Dan said, accepting that a process leads an abuser, like Luis, to domestic violence.

Dan Kasper spoke with passion and purpose.

Dan Kasper speaks with passion and purpose.

The Kaspers’ mission and the warning signs

Dan and Sheryl Kasper are on a mission now to honor their daughter. Specifically, Dan encourages parents to educate their children about and mentor healthy relationships. He emphasizes the need to increase communication and to maintain that communication, especially if a daughter is in an abusive relationship. It is up to parents, he said, to fight the battle against domestic violence because they have the most to lose.

For the Kaspers, living 1,600 miles away from Becky, there was no reason to suspect anything was amiss in Becky and Luis’ relationship. The pair spent a Christmas with the Kaspers in Minnesota and Dan drove back with the couple to Arizona in a car he’d purchased for Becky. All seemed well between them. Dan would next see Luis 1 ½ years later in an Arizona courtroom.

In hindsight, the Kaspers now recognize Becky’s calls for help. Literal calls. In one phone conversation, Becky told her mother about bruises on her arm, explaining that she’d bruised herself while pulling pans from the oven in the coffee shop where she worked. On another occasion, she told them about two black eyes caused by an air bag deploying when a friend’s car, in which she was a passenger, crashed.

“Why would we think she was lying?” Dan asked. “She was always truthful before.”

The Kaspers would learn later that, in Arizona, “people were seeing these warning signs.” They learned that “Becky was roughed up,” that people “heard screaming and stuff flying around” and even the foreboding scream, “Stop it, I can’t breathe!”

“No one told us,” Dan said. “We never had the chance to help.”

Becky Kasper's portrait.

Becky Kasper’s portrait.

Honoring their daughter

But now, despite his frustrations with “the system,” despite this tragedy that has left him existing rather than living, despite no longer feeling emotions but only thinking logically in survival mode, Dan is determined to make a difference. He quoted the words inscribed on a plaque in Becky’s honor at Arizona State University: This is not where it ends.

Sunday marked his first public speaking engagement to educate, to begin to effect changes in laws and in policies on college campuses, to fight the battle against evil. “Domestic violence is under the umbrella of evil,” Dan said, encouraging audience members to be persistent, relentless, never changing the course in being good people. “By being good people, we are fighting domestic violence.” He likened that to putting “a little grain of sand in the devil’s shoe.”

As the murder case worked through the judicial system—which Dan says is all about the abuser—the Kaspers begin to ask themselves, “What will best reflect and honor Becky’s life?” Their top priority, they determined, was assuring Luis gets the mental health help he needs and to also protect the public. That was accomplished with the 30-year prison sentence and lifetime probation with mental health terms.

Dan Kasper next to a portrait of Becky.

Dan Kasper listens to audience questions.

Meeting the murderer in prison

In November 2014, Dan met face-to-face with his daughter’s killer. Luis walked into the prison visiting room unshackled with a bounce in his step, a smile and as happy as could be, like they were old buddies, Dan said. This father didn’t get the answer to his question, “Where is the mental illness I didn’t see?” Nor did he get an apology. Nor an explanation other than Luis “got in his head that Becky needed to die.”

Luis accepted responsibility for the crime, not blaming it on mental illness. He also talked about dedicating his life to Christ and repentance and said he some day wants to speak about domestic violence.

During that prison conversation, when Dan revealed that he would have helped Luis had he known of his problems, Luis shared that he would have called him.

“The abuser is a victim, too…he has a family,” Dan told audience members on Sunday. His wife, he noted, “would rather be Becky’s mother than Luis’ mother.”

In the final hours before her death, Becky and Luis’ mother were texting each other about Luis. In her last text late in the afternoon of April 20, 2013, Becky wrote, “He seems relatively OK.”

That day, Luis murdered Becky.

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FYI: If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help. You are so worth it. Contact a local crisis resource center or women’s shelter for help and support. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time; have a plan to leave safely. Additional information is available, for abuse victims, family, friends and survivors by clicking on any of these links:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women
NO MORE

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling