Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

More than a car show September 20, 2019

 

CAR CRUISES REPRESENT much more than a bunch of vintage vehicles washed and waxed for prime public viewing.

 

 

 

 

Car Cruises represent passion, family projects, heritage, stories, history, art…whatever perspective you bring to a car show.

 

 

 

 

But most of all, they represent community. I’ve attended enough car shows, most in my city of Faribault, to recognize that these events bring folks together. To mingle in the street or on the sidewalk to talk cars. Or family. Or weather. Maybe even politics, but probably not.

 

 

 

 

While the vehicles take participants and attendees back in time, so does the overall feel of a car show. In this high tech busy world, we need to remember the importance of gathering and of visiting. Face-to-face, cellphones tucked away.

 

 

 

Faribault offers one final opportunity this season to embrace togetherness at the Faribault Car Cruise Night set for 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Friday, September 20, at Faribault Harley-Davidson, a move from the usual Central Avenue location. I prefer the intimate and historic downtown setting. But I also understand the need to change things up a bit.

 

 

 

The Harley dealer is also offering a free showing of the classic movie, American Graffiti, at 6 p.m. (according to promotional info). The event is advertised as family-friendly with offerings of popcorn, s’mores, pop and a bonfire. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets.

 

 

This vintage wagon promotes tourism and the Minne-Roadtrip that includes the communities of Faribault, Northfield and Owatonna.

 

 

I appreciate the efforts of Faribault Main Street and others who organize Car Cruise Night. They are building community, connecting us with one another. Exactly what we need in an ever-increasingly disconnected world.

 

All of these photos were taken at the August Faribault Car Cruise Night in historic downtown Faribault.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Close up at the Faribo Drag-On’s Car Club Show, Part II June 1, 2018

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CAR SHOWS, at first glance, seem simply an event for car enthusiasts to gather and showcase their vehicles to the public.

 

 

 

 

But I see more. Much more.

 

 

Under the hood of a Mustang.

 

 

I see beyond a community of like-minded individuals who admire engines and shiny surfaces. I see the details, too.

 

 

On the roof of a vehicle…

 

A creative foot rest on a motorcycle.

 

Among all the bright colors, the throngs of people, the draw of trophies, I see humor. Art. History. Personal pride.

 

 

 

 

And I see dedication in the groups who organize these events. Like the Faribo Drag-On’s Car Club, host of the show photographed here. These club members hold a deep appreciation for motor vehicles, especially vintage.

 

 

 

The best sounding exhaust trophy.

 

That they share this love with folks like me, who will never own a vintage vehicle, is a gift. I can walk here among these cars and trucks and appreciate, admire, enjoy.

 

 

 

 

If you’ve never taken in a car show, I’d suggest you do so. You’ll experience a sense of community, an appreciation for classic vehicles and a grassroots connection to simpler times. There’s a lot to be said for that in today’s rat race world.

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FYI: Faribault Main Street hosts a monthly (during the summer) Faribault Car Cruise Night. The next car show will be from 6 – 9 p.m. Friday, June 15, along Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault.

Or, you can take in a car show from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. this Saturday, June 2, at Babe Nordmeier Baseball Field in Morristown during the town’s annual Dam Days celebration.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How I learned to appreciate car shows, Part I May 31, 2018

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A TIME EXISTED WHEN I WANTED nothing to do with a car show. “Go and look at old cars?” I scoffed. “Nope, not interested.”

 

 

 

 

But then I accompanied Randy to a show once and discovered that these were more than just old cars lined up for display. These vehicles represent love, devotion, passion, pride, art, memories, stories. And, yes, a form of transportation, although really that seems secondary.

 

 

What changed my mind about car shows like the recent Drag-On’s Car Club Show in Faribault? Photography. My view of an event is often shaped through the lens of my Canon DSLR. Through photography, I notice details and strive to tell a story with my images.

 

 

I am often drawn to the unusual. A plastic Jesus on the dashboard.

 

 

A plastic rat atop a rat rod.

 

 

Elvis crooning in a car.

 

 

A shiny bumper,

 

 

a unique color,

 

 

an emblem or hood ornament,

 

 

tail fins,

 

even rust draws my interest.

 

 

 

Art more than automotive focuses my attention.

 

 

 

 

I love, also, to people-watch. While I couldn’t sit for hours in a lawn chair next to a car at a car show, many do. Entire families embrace these events.

 

 

I observe genuine enthusiasm for motors, the rev of an engine, the careful restoration of a vintage vehicle.

 

 

Trophies aplenty are handed out at these shows. How do you even begin to judge the hundreds of vehicles? It seems a subjective process to me. I’d look at the artsy side with no interest in what’s under the hood. Randy, an automotive machinist who has worked on plenty of vintage vehicles, would, however, peer at engines and restoration details.

 

 

 

 

Despite our differing perspectives, Randy and I each enjoy car shows. Who would have thought I’d come full circle on this? Not me.

 

Please check back for more photos from the Faribo Drag-On’s annual show.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

More than a car show at St. John’s, rural Faribault August 3, 2016

At the St. John's car cruise-in.

At the St. John’s car cruise-in.

I’VE ATTENDED CAR SHOWS in parks, along city streets and at a fairgrounds. But never at a church or in the country.

A vintage car arrives for the cruise-in car show at St. John's, 19086 Jacobs Avenue, rural Faribault.

A vintage car arrives for the cruise-in car show at St. John’s, 19086 Jacobs Avenue, rural Faribault.

A tractor trophy awarded at the show reflects the rural region.

A tractor trophy awarded at the show reflects this rural region of southern Minnesota.

Across the road from St. John's, a truck pulls a grain bin.

Across the road from St. John’s, a truck pulls a grain bin.

Saturday morning I wheeled to a country church northeast of Faribault for St. John’s United Church of Christ, Wheeling Township’s first-ever Cruise-In Car Show. It’s a peaceful rural setting among farm fields and farm sites near Nerstrand Big Woods State Park.

An overview of the car show next to the church.

An overview of the car show next to the church.

This congregation knows how to draw folks in for events ranging from the annual The Last Supper Drama on Palm Sunday to Lenten soup luncheons to an ice cream social to a September Germanfest to the Big Woods Run and more. Many times I’ve gone to St. John’s activities, where I always feel welcomed by a friendly group of people like 90-year-old historian Elsie, Lynn (who’s usually in the kitchen) and the Rev. Lora Sturm.

My husband's hands clasped in prayer.

My husband’s hands clasped in prayer.

On this Saturday morning, the reverend leads attendees in prayer. As I stand between a row of vintage cars in the church parking lot, I consider how wonderful to hear this prayer of blessing upon the vehicles and upon those in attendance.

This group of men visited for a long time around various vehicles.

This group of men visited for a long time around various vehicles.

While visiting with others, I note that most either belong to this congregation or grew up in this church. There’s a special closeness in country churches that comes from living in the same geographical area and gathering here to socialize, to celebrate, to mourn, to grow in the faith (although some admittedly have drifted away).

The oldest vehicle at the event.

The oldest vehicle at the event.

Roots run deep through generations of families. German immigrants founded this congregation in 1856 as Minnesota’s first German Evangelical Church. They worshiped, nonagenarian Elsie tells me, in a log cabin before that burned and the current church was built in 1870 by German farmers from locally-quarried limestone.

I set my camera on the grass and aimed up to photograph this view of St. John's.

I set my camera on the grass and aimed up to photograph this view of St. John’s. Yes, there’s a cross-topped steeple, just not in this image.

The “Old Stone Church,” as it is known, stands strong on the corner of a paved county and gravel road next to the church cemetery. A 4-year-old boy points to a gravestone and tells me God is buried there. I lead him to the stone, read the name thereon and explain to him that God is not buried here nor is He dead.

Cars parked right next to the cemetery.

Cars parked right next to the cemetery.

I love that these kids have been together for hours—romping on the mini playground, playing hide-and-seek, searching for a geo-cache stashed in a treeline behind the cemetery… This setting invites such play, reminding me of my own upbringing in a small town Lutheran church.

The scene reflected in the shiny bumper of a car.

The scene reflected in the shiny bumper of a car.

Guys chatted next to tractors.

Guys chatted next to tractors.

Lovely crabapple trees edge the parking lot. St. John's members make their famous apple jelly from these apples to sell at Germanfest.

Lovely crabapple trees edge the parking lot. St. John’s members make their famous apple jelly from these apples to sell at Germanfest.

On this Saturday, this cruise-in is not just a gathering of car, truck and tractor enthusiasts showing off their vehicles. This event is about memories and socializing, about slowing down and appreciating the beauty and quiet of this reverent country place. It’s about being neighborly.

Volunteers served up a generous plate of a BBQ pulled pork sandwich, potato salad and beans, all for $5.

Volunteers served up a generous plate of a BBQ pulled pork sandwich, potato salad and beans, all for $5.

That delicious food.

That delicious food.

And it’s also about the food, this time delicious BBQ pulled pork sandwiches from the Rice County Pork Producers.

I always leave St. John's feeling happy and smiling.

I always leave St. John’s feeling happy and smiling.

St. John’s, from my experience, has always nourished the body, soul and spirit. And on this late July morning, this cruise-in accomplishes that mission in food, setting and friendly conversation.

FYI: Check back tomorrow and the day after for more photos from the St. John’s Cruise-In Car Show.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

For the love of photographing a car show August 31, 2015

These two vintage cars staged side-by-side with the simple building back drop caught my eye.

These two vintage cars staged side-by-side with the building back drop caught my eye. I love the repetition of lines and shapes in vehicles and building. Plus the signage and USA plate add to the visual interest.

I’M NOT INTERESTED in car shows like my husband. He can spout off makes and models and years without hesitation. Rather my interest focuses on color, curves, reflections, light, art, words—the details.

I've discovered that vintage car owners possess a sense of humor, the reason I always examine the plates.

I’ve discovered that vintage car owners possess a sense of humor, the reason I always examine the plates.

The difference in our approaches rises from our professions. He is an automotive machinist. I am a photographer and a wordsmith.

What's under the hood interests Randy far more than me.

What’s under the hood interests Randy far more than me.

He can no more frame a great photo than I can do a valve job. We fail at each others’ work.

Our friend Larry with his restored

Our friend Larry with his restored Ford Econoline truck. Car shows are also about connecting with others, not just about showing off and viewing vehicles.

Still, we delight in attending car shows together. He sees what I miss. I see what he misses. We learn from each other. I wander with my Canon DSLR. He chats up cars with those who appreciate vintage vehicles for the same reasons he does. It works for us.

I love the shiny bumpers and the reflections therein. Here

I love the shiny bumpers and the reflections therein.

About a year ago I nearly hit the jackpot with my car show meandering. I was contacted by a Chicago ad agency regarding an image I’d taken of a shiny bumper. The photo was among half a dozen in the running for a national ad campaign for a major car care product. I would have been paid a significant amount of money for use of the image. In the end, another photo was selected.

I set my camera on the street and tilted it up to take this shot. That's my husband on the left, already moving onto the next vehicle.

I set my camera on the street and tilted it up to take this shot. That’s my husband on the left, already moving onto the next vehicle.

That’s how it goes. I will keep shooting car show photos as I always have, for the joy and fun of sharing that which I discover through the lens of my camera, from my unique perspective.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Spotted in a rear window.

Spotted in a rear window.

The colors, oh, the colors.

The colors, oh, the colors.

Clamped atop a VW.

A Pioneer plate denotes a collector class car.

Clamped atop a VW van.

Clamped atop a VW bus.

This VW

This 1958 VW bus Westfalia drew lots of onlookers.

There's something about vintage vehicles lined up along the curb that is so visually appealing.

There’s something about vintage vehicles lined up along the curb that is so visually appealing.

Another vintage cooler, this one in the back of a wagon.

Another vintage cooler, this one in the back of a wagon.

A work in progress.

A work in progress.

Leaving the final Car Cruise Night of the season in historic downtown Faribault.

Leaving the final Car Cruise Night of the season in historic downtown Faribault.

FYI: The photos here were shot at the last Faribault Car Cruise Night of 2015, held on a recent Friday evening.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

At the Faribault car show, Part II: Fit for royalty & fit for the jester July 21, 2015

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The Rolls Royce parked in downtown Faribault Friday evening for the Car Cruise.

The Rolls Royce parked in downtown Faribault Friday evening for the Car Cruise.

YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU may see at a car show.

A royal photo opp.

A royal photo opp.

At Friday evening’s Faribault Car Cruise Night, it was the 1970s Rolls Royce parked on the corner of Fourth Street/Minnesota Highway 60 and Central Avenue that drew lots of second looks. One group even posed for photos. The owners, whose identity I did not ask, take the car to the occasional car show and on Sunday afternoon drives. I expect if you own a Rolls Royce, you are selective about where you drive.

Typically, this dog's behind is attached to the back of the truck. But on this evening, it was resting on the roof. This made me laugh.

Typically, this dog’s behind is attached to the back of the truck. But on this evening, it was resting on the roof. This made me laugh.

While the Rolls Royce rated riveting royal attention, the behind of a dog attached to the roof of a truck did too. Except it seemed more fitting for the jester’s court. No one was photographing that except me.

Zooming in on the details, a Mustang emblem.

Zooming in on the details, a Mustang emblem.

I often focus on details as much as the overall scene to tell a story. An event is like a book. There are letters within words within sentences within paragraphs within chapters, between the covers. Without one, there is nothing.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Vehicles lined one block of Central Avenue.

Vehicles lined one block of Central Avenue.

I have no idea what Dixie 66 means. But there are always interesting plates on these vehicles.

Apparently 1966 Mustangs are “Dixie Dream Cars.”

Interested in what's under the hood? Many hoods are open at car shows.

Interested in what’s under the hood? Many hoods are open at car shows.

Art on the hood of a Thunderbird.

Art on the hood of a Pontiac Firebird.

Car cruise participants typically bring lawn chairs and sit near their vehicles.

Car cruise participants typically bring lawn chairs and sit near their vehicles.

More car art, this time on the trunk.

More car art, this time on the trunk.

FYI: Click here to read my first post on the July 17 Faribault Car Cruise Night. The final Cruise Night of the season is slated for 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Friday, August 21 on Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault: I’m no gearhead, but I still love car shows July 20, 2015

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A scene from the July 17 Faribault Car Cruise Night.

A scene from the July 17 Faribault Car Cruise Night.

IF YOU WOULD HAVE TOLD me a decade ago that I’d ever remotely be interested in a car show, I may have rolled my eyes and laughed. Back then, I considered car shows boring and mostly for guys. Like my husband, an automotive machinist. So he went alone, until the first time I decided to accompany him. With my camera.

Cars pop in cherry red.

Cars pop in cherry red against a white building.

My, how my attitude changed. When he mentions car shows these days, I grab my Canon and go.

I focus on the details, like plates and lights and curves and lines...

I focus on the details, like plates and lights and curves and lines…

When I began to view these displays of mostly vintage vehicles as gallery exhibits, I was hooked. Cars are works of art from the hood ornaments to the curves of fenders to the personalized license plates and more.

Art flames on the side of a truck.

Art flames on the side of a truck.

Randy studies motors and other practicalities of a vehicle. I study the artistic side. And I watch people. It works for us. He is beginning to see what I see. And I am learning more about motors, makes and models.

The turn-out was impressive despite the heat.

The turn-out Friday evening was impressive despite the heat.

A car show like the Faribault Car Cruise Night, held the third Friday evening of the month May – August, is about more than a collection of shiny vintage vehicles. It’s about creating a sense of community, about drawing folks into an historic downtown on a summer evening. It’s about connecting people and building relationships based on a common interest.

Peeling out around a corner of Central Avenue.

Peeling out around a corner of Central Avenue.

The State Bank of Faribault sign flashed 88 degrees Friday evening, ending a day that hung heavy with humidity. Yet, plenty of Car Cruise fans perused vehicles as local radio station, Power 96, cranked out classic rock tunes. The sinking sun angled around old brick buildings. A car squealed tires around a corner. A preschooler was hoisted onto a mini motor bike.

Adding to the artsy aspect of Car Cruise Night, was this colorful attire worn by Faribault

Adding to the artsy aspect of Car Cruise Night, was this colorful attire worn by three Somali women.

And my last photo, snapped as I ambled with my husband toward our 2003 Chevy Impala—not the 64 Chevy he coveted because he once owned one—was a trio of Somali women. They weren’t there to view the vehicles, but simply walking through downtown. But for me, from my perspective, they were part of Faribault Car Cruise Night, their colorful garb weaving more art into this temporary Central Avenue Gallery exhibit.

A 1964 Chevy.

A 1964 Chevy.

BONUS PHOTOS:

The Grain Belt powered mini bike.

The Grain Belt powered mini bike.

Some folks even bring their dogs to the car show.

Some folks even bring their dogs to the car show.

A vehicle sports stickers for area car cruises.

A vehicle sports stickers for area car cruises.

FYI: Check back tomorrow for more images from the July 17 Faribault Car Cruise Night. The next, and final, cruise event is from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. on Friday, August 21.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling