Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Watching Winterfest fireworks December 8, 2021

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Fireworks explode in Faribault, the historic viaduct in the background (left) and Buckham Center to the right, background. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

FIREWORKS SOARED, bursting in sound and light against the December night sky. Festive red clouding the air with red smoke. Streaks of light, uncolored. Circled jolts that made me look away.

I stood near Randy on the footbridge, aiming my camera lens skyward, toward the celebratory display launched from a nearby grassy space by the Straight River. Near the viaduct which carries foot and vehicle traffic from east to west and west to east.

This image is the result of moving my camera at a slow shutter speed during the fireworks. I love the artsy results. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

In the distance, I noticed holiday lights shining along Central Avenue, decorated vehicles awaiting the start of Winterfest’s Parade of Lights. We’d already decided, before leaving home, that we wouldn’t attend this year due to expected stationary crowds. That exceeds our comfort level during COVID.

Lots of seasonal red fireworks… (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2021)

But for 10 minutes, as I delighted in fireworks, I nearly forgot about the pandemic…until a man edged too close and engaged in conversation. I shifted away from him and he soon moved on, perhaps reading my body language.

It was an ideal evening for viewing fireworks. Not too cold, although by display’s end, my exposed photographing fingers felt winter’s nip. But there’s something especially wonderful about December fireworks—no mosquitoes.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault celebrates Winterfest December 3, 2021

A city of Faribault snowplow in a past Winterfest parade. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

THROUGHOUT MINNESOTA, including in Faribault, December brings holiday and winter-themed events. In a typical year, I’d embrace all of these celebrations. But, like last December, we are still very much in the middle of a pandemic. And, for me, that means skipping most crowded events. Even those which are outdoors. If people masked and were mostly (all) vaccinated, I would feel more comfortable. But that isn’t happening. At least not locally.

Crowds gather along historic Central Avenue as the sun set prior to a past Parade of Lights. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2017)

With that as a disclaimer, I want to share that Faribault is celebrating Winterfest, which began on Thursday and continues through Saturday. It’s a wonderful celebration with a wide range of activities. And I expect because COVID-19 canceled Winterfest in 2020, lots of folks will join in this year’s festivities. I encourage you, if you attend, to remember that our county is still in a high community transmission rate for COVID and to take care to protect yourself and others.

The dining room table set for the holidays during the Christmas open house at the Alexander Faribault house. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2017)

Friday, December 3:

  • Horse-drawn wagon rides along Central Avenue
  • Shattuck-St. Mary’s snow sculpting by Burkhartzmeyer Shoes (weather permitting)
At the 2018 Sleds on Central Vintage Snowmobile Show. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2018)

Saturday, December 4:

  • Sleds on Central Vintage Snowmobile Show, 1 – 4 pm, 400 block of Central Avenue (food and beverages available for purchase)
  • Fireworks, launched near the viaduct, 5:30 pm
  • Parade of Lights on Central Avenue between 1st and 6th Streets, 5:50 pm
  • Street Dance with music by Fender Bender, 400 block of Central after the parade (food and beverages available for purchase)
  • Elf, The Musical, 7:30 pm at the Paradise Center for the Arts (also showing at 2 pm Sunday, December 5, and other dates; check the Paradise website) Masks recommended per CDC guidelines.
Last year’s Holiday Tree Display. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2021)

Also check out the Faribault Parks & Rec Department Holiday Tree Display in Central Park, now through December 9.

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© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating winter, Minnesota style with vintage snowmobiles December 10, 2019

Snowmobiles parked along Central Avenue during the Faribo Sno-Go Club Vintage Snowmobile Show.

 

DECADES AGO, MY COUSIN Kevin roared across the field on his snowmobile with me seated behind, the cold rush of wind stinging my cheeks. About the same time period, my oldest brother also offered me a snowmobile ride, then abandoned me in the gravel pit on our farm. Not the nicest thing to do. But brothers, when they are teens, aren’t always kind to sisters.

 

Mrs. Minnesota United States Courtney Maxwell-Shey of St. Peter (and originally from Faribault, she said) poses next to a trail groomer.

 

Those are my limited snowmobile memories. I’ve never felt the urge since to ask for a snowmobile ride, not that I know anyone with a snow-traversing machine. But plenty of Minnesotans still snowmobile, often in groups, traveling along groomed trails and road ditches and across frozen lakes.

 

Chatting and checking out the snowmobiles.

 

I expect there’s a certain exhilaration in defying winter weather by embracing it. There’s a certain exhilaration, too, in racing across the snow, the power of a machine roaring beneath you. With the high-tech clothing on the market today, the experience is certainly much warmer than 40-plus years ago.

 

Warming up around the fire in low 30-degree temps and a brisk wind, next to the food and beverage tent.

 

This past Saturday, the Faribo Sno-Go Club, established in 1967, hosted a Vintage Snowmobile Show as part of Faribault’s Winterfest. Randy and I arrived well into the event to find only a minimal number of machines displayed, a bit of a disappointment. Still, we appreciated the effort. And I appreciated the trip back down memory lane.

 

Christmas ornaments add a dash of holiday flair to a snowmobile trail groomer.

 

TELL ME: Have you ever ridden on a snowmobile? If yes, I’d like to hear your memorable story.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault celebrates winter & the holidays in a big way this weekend December 6, 2019

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A city of Faribault snowplow decked out in holiday lights for a past Winterfest parade. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAY SEASON and all things winter this weekend during the third annual Winterfest in my southeastern Minnesota community. Unlike last year, when a snowstorm resulted in a postponed Parade of Lights, the weather looks to be ideal for the event, already in to its second day.

I missed Thursday’s kick-off. The granddaughter’s angelic debut in her preschool Christmas program took precedence. But plenty of Winterfest activities continue today through Saturday.

 

The dining room set for the holidays during the Alexander Faribault House Christmas open house. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.

 

Today the Alexander Faribault House, historic home of our town founder, opens to showcase a French-Canadian Christmas from 4 – 7 p.m. and then again on Saturday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. And, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, “Peter Pan” opens at the Paradise Center for the Arts for a weekend run that also continues into next week.

 

Skaters from a past holiday ice show at Shattuck. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Saturday brings a day packed with events appealing to a broad range of ages and interests. Shattuck-St. Mary’s School on Faribault’s east side hosts its annual Campus Christmas Walk beginning with a figure skating holiday ice show at noon. Family-geared activities follow at the historic upper campus from 1 – 3 p.m. with cookies and crafts, visits with Santa and horse-drawn sleigh rides.

 

Musicians perform at a previous Faribault Winter Farmers’ Market. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

 

Meanwhile in our historic downtown, the Faribault Winter Farmers’ Market runs from 1 – 4 p.m. at the Paradise Center for the Arts. At the same time, the Faribault Sno Go Club hosts a Vintage Snowmobile Show along Central Avenue.

 

Artisan gifts like this Christmas ornament are available for purchase at Fleur de Lis Gallery along Central Avenue. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

A block off Central, 10,000 Drops Distillery opens its space to 40-plus local craft vendors for the annual Holiday Craft Market. The downtown business district offers plenty of other home-grown shopping options.

 

A previous Winterfest ice sculpture. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

While you’re exploring, be sure to check out the ice sculpture by Sakatah Carvers located at the corner of Minnesota State Highway 60/Fourth Street and Central Avenue.

 

Fireworks from a previous Winterfest. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Capping the three days of Winterfest are fireworks at 5:30 p.m. (launched from the American Legion) followed by the Holiday Parade of Lights at about 5:45 p.m. Just a note that taller buildings along Central Avenue can block the view of fireworks. A street dance from 6:30 – 10 p.m. ends Winterfest. Organizers promise heaters spaced around the area to keep dancers warm.

So there you go. Lots to do this weekend in my southeastern Minnesota community.

TELL ME: How are you embracing the holiday season this weekend?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Vintage snowmobiles & memories of a snowmobile misadventure December 20, 2018

Staying warm trumps fashion during a Minnesota winter. This vintage parka accented snowmobiles on display at Sleds on Central in historic downtown Faribault.

 

MY TIME SNOWMOBILING, even though I’m a life-long Minnesotan, is limited to several ride-alongs as a teenager. I never had that much interest in the sport. Either you’re really into snowmobiling or you’re not. That’s my assessment anyway.

 

 

Even with that minimal interest, I still wanted to check out Sleds on Central, Vintage Snowmobile Show, this past Saturday as part of Faribault’s second annual Winterfest.

 

 

Once there, I focused initially on keeping my 2 ½-year-old granddaughter safe after a pick-up truck unexpectedly drove through what I thought was a closed street. Alright then. I was tempted to move orange safety cones into the traffic lanes of Central Avenue to keep vehicles out.

 

 

Instead, I steered Izzy to two pink snowmobiles. She loves anything pink. That distraction worked briefly.

 

 

Then Grandpa scooped her up…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

so I could take photos without that traffic worry.

 

 

 

 

I don’t really know much about snowmobiles, just that they can go fast, make lots of noise and break down. An avid snowmobiler would likely emphasize the positives of speed, the outdoors and winter fun.

 

Polaris snowmobiles are signature Minnesotan. The company opened in the 1950s in Roseau in far northwestern Minnesota.

 

I recall some fun rides with my cousin Kevin as he raced across the flat farm fields of southwestern Minnesota. But I also recall the not-so-fun time my older brother invited me to hop on his snowmobile for a ride across the field to the gravel pit on our family farm. Doug stopped in the pit and somehow persuaded me to get off. Then he left. Just drove away. I’ll never forget that moment of watching him speed away as I stood there in the deep snow in the cold of winter with no way back to the farm site. He must have picked me up eventually. But that abandonment is seared into my memory. I’d never trust him again on a snowmobile.

TELL ME: Are you a snowmobiler or have you ridden on one?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault: Lighting up the holidays with a Winterfest parade December 16, 2018

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Two weeks prior, city of Faribault snowplows were clearing eight inches of snow on the original date of the Parade of Lights. The rescheduled (due to the snowstorm) parade included the festive city snowplow.

 

WITH LIGHTS ALL AGLOW, from ground to sky, Faribault showcased its holiday spirit Friday evening during a festive Parade of Lights.

 

Across from Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, a crowd gathers outside Bernie’s Grill.

 

Warm temps hovering near 30 degrees brought out all ages to the second annual Winterfest. I was there, on the corner by third-generation family-owned Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, taking it all in.

 

Looking north on Central Avenue to the crowd waiting for the 5:30 p.m. fireworks and then the parade.

 

I sensed the anticipation as the crowd swelled, waiting for the fireworks followed by the parade.

 

 

Except for an inability to see only the highest fireworks over the tall buildings along Central Avenue, everything else went seemingly well.

 

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer tops a Faribault police vehicle.

 

 

A Faribault fire truck.

 

The back of the fire truck is a colorful blur of lights as it moves down Central Avenue.

 

Another entry from the city of Faribault.

 

The murmur of conversation, the rock of familiar holiday tunes like Jingle Bells, the bobbing of Santa hats, the flash of holiday lights…all created a real sense of holiday joy. I felt it. I heard it. I saw it.

 

One of my favorite units: sheep and a “wool blanket” on a “bed” representing the iconic Faribault Woolen Mill.

 

There’s something about an event like this that makes us all pause and celebrate, as a community, the spirit of Christmas. Faribault needed this. I needed this.

 

No holiday parade is complete without Santa and Mrs. Claus, here on the Elks Lodge float.

 

Keeping everyone safe…

 

Loved the gingerbread house.

 

To Faribault Main Street and to all who participated in the parade—from the Boy Scouts to the firefighters to local businesses and many more—thank you. You gave us all a gift on Friday evening. You brought holiday joy to Central Avenue, to our Minnesota community.

 

After the parade, the crowd disperses.

 

Parade-goers absolutely embraced these 45 minutes of Winterfest, this opportunity to unite and celebrate the holiday season in Faribault.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Winterfest, Take Two December 10, 2018

Source: Faribault Main Street Facebook page

 

Winter postpones Winterfest December 1, 2018

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TODAY’S WINTER STORM, which just arrived in Faribault within the past half hour, caused today’s Winterfest to be postponed. Oh, the irony. But a smart move on behalf of event organizer, Faribault Main Street.

This statement posted an hour ago on the Main Street Facebook page:

After consulting with law-enforcement and the fire department we have made the decision to postpone tonight‘s events. Most concerning is the forecast for high winds after several inches of snow. Staff and committee members will determine the best make up date on Monday and make an announcement Monday afternoon. Please be safe and thank you for supporting Winterfest effort’s! 
Sincerely, 
Nort Johnson

A Winter Storm Warning is currently in effect until noon Sunday for my county of Rice and other areas of southern Minnesota with 5-9 inches of snow and 40 mph winds forecast. That wind is wicked cold. I stood outside Walmart for two hours this morning ringing bells for the Salvation Army and felt that bitter wind. And now with snow falling at an incredibly rapid rate, conditions will deteriorate quickly. Stay safe. Stay home. And watch here for info on the rescheduled Winterfest postponed by Old Man Winter.

Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

Embracing the holiday spirit in downtown Faribault November 30, 2018

A section of Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault photographed Thursday evening.

 

WITH FRESH SNOW LAYERING the ground, festive lights brightening streets and storefront windows, and an evening of holiday activities underway, it was feeling a lot like Christmas in downtown Faribault on Thursday.

 

 

For sale, animal portraits by one of my favorite local artists, Julie Fakler. Her art pops with color and simply makes me smile.

 

Shoppers peruse local art inside the Paradise’s main gallery. Holly Days Sale art also fills the gift shop and another smaller gallery room.

 

There’s a wide variety of art like this leaf pottery by Dianne Lockerby.

 

I was especially drawn to the stunning and diverse portraits created by Pam Buschow, this one titled “Indian Woman.”

 

Randy and I joined in the kick-off of the second annual Winterfest by popping into the Paradise Center for the Arts,

 

A musician performs inside Faribault’s newest event space, The 3 Ten Event Venue.

 

Artist Laura O’Connor, owner of Painted, shared her talents at a face painting art and glitter bar inside 3 Ten. Here my friends’ daughter, Nevaeh, shows off Laura’s work.

 

The 3 Ten Event Venue

 

One of my favorite new shops in town, Fleur de Lis, features art galore from paintings to…

 

handcrafted jewelry…

 

artisan Christmas ornaments…

 

Minnesota-themed mugs…

 

more mugs…

 

simply a beautiful shop brimming with artfully displayed art from Minnesota artists.

 

and Fleur de Lis Gallery;

 

Artist Adam Scholljegerdes sculpts a snowman from ice.

 

 

pausing on the corner of Central Avenue and Fourth Street to watch ice sculpting and listen to Due North carolers;

 

 

and then simply strolling along the sidewalks viewing storefront displays. I wish, though, that all of the downtown businesses had been open and we’d had more time.

 

Stars and holiday lights brighten a storefront window.

 

It was a beautiful and balmy—for Minnesota anyway—evening to enjoy the holiday spirit and the company of friends we met while out and about. That’s one of the things I love about living in Faribault—seeing people I know like Kelly from the Chamber and Faribault Main Street (event organizers), Julie at the Paradise, young and enthusiastic entrepreneur Jess at Fleur de Lis, friends Billie Jo and Neal and family…

A genuine warmth and sense of community exist in Faribault, a place I’ve called home for 36 years. I feel comfortable here, welcomed, appreciated and valued for who I am as a person and a professional. When I attend an event like Winterfest, I see, too, the appreciation others hold for this town, the incredible talent here and a caring spirit.

 

Horse-drawn wagon rides were offered Thursday evening.

 

This weekend presents a perfect opportunity to experience Faribault as Winterfest continues into tomorrow. Evening fireworks preceding a 5:30 p.m. Parade of Lights and a street dance afterwards cap the three-day celebration.

And just to make Winterfest even more wintry, Faribault and other regions of southern Minnesota are under a winter storm watch from Saturday morning through Sunday morning with up to a possible seven inches of snow predicted. That storm could begin with freezing rain, making travel challenging. So if you’re planning a trip to Faribault on Saturday, check the updated forecast and road conditions as this storm continues to evolve. The National Weather Service currently advises: Travel could be very difficult, especially along Interstate 90 and along Interstate 35 between the Twin Cities and the Iowa border.

 

Stained glass garden art for sale at Fleur de Lis Gallery.

 

Have a great weekend, no matter where you are and what you do to embrace the holiday spirit.

Here’s a list of some activities happening in Faribault on Saturday:

And on Sunday…The Paradise Children’s Theatre presents “The Nutcracker Prince” at 2 and 4 p.m.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The holiday spirit comes to Faribault during Winterfest this week (end) November 28, 2018

This classic vintage pick-up truck decorated by Brushworks Signs rated as one of my favorite entries in last year’s Winterfest parade. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2017.

 

MORE AND MORE, COMMUNITIES in greater Minnesota are discovering the value in creating holiday events that attract locals and visitors. That includes Faribault, which this week hosts Winterfest, an expansion of the long-running Hometown Holidays.

It’s a smart move on the part of host, Faribault Main Street. Anything that brings people into Faribault benefits tourism and businesses through exposure and sales. This marks the second year of Winterfest, highlighted last December by a Parade of Lights. This year fireworks precede the 5:30 p.m. Saturday parade along Central Avenue in our historic downtown.

 

Faribault’s version of the Polar Express. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2017.

 

But before I expound on Saturday, there’s Thursday’s Hometown Holidays evening of family-oriented attractions and activities from 5 – 7:30 p.m. at Buckham Center. From greeting Santa and his reindeer to crafts, music, snacks, a holiday movie and more, families will find plenty to do. I wish my granddaughter lived closer. I’d take her.

 

Local merchants showcase the holiday spirit in window displays. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2017.

 

A few blocks away in the heart of the business district, the holiday spirit prevails Thursday evening in a window decorating contest, horse-drawn wagon rides, ice carving, and caroling by Due North, a Minneapolis-based a cappella group. From 6 – 8 p.m. our local art center hosts the Paradise Center for the Arts Acoustic Gallery featuring music by Cannon River Currents and artisan gifts crafted by 20 regional artists at the Holly Days Sale. Downtown shops will be open, too.

That’s Thursday. Friday focuses on teens with open gym and swim, board games and other activities at the Faribault Community Center from 6 – 8 p.m.

 

Me, ringing bells for the Salvation Army outside Walmart. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Then comes Saturday, a day so jam-packed with events that I wonder how I can possibly get to everything. I’m also ringing bells for the Salvation Army for two hours.

 

The table set for Christmas guests at the Alexander Faribault house. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2017.

 

Saturday at 10 a.m., the Rice County Historical Society opens the doors to the home of our town founder for a French-Canadian Christmas at the Alexander Faribault House. That runs until 3 p.m. But if Saturday doesn’t work for you, the historic home will also be open on Friday from 4 – 7 p.m. It’s a fun way to learn about Faribault history in a festive setting.

 

The back of the parade as it heads north along Central Avenue in downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo December 2017.

 

History will also be on display along Central Avenue at the Faribault Sno-Go Club Vintage Snowmobile Show from 1 – 4 p.m. Saturday. Then, as darkness settles, units start arriving for the 5:30 p.m. parade with the fireworks kick-off. A street dance follows from 6:30 – 10 p.m.

In between, you can take in Mick Sterling Presents “At Christmas,” a blended show of music and comedy opening at 7:30 p.m. at the Paradise Center for the Arts. Sunday brings another holiday show with the Paradise Children’s Theatre performing “The Nutcracker Prince” at 2 p.m. and again at 4 p.m.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

 

That’s a lot happening in my community. And I’m sure there’s more, like the annual craft and bake sale and luncheon at Peace Lutheran Church on Saturday.

 

Crowds gather along historic Central Avenue as the sun sets before the 2017 Parade of Lights. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.

 

I’m grateful to all who are working so hard to bring the holiday spirit to Faribault through Winterfest and other events. Thank you.

TELL ME: Does your community host any big holiday events?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling