Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Beyond the final rose, a billboard message that really matters March 14, 2018

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

DO PEOPLE NOTICE billboards? Apparently yes, if based on all the media hype last week about billboards supporting Becca Kufrin, the young Prior Lake woman dumped by bachelor Arie Luyendyk Jr. From LA to Minnesota to Times Square, digital billboards proclaimed their love for this Minnesotan to whom Arie initially proposed during the reality TV show The Bachelor.

While it’s nice to read that Minnesota Nice message—Becca—You’ll always have a rose from Minnesota—there are much more important public messages that should grab our attention.

 

 

That includes a billboard just north of Faribault along Interstate 35 which promotes texting 911. In December, Minnesota rolled out this option to reach emergency services in our state. For those with a hearing loss, the texting option is a valuable tool.

But it’s valuable to others, too, including victims of domestic abuse and violence. In many cases, they may be unable to safely call, and talk to, a 911 dispatcher. Texting offers an option, one that could save a life.

We need to care as much about domestic abuse and violence as we do some reality TV show and whether or not someone gets a rose.

FYI: Click here to learn more about Minnesota’s 911 texting system.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Wisconsin: A look inside The Paine, setting for an episode of The Bachelor January 25, 2017

OSHKOSH, WISCONSIN is perhaps best-known for its annual summer air show that draws aviation enthusiasts from around the world.

But Monday evening may have changed that, at least for a segment of the population—those who watch The Bachelor. The fourth episode of this TV show took viewers to Wisconsin, home state of this season’s bachelor, Nick Viall of Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb.

The visitors' entry to The Paine Art Center, housed in a 1920s mansion.

The visitors’ entry to The Paine Art Center, housed in a 1920s mansion.

I occasionally tune in to The Bachelor, which I hesitate to admit. Monday was one of those times. And, as it turned out, a good evening to see Wisconsin showcased, including the community of Waukesha, Omro area Knigge Farms and The Paine Art Center and Gardens in Oshkosh.

Among art in the library is an oil on canvas portrait of Koto Robertine Chase Carr Sullivan painted by her father William Merritt Chase, ca. 1914.

Among art in the library is an oil on canvas portrait of Koto Robertine Chase Carr Sullivan painted by her father, William Merritt Chase, ca. 1914.

the-paine-66-urn-on-table

The Great Hall, designed for leisure and entertainment, features an aged rug. Visitors cannot walk on that rug.

The Great Hall, designed for leisure and entertainment, features an aged Persian rug upon which you cannot walk.

This past July I toured The Paine with my husband and daughter Miranda, who lives in the area. The Paine is the legacy of Nathan and Jessie Kimberly Paine of the once-thriving Paine Lumber Company. Construction started on the mansion in 1927. Then The Depression hit and the business took a hit and so did completion of the estate. Decades later the opulent house and grounds opened to the public. No one ever lived in the historic home.

My favorite space, the sun-drenched Breakfast Room.

My favorite space, the window-lined Breakfast Room.

Everything about The Paine exudes elegance, including the table setting.

Everything about The Paine exudes elegance, including the table setting in the formal dining room.

The luxurious dining room.

The luxurious dining room.

In the January 23 episode of The Bachelor, Viall and women vying to become his wife were filmed inside and outside The Paine. As most estates are, The Paine is a lovely place of gardens, art, architectural beauty and history. And love. Not just The Bachelor love, but as the site of many weddings.

Beautiful flowerbeds edge the mansion and extend into backyard gardens.

Beautiful flowerbeds edge the mansion and extend into backyard gardens.

When I visited this past summer, “Audubon’s Birds of America” was on exhibit in the mansion gallery. Photos were banned there, although I could photograph throughout the rest of the property, inside and out.

A sitting area.

A sitting area.

Arched doors and doorways, heavy doors, art and more define The Paine.

Arched doors and doorways, heavy doors, art and more define The Paine.

The second floor includes two bedrooms.

The second floor includes two bedrooms.

Enjoy this first look at a place that can now add an episode of The Bachelor to its notoriety.

the-paine-157-full-front-view

FYI: Click here to learn more about The Paine Art Center and Gardens. The Paine is open to visitors from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday, closed on Monday. Animals and rural imagery by Wisconsin artist Craig Blietz are currently displayed in The Paine gallery. Check back for another post, outdoors at The Paine.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

I was “this close” to Prince Farming’s hometown & more March 17, 2015

MAPPING OUT A ROUTE from Mason City to Dubuque, Iowa, last summer, I routed our drive through Strawberry Point, which is 10 miles from Arlington. Remember that.

The world's largest strawberry sculpture is made of fiberglass, weighs 1,430 pounds, is 15 feet high, 12 feet wide and was constructed in 1967.

The world’s largest strawberry sculpture is made of fiberglass, weighs 1,430 pounds, is 15 feet high, 12 feet wide and was constructed in 1967.

Strawberry Point is home to the world’s largest strawberry. I delight in kitschy roadside art, thus the stop in this town of nearly 1,300.

I'm not sure this motel is open anymore.

There’s even a Strawberry Motel.

Homespun address signage in Strawberry Point.

Homespun address signage in Strawberry Point.

A sweet message.

A sweet message outside a cafe.

Additionally, I find the name, Strawberry Point, charming. Its name history traces to the soldiers, traders and railroad workers who savored the wild strawberries growing along the area’s trails and hillsides.

Driving into Strawberry Point.

Driving into Strawberry Point.

On the late August afternoon my husband and I drove into Strawberry Point, I was tired and crabby. Mostly due to the excessive heat and humidity. But also due to the endless travel through an Iowa countryside that seemed monotonous in fields and flatness. This is unusual for me to feel this way given my appreciation for rural prairie landscapes.

This impressive building anchors a corner in downtown Strawberry Point and houses a coffee shop/cafe and hotel.

This impressive building anchors a corner in downtown Strawberry Point and houses a coffee shop/cafe and hotel.

Had I not been in such a funky mood, I would have explored more. Looking now at my photos from downtown Strawberry Point, I see what I missed. That sprawling brick corner building labeled Coffee Shop/The Franklin Hotel calls for exploration. Just like other places in Iowa.

The strawberry sculpture sits in the heart of downtown Strawberry Point.

The strawberry sculpture sits in the heart of downtown Strawberry Point.

How many of you had heard of Arlington, Iowa, before this season’s reality TV show The Bachelor aired? The star, bachelor farmer Chris Soules, dubbed “Prince Farming”, is from Arlington.

Signage remained from  RAGBRAI, the bike ride across Iowa.

Signage remained from RAGBRAI, the bike ride across Iowa.

Last July Soules met with RAGBRAI bikers in Strawberry Point, greeting folks in a fire department fundraiser. I missed him by a month. Not that I had even heard of him then.

While I don’t agree with the premise of The Bachelor, trying to find true love by dating multiple women simultaneously, I do see the show’s current value to Iowa, specifically, Arlington. That community of less than 500 is using its moment in the spotlight to raise funds for a new community center via sales of “The Other Bachelors of Arlington, Iowa” calendars. Local farmer and community volunteer John Fedeler came up with the calendar idea featuring 12 Arlington bachelors. Brilliant.

From what I’ve read on the campaign’s Facebook page, it’s a tastefully done calendar that can be yours for $14.99 plus $2 for shipping.

For example, here’s the bio on Mr. September, Jordan:

Mr. September was born in Arlington and helps out on his family’s farm. When he is not farming with his father, Mr. September works to grow his computer consulting business and practices his piloting skill. Mr. September is more reserved about details of his love life, but joked that he will be a “bachelor till the rapture”. Mr. September would give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it and is not afraid to reach out a helping hand.

A farm site somewhere in notheast Iowa between Nashua and Strawberry Point.

A farm site somewhere in notheast Iowa between Nashua and Strawberry Point.

He sounds like one wholesome Iowa farm boy to me.

Somewhere in northeastern Iowa.

Somewhere in northeastern Iowa.

And isn’t that the image we have of Iowa—a good, wholesome place of mostly farm fields and small towns? Pigs and corn. Fields of opportunities?

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling