Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Vacation Bible School, past & present August 11, 2017

Maker Fun Factory: “Created by God, Built for a Purpose” was the theme of this week’s Vacation Bible School at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault.

 

MY, HOW VACATION Bible School has changed.

 

Volunteers, led by my friend Steve, created this amazing factory-themed set for VBS.

 

Back in the day, I joined other children in a one-room school singing familiar hymns to the accompaniment of a foot-pumped organ.

Today’s kids gather in an expansive sanctuary, belting out catchy tunes written specifically for VBS. They mimic the hand, arm and other motions in a video airing on multiple screens.

 

Volunteers created several robots for the set.

 

Back in the day, I sat on the steep steps of a Lutheran church devouring my peanut butter and jelly sandwich wrapped in waxed paper.

Today’s kids delight in heart-shaped Jello served with fruit and whipped cream in individual servings delivered by volunteers in an air conditioned fellowship hall.

 

Who knew painted cardboard boxes could be so much fun? Kids stacked and restacked these boxes, following the theme of “built for a purpose.”

 

Back in the day I laid and glued toothpicks side by side on a cardboard cross cut-out.

Today’s kids adhere self-adhesive foam stickers to foam crosses.

 

Steve crafted this musical instrument from PVC pipes with paper covered fly swatters used to hit the tops of the pipes, thus creating sound. Numerous interactive “toys” lined a hallway.

 

Back in the day I dreaded the call of “Red Rover, Red Rover, please send Audrey right over!” as I ran and tried to bust through the brawny arms of strong farm boys, failing every time.

Today’s kids stand in a line passing a ball backward into paper cups in a game of teamwork.

 

 

Back in the day I listened as the pastor read a bible story.

Today’s kids listen to a retired Christian day school educator share a bible story in an interactive and memorable way.

 

 

Back in the day, I learned that Jesus loves me, that he is always with me.

Today’s kids learn that Jesus loves them, that he is always with them.

While times change, certain truths remain. Unchanged.

 

TELL ME: If you have stories about Vacation Bible School, past or present, I’d like to hear.

 

FYI: I volunteered this week as a crew leader at my church’s VBS. In past years, I’ve done the photography. But because of my shoulder injury, I didn’t have the stamina yet to shoot photos for two hours. And that’s OK. I loved working directly with the kids. Sometimes change is good.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Historic Winona drive-in hosts Farm Tractor Night & I was there September 4, 2014

A John Deere reaches

A John Deere rounds the corner onto the 600 block of East Sarnia Street where the drive-in is located.

TRACTORS RUMBLED INTO WINONA’S Lakeview Drive Inn parking lot on a perfect Minnesota evening in late August. Ideal temps. Sun edging behind the bluffs in this Mississippi River town of nearly 28,000.

Drive-in fare served in a paper lined basket.

Drive-in fare served in a paper lined basket.

Folks reminisced and downed burgers, onion rings and more served in red plastic baskets lined with checkered paper.

A few cars, some vintage, managed to sneak into the drive-in among all the tractors.

A few cars, some vintage, managed to sneak into the drive-in among all the tractors.

Just like the old days. Root beer crafted on-site at the 1938 drive-in and served in frosty mugs by car hops.

Rows of tractors ringed Lakeview Drive Inn.

Rows of tractors ringed Lakeview Drive Inn.

My husband and I happened upon historic Lakeview’s annual Farm Tractor Night while returning from a vacation to Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. What a delight.

One view of Farm Tractor Night.

One view of Farm Tractor Night.

We were first introduced to Lakeview when our eldest daughter attended Winona State University, several blocks away, 10 years ago. I even wrote a magazine feature article on this vintage drive-in.

One can only imagine the conversation.

One can only imagine the conversation.

There’s something about a classic home-grown drive-in that speaks to summer and the past like no other place…

BONUS PHOTOS:

The oldest tractor, a 1937 John Deere A, at Lakeview.

The oldest tractor, a 1937 John Deere A, at Lakeview.

A sweet vintage Ford.

A sweet vintage Ford.

Even the Winona County dairy princesses showed up for Farm Tractor Night.

Even the Winona County dairy princesses showed up for Farm Tractor Night.

A lovely old Oliver parked on the edge of the parking lot across the street from a spacious city park.

A lovely old Oliver parked on the edge of the parking lot across the street from a spacious city park.

Loved the original art on this International tractor.

Loved the original art on this International tractor.

These two guys

Come as you are for Farm Tractor Night. So authentic.

Attendees could go on a tractor-pulled wagon ride through the park across the street.

Attendees could go on a tractor-pulled wagon ride through the park across the street.

Just arrived at the tractor show.

Just arrived at the tractor show.

FYI: The Lakeview Drive Inn closes for the season on September 14.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Stepping into yesteryear at the Blue Earth County fairgrounds August 1, 2013

Just inside the entry to the Blue Earth County Fairgrounds.

Just inside the entry to the Blue Earth County Fairgrounds.

PRIOR TO LAST FRIDAY, I’d never been to the Blue Earth County Fairgrounds, nor even to Garden City, the unincorporated community in which the fairgrounds is located. That would be south of Mankato, along the banks of the Watonwan River.

Log cabins on the fairgrounds include this one from 1860 and a replica of an 1839 cabin.

Log cabins on the fairgrounds include this one from 1860 and a replica of an 1839 cabin.

What a delightful place—like a step back in time.

The beef barn, shaded by an oak tree.

The beef barn, shaded by an oak tree.

Space for chickens and ducks and geese and such poultry.

Space for chickens and ducks and geese and such poultry.

Always a fair favorite, the sheep.

Always a fair favorite, the sheep.

Just look at these old-fashioned buildings and imagine the cattle, pigs, poultry and sheep trucked into this scenic spot for the annual showing of the best of the best.

I expect (hope) the 4-H food stand will be repaired before the fair.

I expect (hope) the 4-H food stand was repaired before the fair.

Imagine 4-Hers clutching coveted ribbons.

The open class exhibit buildings.

The open class exhibit buildings. Look at the splendid old doors on these structures.

Imagine the families and old folks, the neighbors and strangers mingling here to celebrate life in rural Minnesota.

Imagine the young lovers strolling the grounds.

My Aunt Marilyn remembers, more than 50 years ago, attending this fair on a weekday afternoon along with other Blue Earth County employees. “I suppose they don’t do that anymore,” she said.

I expect not, Marilyn.

 A posting of fair sponsors just inside the front gate.

A posting of fair sponsors just inside the front gate.

Today, August 1, through Saturday, August 3, you can experience this grassroots fair when gates open at the Blue Earth County Fairgrounds/Shady Oaks Campground in Garden City just off U.S. Highway 169.

CLICK HERE for detailed fair information and click here for info about the campground.

BONUS PHOTOS:

It seems every fairgrounds has an old school or church like this one.

It seems every fairgrounds has an old school or church like this one.

An on-site beverage stand.

An on-site beverage stand.

The Future Farmers of America building.

The Future Farmers of America building.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Harvest barn dance celebrates family, friends and yesteryear September 19, 2011

A father and son were among the hundreds of guests attending a dance in this 96-year-old barn.

IN THE 1930s, at the height of The Great Depression, a young Herb Becker attended dances in the sprawling red barn along Rice County Road 1 several miles west of Dundas.

Herb didn’t know it then, but in 1948 he and his wife Dorothy would buy the “Faber farm” site with the 36-foot by 100-foot barn.

Today his youngest son John and wife Debbie own the farm, purchased in 1988. Saturday they hosted their first-ever Harvest Time Barn Dance.

John and Debbie Becker have reshingled and done other work to their barn to keep it from deteriorating.

“It’s a dream come true,” John said several times through-out the event which brought the barn back full circle to his father Herb—who died in 2009—and those long-ago barn dances.

I bet Herb would have been pleased with the party that drew family, friends and neighbors of the Beckers together on a cool autumn evening to visit, eat and dance the night away in the old hay mow. My husband Randy and I were among our friends’ invited guests.

Everything about the celebration in this 1915 barn spoke to the kind of down-home neighborliness and love of family that define the Beckers and the Malechas (Debbie’s family). These are good, honest, hard-working people of faith with their roots planted deep in the earth. I doubt I stopped smiling all evening.

And there was plenty to smile about—from the country-style decorated barn complete with red-and-white checked tablecloths, zinnias/sedum/golden rod in fruit jars, pitchforks, bushel baskets, seed corn signage, wooden barrels, cream separator, horse harness and lots more to the kids and adults sporting cowboy hats, cowboy boots and other western attire to the welcoming, sometimes boot-stomping, music of The Revivals band.

Battery-operated tea light candles and flowers in quart jars decorated tables covered with red and/or red-and-white checked cloths. This photo looks toward the west end of the hay mow.

Everywhere collectibles and antiques were on display, creating a setting of simple country charm.

Guests indulged in tasty roast beef sandwiches, calico beans, an array of salads and bars.

The Beckers created a coffee corner, where guests could grab some "De-Calf" or "Real Calf," visit, maybe even pull a deck of cards from the shelf for a game of Euchre.

Fall and vintage decorations lined the pathway leading into the barn.

It was the type of evening reminiscent of the old-fashioned gatherings of yesteryear, when adults could visit while the kids played with carefree abandon. And they did on Saturday. Tag and hide-and-seek. Pick-up football in the dusty farm yard. Make-believe, chasing each other with cap guns blazing.

Kids ran and played and ran and played--all night.

Heading out the barn door...

The kids, and a few adults, brought cap guns.

Probably my favorite image of the evening...no words necessary to describe these happy boys.

Inside, the adults admired the architectural bones of the barn, cranking necks upward toward the skeletal rafters, toward the conveyor that once carried hay bales across this dairy barn hay mow. And before that, the hay fork, on display outside the barn. They imagined climbing the ladder on the east end of the barn, like daring trapeze artists, to a platform above.

Looking toward the east end of the hay mow.

The east end of the hay mow with the ladder and platform and highlighting the barn's framework.

Looking toward the west end of the hay barn.

Pulling popcorn duty at the barn dance.

And later, when The Revivals from New Prague rocked the rafters with music that spanned polkas and waltzes to country and 1950s-1970s hits, adults and kids alike slid their feet across the corn meal-slicked plywood covering the maple floor that was too unsalvageable for refinishing. They twirled and shook and twisted.

And they danced like Herb would have wanted them to dance, celebrating life.

The Revivals from New Prague played a mix of music from old-time to rock.

Leaving the barn dance. Vehicles packed the farm yard.

CHECK BACK FOR MORE barn dance images. I won’t have photos of the dancing; once I had my band shot, I put away the camera.

HAVE YOU EVER attended a barn dance? If you haven’t, you might want to become friends with the Beckers. I bet they’ll have plenty of requests for a repeat harvest dance next fall. Thanks, John and Debbie, for an absolutely memorable and fun evening.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling