Even though Brainerd's unofficial summer has been under way long enough for school kids to already start getting bored, the official start of the season is marked by the summer solstice at 7:57 p.m. today.
This is Brainerd's best season. Thousands of visitors tell us so each year as they flock to the area to hike, bike, swim, golf, fish or just relax on a deck. Sure, we might occasionally carp about the state's humidity or mosquitoes, but it's the beautiful summer weather and recreational opportunities that keep tourists coming back to our region and keep our economy humming along. Minnesota summers are warm without being oppressive. Shade and water, two elements that enhance June, July and August, are abundant.
There's a reason this is tourist season.
Anyone who's ever spent a summer in Texas or Arizona can easily understand why those folks often seek refuge from their sun-baked climates. Opinions vary on what conditions constitute a perfect summer day. A high of 60 degrees is just fine for some folks while others prefer to bake a bit in temperatures that climb to 80 degrees.
For most of us, the joys of a Brainerd summer include being able to sleep with the windows open and later walk out the door dressed in a T-shirt and shorts. For too many days out of the year Minnesotans have to bundle up in coats, hats, gloves and boots. The free feeling of stepping out on your deck in casual summer clothes without dressing up like one of the Cossacks in "Dr. Zhivago" is a pleasure that lasts only a few short months.
Other seasons in the Brainerd lakes area have their attributes, but there's no dispute that summer is No. 1 when it comes to drawing visitors to our area.
Oddly, some people use the term "tourist town" derisively. Wouldn't people want to live in a location that's a summer destination, a place that's attractive to people from other locales? Tourists who come to Brainerd are people very much like us. They're taking a break from work and looking for a place to relax. When we gripe about traffic or the occasional rude visitor to our area we forget that many of the tourists are our friends and relatives who come to town for graduation open houses, birthdays or the Fourth of July.
In the best tourist towns, visitors are made to feel welcome. The "locals" are proud of their community and are eager to share its amenities with them.
Earlier this month my family traveled to Medora, N.D., a classic tourist town. Many of the businesses are owned by a nonprofit foundation designed to provide a variety of shops and attractions to visitors. There wasn't a shop we entered where the proprietor didn't greet us personally. Most of them asked where we were from and some talked about other Brainerd visitors or their own Minnesota backgrounds. Late one afternoon I was killing time in a bookstore before attending the Medora Musical. I spent 40 minutes in a guy's shop and didn't spend a dime. When I left, he called out, "Good night, thanks for stopping."
That's the sort of attitude that makes a tourist want to return to a community.
MIKE O'ROURKE, associate editor, can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.
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