Oh look! A shiny thing: What makes Worthington so great, anyway?
There’s a lot to love in Worthington.
When the city of Worthington decided to hire a new communications person and The Globe started looking for a new reporter, I started thinking about what we could do to attract people to not the jobs, specifically, but to Worthington.
There’s a lot to love in Worthington.
I’ve written before about how much I love Lake Okabena, which sparkles blue or orange depending on the time of day, and glitters black at night, too. Outdoors enthusiasts could benefit from the trails around the lake, the beach or the many public docks. People with children could get a lot out of all the parks dotted around the shore, with all kinds of playgrounds and equipment.
Another favorite is King Turkey Day. While the ever-shifting festival morphs a bit each year to stay fresh, the parade, the foot race and the turkey race are the big constants. There are not many towns where you get to watch the movers and shakers of local business, government and charities sprint down the main drag after a bird with a brain the size of a pea, desperately trying to convince it to run in a straight line, or sometimes, to move forward even a little bit, at all.
King Turkey Day possesses a beautiful kind of chaotic glory and a bizarre backstory, in which Worthington, Minnesota, and Cuero, Texas, decide the world is not big enough for two Turkey Capitals of the World and opt to duke it out by racing turkeys to decide who keeps the moniker.
If you’re trying to increase your whimsy levels, there’s nothing better. However, and I cannot stress this enough for people who are not from Worthington: they actually do want to win. The banter and trash talk between the two teams about coaching and doping turkeys is all in good fun, and the teams truly become friends with each other, but on the day of the competition both teams really, genuinely do their best to cajole their turkeys toward the finish line.
As they can’t touch the bird, they use sound and attempt to block the turkey’s alternative paths. The chaos comes from the turkeys, which may run into the crowd, run back toward the starting line or even lurch into the air for a few feet. One time, a turkey absolutely refused to budge and a team member finally picked it up and ran it across the finish line, eating the significant penalty in order to finish the race.
And everyone’s heard about that one time the turkey flew into a tree and wouldn’t come down.
Our two other town shindigs, the International Festival and the Windsurfing Regatta and Music Festival, are pretty great too. The International Festival allows visitors to sample food from around the world while listening to music from around the world, in a pretty chill atmosphere. At the Regatta, you can learn to windsurf, listen to a great lineup of bands and hang out at the beach, and at both festivals, there’s no cost to get in.
Another great thing about Worthington is its diverse population, which is growing, unlike many other rural cities in Minnesota. We have a lot of young people, and a lot of children, and consequently there are a lot of opportunities for kids. It’s a long list that starts with District 518’s many activities at different grade levels, including Community Education, but continues with the programming at the Nobles County Library and the Worthington Area YMCA.
There are options for grown-ups at all those places, too, and more. The JBS Field House offers a place for athletics even in the dead of winter, and the Center for Active Living gives the older set a chance to have fun too. Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center is incredibly active in getting all kinds of national and international-level performers, from Pirates of Penzance to the Vienna Choirboys and Johnny Cash or Elvis tributes.
We have people of many different ethnic backgrounds here too, so you’ll be able to get great lefse, but you can also find fantastic spring rolls, authentic tacos and other food from around the world. And people from around the world are here too, bringing our traditions and languages with us.
And every individual sees something particularly special about our town.
I have a particular affection for our gazebo, based on a silly legend about a fantasy roleplaying group that came across a gazebo and, not knowing what it was, assumed it was a new kind of monster. The group heroically attacked the gazebo, and as the storyteller became more and more frustrated with his players, who would not leave the gazebo alone, eventually it ate them.
I think about this story every time I drive by our gazebo, which is resting peacefully in a lovely park by our gorgeous lake and has probably never eaten anyone in its life.
Probably. Worthington has its own magic, after all.
If I were a turkey, I’d keep clear, just in case.