Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A last-look photo essay from a Minnesota steam & gas engines show, Part V September 13, 2017

IT’S ALL ABOUT the vintage tractors for many participants and attendees:

 

 

 

 

 

 

For others, the flea market is the main draw:

 

Larry and Nicholas Ahrens of The Brown Barn Works craft garden art from scrap metal and more.

 

New caps are sold by the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show.

 

 

Under a vendors’ table, I spotted these horses and other merchandise.

 

 

People have to eat. You’ll always find something tasty in the food court area:

 

Randy and I stopped for a mid-afternoon glass of freshly-squeezed lemonade. During the noon hour, this dining area is packed.

 

When feet tire, you can ride on this horse-drawn wagon or in a bring-your-own golf cart:

 

 

 

Old-time music draws attendees to the music barn:

 

The Czech Area Concertina Club performs.

 

For kids (and some adults) the vintage playground equipment entertains:

 

 

 

A view of the merry-go-round in the background from the front of a vintage tractor. There’s a handcrafted seesaw (which Randy and I rode) in between.

 

 

When you can’t keep up with the kids/grandkids at the playground, you just have to rest.

 

THE END:

 

Randy and I followed this tractor off the show grounds northbound on Minnesota State Highway 3 toward Dundas.

 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Discovering the arts at an historic Minnesota ag show, Part IV September 12, 2017

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Farm art on a dish at the flea market.

 

AN EVENT FOCUSING on farming of bygone years might be the last place you would expect to experience the arts. But the biannual Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show always showcases the arts through music, hands-on demos, flea market vendors and more. At least from my perspective.

 

The Czech Area Concertina Club performs.

 

 

 

 

 

This year I watched and listened as seasoned musicians eased concertinas in and out, in and out. A trio of kids twirled on the gravel floor of the music barn next to a John Deere tractor in an impromptu dance recital.

 

 

At the flea market, jars of golden honey showcased the culinary arts, beeswax candles the visual arts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the booth of Larry and Nicholas Ahrens, I found a gallery of garden art crafted from gas cans, shovels, railroad spikes, horseshoes, golf clubs and more. I admire the ingenuity of artists who can sculpt such art from what some might consider junk. This pair does it well.

 

 

Likewise handcrafted embroidered greeting cards from Boho Boutique and Gifts, New Prague, drew my interest for their uniqueness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often I see art in flea market merchandise displays—a cluster of angled rolling pins, a collage of toy farm wagons, three pieces of vintage 70s Sarah Coventry jewelry, a solo woodcarving and more.

 

 

 

 

 

On the back of a t-shirt.

 

As an appreciator of the graphic arts, I am drawn to letters and words in advertising, in comic books, machinery manuals and even on license plates.

 

 

To my surprise, I discovered the literary arts on a tree mural memorial in the words of Psalm 96:12. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.

 

 

Beyond those words, outside on the grassy field punctuated by shade trees, I saw art, too, in the curves of tractor bodies, the spokes of a steering wheel, the jagged treads of a tire. This ag-focused event celebrates the arts with a decidedly rural twist.

 

Please check back for one more post in this five-part series.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Oddities at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show, Part III September 8, 2017

Rows and rows of vintage tractors are a main attraction at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show.

 

WHEN I’M OUT and about with my camera whether at an event or simply exploring a small town or other setting, I often seek out the off-the-wall, the unusual, the humorous. The Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show in rural Dundas offers all three. I appreciate the creativity and humor displayed there. In these troubling and difficult times, we need diversions. We need laughter.

So I targeted seven scenes that grabbed my photographic attention in the categories of odd, funny, weird and, most certainly, creative. Take a look.

 

 

At the flea market, I noticed a fake bloody hand positioned next to vintage saws. Randy suggested we buy the appendage to gift to my sister at her annual Halloween-themed autumn soup party. The hand, the vendor said, was not for sale. His sister staged it next to the saws as a marketing gimmick. I’d like to meet his sister and introduce her to mine.

 

 

 

 

Then there’s Mike, who brought his 1930 Model A to the show. Typically one expects shiny restored cars showcased by proud owners. The Northfield man’s vintage Ford, though, is riddled with bullet holes. On purpose. After paying $800 for the car, Mike was advised that the decrepit Ford was not worth the $30K he would spend to properly refurbish it. Not to be discouraged, Mike and a friend shot up the Model A then created a story about Jesse James III killing two bank tellers while robbing a southern Missouri bank in 1932. The car was his get-away vehicle. Now the bullet-riddled Ford and the accompanying legend garner more interest than if Mike had spent all that money restoring his car.

 

 

Parked next to the Model A was yet another original—a customized Ford Courier pick-up transformed into a double-headed car by the crafty Andy’s Auto Body of Webster. That turned a few heads, including mine. And made me laugh.

 

 

Not everyone was laughing at the toy John Deere tractor George Pinc placed inside a jar atop his Farmall tractor. He got a less than courteous comment from a show attendee. George didn’t care. He’s not a loyal-to-one-brand type of guy. But he assuredly is a man with a sense of humor.

 

 

I don’t know the story behind the horns clamped to the top of another tractor. But the add-on caused me to smile.

 

 

And then, as I walked between rows of tractors, I noticed a boy (I think Mike’s son) on a banana seat bike towing a cooler. Again, I just had to smile at the ingenuity. Got a problem? Solve it.

 

 

Finally, there’s the water bottle. By itself, tucked in the crook of a tree, it means nothing. But there’s a story. I watched a guy stretch and place the bottle in the vee. Before he entered a porta potty. How smart is that? Got a problem? Solve it.

Sometimes in life you have to think and act beyond the expected and laugh. Just laugh.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Honoring Minnesota’s agricultural heritage at a steam & gas engines show, Part I September 6, 2017

A steam engine tractor plows a field. The men standing on the plow guide the blades to the proper plowing depth via levers.

 

AS SEASONS SHIFT from the growing days of summer to the harvest days of autumn here in Minnesota, aged tractors, threshing machines and other vintage agricultural equipment roll out of storage for annual threshing and steam and gas engine shows.

 

The engineers at the helm of the steam engine tractor concentrate on guiding it along the field.

 

On display under plexiglass: a replica 1920s threshing scene crafted by David Terry.

 

It’s a common scene this clustering of folks around vintage tractors.

 

These events mark a celebration of the past, a preservation of history, the remembering of a way of life, a focus on the labor intensive efforts of long ago farming. Here retired farmers lean against tractor wheels, men guide massive steam engines, kids learn and an honoring of times past prevails.

 

After finishing a plowing pass in the field, the steam engine tractor heads back to the other end.

 

Sunday afternoon I embraced Minnesota’s agricultural history at the annual Labor Day weekend Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show in rural Dundas. I didn’t view every aspect of the event, but enough to once again feel a deep appreciation and respect for my rural heritage.

 

John Deeres were the featured tractor this year.

 

I love meeting friendly and photogenic vendors who are willing to be photographed.

 

Flea market vendors offer merchandise ranging from glassware to tools to clothing and lots more, including many agricultural related items.

 

With camera in hand, I roamed part of the grounds looking for photo ops that would present a personal and unique perspective of the show. From the flea market to the music shed to the rows of tractors and the vintage playground, I found my photos. There is so much heart and soul here and an obvious love of all things related to farming of bygone decades.

 

These girls rode their vintage banana seat bikes from Northfield. And, yes, there parents were at the show.

 

Carefree dancing and twirling as only kids will do.

 

Even the playground equipment is vintage.

 

I’m especially delighted that so many kids attend. Kids pedaling banana seat bikes. Kids twirling to the old-time music of the Czech Area Concertina Club. Kids steering tractors. Kids swinging on heavy horse swings now banned from most playgrounds.

 

Some families, like the Pinc family, bring multiple tractors in multiple brands.

 

Generations spanning infants to elders come to this show ground along Minnesota State Highway 3 under a sky that holds the haze of autumn, of a sun that still blazes heat in the afternoon, of a land that yields its bounty to the harvesters. Here on these acres, memories rise like a prayer of thanksgiving as summer eases into autumn.

TELL ME: Do you attend these types of historic farming shows? If yes, I’d like to hear more.

PLEASE CHECK back for additional photo rich posts as I continue my series from the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: Steam engine tractor operator September 4, 2015

Portrait #38: Steam engine tractor operator

 

Portrait 38, Rice County Steam engine

 

The sheer size of a vintage steam engine tractor always impresses me. As do those who operate these monstrosities. Just look at the difference in scale between man and mammoth machine, this one at last year’s Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show. You better know what you’re doing when you run one of these machines.

The steam engine tractor will rumble around again this weekend at the show grounds along Minnesota State Highway 3 three miles south of Northfield.

If you appreciate vintage tractors, flea markets, farm work demonstrations (like threshing, corn shelling, plowing, sawing, etc.) and more, then you must attend the Friday – Sunday event. Click here to see the complete line-up of activities. Don’t miss the Parade of Tractors at noon daily.

I promise, you will enjoy this event. I especially like its comfortable size—big enough to offer plenty to see and do, but not too large as to overwhelm. I always see people I know here and that’s part of the fun. Visiting. Oh, and the food, is pretty darned good, too.

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Minnesota Faces is a series featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota Faces: Allis Chalmers devotee May 1, 2015

Portrait #19: Juanita

 

Portrait 19, Rice Co. Steam 2012, Juanita

 

I love how natural light from an open doorway provided the perfect lighting for this portrait of Juanita. This was an impromptu photo snapped in a blacksmith shop at the 2012 Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show, rural Dundas. To this day, it remains one of my favorite portraits.

I love the image not only because of its great lighting and composition, but because it truly captures the spirit of Juanita. Look at how her eyes sparkle, how her genuine smile dimples her cheeks, creases the corners of her eyes and spreads across her freckled face. I’ve always found Juanita, whom I met some five years ago at her dad’s Allis Chalmers tractor auction at his North Morristown farm, a people-person.

She’s also very much her own woman, one who unabashedly wears orange (here around her hat and neck) to honor her love of the Allis Chalmers brand. Juanita dresses practically and sensibly, usually with a rural fashion touch of orange.

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This is part of a series, Minnesota Faces, featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One definition of rural art September 3, 2014

WHEN YOU THINK ART, you likely think of a studio artist creating a work of art via paint or ink or some other media.

 

Dan and Pam Larson of Rice, Minnesota, craft these gigantic crayons from poplar wood. For the past six years, the couple has traveled to flea markets around the country peddling their popular crayons. They make 20,000 - 25,000 of these crayons annually.

Dan and Pam Larson of Rice, Minnesota, (their home in the warm months) craft these gigantic crayons from poplar wood and three crayons per crayon. For the past six years, the couple has traveled to flea markets around the country peddling their popular crayons. Last weekend they were at a flea market in rural Dundas. They make 20,000 – 25,000 of these crayons annually. I consider their rustic crayons to be works of art as much as tools of art.

 

But I think beyond the expected.

 

Art, Massey F emblem

 

I also see art in other places, like on the front end of a tractor. Emblems, while identifying a tractor brand, are also art. Rural art.

Here’s some rural art I photographed at the recent Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show in rural Dundas, Minnesota:

 

Art, cupola

 

Art, John Deere emblem

 

Art, IH emblem and grill

 

Art, NFO sign

 

Art, IH

 

Art, Minneapolis Moline

 

Art, Ferguson

 

Art, Farmall homemade sign

 

Art, John Deere pick-up

 

 

Art, overall flea market finds

 

 

Art, milk shake sign

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling