Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Just another reason to appreciate Northfield, Minnesota August 6, 2019

On a corner along Division Street in historic downtown Northfield, Minnesota.


WE ARRIVED IN NORTHFIELD to find the city abuzz. Or rather abuzz and resounding with the sound of music.

Randy swung the van into the first open parking spot, surprisingly just off Division Street and a short walk from Bridge Square, headquarters for the Vintage Band Festival. On this lovely August early evening, we headed toward the sound of music, rounded the corner by the post office and observed an audience packing the square and spilling onto the closed street. At that moment I wished for lawn chairs. These obvious seasoned fest attendees brought theirs. Without chairs, we settled onto the curb just a door down from the former First National Bank (now the Northfield Historical Society), site of the famous Jesse James-Cole Younger Gang bank raid. We listened to a few songs before deciding we couldn’t sit like this any longer. Maybe if we were younger…


Territorial Brass performs in Armory Square’s green space.


From there we aimed toward our destination, Reunion, a new restaurant in town. But first, we decided to check out another concert, this one in the Armory Square green space. Here, Arizona’s official historical brass band performed territorial period music. Territorial Brass band members, dressed in period attire, replicate the music of vintage brass bands in Arizona and New Mexico. And bonus, a vocal soloist, “Violet,” sang along with the instrumentalists. What a delight to hear the band, among some 40 performing during 100 concerts over the four-day Vintage Band Festival.


Soloist and band spokesperson, “Violet,” walked through the crowd while singing.


After listening for awhile, we left to dine at the new eatery. But, once inside Reunion, we learned the wait would be 45 minutes. I was disappointed, too hungry to wait. Had we known this, we would have reserved a dining spot earlier and awaited the text that our table was ready. Live and learn.


Among those listening to Territorial Brass.


Anyway, no matter, we appreciated the vintage music that added another reason to stop in Northfield on a beautiful Minnesota summer evening.

TELL ME: Have you ever attended Northfield’s Vintage Band Festival or a similar vintage band festival?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Beyond the music: A photo essay from a summer band concert in Faribault July 18, 2016

The Bavarian Musikmeisters, a 35-member band, perform on July 14 at Faribault's Central Park.

The Bavarian Musikmeisters, a 35-member band, perform on July 14 at Faribault’s Central Park.

CONCERTS AND SUMMER pair like music and dancing, paint and a brush, rain and an umbrella.


Concert in Central Park 091 - Copy


All defined a recent performance by the Bavarian Musikmeisters at Faribault’s Thursday evening summer Concerts in the Park series in Central Park. To an appreciative audience ranging from youth to elders and all ages in between, the Twin Cities based group presented traditional German band music. Waltzes. Polkas. The Schottische. Edelweiss crooned.

It's always fun to photograph dogs.

It’s always fun to photograph dogs.

For 130 years, my community has hosted these free summer concerts. I’ve attended sporadically, more often now that I’m an empty nester. I typically bring my camera because, if I didn’t, I would regret leaving it home. There are always optimal photo ops both on and off stage. I challenge myself to discover new ways of photographing familiar scenes.

Colorful umbrellas popped when the rain started.

Rain chased a few concert-goers home, but not many.

It's been awhile since I've seen a rain cap like this worn by a concert-goer.

This is my favorite photo of the evening, a portrait of a concert-goer in an old-style rain cap. I lover her sweet smile, the character lines in her face…

On this evening, I photographed between raindrops and showers, cognizant of protecting my Canon DSLR. Umbrellas popped and some folks scurried under the shelter of a tree when clouds showered rain.

Faribault artist Dana Hanson paints a portrait of Bob Dylan. She's painting Minnesota Music Hall of Fame members Prince, Judy Garland and Dylan.

Faribault artist Dana Hanson creates a portrait of Bob Dylan. She’s painting Minnesota Music Hall of Fame members Prince, Judy Garland and Dylan.

Using a photo as her guide, Dana works on her Dylan portrait.

Using a photo as her guide, Dana works on her Dylan portrait.

One artist slid her art under a picnic table to protect it from the rain.

One artist slid her art under a picnic table to protect it from the rain.

En plein air artists, protected under a tree, continued creating in the rain. They are part of the concert series artgo! group, started last summer. It’s a wonderful addition, this mixing of art and music.


Band concert, 42 band & director


When the sun re-emerged, concert-goers refocused on the music of lederhosen clad men and of women dressed in festive dirndls and blouses.


Band concert, 55 arms linked


At one point, musicians directed the crowd to lock arms and sway to the music.


Band concert, 100 dancing


Later a couple danced solo in each other’s arms.


Band concert, 38 young family


Music brings so much joy and togetherness. Smiles prevail. Feet tap a rhythm. Parents wrap kids in their laps.


Band concert, 47 man with ear flap cap


In typical Minnesota fashion, though, people groused about the unseasonably cool weather, cold enough for one man to pull on his ear flapper cap.


Band concert, 34 huddling under Twins fleece blanket


Others wrapped themselves in fleece throws.


Band concert, 50 dog on lap


Dogs warmed owners’ laps.


This pin belongs to Lis, pictured several photos above in the fuchsia jacket.

This pin belongs to Lis, pictured several photos above in the fuchsia jacket. Oma is the German word for grandma.

And one woman, especially, warmed my heart after I photographed a World’s Greatest Oma button pinned to her colorful bag. Lis’ fuchsia lips curved into a smile as she shared in a still detectable German accent that she has 21 grandchildren. She came to the U.S. 61 years ago after marrying an American serviceman.

En plein air artist

En plein air artist Irina Mikhaylova uses pastels to capture the other artists at work during the concert. I especially like how she’s sketched her right hand into the drawing.

These are the moments that delight me—these connections, this meeting new people. And all because music brought us here. Together on a July summer evening in southeastern Minnesota.

This Faribault resident and novice watercolor painter set up in the southeast corner of Central Park, from the crowd so he could work solo.

This Faribault resident and novice watercolor artist set up in the southeast corner of Central Park, far from the crowd so he could work undisturbed. I didn’t notice him until the concert nearly concluded, just as he wanted, not to be noticed.

FYI: The next Concerts in the Park concert at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 21, features the Owatonna Community Band.

On July 28, Red Bank ReUnion/Orphan Brigade Band will perform Civil War era music in Faribault’s Central Park as part of the Northfield-based Vintage Band Festival. That fest features 30 bands giving 100 concerts in four days in outdoor and indoor settings. While most concerts will occur in Northfield, some are also planned for Faribault, Owatonna, Nerstrand, Cannon Falls and Red Wing. Click here for more information.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling