Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

At a rural Minnesota flea market, a photo essay June 3, 2019

Flea markets often theme to location. At the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Swap Meet & Flea Market, you’ll find a lot of agricultural merchandise.

 

LONG BEFORE RECYCLING, upcycling and repurposing emerged in popularity, hand-me-downs existed. Clothing, furniture and more passed down from person to person. Especially among farm families. Ask my sister and she will tell you about my horrible fashion sense and how she had to wear the bad choices I made in clothing. She followed me in birth order.

 

 

Fast forward to today and I still appreciate previously-used items. I don’t need the latest fashion off the rack because I still don’t much care about fashion. Give me jeans and a t-shirt.

 

 

 

 

I prefer sturdy, well-crafted furniture to new. I like vintage drinking glasses, bowls, tablecloths, art… I prefer vintage stuff to new. I appreciate the craftsmanship, the novelty, the memories, the uniqueness.

 

 

For those reasons, I delight in flea markets, garage and yard sales, and thrift stores. I don’t shop them as often as I once did because I really don’t need more stuff. Even so, it’s fun to poke around.

 

 

 

 

To filter through the odd and practical merchandise. The memories.

 

Crafted by J & J Glass Art (Jeff & Jane Peterson) of Austin.

 

 

 

To appreciate the work of artisans.

 

 

 

 

 

To chat with the vendors.

 

 

Here in Minnesota, pop-up second-hand shops—the term seems fitting for all those garage and yard sales and flea markets—have launched for the season.

 

 

If you’ve never embraced second-hand, I’d suggest you reconsider. Maybe you’ll develop an affinity for this alternative shopping option. Or maybe you’ll decide you want nothing to do with the current trend.

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever your perspective, enjoy my photo essay of the spring Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Flea Market held in rural Dundas on Memorial Day weekend. Let this inspire you to think beyond new, to consider the value in previously-owned.

 

 

TELL ME: Do you shop second-hand? If yes, why and what treasures have you discovered?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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My blogging approach to covering a Minnesota flea market May 29, 2013

An overview of the Rice County Steam & Gas Engine Flea Market Saturday morning near Dundas.

An overview of the Rice County Steam & Gas Engine Flea Market Saturday morning near Dundas.

FLEA MARKETS OFFER an eclectic mix of merchandise and people, the two ingredients which make shopping and photographing these venues especially entertaining and enlightening.

Mr. Socko, the sock guy, vends socks from Fox River Mills, which originated in Appleton, Wisconsin (home to the Fox River), before moving to Iowa.

Mr. Socko, the sock guy,  right, vends socks from Fox River Mills, which originated in Appleton, Wisconsin (home to the Fox River), before moving to Iowa.

For example, I met Mr. Socko of St. Paul peddling American made socks this past weekend at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Flea Market in rural Dundas. Ben Suckow’s (his real name) been selling socks for seven years, driving down to Fox River Mills in Osage, Iowa, to pick up these quality socks to vend at flea markets.

Pigs crafts by Gerald Skluzacek.

Pigs crafts by Gerald Skluzacek.

At the same event, I spotted whimsical flying pigs (and other) garden art created by Northfielder Gerald Skluzacek, retired owner of a sandblasting company. He also makes jewelry.

Linda Stadler arrived with her mittens to sell in Gerald Skluzacek's vendor trailer.

Linda Stadler arrived with her mittens to sell in Gerald Skluzacek’s vendor trailer.

On this cold Saturday, his and wife Jane’s friend, Linda Stadler, arrives with mittens she crafted from recycled sweaters. And, yes, the weather was cold enough to warrant mittens. Linda would be minding the Garden Space while Gerald attended a party.

As a bonus, Linda asked if I was “that blogger,” yes, the one who writes about her ventures into small towns. That would be me. Always nice to meet a reader who appreciates your blogging.

Photogenic Albert Remme.

Photogenic and personable Albert Remme.

I also had the honor of meeting and chatting with Albert Remme of Dennison, who was bundled in a warm coat, an ear flapper cap and gloves on this windy 50-something degree day as he waited on bleachers for his nephew.

After seeking permission to photograph him, I asked Albert if he was a retired farmer. He was a farmer and a soldier. Drafted between Korea and Vietnam, Albert was sent to Hawaii and thanks God he never saw combat. “I don’t know how you could kill anyone who’s done nothing to you,” he said.

Then I told him about my dad, a Korean War vet who fought on the front lines. “It was kill or be killed,” I shared. Not easy. And Albert just kind of nodded his head in silent agreement.

And that’s how these photo shoots go—I spot an interesting person or object or scene and I either shoot a few quick frames or I shoot, then pause to learn more.

Shopping the flea market...

Shopping the flea market…

Every time I attend this flea market, I look for a weird piece of merchandise. This year it would be these horns.

Every time I attend this flea market, I look for a weird piece of merchandise. This year it would be these horns. Why, I ask, would anyone save these? Would you buy these horns or try to sell them?

Signs tell a story, too, like this on an auction wagon there for the live auction.

Signs tell a story, too, like this on an auction wagon there for the live auction.

The auctioneer solicits bids from his movable auction wagon.

The auctioneer solicits bids from his movable auction wagon.

I set my camera on the grass to shoot this image of barbed wire that had been auctioned off.

I set my camera on the grass to shoot this image of barbed wire that had been auctioned off as the auction continues.

FYI: Click here and here to read two previous posts from the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Flea Market. Check back for one final post in which I will show you my purchases.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling