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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Thirty entertaining minutes at the swap meet & flea market May 26, 2012

THIRTY MINUTES. That’s all the time my husband and I had to shop at the 13th annual Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Swap Meet & Flea Market this morning before the rain rolled in.

Despite the hurried pace under threatening gray skies, I managed to snap enough photos to present you with a still-life infomercial designed for your amusement, education and entertainment.

An old wind-up toy that caught my eye.

Let’s start in the TOY DEPARTMENT where vintage toys abound.

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe toy.

Moving on to the CHILDREN’S CLOTHING DEPARTMENT, meet model Mady modeling a fashionable frog hat purchased from a vendor.

Isn’t this 5-year-old simply too cute? Now what’s that fairy tale about kissing frogs and princes and…, oh, never mind, Mady doesn’t need to hear that story yet.

But I bet Howard from Farmington, over in MEN’S APPAREL could tell plenty of stories. He looks like a character. I can see it in his eyes, in the wrinkled folds of his face, in that beer cap he says garners plenty of attention. He’s a retired highway department employee, farmer, bus driver and cattle truck driver. And he once worked at a creamery.

That’s a good lead-in to the DAIRY DEPARTMENT, where I found these vintage milk bottles. Examine the one on the right. The City Dairy in St. Paul sold milk that was “Safe for Baby.” What a novel idea. Then slide your eyes over to the left. What is Velve “D” MILK and Mello “D” Milk for HEALTH?

OK, as long as I’m asking questions, have you ever heard of Heatwole, Minnesota (red button on lower right)? Even I haven’t, and I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about Minnesota communities. It’s apparently one of those ghost towns, located several miles south of Hutchinson. That’s your geography lesson for the day.

Tables and tables and tables of hardware and tools and more.

If you’re in need of tools and such, the swap meet and flea market features a massive HARDWARE SECTION. Men will most definitely savor shopping here. Enough said.

Need a shovel?

If you can’t find it on a table, Howard might have it in the back of his pick-up.

Need a 1915 combine? Yes, this would be one.

For the man who has everything, this 1915 International Harvester combine can be purchased for $800. I know. I know. It’s perhaps a bit difficult to envision this as anything but a heap of scrap metal. But if the right guy comes along…

Three duct tape dressed dolls on a pick-up. Strangest thing you ever saw.

And, finally, as we scurried through the rain toward the car, this pick-up truck pulled into the grass parking lot. Now, what do you make of those duct tape dressed dolls lashed onto that truck?

FYI: The swap meet and flea market continues from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines grounds three miles south of Northfield on Minnesota State Highway 3. A tractor pull is set for 9 a.m. Admission is free. A pretty good deal, I’d say, for all that entertainment.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

At the railroad swap meet in Randolph April 5, 2012

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Vendors packed a gym at the Randolph School with their railroad merchandise.

IF I WAS INTO TRAINS or railroading, I could have spent hours filing through the collections of railroad-related merchandise offered at the Randolph Railroad Days Swap Meet on Saturday.

But after awhile, admittedly because I know little about this railroading hobby, the goods started to blend together. So I had to pick and choose and focus on the details to keep myself from becoming lost in the sheer volume of the offerings.

That said, join me on this select tour of the swap meet in a gym at the Randolph School. I was more than a bit distracted by the school’s icon, the rocket, displayed everywhere, even on the gym floor. I’m wondering “why Rockets?” other than the obvious connection to the “R” in Randolph. But that’s another topic because, you know, I did photograph those Rockets.

Railroad date nails drew my attention. The numbers represent the years.

Pocket-size calendars, which I choose to call "railroad art."

And then there's railroad art like this created by John Cartwright. The Shoreview artist was selling prints of his ink drawings. Visit his website at ArtRail.com for more information.

Toy/model trains galore were available for purchase.

Condition doesn't matter to this swap meet buyer.

I found this attractive belt buckle among an assortment of buckles.

Yes, this hobby could get expensive. The details in train set-ups impressed me.

This replica toy depot caught my eye because it reminded me of the metal dollhouse I had as a child. Oh, how I wish my mom had kept the vintage dollhouse and not given it to my cousins.

Just the cheerful, vivid colors alone are enough to make you smile.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thank you to railroad artist John Cartwright for allowing me to photograph his beautiful ink drawing prints. You can learn more about this award-winning artist by clicking here.