Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Voting for a scarecrow November 1, 2016




WITCH (sic) ONE SHOULD I choose?




Is this one It? Looks like a shady character hiding behind that signature hair style.




This scarecrow stands out in the field. Just look at that perfect, practiced smile and that perfectly pressed plaid.




The artistry here is certainly something to crow about.




I’m struggling to wrap my head around the choices.




Is this unique scarecrow raking in the votes? If only there were exit polls.




I like this scarecrow entourage. But those signs bother me. BEWARE. Of what? And No crows. What’s wrong with crows? Yeah, I know they’re not robins…




On the surface, I thought, how clever to post a campaign sign. But then I reread the words. Turning Green with Envy Needs Money popped out at me. You can’t sway my vote with sympathy, excess advertising, confusing rhetoric or via deflection.




I hope the candidates will accept the outcome, respecting the democratic process that veils our votes in secrecy. No rigged polls here.




There are so many choices. But really, these are just scarecrows. I shouldn’t take this election so seriously. There’s a more important election on November 8.


FYI: These scarecrows are part of a Scarecrow Contest at the 100 Ladies and Gentlemen Craft Sale. That sale, located at 45986 Highway 56 just off Minnesota Highway 60 in Kenyon, continues from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. November 3 -6 and November 10 -13. All items are handcrafted.

Disclaimer: There’s nothing political about the craft sale. It’s just that–a craft sale.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling




Crafts galore & a bonus scarecrow contest October 26, 2013

The sign marking the entry to 100 Ladies and Gentlemen Craft Sale near the intersection of Minnesota Highways 56 and 60 just outside of Kenyon.

Signs mark the entry to 100 Ladies & Gentlemen Craft Sale near the intersection of Minnesota Highways 56 and 60 just outside of Kenyon.

I WISH, OH, HOW I WISH I could show you all the crafty goodness that encompasses the 100 Ladies & Gentlemen Craft Sale just outside of Kenyon.

This building and a wing in the back house the craft sale.

This building houses the craft sale.

But no photos were allowed of the merchandise stuffed inside this pole shed. So you will need to imagine the stitched, hammered, painted, baked, preserved, knitted and other handcrafted items sold here.

Need an apron? Homemade caramels? A Minnesota-authored book? Some crazy saying to decorate a wall? Handcrafted furniture? Seasonal decorations? A photograph of a barn? The list is endless.

The property features a paved parking lot for shoppers.

The property features a paved parking lot for shoppers.

For 40 years, Marlene and Curt Morrow have hosted this craft sale on their property at 45986 Minnesota State Highway 56, just north of State Highway 60.

The show was abuzz with shoppers when my husband and I stopped on a Saturday afternoon, so busy that wiggling through the narrow aisles proved challenging.

I thought Randy would be bored, but he lingered longer than me, reading humorous sayings at a booth of quirky signage.

It wasn’t until I spotted upcycled freestanding cabinets in the back section of the building that I found merchandise which truly interested me. At that point I called Randy over for his opinion on a cabinet to fill a hole in our dining room wall. We removed a chimney several years ago, but I seldom notice anymore the cardboard sheets that hide the space. Until we have guests. Yes, we really need to do something about that. But then I need new flooring and kitchen counters and cupboards and a sink, well, the list is endless. I would love to win a kitchen make-over.

Oh, yes, back to that craft show. I pulled a tape measure and notebook from my purse and Randy measured while I jotted numbers, hopeful that maybe one of the three cabinets we both liked would fit the space. It was not to be, we learned later upon returning home and measuring the void.

Despite purchasing nothing at the sale—because I really do not need more “stuff”—I still enjoyed the drive over to Kenyon and perusing the handcrafted merchandise. I always appreciate the talents of local artisans.

And the scarecrow display, which I was allowed to photograph, provided for some fun photo ops. At least I didn’t bring my camera with me for naught:

Visitors can vote for their favorite in the scarecrow festival with cash prizes awarded to the top three.

Visitors can vote for their favorite in the scarecrow festival with cash prizes awarded to the top three.

Here's a close-up of the Queen Mom, the scarecrow in the foreground in the photo above.

Here’s a close-up of the Queen Mom, the scarecrow in the foreground in the photo above. Her red hat sisters surround her.

Look at the attention to detail by the creators of the Queen Mom.

Look at the attention to detail by the creators of the Queen Mom.

Some of the scarecrows can be a little frightening.

Some of the scarecrows can be a little frightening…

While others can be as fashionable as the Queen Mom, like this hip 60s scarecrow.

while others can be as fashionable as the Queen Mom, or this hip 60s scarecrow.

Scarecrows making a statement.

Scarecrows making a statement.

Among the humorous tombstones on display.

Among the humorous tombstones on display.

Another scarecrow.

Another scarecrow.

An empty chair provides a photo op for a shopper.

An empty chair provides a photo op for a shopper.

And these four hang out outside the craft sale. (Yes, they are for sale.)

And these four hang out outside the craft sale. (Yes, they are for sale.)

FYI: The craft sale is open from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily, except Tuesdays and Wednesdays from now until November 10.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Scarecrows from around the world at MSAD October 29, 2011

FROM EGYPT TO INDIA TO MEXICO…, you’ll find those countries and more represented at this year’s Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf Scarecrow Fest.

Autumn wouldn’t be quite the same without this annual display at the school’s picturesque campus on the east side of Faribault. For years my family has toured the scarecrows showcased in the school’s green space edged by lovely, historic limestone buildings.

Unlike past festivals, the scarecrows this year hadn’t been ravaged by the brisk winds that often sweep across this hilltop location. Durability is a requirement in construction of the scarecrow scenes, which are also judged on use of materials, overall appearance and creativity.

I don’t know how judges decided on the winners this year because so many entries in the themed “Cultures of the World” contest ranked as outstanding. MSAD classes, public school classes, dorm groups, community groups, families and staff can enter the competition.

This year’s theme, especially, pleased me given the ever-growing cultural diversity that defines Faribault.

If you want to see the scarecrows in person, you best hurry. The displays went up a few days ago, will remain up until Halloween, and must be removed from the campus on Tuesday.

"International ECE Children" by the MSAD ECE with historic Tate Hall in the background.

A close-up of "Barn Raising Rebels" by the Faribault High School American Sign Language Group 3.

A detail in the "Barn Raising" scene that made me pause and wonder if this blackbird was about to take flight.

"Italian Pizzeria" by the MSAD ECE won third place.

Animal art in the "Kenya" display by MSAD grades 2/3.

"Welcome to Egypt" by the MSAD Class of 2015 included an Egyptian, a camel and three pyramids.

Viking Leif Erickson was part of the "Greenland" scarecrow scene by MSAD grades 4/5. The entry won second place.

Several skulls were incorporated into "Mexico's Day of the Dead" by MSAD Class of 2013.

Faribault High School's American Sign Language Group 1 created this Jamaican.

The Baker family built the Taj Mahal, which mimics the shape of Noyes Hall in the background, for their "Welcome to India" scarecrow display. The Bakers won first place.

The Baker family got the details, right down to the jewel on the Indian woman's forehead.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Exploring Minnesota at the MSAD Scarecrow Fest October 18, 2010



A sign welcomes visitors to the Scarecrow Fest at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault.


EVERY YEAR IN FOREVER, my family has crossed the viaduct to Faribault’s east side to view the scarecrows at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf. Autumn would not be autumn without this annual tour.

Years ago we loaded up the kids. Today it’s just me and my husband. But we still get the same kick out of seeing exactly what MSAD students, Faribault High School American Sign Language students, families and others have created for the October Scarecrow Fest.

This year, undoubtedly, has been my favorite with scarecrow scenes themed around Minnesota’s great outdoors. The displays are completely family-friendly—nothing scary or macabre or remotely frightening.

I suppose, though, that the sizes of the mosquitoes could frighten non-Minnesotans. But, shhhhhh, we’ll just let them think that our “state bird” grows as big as a bird and that we really do need Paul Bunyan-sized cans of OFF mosquito repellent.



With mosquitoes this big...



...swarming and droning...



...you really do need a mega can of bug repellent.


And, yes, Paul Bunyan was depicted in two of the creations. Unfortunately, in one case, Babe the Blue Ox, Paul’s side-kick, had toppled in the wind. But my husband set him upright for a photo op before Babe tumbled back to earth—at the mercy of Paul’s axe, noted a little girl who was touring the fest grounds.

Then I had to add, in a garish Halloween comment, that Paul was making Babe into steak. So much for keeping this family-friendly…



This Babe the Blue Ox had toppled in the wind, but he stood briefly for this photo.



This second Babe the Blue Ox sculpture stood his ground in the elements.


Honestly, I had to admire the ingenuity of the contestants with gourds transformed into fish and mosquitoes, a loon with a sock head and a pumpkin painted red to represent the cherry on Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.



MSAD's version of the cherry and spoon sculpture.



One of my favorite entries, this sockhead loon.


Unfortunately Split Rock Lighthouse had fallen by the time we arrived for our tour. Typically the weather takes a toll on this wind-swept campus.

But, for the most part, these exhibits need to be durable, durability being one of the criteria considered by judges evaluating the vignettes. They also look at use of materials, overall appearance and creativity.

I bet the judges had a tough time this year deciding who should win. The entries were that good. Of course, why wouldn’t they be? With an “Explore Minnesota” theme, competitors had a whole wide state of 10,000 lakes and loons and land to create a scarecrow scene of this place we Minnesotans love, despite our over-sized “state bird.”



Pumpkins were painted to resemble animals in the Como Zoo entry.



Detail. Detail. Even the name on this mock tombstone reflects Minnesota.



As you might expect, with an "Explore Minnesota" theme, many of the 17 Scarecrow Fest scenes included boats.


FYI: You have only a few hours to view the scarecrows, if any remain on the MSAD campus. They will be gone by 3 p.m. today.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling