It was heartening to see so many people of all ages and walks of life have a happy time at the fifth annual “Take a Day Off at the River” last Sunday north of Sartell.
The event gave people a chance to unwind and relax within the natural beauty of Stearns County Mississippi River Park on CR 1, which is right on the western edge of the mighty river that runs through it. There is something about such natural, magisterial scenery that seems to bring out the best in people.
How good it was to see parents and children fishing, baiting their hooks, casting out from the steep river banks, trying their luck. Kids had a blast shooting arrows at the archery range. The excitement of adults and children was fun to observe as they oohed-and-ahhed over the animals brought from the Minnesota Zoo. Groups of people thoroughly enjoyed pontoon rides, kayaking, canoeing and hiking tours. There were more than 40 “stations” at the event – hands-on activities and educational-informational booths and a combination of both.
“Day at the River,” which began five years ago, has grown into a perennially successful event, with attendance numbers increasing by leaps and bounds every year. It’s one of those events that’s so successful, so much fun, that good word-of-mouth is its best advertisement. What’s more, the event is free, and who can argue with that?
In recent years, there has been a wonderful resurgence of interest locally in the Mississippi River, a growing awareness of what a priceless resource it is. There are innovative efforts underway to maintain and improve its water quality and to develop it wisely as a recreational asset. It’s a slow, incremental process but a very good one. “Day at the River” is just one way to allow local people to experience that great resource first-hand. Sadly, too many people in the area have experienced the Mississippi River as merely something they cross on a bridge daily or from time to time. As knowledge and awareness of the river increases, more and more people will begin to understand why we are so fortunate to live in the heart of central Minnesota near or next to our magnificent river.
Hats off to the event’s sponsors: Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District, Stearns County Parks, Benton County, St. Cloud State University and the Department of Natural Resources. Also deserving of thanks are the scores of volunteers who made the day such a success.
Being part of “Day at the River” was a bit like getting a glimpse of a better, more harmonious world in which all people get along so well in an idyllic environment. At the event, there were Caucasians, Somalis, African-Americans, Native Americans and people of all ages from babies to oldsters. All of them intermingled, exchanged pleasantries, had a good time. Wouldn’t it be nice if that kind of peace, harmony and happiness could be spread everywhere into the wider world?