Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part I, outside the Paine in Oshkosh: Flowers and art and water June 19, 2017

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HEAT AND HUMIDITY PRESSED heavy upon me as I wandered the gardens of The Paine Art Center on a summer day in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Yet, the heat didn’t stop me from appreciating the lush flowers and plants, the water features, the sculptures and more showcased on this estate.

 

 

 

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It’s a lovely place, this late 1920s mansion and the landscape surrounding it. An episode of The Bachelor was filmed here in October.

 

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I realize most of you likely will never travel to eastern Wisconsin to tour The Paine. My second daughter lives in the area. So please join me on this walk around the grounds—a welcome visual summer respite for us dwellers of the North. And for those of you in other regions, I hope you, too, will appreciate the beauty of this estate once owned by Nathan and Jessie Paine of Wisconsin lumber business wealth.

 

A sweeping lawn stretches between the gardens and the rear of the late 1920s mansion.

A sweeping lawn stretches between the gardens and the rear of the late 1920s mansion.

 

Sculptures, water features,plants and flowers all intertwine in the gardens.

Sculptures, water features, plants and flowers all intertwine in the gardens.

 

Italian master sculptor created this marble sculpture titled "Girl with a Bird."

Italian master sculptor created this marble sculpture titled “Girl with a Bird.”

 

Artsy and beautiful planters abound, including this one outside the Carriage House.

Artsy and beautiful planters abound, including this one outside the Carriage House.

 

The Carriage House is available for rent, for events like wedding receptions.

The Carriage House is available for rent, for events like wedding receptions.

 

The showcase reflecting pond.

The showcase reflecting pond.

 

How lovely those lilies in the pond.

How lovely those lilies in the pond.

 

And how lovely the other lilies growing in the gardens.

And how lovely the other lilies growing in the gardens.

 

 

FYI: Because I have so many photos of the gardens, I will feature my images in two more posts. Click here to read my first post from inside this historic mansion.

Click here for more info about The Paine Art Center and Gardens.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

NOTE: These images were taken in July 2016.

 

Interesting finds inside a candy store, Part III from Jordan, Minnesota November 23, 2016

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BLACKBERRY PATCH SYRUPS in the most tempting flavors.

 

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A TARDIS tucked into a corner.

 

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Cotton candy in buckets.

 

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Dictator soda. Say what?

 

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Minnesota’s largest porta potties.

 

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Pop art.

 

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Seemingly unconnected, they are. All were photographed inside Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store, also known as Jim’s Apple Farm outside Jordan along US Highway 169.

I love discovering and photographing places like this to share with you. Jim’s has been around for more than 30 years. But I’d never been there until about a month ago. It’s not quite an hour’s drive from my Faribault home.

There’s so much to see in our own backyards…if we only take the time to discover, then appreciate.

TELL ME: What should visitors see in your backyard?

FYI: Check back for one final post, featuring my two favorite photos from my visit to Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store. Click here to read my first post in this series and my second post.

Jim’s Apple Farm closes for the season on the last day of November.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The art of a candy store, Part II from Jordan, Minnesota November 21, 2016

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THERE’S A CERTAIN CHARM to the signage and art at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store. Folksy, down-to-earth, eye-catching and endearing, the art connects to shoppers on a personal level. Like an old-time shopkeeper parceling penny candy into a brown paper bag.

 

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Local artist and Jordan High School art teacher Jessica Barnd creates the art, adding a rural roots visual authenticity to this business, officially Jim’s Apple Farm.

 

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This family-owned attraction along US Highway 169 in Jordan is more about candy than apples.

 

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And it’s about successful marketing, primarily through the can’t-miss signature yellow building and picket fence and Jessica’s art.

 

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Jim’s doesn’t rely on a website—there’s none—and only recently went online with a Facebook page. And only cash or checks are accepted; no credit or debit cards. Says so on end-of-the-building signage near th gravel parking lot.

 

 

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For me, the experience of visiting Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store focused as much on the merchandise as on the visual artistry. But then I tend to see my world through the lens of my Canon DSLR.

 

Peanut logs are made on-site as are apple pies.

Peanut logs are made on-site as are apple pies.

This place provides a unique canvas to promote a business in a nostalgic way that takes us back to the mercantile. To the old-fashioned candy counter. To simpler days when a piece of penny candy was enough.

 

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Except at Jim’s, candy counters extend through a lengthy building and the candy supply seems endless.

 

BONUS ART PHOTOS:

Minnesota's Largest Candy Store also boats the World's Largest Soda Selection. You will find flavors here that you would never even consider for pop (the Minnesota word for soda).

Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store also boasts the World’s Largest Soda Selection. You will find flavors here that you would never even consider for pop (the Minnesota word for soda).

 

In the new addition to the building, Jessica painted clouds for the ceiling, where hot air balloons are suspended. They move up and down.

In the new addition to the building, Jessica painted clouds for the ceiling, where hot air balloons are suspended. They glide up and down.

 

The basket of a hot air balloon.

The basket of a hot air balloon.

 

On the exterior pathway to the candy store entrance, this sign alerts customers to the availability of homemade pies.

On the exterior pathway to the candy store entrance, this sign alerts customers to the availability of homemade pies.

 

Some of the pumpkins for sale are painted. This was a favorite since it reminds me of Tufts University, my son's alma mater. Tufts' mascot is an elephant, its school color blue.

Some of the pumpkins for sale are painted. This was a favorite since it reminds me of Tufts University, my son’s alma mater. Tufts’ mascot is Jumbo the elephant, its school colors blue and brown.

 

Another surprise: Lots and lots and lots of puzzles for sale, as advertised on the business signage.

Another surprise: Lots and lots and lots of puzzles for sale, as advertised on the business signage.

 

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FYI: Please check back as I show you more of Jim’s Apple Farm. Click here to read my first post in this series.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One sweet experience at Minnesota’s largest candy store in Jordan November 18, 2016

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UNTIL YOU’VE VISITED Minnesota’s largest candy store along US Highway 169 in Jordan, you can’t imagine a place quite like this. Better than Candy Land or the Chocolate Factory. Sprawling, brimming with candy. And more.

 

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This 30-plus years family-run business—officially known as Jim’s Apple Farm—is an experience. A tourist attraction. A fun and unique place to shop. Think polka music pulsing through the jolting yellow machine shed style building. Think a lengthy yellow picket fence stretching along the highway like a navigational arrow. Think discovering candy you never knew existed. Think bacon.

 

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Yes, bacon. There’s an entire section devoted to bacon.

 

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And taffy.

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And licorice.

 

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And chocolate. And…

 

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Soda. Soda of common and unusual flavors, some with attention-grabbing names.

 

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I laughed and I smiled in this magical world of creativity, colors and candy.

 

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If you crave happiness, this place excels in that emotion. It’s the type of playful setting that spirits you away from negativity. Erases worries. Offers a temporary reprieve from reality. And we all need that. Especially now.

 

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There are pumpkins

 

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and puzzles

 

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and peeled apples (baking in pies). Reminders of Grandma’s kitchen. Scent of cinnamon. Red checked tablecloths. Pied Piper nuances leading you to pie still warm from the oven. Caramel apple pie for me crafted with locally-sourced apples.

 

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But I resisted Lucky Lights, remembering the chalky taste of those addicting slim cylinders from my childhood days when smoking candy cigarettes seemed cool. I skipped purchasing any candy, which is possible if you convince yourself that you really don’t need the sugar. Other shoppers fully compensated for my solo pie purchase, bulging their shopping carts with candy.

 

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For me, exploring Minnesota’s largest candy store was about the experience. And about the fruity sweetness of caramel-laced apple pie tasting of sky and rain and autumn in Minnesota.

TELL ME: Have you visited Jim’s Apple Farm or a similar candy store? I’d like to hear about your experience.

FYI: Located at 20430 Johnson Memorial Drive, Jordan, Jim’s is open seasonally from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily, June – November. I’d advise visiting on a weekday, like I did, because I’ve heard that on weekends the store is packed. Check Facebook for more info; there’s no website or business phone. Bring cash. Credit cards are not accepted.

Please check back as I bring you more images from this mega Minnesota candy store.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Only in Minnesota: Babe the Blue Ox tops the news following a severe storm August 4, 2016

NOT EVEN THE STRENGTH of an ox could match the power of Mother Nature during severe thunderstorms that rolled through the Brainerd Lakes area of Central Minnesota Thursday morning.

At Paul Bunyan Land along State Highway 18 east of Brainerd, strong winds toppled a 6,000-pound iconic Babe the Blue Ox statue. The 18-foot tall by 24-foot wide ox is “a little dinged up, but in true Paul Bunyan fashion, back up on his feet in no time,” according to an entry on the attraction’s Facebook page.

See for yourself:

Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Photo by Adam Rademacher & courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Photo by Adam Rademacher & courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Reeds Backhoe Service worked to upright Babe. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Reeds Backhoe Service worked to upright Babe. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Babe suffered a few dings, including to his flank. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Babe suffered a few injuries, including to his rear flank. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Babe's horn was also damaged. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunayn Land.

Babe’s horn was also damaged. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunayn Land.

Babe, back on his feet. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Babe, back on his feet. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

If you’re from Minnesota or you’ve ever vacationed in the Brainerd Lakes area, you understand the importance of Babe the Blue Ox. He, along with his owner, lumberjack Paul Bunyan, are the stuff of Northwoods legend. Since the early 1950s, statues of the pair welcomed visitors to the Paul Bunyan Amusement Center near Baxter. Parents slipped their children’s names to the ticket taker and soon Paul was personally greeting Johnny or Jane from Wherever. Such is the stuff of summer childhood memories in Minnesota.

In 2003, the long-time tourist attraction closed and Paul and Babe moved to their new home next to This Old Farm Pioneer Village east of Brainerd. This morning, Babe proved his resiliency in adversity. Paul Bunyan Land opened at 10 a.m. Thursday, right on schedule.

BONUS STORY & IMAGE:

Paul Bunyan book cover

 

Several months ago I purchased Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, a slim book (more like a pamphlet) at a used book sale in Faribault. Published by Bang Printing of Brainerd, likely in the 1960s, this book was written by Daphne Hogstrom and illustrated by Art Seiden. I acquired it for the art more than the story. I value such period graphics, especially this publication about a Minnesota legend.

According to the author, Babe the Blue Ox is as wide as the Mississippi River, stands 11 pine trees tall, does the work of 60 men and can pull rivers.

Legend goes and this writer writes, that Paul pulled Babe from a snowdrift in the year of the blue snow, thus the hue of this much beloved ox.

FYI: Click here to view the full gallery of storm damage images. All photos are courtesy of the Rademacher family and available for the public to use, according to the Paul Bunyan Land FB page. Note that Thursday’s storm caused severe damage throughout the Brainerd Lakes area with trees and power lines down. Damage reports are still coming in. This storm, and specifically the toppling of Babe the Blue Ox, is leading Minnesota news stories today.

© Story copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Community Pride: Showcasing the Tilt-A-Whirl, a Faribault icon August 27, 2015

RED WING IS NOTED for its pottery and shoes. Darwin has the world’s largest ball of twine. And in northern Minnesota, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox draw tourists for lakeside photo ops in Bemidji.

Now my community, too, has an iconic attraction—the Tilt-A-Whirl. It’s been a long-time coming, this recognition that the iconic American carnival ride deserves a place of honor in Faribault. Herbert W. Sellner built his first Tilt-A-Whirl here in 1926 and production continued locally into early 2011 when Sellner Manufacturing was sold to a Texas company.

Herb Sellner invented the Tilt-A-Whirl, made in Faribault beginning in 1926.

Herb Sellner invented the Tilt-A-Whirl, made in Faribault beginning in 1926.

Until I moved into Faribault 31 years ago, just blocks from where the Tilt-A-Whirl was manufactured, I had no idea it was made here. I expect many remain unaware of its roots in this southeastern Minnesota community.

Tami Schluter on "Boy Meets Whirl."

Tami Schluter on “Boy Meets Whirl,” an episode on American Restorations featuring work done on the 1950s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl. A year ago a party was held in Faribault to view the show and unveil the amusement car. Earlier this summer, the car was installed in downtown Faribault.

But thanks to two local businesswomen who took the advice of a consultant following a 2011 Faribault Main Street market study, a restored 1950s Tilt-A-Whirl prototype now sits on a downtown Faribault street corner. And it’s getting the attention Tami Schluter and Peggy Keilen expected, first via the restoration itself, done by Rick’s Restoration of Las Vegas and featured on The History Channel’s American Restoration reality TV show.

The restored 1950s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl has been permanently installed by Burkhartzmeyer Shoes in historic downtown Faribault.

The restored 1950s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl has been permanently installed next to Burkhartzmeyer Shoes in historic downtown Faribault.

And now, with the vintage Tilt-A-Whirl permanently in place at 128 Central Avenue in front of the third-generation family-owned shoe store, Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, locals and visitors alike are sliding into the Tilt-A-Whirl car and posing for photos or taking selfies.

The restored Tilt-A-Whirl sits in downtown Faribault, just two blocks from Buckham Memorial Library.

The restored Tilt-A-Whirl sits in downtown Faribault, just two blocks from Buckham Memorial Library and the Faribault Community Center.

Faribault is claiming an identity as the home of the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Words imprinted upon the table in the Tilt-A-Whirl car honor those involved with the project:

Words imprinted upon the table in the Tilt-A-Whirl car recognize those involved with the project: the Faribault community, the Hutchinson House Bed & Breakfast, Harley’s Auto Salvage, Faribo Air Conditioning & Heating and the Sellner family.

Says Schluter:

“I believe the Tilt brings a feeling of community pride to Faribault. It is certainly a legacy to the 80 years of the ingenuity and creativity of Herb Sellner, members of the Sellner family, its employees and talented local artisans. Besides that, it’s a really fun and whimsical story that brings a smile to just about everyone when reminiscing about past rides.”

The Tilt-A-Whirl car before restoration was rescued from a junkyard.

The 1950s Tilt-A-Whirl car before restoration. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

Not ones to finish a project and then just sit, Schluter and Keilen are now on a mission to restore a second car gifted to Faribault Main Street by Harley’s Auto Salvage. Schluter originally convinced the owners at Harley’s to pull three Tilt-A-Whirl cars from storage for possible refurbishing.

Monies are now being raised to restore this 1940s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl car. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

Monies are now being raised to restore this 1940s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl car. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

Recently, the second Tilt-A-Whirl project was awarded a $500 Community Pride Grant from the Faribault Foundation for restoration of a 1940s vintage car that will rest by the State Bank of Faribault, several blocks to the north of the 1950s car. This time, though, the car will be restored locally by former Sellner employees.

Karen Bussert creates Tilt-A-Whirl themed t-shirts like this one modeled by Faribault native Janet Timmers.

Karen Bussert creates Tilt-A-Whirl themed t-shirts (and sweatshirts) like this one modeled by Faribault native Janet Timmers at a recent Faribault Car Cruise Night. When I spotted the t-shirt, I inquired and Janet directed me to Karen. Janet grew up near Sellner Manufacturing and today lives even closer to the former business. She’s an enthusiastic Tilt-A-Whirl backer, having donated monies toward the first car restoration. I’d love to see this Tilt-A-Whirl apparel sold perhaps at Burkhartzmeyer Shoes and/or other downtown businesses and at the Faribault Chamber office. For now, those interested should contact Karen Bussert at Design Specialties, 19557 Roberds Lake Boulevard, Faribault.

Among those planning to be involved in that restoration is Karen Bussert, a seven-year Sellner employee and now owner of Faribault-based Design Specialties. Bussert created the vinyl lettering and graphics for the first restored car (sending them to Rick’s Restorations) and will do so with the second, too. After Sellner Manufacturing closed, she purchased the screen printing, embroidery and vinyl graphics part of the business, claiming rights to the amusement ride decals. She has templates of the original graphics and still produces them for Larson International, Inc., which manufactures the Tilt-A-Whirl today in Texas along with other formerly made in Faribault spin rides like Dizzy Dragons and Berry Go Round. Bussert also sells Tilt-A-Whirl t-shirts and sweatshirts currently available only at her business.

Signage and seating inside the restored amusement car.

Signage and seating inside the restored amusement car.

With the $500 Community Pride Grant, $2,800 of the $6,500 goal have now been raised toward restoring the second Tilt-A-Whirl. Schluter and Keilen aim to have all of the funds needed for restoration by the end of the year. Tax-deductible donations are accepted at Reliance Bank, 2300 30th St. N.W., Faribault, MN. 55021. Checks should be made payable to the Faribault Foundation and noted for the Tilt-A-Whirl restoration.

The Tilt-A-Whirl faces north toward Central Avenue.

The Tilt-A-Whirl faces north toward Central Avenue and Faribault’s historic downtown.

Like, Schluter, Keilen and the owners and employees of Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, I’ve seen folks gathered at the Tilt-A-Whirl car. It has, indeed, become a Faribault icon and a source of community pride. I expect that interest to grow as word spreads and Faribault markets itself as home of the Tilt-A-Whirl. The possibilities (perhaps a museum and/or an operating Tilt-A-Whirl) exist to make this an even bigger draw.

The Mural Society of Faribault created and placed the Tilt-A-Whirl mural on the side of Jim's Auto & Tire this past fall.

The Mural Society of Faribault created and placed the Tilt-A-Whirl mural on the side of a downtown building in 2010.

FYI: The Tilt-A-Whirl is featured on one of several murals that grace Faribault’s downtown. The mural is displayed on a building along Fourth Street/Minnesota Highway 60, just a block west of Central Avenue.

Tilt-A-Whirl art

Art and lettering on the Tilt-A-Whirl car were created by Karen Bussert of Design Specialties from templates of original Sellner Manufacturing graphics.

If you wish to share your memories and photos of the Tilt-A-Whirl go to facebook.com/tiltawhirlfaribault.

Click here to read a previous post I wrote about another Faribault Foundation Community Pride Grant recipient.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

An Old MacDonald style park in Mankato August 18, 2015

One of two barn style buildings at Sibley Park in Mankato, Minnesota.

The barn style stable at Sibley Farm in Mankato, Minnesota.

GROWING UP, MY DAUGHTERS had a Fisher Price barn that, when the doors opened, “mooed.” For hours they would play with this toy farm. Being a rather unwise mom who determined that everything from their childhood could not be kept, I gave the barn, silo, Little People, tractor and animals to friends with little ones. My eldest once reminded me that was a mistake. I agree.

A fenced pond is in the foreground and a second barn type pole shed in the background.

A fenced pond is in the foreground and the farm’s barn in the background.

But now she, and other twenty-somethings who hold fond memories of the Fischer Price barn, can see a similar real-life barn at Sibley Farm in Mankato’s sprawling Sibley Park.

Kids love the tractors, this one located next to the bridge spanning the pond stocked with fish and dotted with water lilies.

Kids love the tractors, this one located next to the bridge spanning the pond stocked with koi and dotted with water lilies.

Friendly sheep are a favorite.

Friendly sheep are a favorite.

The fabulous farm-themed playground.

The fabulous farm-themed playground. There’s also a traditional playground, shown in the background.

I explored the farm on a recent Sunday afternoon, delighting in the animals, the pond, and the agricultural-themed playground. What a brilliant idea, to create this educational and engaging tribute to the region’s rural roots in the heart of southern Minnesota farm country. The farm park opened in 2008 and was partially funded by a $200,000 gift from the Al and Erla Fallenstein fund through the Mankato Area Foundation.

A young family checks out the alpacas.

A young family checks out the alpacas.

When I got to the pygmy goats, a young boy was feeding them grass.

When I got to the pygmy goats, a young boy was feeding them grass.

The farm animal sculptures provide perfect photo opportunities.

The farm animal sculptures provide perfect photo opportunities.

This agricultural-themed park makes my farm girl heart happy—to see kids petting farm critters, posing with farm animal statues, racing to tractors, and clamoring onto barn, silo, straw bale and even cornstalk playground equipment. This is a place for families, for anyone who grew up on a farm, and for those who didn’t.

The farm features Ayrshire cattle like this one seeking shelter in the heat of a summer afternoon.

The farm features Ayrshire cattle like this one seeking shelter in the heat of a summer afternoon.

We need to hold onto our rural heritage. And one way to do that is through parks like Sibley Farm.

Your guide to Sibley Farm in Mankato.

Sibley Farm’s lay-out.

FYI: Sibley Farm is located at 900 Mound Avenue and is open daily from 6:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. mid-spring, summer and early fall. Admission is free. Click here to read a 2011 post I wrote about a goat-napping caper at this very park.

BONUS PHOTOS:

A sign at the playground.

A sign at the playground.

And the chickens.

The playground chickens.

I absolutely love the creativity of the playground cornstalks.

I absolutely love the creativity of the climbing apparatus designed to look like cornstalks.

Love the signage at the farm-themed playground. There's also traditional playground equipment, background.

Love the signage at the farm-themed playground. There’s also traditional playground equipment, background.

Playground pig sculptures.

Playground pig sculptures.

A musical detail on the playground.

A musical detail on the playground.

The miniature ponies are kid-sized friendly.

The miniature horses are kid-sized friendly.

Bring coins so kids can feed the animals.

Bring coins so kids can feed the animals.

Daily instructions posted inside the barn for employees.

Daily instructions posted inside the barn.

Found feathers displayed in the barn.

Found feathers displayed in the barn.

Appropriately printed lockers.

Appropriately printed lockers.

CHECK BACK TOMORROW for a similar, but much smaller, project proposed for the Redwood Falls Public Library.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling