Summer vacation is officially here! For approximately 180 days a year for the last twelve years, I have taken one of the three main roads out of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Each of these mornings I have embarked on a 45-minute commute to my classroom where I would teach English, Social Studies, or both to students who were in grades eight through twelve. Such is the life of a teacher.
But there is one day a year, the Last Day of School, where I funnel back into my hometown for three months of…well, pretty much whatever I want. And these days, that actually more than I ever imagined when I was just a young Thunderhawk.
Growing up, Grand Rapids was the iconic small town. I still see it most often as the sleepy little city of 7,000 citizen, not the bigger, bolder ten thousand-plus it boasts today. With that boldness has come some greatness, much of which I cannot wait to enjoy during June, July, August.
The top five things I look forward to this summer vacation?
1. THE BRAT BARN AT SUPERONE.
This regional grocery store chain is still relatively new to this town, but I have welcomed it with open arms. First came their salad bar, where a customer can build the beautiful green dinner of their dreams. But then came the cutest little shed that is conveniently located by the doors came to be, and it is amazing. It provides customers not only a chance to get a delicious Fabroni hot dog or brat, but it also provides the chance for a local organization to fundraise in a new, interesting way. Today I supported the Boy Scouts; next time it might be the Grand Rapids archery team. Either way, I will be back.
2. ALL THE BREWS AT ALL THE PLACES.
Bixby’s, Brewed Awakenings, NoPo Coffee Co., Klockow Brewery and eventually the soon-to-be-open Rapids Brewery are all local establishments where one can find a brew, from bean or barely. I am non-discriminatory in my drinking of either, so I am looking forward to sitting and sipping all around town all vacation long.
3. CROSSFIT ITASCA.
I do my best to get to crossfit twice a week during the school year, but sometimes that gets tough. The summer is my most convenient time to stop and toss a wall ball or two (or fifty or a hundred) and see how strong I can be when I push myself (which is so easy to do with the support and love that my crossfit community provides). I am excited to hit up this box and be my best self.
4. JANICKE BAKERY.
Growing up, my dad would sometimes surprise my brother and me with treats from this little bakery downtown. They always had the best gingerbread men (and ladies) as well as the sweetest banana donuts, which where kitchy enough to be shaped more like a banana than a donut. While the kitchen has changed hands, the donuts (and memories) remain in tact, so it is nice to take a little walk along the river at sunrise to find one of these delights.
5. THE NATURE.
The big blue water tower blatantly states “Grand Rapids: It’s in Minnesota’s nature,” which is true. Grand Rapids is the county seat of Itasca County, which hosts over one thousand of Minnesota’s ten thousand lakes. As a logging community, we have forests galore. The mighty Mississippi River winds itself right through the middle of town. There is no end to natural wonders here at home, and I plan to walk, roll, kayak, and float my way around them this summer vacation as much as I can.
Our town’s favorite daughter says in her most famous roll that there is no place like home. She’s right; our home proves it so every summer, and I look forward to learning that lesson once again as I enjoy summer vacation at home again this year.