Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

American pride on the road May 30, 2018

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I GAVE THIS SEMI driver a thumbs up as Randy and I passed him along Interstate 94/90 near the Wisconsin Dells Saturday morning.

 

 

To see such visible public patriotism and pride on Memorial Day weekend pleased me.

The driver nodded and smiled and, I expect, appreciated the appreciation.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Memorial Day in Faribault, a photo essay May 28, 2018

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A veteran salutes during the Memorial Day Program at Faribault’s Central Park.

 

MEMORIAL DAY IN FARIBAULT, like in so many other American towns, honors veterans through patriotic tradition.

 

Steve Bonde plays patriotic tunes on a downtown Faribault street corner before the start of the Memorial Day parade.

 

Parade goers listen to Bonde as they await the start of the parade.

 

A barber cuts hair in his barbershop across the street, parade-goers reflected in his shop window.

 

A parade follows Central Avenue through our historic downtown, ending in nearby Central Park.

 

 

 

Grand Marshall Vicki McDowell with her husband, Honorary Grand Marshall Myles McDowell.

 

Each year I expect the same—the police cars and fire trucks, the Color Guard and honored veterans,

 

 

 

 

 

the bands and Scouts,

 

 

 

the kids and candy and politicians,

 

 

 

 

 

the vintage cars and the horses.

 

 

 

 

A restored vintage Tilt-A-Whirl provides a parade viewing spot in the heart of downtown. The Tilt-A-Whirl was invented in Faribault and, up until several years ago, was still made here.

 

Only the faces change, and sometimes not even those.

 

A volunteer hands out programs at Central Park.

 

Printed on the back of the program and read by master of ceremonies Gordy Kosfeld.

 

After the parade, folks gather at Central Park for the Memorial Day program, this year the 149th.

 

A table setting at American Legion Post 43 honors the POW-MIAs.

 

Afterwards, some—mostly vets and their families—go to the Legion for a luncheon and additional remembrances.

 

The luncheon serving line set against a backdrop of photos of local Legion Post 43 commanders.

 

There’s a certain comfort in embracing this day with time-honored traditions. Traditions remind me year after year after year that we still live in a free nation. Each Memorial Day I can set my lawn chair curbside along Central Avenue. I can take photos without retribution. I can stand for my flag and applaud and smile. On this day, I am grateful.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Just in time for the Fourth: Made in the USA June 29, 2017

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IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR when patriotism swells/sells, when red, white and blue are the colors of choice. Count me in on this July Fourth fashion show of American pride.

The t-shirt I am wearing in this photo is one of several Thrivent Financial tees I’ve worn while recovering from a broken shoulder. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2017.

 

I’m not one who typically cares much about what I wear except for fit and comfort. But I am growing a tad tired of the same three t-shirt styles I’ve worn for the past 5 ½ weeks. A broken shoulder necessitated the easy-on-easy-off polyester and cotton Thrivent Financial shirts that ease up my right arm, over my neck and then onto my left arm. I acquired the tees while volunteering and now they will forever link to my Summer of the Broken Shoulder. I love these shirts for their soft comfort and stretch.

But, with the Fourth of July approaching, I wanted something festive. There would be no perusing clothing racks in multiple stores or even trying shirts on in dressing rooms. Such are the limits of a fractured humerus.

 

The front of my new patriotic t-shirt.

 

Rather, I found a style I was OK with at a mega discount retailer, chose my regular size and hoped it would fit. It did. And bonus, the shirt tag and graphic denote the garment as Made in the USA. The only downside—the year 2017 printed on the front, perhaps a marketing ploy to get customers to buy new again in 2018. While the date may make the shirt unwearable beyond this year for some, not for me. You can expect this $4.97 tee to remain in my closet for many summers.

 

My new tee came with this tag.

 

 

TELL ME: Would you wear this shirt beyond 2017? And is Made in the USA important to you?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

On the Road: About patriotism &, um, Zombies February 13, 2017

WHEN MY GIRLS were little—which would have been about 25 years ago—stickers were all the rage. Kids filled mini sticker books with page after page after page of stickers. Puppies and kitties and…, for my equine loving second daughter, horses.

I didn’t understand the rationale behind transferring stickers from one piece of paper to another. But the girls loved their sticker collections and paging through them.

 

patriotic-zombie-stickers-on-vehicle-5

 

That memory flashed through my mind Saturday afternoon when I spotted a mobile sticker collection on a vehicle heading north toward the Twin Cities on Interstate 35. At first glance, I thought the stickers purely patriotic: Home of the Free, Support Our Troops, Land of the Free Because of the Brave.

 

patriotic-zombie-stickers-close-up-3

 

But then, after examining the photos I shot of the vehicle, I discovered these stickers: Zombie Outbreak Response Team and Deep Inside We All Want a Zombie Apocalypse. Uh, no we don’t. Except perhaps in Illinois. Lawmakers in the House last week approved October as “Zombie Preparedness Month.” You just can’t make this kind of stuff up. The legislators aren’t really talking zombies here, but rather preparation for natural disasters, according to media reports.

But then again, who knows? The license plate on the patriotic zombie vehicle reads Illinois.

TELL ME: What do you think of any of this? The stickers? The legislation?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Faribault: A Willow Street welcome honoring Vietnam War vets August 31, 2016

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Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #72 group by my house

 

A DOZEN OF US GATHERED late Wednesday afternoon in my front yard to honor those who served and those who died in the Vietnam War.

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #4 drawing flag with chalk

 

As we waited for the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to arrive from Owatonna, the adults chatted. And some of the kids chalked American flags onto the sidewalk fronting my Willow Street property.

 

Vietnam Memorial Wall processional, #1 woman waiting with flag

Across the street a woman waits for the processional to begin.

Three American flags, spaced evenly along the boulevard, lifted occasionally in the breeze on a stunning August day here in southeastern Minnesota.

Leading the way...

Leading the way…

The Wall processional presented a great opportunity to honor these veterans. How well I remember the protests of decades earlier, the unrest and open hostilities expressed toward Vietnam vets. On this day in my community, in my neighborhood, in my yard, we gave them the respect they deserved. Whether or not you agree with the war matters not. Respect matters.

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #16 back of beginning

 

I saw honor in the lengthy lines of bikes, cars and other vehicles, in the waves, the American flags…

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #19 watching

 

There’s something deeply moving about participating in an event like this. I can only imagine the emotions felt by the Vietnam veterans who today—from Owatonna to Medford to Faribault and in between—witnessed a warm welcome home.

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #25 jeep

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #29 red jeep with wall sign

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #30 row of bikers

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #32 trike

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #34 back of 2 bikes

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #40 bikes and flags

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #46 biker & POW flag

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #49 biker waving

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #50 bikes

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #57 Vietnam vet on bike

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #58 red car

 

The Traveling Wall arrives in a trailer near the end of the processional.

The Traveling Wall arrives in a trailer near the end of the processional.

Volunteers will be setting up the wall on Thursday morning at the fairgrounds.

Volunteers will be setting up the wall on Thursday morning at the fairgrounds.

The trailer and accompanying vehicles continue north on Willow Street.

The trailer and accompanying vehicles continue north on Willow Street.

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #71 vets van

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #76 utility vehicle

 

Vietnam Wall Memorial processional, #9 American flag in chalk

My friend’s teenage daughter chalks a message of thanks on the sidewalk in front of my home.

FYI: The Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall opens Thursday afternoon at the Rice County Fairgrounds in Faribault. Click here for a detailed schedule of events from now through Labor Day. Check back for a follow-up post on a pre-eve stop I made at the fairgrounds.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Faribault: Prepping & waiting for the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall

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IN A FEW HOURS, the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall arrives in Faribault.

I am prepping. And so are others.

 

Vietnam Wall prep, #1 bikers

 

Around noon, a contingent of bikers, motorists and others swept past my Willow Street home en route to the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna. There the group will gather for a 3 p.m. departure. The entourage will travel through Owatonna, Medford and into Faribault, ending at the wall construction site, the Rice County Fairgrounds.

 

Vietnam Wall prep, #13 red vehicle

 

Here at my home, three flags are staked in the boulevard, a sight that prompted the Faribault group to honk horns and wave as they passed by.

 

Vietnam Wall prep, #24 basket of American flags

 

A basket of American flags sits inside my front door, awaiting kids I expect here for the processional. I’ve dug out the sidewalk chalk to keep them busy while waiting. Ice cream treats are stashed in the freezer. Water bottles are cooling in the fridge.

 

Vietnam Wall prep, #25 patriotic t-shirt

 

I’ve swiped my husband’s American flag t-shirt from his dresser drawer.

Shortly before invited friends, and maybe others, arrive, I’ll spray for mosquitoes.

Today’s processional promises to be a memorable and moving experience, especially for those of us old enough to remember Vietnam. I expect the kids to learn something today about this chapter in America’s history.

Faribault, I hope you will show your honor and respect by lining the processional route and by showcasing your patriotism with American flags.

Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

Rural Minnesota patriotism July 1, 2016

The Stars & Stripes Garage in Heidelberg, Minnesota, photographed several weeks ago. Normally I would crop the parking lot section of the image. But it's an important part of the scene with white stars painted upon asphalt.

The Stars & Stripes Garage in Heidelberg, Minnesota, photographed several weeks ago. Normally I would crop the parking lot section of the image. But it’s an important part of the scene with white stars painted upon asphalt.

I HAVE YET TO FIND a more patriotically-themed garage.

Painted red, white and blue and decorated with stars and an American flag, the Stars & Stripes Garage in the hamlet of Heidelberg in Le Sueur County stands out for its grassroots show of patriotism.

Copy of Garage, Stars & Stripes 1

The Stars & Stripes Garage. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2009

I first came across the Stars & Stripes in 2009, subsequently writing a magazine article about the garage owned by Vietnam veteran Joel Kukacka.

The Stars & Stripes Garage, seven years after I first painted it.

The Stars & Stripes Garage, seven years after I first photographed it.

Recently I passed through Heidelberg, pausing briefly to snap a few images of Joel’s business on a bright Sunday summer afternoon. The paint is faded in some places, a few new stars have been added and the business sign moved. But, basically, the exterior appears unchanged.

This public show of patriotism still endures in this out-of-the-way spot along quiet Le Sueur County Highway 30 in rural southern Minnesota. It’s the type of place you discover when taking the back roads.

The bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing, has performed at North Morristown the past seven years, presenting two concerts at the celebration.

The popular bluegrass band, Monroe Crossing, returns to the North Morristown stage for two performances, at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Several other musical groups are also performing throughout the day and into the evening. There is no charge, although donations are welcome. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

TO ALL OF MY READERS, have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July weekend as we celebrate the birth of our nation.

If you’re seeking an authentic Americana experience of the holiday in rural Minnesota, attend the 124th annual North Morristown July Fourth celebration. From the Firecracker Walk/Run to a parade to a patriotic program to a medallion hunt to music to kids’ rides to bingo to fireworks and more, you’ll find a full day of activities. You also find the best homemade food (buy your slice of pie early) on the festival grounds. North Morristown is a few farm homes and Trinity Lutheran Church and School and is located north of Morristown/west of Faribault.

Click here to view a photo essay I published in 2013 on the North Morristown celebration.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling