Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Flag Day patriotism June 14, 2011

IN HONOR OF FLAG DAY today, I’ve scrolled through my archives and pulled some of my favorite flag images. For the few I am showcasing here, many more exist within the stories of Minnesota Prairie Roots.

But for today, for this minute, view these and reflect on the many ways Minnesotans show their patriotism and loyalty to country via American flags.

Vietnam War era veteran Joel Kukacka's patriotic garage in the hamlet of Heidelberg, Minnesota.

A flag waves in the wind on a soldier's grave at the Cannon City Cemetery.

Herold Flags in West Concord sells flags and flagpoles.

Flags fly at the Rice County Courthouse, Faribault.

Korean War veteran Ray Sanders at the 2010 Memorial Day ceremony in Faribault's Central Park.

Blue stars on a WW II honor flag displayed last July 4 at my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, along with American flags.

American flag decor adds a patriotic flair to the down-home Kasota Zoo.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Main Street America January 25, 2011

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Main Street in West Concord, Minnesota, population 836, photographed in the fall of 2010

MAIN STREET. Those two words paint a Norman Rockwell image in our minds of barber shops and lunch counters, of neighborliness and kindness and close-knit families, and all that is good about small town life.

In the real world, such an idyllic place exists primarily in our imaginations.

Yet, if you look closely enough, if you take the time, you can still find those small towns, those special places that hearken to a simpler era.

In these communities, you can walk down the middle of Main Street without concern for traffic.

You can walk into a café, the hardware store, a bar and watch heads pivot toward you, the stranger.

You’ll feel the questioning eyes, the locals wondering what the heck brought you here, to their little town, their Main Street.

The West Concord Liquor Store in the 1911 City Hall building.

American Legion Post 295 in the 1911 Blaisdell building on West Concord's Main Street. I can only imagine how beautiful this building would be returned to its original glory, minus the siding.

A sign marks one of West Concord's newest businesses, Omar's Cafe. The caramel rolls here are "to die for." I'll share more about this cafe in a future post.

Woody's Auto Literature & More is one of the more intriguing West Concord businesses, located at 150 Main Street. Unfortunately, the business was closed when I was in town last fall.

Businesses along Main Street in West Concord.

The architecture on some of West Concord's downtown buildings is stunning. I hope the community appreciates these historical treasures like this 1913 Smith building.

Herold Flags, another unusual business along Main Street in West Concord, sells flags and flagpoles.

A mural graces the side of a building next to a park along Main Street in West Concord. The community has an annual summer car and truck show and, I think, other car cruises.

DO YOU KNOW of an interesting, or have a favorite, Main Street, U.S.A.?

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Beauty shop dog January 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:30 AM
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Main Street in West Concord, photographed several months ago.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW about West Concord? I’m not talking Massachusetts here. I mean West Concord as in a community of 836 in southeastern Minnesota.

Up until this past fall, I had never set foot in this small town. But, while en route to the historic Dodge County seat of Mantorville, my husband and I detoured into West Concord. The fact that we had never been there prompted the stop. It was as simple as that.

Many times when we travel back roads and drive into small towns, we discover sweet surprises. West Concord was no exception. I found Fonzie there.

While my husband was exploring whatever men investigate when they’re getting impatient, I ducked into Colleen’s Salon & Gifts on West Main Street. There I met Fonzie, the beauty shop dog. He was lounging in a chair next to patron Charlotte Lurken, who was drying her hair under one of those old-fashioned bubble dryers.

Instantly, I knew this would be a story. And the photo ops, well, let’s just say I was nearly giddy when I considered the possibilities.

I wasn’t sure, though, how the women would react to my request to photograph them since they were in curlers. But, no problem. I snapped away.

Here are the results:


Fonzie relaxes in the morning sunshine next to beauty shop patron Charlotte Lurken.

Fonzie didn't even blink an eyelash when I moved in for a close-up.

Salon owner Colleen Snaza, framed by a welcome sign in the gift shop, curls a customer's hair.

Pretty sweet, huh?

Fonzie’s been hanging out at the beauty shop for about two years now, ever since owner Colleen Snaza’s husband, John, passed away. Prior to that, the Shih Tzu had spent five years at home with John, who suffered from a heart condition. And before that, the canine stayed home with Colleen for a year while she recovered from breast cancer.

Colleen began taking Fonzie to the beauty shop because she couldn’t leave him alone. He was too used to company.

Now Fonzie’s just part of the beauty shop. “He gets a lot of lovin’,” Colleen says.

And that’s the story I learned when I took the time to check out a small-town beauty shop on Main Street in West Concord.

FYI: An article I wrote about the beauty shop dog just published in the winter issue of Minnesota Moments magazine. Readers often wonder how I find my stories. It’s as simple as going off the beaten path, snooping around, asking questions and finding the simply extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary places of our lives.

WATCH FOR MORE from West Concord in upcoming blog posts.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling