Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Week Before Christmas at Five Elementary Schools

This year Nancy and I were privileged to be invited to perform my Christmas story at five schools in four days, Monday through Thursday of the week before Christmas. With Christmas less than a week away and vacation from school only a few days in the future, the children's excitement is at a peak. It's a fun time for me to do shows that include my story A Farm Country Christmas Eve.
Pictures of the shows are on the second page of this post.

Otsego Elementary, Otsego, MN

Monday morning, December 19, 2011, we did two shows for third grade students at Otsego Elementary, where I did my first shows in the year 2000. This is my twelfth consecutive year performing there, and it brought back lots of memories. 
During the summer of 2000 Nancy and I published our first book at home, County Road Christmas Eve which was the predecessor to A Farm Country Christmas Eve. Teacher and friend Diana Sawdey liked the story and invited me to do a reading for her third grade class. After she and I discussed what would work best for the students, I came up with the format that I still use today. I had never performed for little kids before so I credit Diana for giving me the courage and inspiration to begin the performances and I think of her often when I do shows throughout the year. Diana passed away in September of 2010. We miss her always.
Nancy and I thank Mrs. Erickson for continuing to invite us to Otsego to keep up the tradition of doing my Christmas stories for third grade students.

Fieldstone Elementary, St. Michael, MN
We were scheduled to do two shows on Monday afternoon starting at 12:45 at Fieldstone Elementary, St. Michael, Minnesota. This is our second year at Fieldstone and I thank Ms. Kampa, the Media Specialist, and Ms. Aanuerud, the principal for inviting us back. I credit the students' high level of excitement to the enthusiasm shown by Ms. Kampa and Principal Aanuerud, who took time from their busy day to chat with us and help us get settled. They both made us feel especially welcome. 

Big Woods Elementary, St. Michael, MN
At noon on Tuesday, December 20, 2011, our first of two shows for third grade students started at noon.
The weather was great and we enjoyed our one-hour drive to the school. Here, too, we always feel especially welcome as former students who work in the office greet Nancy and me as we sign in.  Friend and retired teacher Nancy Terhark first invited us to do a show for her class in the year 2000, so this was our twelfth consecutive year at Big Woods, which was formerly St. Michael Elementary. Ms Terhark and Diana Sawdey were close friends, and I feel gratitude to both of them for getting me started.
Nancy and I thank third grade teacher Ms. Curran for continuing the tradition of having me perform my Christmas story at the school.

Cedar Creek Community School, Cedar, MN
Nice weather continued to make winter driving a joy, and lucky for us because Cedar Minnesota is about an hour and a half from our place. The first of two shows for first grade students was scheduled to begin at 1:50 PM on Wednesday, December 21. The first graders and their teachers were full of enthusiasm, and since the schedule allowed 45 minutes for each show, the students had lots of time to ask questions. I was especially impressed with the answers the students had for my "quiz" but I was even more impressed with the quality of questions from these students, who clearly had fun during the show but also had curiosity and a desire to learn.
Nancy and I thank Mrs. Baar, the first grade teacher who invited us to perform at Cedar Creek and arranged the visit.

Chatfield Elementary School, Belle Plaine, MN
In October of 2011, we were invited to do a six shows that included my story If I Were a Farmer: Nancy's Adventure. for grades one and two. The students and I enjoyed my visit, which led to Mr. Carlson inviting us back to do the Christmas show for the same groups of first and second graders on Thursday, December 22, 2011. Three shows for first graders were scheduled to start at 9:00 AM and three shows for second graders were scheduled to start at 12:30 PM. Believe me, with the high enthusiasm on this pre-vacation day, I needed the lunch break. A special surprise during the last morning show was a visit from my grand nephew Jacob Malz, who student-taught at the school last fall. He took time to visit with us over the lunch break and Nancy and I were delighted to see him.
Nancy and I thank Mr. Carlson, the first grade teacher who invited us to perform at the school again.

To see pictures of the events, click READ MORE

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Santa Day at Gaylord Public Library

Gaylord Public Library (above) and
the Santa Day sign (below).

Saturday was Santa Day at Gaylord Public Library and the staff had fun activities planned for all ages.
I was scheduled to do two shows, one at 9:30 AM and one at 10:30 AM, but other activities included petting animals from the farm, visiting Santa, and decorating cookies.
The library at Gaylord is a really nice facility with several meeting rooms and a large entryway. There was plenty room for the good turnout of adults and kids who took part in the various activities.
Across the hall from my show were several farm animals that children and adults could view and pet. 
All the activities were well attended, including my first session (above) and
my second session (below), both of which included my book A Farm Country Christmas Eve.

Audience members of all ages take part in my demonstration 
of teaching a newborn calf to drink from a pail (above) 
and laugh at the results (below).

I signed many books, but Nancy was so busy visiting with people
she didn't get much time to take pictures.

Nancy and I enjoyed talking to the many audience members 
who stopped to visit after the show and share their stories of the farm.

Nancy and I are very grateful to Librarian Wanda Messner for inviting us to do two shows at Santa Day, and we wish to commend her and others for organizing such a wonderful event. Wanda, Laurie Waltz, and Kayla Downer all worked hard to make it happen smoothly, and each of them took time from their busy schedule to greet Nancy and me and to offer assistance. Many volunteers were available all morning to help with the event's activities.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Sunday, December 18, 2011

All Saints Catholic School, Lakeville, MN, second day

Our second day at All Saints included doing shows for students in grades 2 and 3. We were greeted with a smile at the door by Debbie Donnelly, who signed us in and gave us visitor badges.
Third grade students in the first group were eager to begin the show (above) and
listen to my explanation of 'chores" on the farm (below).

The first group of third grade students volunteer to answer the question, 
"From what six places do the cats come when Joey calls them?"
Second group of third graders listening as I begin the Prologue (above) and
raising their hands to answer questions (below).
The same group lines up to take turns sticking their hands in the can of oats.

Two classes of second graders made the last group large,
 but they were fun and eager to listen (above),
and they watched closely as the children in the story
 go to the barn to help with chores on Christmas Eve (below).

The same group raises hands to answer questions.

I had a lot of fun doing the shows at All Saints, and I was sad when my stay their ended. Nancy and I wish to again thank Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Lloyd for arranging the visit. The students and staff I met seemed enthusiastic about their tasks and that always makes my job a pleasure.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Thursday, December 15, 2011

All Saints Catholic School, Lakeville, MN

Like many elementary schools I visit, All Saints in Lakeville overflows with enthusiasm. The teachers smile and greet us and the children do the same.
When we visited on Wednesday, December 14, Angela Barry, who was attending the front desk,  greeted Nancy and me with a big smile and took the time to walk us over to the media center to introduce us to Mrs. Johnson, who helped Mr. Steve Lloyd, a volunteer at the school, arrange our visit. Mrs. Johnson is the librarian at the school, and as she acquainted us with where we were to set up, she greeted each child who passed by name and offered a friendly smile.

It's not hard to spot a school environment where kids can blossom.

I was scheduled to do four consecutive performances of my Christmas show, which includes  my book A Farm Country Christmas Eve. Since the story is very close to what actually happened to me as a farm boy awaiting a visit from Santa at chore time on Christmas Eve, I love doing the show for all ages of kids and adults. The story still touches my heart with sweet memories of my parents and siblings.
The first group of kindergartners await  the start of the show (above) and hold up two fingers to help me demonstrate how to teach a newborn calf to drink from a pail (below).
As the children exit, Mrs. Johnson helps them line up to take their turns
 at sticking their hands in a coffee can of oats.
The first group of first graders listen as I recite the prologue (above) and raise their hands
to answer questions (below).

Then they take turns feeling the oats as they exit.
The second group of kindergartners view of picture of the farm I grew up on during my introduction (above) and listen as I explain they will get a chance to feel the oats in the can after the show(below).
Mrs. Johnson helps organize the exit as I hold the can of oats.
First graders make up the fourth and final group and they eagerly listen as I begin my introduction (above) and they enthusiastically raise their hands to answer questions (below).
Children check out the oats as they exit.

Nancy and I enjoyed our visit to All Saints immensely. Because teachers and students were enthusiastic,  I had even more fun than I usually do performing my stories.

Nancy and I want to thank all the teachers and the students for showing us such hospitality, and we especially thank Mr. Lloyd and Mrs. Johnson for arranging the event. Also, a special thanks to the principal, Mrs. Meskill, for taking time to watch one of the programs.

After sharing some fun and learning experiences with children, I am  always reluctant to say goodbye, but this time I know I am returning in a couple days to do the Christmas show for students in second and third grades. I'm looking forward to it.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

St. Mary's School in Owatonna

I received a warm greeting from everyone at St. Mary's in Owatonna.
First, June, who handles the many issues in the office, took time to show me where to set up and then she held the door for Nancy and me as we carried in our equipment. Kids in the hallway smiled to say hello and Sharleen Berg, Media Specialists, said hello and took a few moments to chat as we met her in the hallway.
Everyone we met offered to help, especially Tammy Barnes, who teaches grade 1 and who invited us to the school to do three programs of A Farm Country Christmas Eve to Kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2 students.
I can always tell when teachers and other leaders have "talked up" my visit because the groups of students are excited to see the show when they come in to sit down. This was certainly the case with these groups.
And they asked lots of good questions.
One second-grade girl asked me if I always wore overalls.
I told her I only wear them as a costume when I perform.
She replied with a big smile, "I thought so."

Kindergarten Students eager to answer questions (above)
and posing for a group photograph (below).

Students in first grade holding up two fingers to teach a calf to drink (above)
and raising their hands to answer questions (below).

Second Graders raising their hands to answer questions (above)
and lining up to feel the oats in the can after the show (below).

Administrators seldom are able to break away from their work to watch my show, but I was particularly pleased when Principal Hawkins stopped by to watch the show with the first graders. Later, she stopped by to tell my wife that she liked the show and then she thanked us for coming. 

Nancy and I thank Mrs. Barnes for inviting us to visit St. Mary's and arranging the whole event, and we thank Mrs. Prostrollo for the use of her room.
We also thank all the teachers for sharing their time with us and Mrs. Hawkins, the principal for allowing us to visit the school. 
As a former teacher, I never underestimate the importance of class time with students, and I will always strive to make my time with them valuable to their education. 
I also believe in having some fun during the show, and the students seemed to be right on top of it all! 

I found a great deal of pleasure performing for each group at St. Mary's, and I think the energy and joy expressed by the students are tributes to the entire workforce at St. Mary's.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rosemount Area Seniors Monthly Meeting

When Darline Lehman, President of the Rosemount Area Seniors, invited me do be their program for their December meeting and luncheon on December 6, I was, of course, delighted to accept.
You see, I know that when there is food at a gathering, people will come to eat, and then they will stay for my story. I'm humble enough to know the reverse is not always true.
I set up before the food was served and projected on the screen a picture of the farm where I grew up, which seemed to generate some interest. Audience members were very friendly and ready to enjoy the afternoon.
After the luncheon, Darline introduced me and I was privileged to speak to the group for about 50 minutes. Since the audience was filled with former farmers, people who had grown up on farms, and non-farmers who remember visiting farms of their relatives, they were very responsive to my references to farm life and my story, A Farm Country Christmas Eve.
After the show, many from the audience were very kind and told me how much they enjoyed the show, but to be honest, I don't think anyone enjoyed it more than I enjoyed performing it. When I see the smiles on faces initiated from the memories my stories evoke, it makes my day.

They always like the picture of the mother milking the cow and squirting a cat.

Lots of people stayed to chat, tell stories, ask questions, and buy books.

 But when we are really busy, as we were after the show, Nancy doesn't get time to take many pictures.
However, our friend Beverly Hermes (with me in the photo above) stopped by, stayed for the show, and took some pictures because, as she said later, " may mot have a photo of  you both together at one of your events." She emailed the photos to me to use. 

The photographs above were all taken by my wife Nancy, 
but the photographs below were all taken by our friend Beverly.

Obviously, these are moments we could never capture ourselves, since we are both busy.

We thank you for the photographs, Beverly.
And we thank Darline Lehman, President of the Rosemount Area Seniors for inviting us to come to the luncheon and do our program. The Rosemount Seniors were genuine, friendly, and wonderful to listen to. We had a fun afternoon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Volunteers at the the Dakota City Heritage Village near the fairgrounds in Farmington, MN, put on a great display of Christmas cheer by decorating the historic buildings that make up the village. The lights are lit and the buildings are open for two weekends, and the event is called "Christmas in the Village."

This year they were open from 1 PM to 8 PM on December 3 and 4, and will be open again next weekend from 1 PM to 8 PM on December 10 and 11. It's a great place to go on your own or take that special someone. Bring the kids to give them a treat from Christmas in the past. 
Admission is free for kids under 3 years old, $2.00 for kids 4-12, $4.00 for adults 13 and up, or $12.00 for a carload.
Most of the buildings are open, including the print shop, the blacksmith shop, the depot, the drug store, and, of course, the Confectionery where they sell candy and gifts. You won't want to miss it. 
Also, visit Nancy and me in the storage building across from the print shop where we sell our books and give away free stickers.
Last weekend lots of visitors enjoyed the mild weather with some snow
 on Saturday afternoon and evening.

If you get tired of walking or just want to sit and enjoy the light display, you can enjoy free horse-drawn trolley rides, which pick up riders by the depot among a number of other stops.
It may not be a one-horse open sleigh, but it is a thrill, just the same, for kids and adults of all ages.

Also, Nancy and I are in a cozy little building across from the print shop where we sell our books and sweat shirts. Please stop by for a short visit. We offer free stickers for kids and adults for as long as they last, which is usually the whole event because Nancy makes a lot of them.
The volunteers decorate the buildings inside and out, but they let Nancy and me decorate the inside of this one. We put up the tree, the Santa, and the garland along with the sleigh and reindeer on the counter in the back. Well, OK, Nancy did all of the actual decorating, but I helped carry stuff.
We try to make the place look inviting, both on the inside (above) and on the outside (below).

So there is one weekend left of this fun event. I hope you can stop by.

Be sure to visit the volunteers in the Gift Shop/Confectionery.

Visit the Harris House.

The afternoon and evening will give you plenty of time to visit all the interesting places in the village.
I hope you can stop to visit us. We are in the storage building across from the print shop.

Nancy and I thank everyone at Dakota City Heritage for inviting us to use the building for our book sales, especially Mary Hendricks for always helping us arrange our visit. All the volunteers need to be commended for their dedication and work.

Of course, we especially thank our customers and others who just stop by to visit. 

Below are a series of pictures of some happy kids and adults who purchased one of more our books. Nancy isn't always free to snap a picture, so we apologize to the many customers we were not able to photograph, but feel welcome to come back, bring your book, and we will take a special photo.

Why not come to Christmas in the Village for a holiday treat?
It's open 1 PM to 8 PM next weekend, December 10 and 11.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson