Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Feeling blue about the iconic Sugardale barn along Interstate 35 July 14, 2015

The front section of the barn was being painted as we drove along Interstate 35 Monday morning.

The front section of the barn was being painted as we drove along Interstate 35 Monday morning. In the center section, you can see a faint oval shape wherein Sugardale was painted.

“THEY’RE PAINTING THE BARN BLUE!” I gasped as I swung my camera lens toward the front passenger side window. So surprised was I by the in-process flashy hue application to the Sugardale barn along Interstate 35 north of the Northfield exit that I could barely compose a photo.

You can see how the barn looked before it was painted blue.

On the left side of the barn, you can see the as yet unpainted section. The barn needed paint. But blue?

“It’s NAPA blue,” I hissed to my driver husband, who works as an automotive machinist at the NAPA store in Northfield. He knows how much I dislike the shade of blue that represents this automotive business.

I continued to rant. “Why would anyone paint a barn blue? And they’re covering up that sugar sign.”

All of this I spewed as I shot several quick frames while our car traveled at 70 mph along the interstate.

How the barn looked when I photographed it in February.

How the barn looked when I photographed it in February. (This was before I had a telephoto lens.) Click on the image to enlarge.

I don’t understand why blue, rather than red, was selected for this landmark barn. Before the blue, you could see the fading advertisement for Ohio-based Sugardale Foods, “a leading provider of quality meats and premium foods.” The lettering has been there for years and has made this barn iconic to I-35 travelers in southern Minnesota.

Now the Sugardale sign has been obliterated by that, that, blue. Why?

In February 2011, I published a winter image of the barn. That fall, reader Sara G. commented on the post:

This is my grandparents’ barn. Grandpa, a retired NW Orient pilot, purchased the land in about 65, moved out there in about 74. The barn is post and beam and was built by a guy who would walk around the land and point to trees to chop down for the various posts and beams. Most still have remnants of bark on them. It is an amazing structure. We played in there every chance we got as kids.

Sadly, it will most likely hit the market in the next few years. I cannot imagine driving down 35w and having someone else live there. Or Christmas anywhere else for that matter. Thanks for the pics. You need to go back and shoot it now before the corn comes down while the color is so strong.

I expect Sara’s grandparents no longer own this property. I understand that the current owner can choose any color he/she wishes for the barn. But a vivid blue? And why destroy the memorable Sugardale signage? I feel just plain blue about this piece of rural barn history vanishing under a coat of blue paint.


UPDATE 1:30 PM: Bob Collins, who pens an online column, NewsCut, at Minnesota Public Radio, followed up on my post after a reader (Faith, Farming & Cowboy Boots) tipped me off that the blue barn might be a project of the Midwestern restaurant chain, Culver’s. Bob contacted Culvers and learned that the I-35 Sugardale barn is, indeed, part of the company’s campaign to thank farmers and financially assist young people going into agriculture. You can read Bob’s post at this link:  http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2015/07/a-barn-turns-blue/

Also, be sure to scroll through the comments section on my post to read an explanation from Paul Pitas, Director of Public Relations and Communications for Culver’s.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


What color is this Green Bay Packers barn? October 7, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:35 PM
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TRAVELING HOME from northeastern Wisconsin this afternoon while the Green Bay Packers were playing the Indianapolis Colts, I spotted this barn along Wisconsin Highway 10 near the New London exit.

The barn owner was paying homage to Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers with the message of “#12 is #1.” My husband told me that since I am clueless as to nearly anything regarding football except that Wisconsinites are crazy about their Packers.

Now, how crazy are they? I’ll let you decide. One of these barn photos shows the actual color of the barn. Which is it? You decide by casting your vote via a comment.


CHOICE #1: Is the barn painted Green Bay Packers green?

CHOICE #2: Is the barn painted Green Bay Packers gold?

CHOICE #3: Is the barn painted barn red?

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Choosing a door November 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 2:49 PM
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See these weather-beaten, 1960s or 1970s vintage doors?

I'm selecting a new door to replace the wooden entry door on the right. Once the new door is installed, I'll choose a storm door.

I am ashamed to admit that these are the front doors on my house.

No one would argue that they need replacing. My husband and I are in the process of selecting new doors. We’ve chosen the brand and are working with John from a local lumberyard.

John is a patient man. But today I sensed that he is becoming impatient with me when I told him, once again, that I’m not quite ready to order the entry door. (We haven’t even discussed storm doors.) I can’t decide whether I want a single window, windows or no windows in the door.

My biggest dilemma, however, lies in choosing colors for the door, which will be factory-painted. My husband insists on this.

Do I choose one paint color for both sides of the steel-clad entry door? Or, do I select different colors? What color/colors are your door?

My friend Mike, who is a designer, suggested that we choose white for the exterior-facing side since the trim on our new windows will be white. He mentioned to me, however, how he dislikes the white door in his living room. Would I like a white door in my beige living room? I plan to eventually repaint that room.

So, readers, what would you do? I welcome any advice you can offer me on door colors and door windows (or not). And, as long as we’re on the topic of doors, what would you choose in hardware? A knob, handle, pull?

Please hurry with your answers. John from the lumber yard is waiting.


© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling