Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Let the little children come…to the playground February 21, 2018

 

TRAVELING DOWN A SNOW slicked county road toward Little Prairie United Methodist Church south of Dundas, I expected nothing out of the ordinary. Just a familiar country church with jolting red doors marking a rural intersection.

 

 

But then, to the left of the church, set back from the county road and next to the parking lot, I spotted a structure. Inaccessible unless I wanted to slog through snow. But visually accessible via the telephoto lens of my camera.

 

 

I noted a mini church facade marked as Little Prairie Playground, complete with those signature red double doors, stained glass and a bell tower. How clever. How fun. How cute.

Since I didn’t want to plow through snow for a close-up look, I checked out the church Facebook page, which reveals volunteers constructing this playground last spring with a June dedication.

 

 

Behind that mini church front and through those doors, kids will find a slide, mini climbing wall, swings and more, the more including an aged bell rung by the pull of a rope. The bell honors Anna Mae Little, whose farm family once lived nearest the church.

 

 

As I snapped a few photos, I considered that I need to return in the spring for another photo shoot and perhaps to bring my two-year-old granddaughter here to play in the quiet of the countryside in the holy presence of this place.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Note: All images are edited using an artistic filter.

 

An Old MacDonald style park in Mankato August 18, 2015

One of two barn style buildings at Sibley Park in Mankato, Minnesota.

The barn style stable at Sibley Farm in Mankato, Minnesota.

GROWING UP, MY DAUGHTERS had a Fisher Price barn that, when the doors opened, “mooed.” For hours they would play with this toy farm. Being a rather unwise mom who determined that everything from their childhood could not be kept, I gave the barn, silo, Little People, tractor and animals to friends with little ones. My eldest once reminded me that was a mistake. I agree.

A fenced pond is in the foreground and a second barn type pole shed in the background.

A fenced pond is in the foreground and the farm’s barn in the background.

But now she, and other twenty-somethings who hold fond memories of the Fischer Price barn, can see a similar real-life barn at Sibley Farm in Mankato’s sprawling Sibley Park.

Kids love the tractors, this one located next to the bridge spanning the pond stocked with fish and dotted with water lilies.

Kids love the tractors, this one located next to the bridge spanning the pond stocked with koi and dotted with water lilies.

Friendly sheep are a favorite.

Friendly sheep are a favorite.

The fabulous farm-themed playground.

The fabulous farm-themed playground. There’s also a traditional playground, shown in the background.

I explored the farm on a recent Sunday afternoon, delighting in the animals, the pond, and the agricultural-themed playground. What a brilliant idea, to create this educational and engaging tribute to the region’s rural roots in the heart of southern Minnesota farm country. The farm park opened in 2008 and was partially funded by a $200,000 gift from the Al and Erla Fallenstein fund through the Mankato Area Foundation.

A young family checks out the alpacas.

A young family checks out the alpacas.

When I got to the pygmy goats, a young boy was feeding them grass.

When I got to the pygmy goats, a young boy was feeding them grass.

The farm animal sculptures provide perfect photo opportunities.

The farm animal sculptures provide perfect photo opportunities.

This agricultural-themed park makes my farm girl heart happy—to see kids petting farm critters, posing with farm animal statues, racing to tractors, and clamoring onto barn, silo, straw bale and even cornstalk playground equipment. This is a place for families, for anyone who grew up on a farm, and for those who didn’t.

The farm features Ayrshire cattle like this one seeking shelter in the heat of a summer afternoon.

The farm features Ayrshire cattle like this one seeking shelter in the heat of a summer afternoon.

We need to hold onto our rural heritage. And one way to do that is through parks like Sibley Farm.

Your guide to Sibley Farm in Mankato.

Sibley Farm’s lay-out.

FYI: Sibley Farm is located at 900 Mound Avenue and is open daily from 6:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. mid-spring, summer and early fall. Admission is free. Click here to read a 2011 post I wrote about a goat-napping caper at this very park.

BONUS PHOTOS:

A sign at the playground.

A sign at the playground.

And the chickens.

The playground chickens.

I absolutely love the creativity of the playground cornstalks.

I absolutely love the creativity of the climbing apparatus designed to look like cornstalks.

Love the signage at the farm-themed playground. There's also traditional playground equipment, background.

Love the signage at the farm-themed playground. There’s also traditional playground equipment, background.

Playground pig sculptures.

Playground pig sculptures.

A musical detail on the playground.

A musical detail on the playground.

The miniature ponies are kid-sized friendly.

The miniature horses are kid-sized friendly.

Bring coins so kids can feed the animals.

Bring coins so kids can feed the animals.

Daily instructions posted inside the barn for employees.

Daily instructions posted inside the barn.

Found feathers displayed in the barn.

Found feathers displayed in the barn.

Appropriately printed lockers.

Appropriately printed lockers.

CHECK BACK TOMORROW for a similar, but much smaller, project proposed for the Redwood Falls Public Library.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling