Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Escape to the tropics in Minnesota at Como November 15, 2018

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The Sunken Garden at the Como Park Conservatory.

 

WHETHER HE SOUGHT A RESPITE from single digit temps or whether he wanted to see the bonsai trees, I’m not sure. But the son wanted to visit Como Park Conservatory before his return flight from Minnesota to Boston on Monday.

 

A section of the conservatory features bonsai trees.

 

So after an early lunch, we loaded his luggage and that of his girlfriend into our van and headed north an hour to the Twin Cities metro. Our oldest daughter and granddaughter joined us at this St. Paul site they frequent. Izzy’s comfortable familiarity showed as her two year old legs ran more than walked. On a slow day at Como, no danger existed of separation from the five adults.

 

 

I could take photos at my leisure without worry of stalling foot traffic winding through lush greenery inside the balmy conservatory. It was a luxury not to feel hurried or pressed by crowds at Como, which ranked as the third top tourist attraction in Minnesota in 2017 with 5.3 million visitors.

 

Heading to the animal exhibits.

 

And it was a luxury to escape temporarily from the cold and snow of Minnesota. With temps dipping to six degrees overnight, winter has arrived way too early. We have a brief respite this week with the temp pushing back up to 40 degrees during the day.

 

A close-up of a mum inside the Sunken Garden where flowers are changed out seasonally.

 

Yes, we dwell on the weather here in Minnesota. My son claims everywhere. He’s probably right. Conversations too often begin with weather. If they stick on that topic, then I’m concerned.

 

 

 

While inside the conservatory, I pulled off my winter garb and focused instead on the florals,

 

 

the greenery,

 

 

the art, the water.

 

 

Anything but the weather.

 

Lovely orchids.

 

These tropics offer an ideal escape if you can’t afford a real escape to warmth or the tropics.

 

As I photographed this bird, I was cognizant of the possibility of mice.

 

When the daughter warned me about mice inside one section of the conservatory, I hurried. I wish she hadn’t told me about the varmints I detest. “I didn’t want you to scream if you saw a mouse,” she explained. Alright then, that makes sense.

 

Art outside the primates building set against a backdrop of snow.

 

And later, when I commented on the stench of manure in the Como Zoo primate and giraffe buildings, she said, “You grew up on a farm.” Yes, I did. A dairy farm. But, in my memory, cows don’t stink.

 

 

Cold temps and construction shortened our time at the zoo. And that was OK by me. I could see the son wasn’t thrilled with viewing caged critters. I, too, felt a certain sadness for these animals. Izzy kept telling us she didn’t like the monkeys, then stood watching them. Next week she might love monkeys. I admired the mama gorilla who turned her back on me when I stepped up to the viewing window.

 

 

Soon enough, we exited the zoo and conservatory complex, bending into the frigid wind on our way to the parking lot. For a short time we’d escaped winter. And now, as warmer temps ease into Minnesota for several days, the cold air moves east, toward Boston.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Second restored carnival car debuts in Faribault, birthplace of the Tilt-A-Whirl July 12, 2017

Signage and seating inside a restored Tilt-A-Whirl car installed in downtown Faribault in June 2015. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

SEVERAL BLOCKS FROM MY FARIBAULT home, laborers once built the iconic Tilt-A-Whirl and lesser-known amusement rides. Occasionally I spotted oversized bears, dragons and other animal-themed spin rides aboard flatbed trailers exiting the Frog Town neighborhood, location of Sellner Manufacturing.

 

The Dizzy Dragon was once also made in Faribault. This ride and other versions of it are now built by Larson International, Inc. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

There Herbert Sellner, inventor of the Tilt-A-Whirl, opened his manufacturing company. From 1926 until its sale to a Texas company in 2011, the business made carnival rides.

 

The 1950s Tilt-A-Whirl car faces north toward Central Avenue. Here’s the beautiful back. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

Often I wondered why Faribault didn’t promote the Tilt-A-Whirl. Next to the merry-go-round and the Ferris wheel, it’s likely the most recognized amusement ride spanning generations. The American made ride seemed a natural tourist draw to me. Today, thanks to the efforts of local businesswomen Tami Schluter (of the Historic Hutchinson House B & B) and Peggy Keilen (of Faribo Air Conditioning & Heating), there’s an increased awareness of the Tilt-A-Whirl’s origins in my southeastern Minnesota community.

 

A restored 1950s vintage Tilt-A-Whirl has been permanently installed by Burkhartzmeyer Shoes in historic downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

In August 2014, the pair unveiled a 1950s Tilt-A-Whirl prototype car restored by Rick’s Restoration of Las Vegas and placed next to Burkhartzmeyer Shoes in the heart of historic downtown Faribault.

 

The second car, before restoration. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

 

On Thursday, the two will celebrate the refurbishing of another Tilt-A-Whirl car donated by local Harley’s Auto Salvage.

 

The restored car in place by the State Bank. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

 

Dedication of that car will take place at noon in front of the State Bank of Faribault, 428 Central Avenue North.

 

Under Dwight Henning’s hands, a work in progress. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

 

The reconstructed and primed car. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

 

Nearly complete. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

 

Unlike the first car, this car has been restored by former Sellner employees, Dwight Henning of Henning Fiberglass and Karen Bussert of Design Specialties. That involvement of a local craftsman and artist strengthens community pride and ownership, always a bonus with any project.

 

The first restored Tilt-A-Whirl car sits in downtown Faribault, outside a third-generation family shoe store. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

There are already hints of a third Tilt-A-Whirl restoration project. The first restored car has proven a photo op tourist attraction down at the shoe store. I expect the car by the bank to also draw attention, probably more, though, from locals than visitors. This car is not restored to vintage, but rather painted/decorated in green, white and gold, the State Bank’s colors. Green and white are also the public school colors of the Faribault Falcons.

 

Historic info featured on the “table” of the latest restored Tilt-A-Whirl car. Photo courtesy of Tami Schluter.

 

Schluter and Keilen have worked tirelessly to bring these Tilt-A-Whirl cars to downtown Faribault. They’ve also gotten significant financial support and community backing. Still, it takes someone to initiate.

 

Karen Bussert creates Tilt-A-Whirl themed t-shirts like this one worn by Faribault native Janet Timmers at a Car Cruise Night. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I see additional potential here to expand upon what these two have started. For now I envision a seasonal pop-up mini museum showcasing the Tilt-A-Whirl in an empty downtown storefront and/or perhaps a kiosk that includes Tilt-A-Whirl t-shirts. Maybe the local F-Town Brewing Company could craft a beer named after this iconic ride. And, if I’m going to brainstorm here, I may as well dream big. I’d love to see an operating Tilt-A-Whirl find a permanent home in our historic downtown.

TELL ME: How can my community further promote the Tilt-A-Whirl as a tourist attraction? I’d love to hear your ideas.

 

The Mural Society of Faribault created and placed the Tilt-A-Whirl mural on the side of Jim’s Auto & Tire in downtown Faribault, Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

FYI: The Rice County Historical Society includes a small exhibit on Sellner Manufacturing. And a downtown mural features the Tilt-A-Whirl.

© Copyright 2017 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