Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From Wheeling Township, Part I: The season of Minnesota church dinners September 26, 2017

Long-time Germanfest kitchen staff, Lynn, left, and Elsie.

 

AUTUMN MARKS THE SEASON of church dinners and festivals in Minnesota. In fellowship halls and church basements, you will find some of the best homecooked food. Food of the land. Potatoes peeled and mashed. Squash scooped of seeds and baked. Bone-in-ham savory and heavenly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An abundance of food fills plates, satisfying the belly and the soul. Menus vary from congregation to congregation with ethnicity, location and tradition determining food offerings. At St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, parishioners serve an authentic German meal at the annual late September Germanfest. Several years had passed since I attended this dinner, one of my favorites among Faribault area churches.

 

Diners park their vehicles around the cemetery next to the church.

 

 

 

 

Baby Lucy and her grandpa listen to the Ray Sands Combo.

 

Here in this rural setting, with old-time bands pumping out polkas and waltzes just outside the dining hall, hundreds gather for food and fellowship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And bingo,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a quilt show,

 

 

 

 

 

 

petting zoo,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

market, polka service and more.

 

 

 

Randy and I whiled away the last September Sunday afternoon here, crammed first into the fellowship hall eating sauerbraten and brats, German potato salad (and yes, mashed potatoes and gravy for those who prefer that potato choice) and an assortment of German sides with Black Forest cake, apple kuchen and bread pudding for dessert—as if we needed three desserts. But it’s impossible to pass on such sugary goodness.

 

 

 

 

This event, as are all church dinners and festivals, is about more than food. It’s about family and friends and good conversation and laughter and delighting in the bounty of the earth. It’s about hard work—laboring in the kitchen, selling tickets, grilling brats, tending quilts and animals, and an entire long list of volunteer duties. It’s about a sense of community, a coming together, a communion of sorts with the land, with this place, with these people. In the season of autumn.

 

TELL ME: Do you attend church dinners and festivals? If so, feel free to recommend one here.

 

Check back for several more posts from St. John’s Germanfest including some endearing photos of a budding musician and of a family photo shoot.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Incredible quilt art in Owatonna April 9, 2014

The entry to the Owatonna Art Center

The entry to the Owatonna Arts Center, inside the former Minnesota State Public School for Dependent  and Neglected Children, later renamed the Owatonna State School. The City of Owatonna now owns the site, today called West Hills with the OAC located at 435 Garden View Lane.

HE EXPRESSED IT so well, the quilter’s husband waiting outside the Owatonna Arts Center Sunday afternoon for invited guests to arrive from Rochester.

A quilted work of art bursts with color.

A quilted work of art bursts with color.

Quilting, he surmised, has evolved from a homemaker’s craft to a recognized form of art.

The quilter's husband and the quilter view the extensive collection of quilts.

The quilter’s husband and the quilter view the extensive collection of quilts.

He’s so right.

If you appreciate art and quilts, you will want to see "Quilts in Bloom"

If you appreciate art and quilts, you will want to see “Quilts in Bloom”

“Quilts in Bloom,” featuring around 80 quilts stitched by members of the local Piecemakers Quilt Guild, blossoms in the nooks and crannies of gallery space in an exhibit that runs from now until April 27.

Baskets of blossoms and more.

Baskets of blossoms and more.

This show simply blooms with creativity:

A close-up of the traditional Dresden Plate pattern in the foreground with a second quilt in the background.

A close-up of the traditional Dresden Plate pattern in the foreground with a second quilt in the background.

A contrast of modern geometrical to the traditional Sunbonnet Girls.

A contrast of modern geometrical to the traditional Sunbonnet Girls.

This block from the 1930s Sunbonnet Sue pattern features quilting and embroidery.

This block from the 1930s Sunbonnet Sue pattern features quilting and embroidery.

I really liked this pairing of wood sculpture with quilt art. The wood tone compliments the earthy colors of the quilt.

I really like this pairing of wood sculpture with quilt art. The earthy tones in each complement one another.

For $1, you can buy a chance to win "Stars in My Garden."

For $1, you can buy a chance to win “Stars in My Garden.”

A block in a teapot themed quilt.

A block in a teapot themed quilt.

During the open reception, musicians performed in the venue space, where several quilts are displayed.

During the opening reception, musicians performed in the venue space, where several quilts are displayed.

Whimsical art.

Whimsical art.

Touring the exhibit on opening day.

A Faribault quilter and his wife tour the exhibit on opening day.

Floral design at its quilting best.

Floral design at its quilting best.

Quilt art lines a hallway.

Quilt art lines a hallway.

From the playful to geometric, abstract, traditional, whimsical and more, you’ll discover an array of eye-pleasing colors and patterns here.

Artist Lois Doyle created "Mountain Laurel," a quilt she started 25 years ago. She has several quilts in the show. Laurie Spindler machine quilted this quilt.

Artist Lois Doyle created “Mountain Laurel,” a quilt she started 25 years ago. She has several quilts in the show. Laurie Spindler machine quilted this quilt. Even with arthritic hands, Lois still quilts. Remarkable.

The talent of these quilters impresses me. Truly, they deserve the title of artists.

This sign posted at the quilt show says it all.

This sign posted at the quilt show says it all.

FYI: This marks the 10th annual Piecemakers Quilt Guild show, which is held every three years. You can tour “Quilts in Bloom” during gallery hours, from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday. A $3 donation is suggested. Click here for more information.

BONUS PHOTO: 

While at the show, be sure to stop and appreciate this beautiful space connecting the Owatonna Arts Center to the

While at the show, stop to appreciate this beautiful space connecting the Owatonna Arts Center to the Minnesota State Public School Orphanage Museum. I’d suggest allowing time to tour the museum and nearby cottage. Check hours before coming as they may differ from gallery hours.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A photo essay: St. John’s Germanfest in rural Minnesota September 29, 2013

I AM 100 PERCENT German.

My plate, filled with German foods at St. John's annual Germanfest.

My plate, filled with German foods like sauerbraten, sauerkraut, German potato salad, sweet and sour beets and more at St. John’s annual Germanfest.

I like German food.

Today was a gorgeous autumn day here in southeastern Minnesota, as glorious as they get.

The steeple of the historic stone church with the roofline of a German themed beverage booth in the foreground.

The steeple of the historic stone church with the roofline of a German themed beverage booth in the foreground.

St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township, rural Faribault, was hosting its annual Germanfest at its historic stone church out in the country.

Just a snippet of the buffet line.

Just a snippet of the buffet line.

I had to eat.

The social hall and rooms off the dining area were filled with diners.

The social hall and rooms off the dining area were filled with diners.

And I couldn’t think of a better place to dine on this Sunday afternoon than at St. John’s. Great food in the company of wonderful folks. Out in the country. Perfect weather. Perfect day.

Some of the St. John's kitchen crew, including long-time member Elsie Keller who is making German potato salad.

Some of the St. John’s kitchen crew, including long-time member Elsie Keller who is making German potato salad.

One of the major components of Germanfest is the fabulous quilt show inside the sanctuary.

One of the major components of Germanfest is the fabulous quilt show inside the sanctuary.

Among the incredible quilts were these three hung from the balcony.

Among the incredible quilts were these three hung from the balcony.

Each quilt comes with a story, this one among my favorites.

Each quilt comes with a story, this one among my favorites.

That glorious quilt show.

That glorious quilt show. Here you are seeing only a snippet of the quilts draped over pews.

My husband and I each bought a quilt raffle ticket.

My husband and I each bought a quilt raffle ticket.

The beautifully-appointed altar, complete with German and American flags.

The beautifully-appointed altar, complete with German and American flags.

Outside the church, I fell in love with the adorable goats at the petting zoo.

Outside the church, I fell in love with the adorable goats at the petting zoo.

And this little guy loved the miniature donkeys.

And this little guy loved the miniature donkeys.

Along with fresh produce and bakes goods and greeting cards (some published by Warner Press with my verses)

Along with fresh produce and baked goods and greeting cards (some published by Warner Press with verses I wrote) and apple jelly was this art (including these cute pooches).

Bingo drew the young and the older.

Bingo drew the young and the older.

Old-time music drew dancers and listeners to the tent next to the church.

Old-time music drew dancers and listeners to the tent next to the church.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Quilt art celebrates rural Faribault woman’s passion for quilting July 3, 2013

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The sun sets as I approach Barb and Bob's farm east of Faribault.

The sun sets as I approach Barb and Bob’s farm east of Faribault.

ON A RECENT RURAL OUTING to forage rhubarb from my friend Barb’s abundant patch, I noticed a work of art I hadn’t previously seen displayed on her farm east of Faribault.

A a display of Americana art.

A display of Americana art.

Attached to weathered tin on the end of a pole shed hangs a red, white and blue “Star Shadow” quilt block painted on an eight-foot square of plywood.

The barn quilt is tied to Barb’s passion for quilting, something she’d do all day if only she didn’t have to cook or clean or…

"Star Shadow."

“Star Shadow.”

She’d seen similar painted quilts on barns, always wanted one and a few years ago, along with husband Bob, chose the Star Shadow design for their quilt art. No particular reason for the design—just one they both liked, although they knew the paint hues would be in the trio of patriotic colors.

Barb’s a long-time seamstress who once sewed her own clothes, embroidered and then began making simple block quilts before attempting a tulip quilt. She struggled with the tulip quilt, finishing it in the early 1990s, some 40 years after beginning the project.

Since that quilting success, Barb’s emerged as an avid quilter, stitching countless bed-sized quilts, wall hangings, placemats, table runners and more. She keeps her work or gives it away, including to charities. As a member of the Blue Chicks, a local quilting group that meets monthly, Barb has sewn quilts for the Ronald McDonald House. She also quilts with her sisters once a month and recently joined the quilting circle at her church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault. That church group donates most of its quilts to charity.

“I’m infected with the pox,” Barb says of her quilting passion. She collects fabric, goes on fabric-shopping road trips with fellow quilters…

Although my friend doesn’t design her own quilt patterns, she enjoys the creative aspect that comes in selecting designs and colors, pulling it all together in a work of art—whether stitched or painted.

BONUS FARM PHOTOS:

The beautiful barn on Barb and Bob's 100-year-old plus family farm.

The beautiful barn on Barb and Bob’s 100-year-old plus family farm.

Rhubarb grows by the old smokehouse, which now houses garden tools.

Rhubarb nudges the old smokehouse, which now houses garden tools.

This farm is typical old style farmplace with lots of outbuildings, including the granery on the left, one of the oldest buildings on the farm.

This farm is typical old style farm place with lots of outbuildings, including the updated granery on the left, one of the oldest structures on the farm.

The message on the granery door reflects Barb's attitude: "The sheds are full of stuff and it's all good."

The message on the granery door reflects Barb’s attitude: “The sheds are full of stuff and it’s all good.”

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Sweet finds in downtown Montgomery, Part I April 10, 2013

Rani's Furniture @ Antiques housed in a former hardware store in downtown Montgomery.

Rani’s Furniture @ Antiques housed in a former hardware store in downtown Montgomery.

I LOVE A SWEET vintage find. However, I can’t always own what I covet, even if the price is right. That’s reality. My pockets are not deep nor my house large.

But that doesn’t keep me from shopping thrift and antique shops like those my husband and I perused on a recent visit to Montgomery, Minnesota. I suggested we take the van, just in case we found a piece of furniture for the son who is moving into his first apartment in six weeks.

Randy saw right through that smokescreen.

I purchased the white table on the right and had to keep myself from buying the $60 dining room set.

I purchased the white table on the right and had to keep myself from buying the $60 dining room set. Note the beautiful original wood floor in this former hardware store building.

At Rani’s Furniture @ Antiques, Montgomery’s newest business (opened on April 3), I found my furniture find, much to the spouse’s chagrin. He couldn’t quite understand why I just “had to have” a $15 shabby chic round table with peeling paint.

I practiced my persuasive speaking skills. Think al fresco dining or an indoor/outdoor plant stand or a guest bedroom bed-side table and/or a really cool table to use at the daughter’s upcoming wedding reception in an historic venue. Randy wasn’t exactly buying my arguments, but acquiesced and dutifully loaded the table into the back of our van.

This 100-plus-year-old Hoosier cabinet had seven layers of paint on it before Mary Bowen refinished it. The cabinet is being sold in her son Dean Turnlund's store for $325.

This 100-plus-year-old Hoosier cabinet had seven layers of paint on it before Mary Bowen refinished it. The cabinet is being sold in her son Dean Turnlund’s store for $325.

I wished I could have stuffed a round dining room table with the heaviest wood chairs I’ve ever lifted; a 100-plus-year-old Hoosier cabinet resplendent with tip-out bins; and two aged wardrobes into the van, too. But I wasn’t about to push my luck and purchase this furniture I neither needed nor have space for in our home.

Love these old wardrobes for sale at Rani's.

Love these old wardrobes for sale at Rani’s.

A girl can dream, though, can’t she?

The stone block steps leading into Rani's.

The stone block steps leading into Rani’s.

I tend to get all starry-eyed whenever I enter an antique or other shop featuring vintage furniture. Rani’s, housed in a hulking corner brick building labeled as “Lepeskas Block 1898,” had me in her clutch even before I stepped onto the substantial stone steps leading into the former hardware store.

Michelle McCrady owns Quilter's Dream and the adjacent music store, 116 First Street South in downtown Montgomery.

Michelle McCrady owns Quilter’s Dream and the adjacent Montgomery Music Studio.

Likewise, even though I’m not a quilter, Michelle McCrady’s Quilter’s Dream dreamy quilt shop, located two blocks north of Rani’s in the Old Ben Franklin store and complete with an impressive original tin ceiling, charmed me, too. I cannot resist the sweet touch of historic features.

Quilter's Dream features a beautiful original tin ceiling and a wonderful collection of quilts, fabrics, notions and more.

Quilter’s Dream features a beautiful original tin ceiling and a wonderful collection of quilts, fabrics, notions and more.

Plus, entering Michelle’s shop was like stepping into spring with vibrant hues splashing across quilts and bolts of fabric. This quilt shop reawakened the seamstress in me—the teen who, in the seventies, stitched clothing from hot pants to the shortest of short skirts to sensible simple dresses for Grandma.

Bolts of eye-catching fabrics in bright hues line shelves.

Bolts of eye-catching fabrics in bright hues line shelves.

I’ve never lost my appreciation for bolts and bolts and bolts of cotton fabric awaiting the pinning of straight pins, the snip of scissors, the stitch of thread. There’s something artfully satisfying about creating from fabric.

A sampling of the gorgeous quilts you'll find in Michelle's shop.

A sampling of the gorgeous quilts you’ll find in Michelle’s shop.

Fifteen minutes in Michelle’s shop will convince you that this mother of 11 is passionate about quilting and all things fabric. She teaches classes, leases out time on her long-arm quilting machine and stitches up plenty of cute gifts from aprons to bibs, not to mention the many fabulous quilts gracing her store walls.

This owl quilt centers a back nook.

This owl quilt centers a back nook.

Who knew such sweet finds await shoppers in Montgomery? Not me.

Another nook, this one at the front of the quilt shop.

Another nook, this one at the front of the quilt shop.

Michelle uses this long-arm sewing machine to quilt at the shop. Quilters can also pay to use the machine.

Michelle uses this long-arm sewing machine to quilt at the shop. Quilters can also pay to use the machine.

FYI: Quilter’s Dream, 116 First Street South, is open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday and from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday.  Click here to reach the Quilter’s Facebook page.

One of my other favorite finds at Rani's, a vintage 50s toy chest.

Two other favorite finds at Rani’s: a vintage 50s toy chest and Cabbage Patch dolls.

And just because I appreciate vintage graphics, here's the label inside the toy box lid.

And just because I appreciate vintage graphics, here’s the label inside the toy box lid.

Rani’s Furniture @ Antiques, 300 First Street South,  is open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday.

CHECK BACK TOMORROW as I take you into more sweet shops in this southern Minnesota community. Click here to read my introductory post to this small town. And click here to view my photo essay on an old-fashioned Montgomery barbershop, Main Street Barber.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling