Now that school is out, I'm excited to see the community gather again for fairs and festivals this summer. I didn't realize how much I would miss them when we had to cancel everything last year.

It's no secret that I'm an introvert. I thrive on alone time, and I'm not great at parties. But even I am looking forward to standing in a crowd and rubbing elbows with people again.

This weekend is the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival, Friday through Sunday at Sailboard Beach. Free live music and watching windsurfing races, food trucks, kids' activities and community camaraderie are on the docket.

In a few weeks, we'll have the Worthington International Festival, showcasing cultures and customs from all over the world, which are cherished by our local community members. During the July 8-10 events, performers will host a youth artist showcase, and essential workers will be honored during the opening ceremony.

Then, on Aug. 4-8, check out the Nobles County Fair. All your usual favorites are back, plus a special concert by Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry. Tickets are on sale for that now.

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Those are just the big summer festivals in Worthington, not to mention the July 3 Beach Bash, twice-weekly farmers markets and other local celebrations. Regionally, there will also be several other county fairs, as well as city events throughout the smaller communities.

I hope you get to enjoy the free offerings for all ages, but I also hope you make a point to spend money at the food vendors and other paid activities, as well. These festivals are not possible without financial support, and missing a year of revenue was not easy. If you visit communities other than the one where you live, I encourage you to support the local businesses, most of which have been struggling for a year and a half.

Our mask mandate is over, and COVID is no longer sweeping our communities, but we're not done feeling the effects of the pandemic. Economic casualties could persist for years to come. I'm worried about local small business owners who sacrifice so much to bring goods and services to our town. Let's think of them as we celebrate the world opening back up. Let's support them with our words and our wallets.

I'm not a native of Worthington, and with the loss of 2020 festivals, this will only be my second fair season here. Let me know what you like best about our local summer events. What's the best thing to eat at each festival? What are the hidden gems I haven't discovered yet? Who is doing an interesting 4-H project that I should know about?

I hope to see many of you around at the upcoming events. If you run into me, say hi!