Photo by Don Lipps - North Mankato Fun Days at night
Photo by Don Lipps - North Mankato Fun Days at night

By Molly Butler

I ran into an old friend.

We knew each other in high school, but I think we really knew each other in elementary school, that time before one starts to edit oneself for others. Back then, he studied dinosaurs. He knew their scientific names and endless facts, and he tolerated my literal horsing around (yep, I was a horse girl. Neigh.), and together we watched Avatar: The Last Airbender for the first time. (If you haven’t seen it, you must.) I ran into this old friend by accident, under an awning in the torrential rain, and a quick coffee to catch up turned into 6 hours. We talked about all the ways we’ve changed, all the ways we’ve stayed the same, where we think our lives are going. Had it really been a decade since we talked? A decade? That’s wild.

I’ve been doing a lot of circling back. I started getting my work done at the local libraries, spaces I haven’t visited since I was a little kid. It’s interesting to occupy the same, nearly unchanged place with a new perspective. There’s the fountain where I made childhood wishes, the tables where I stacked my ambitious pile of books. “You only have one week to finish all those,” a librarian would say, so I’d read two right then and there so I wouldn’t have to check them out.

There’s a reason to circle back, to return. So that we can do it differently. So that we can gain depth.

This week I sent an impulsive email to an old professor from undergrad. He was and remains incredibly interesting. He told me about his novel, his renewed interest in history, how history used to seem so boring, but now it seems so short. “If you’re ever in town, you have a place to stay.” A wonderful, unusual, generous sort of person. My favorite sort of person. His reading list changed my life, and I like to tell him so. It’s nice to let people know the impact they have on you.

These days, people circle back. Adult children move back in with their parents. Remote workers leave cities, trickling back to their hometowns. During the pandemic, many people returned to their hobbies and passions. National parks filled. Boxes of old craft supplies were pulled from the attic. Gardens were dug. People remembered some of their forgotten dreams, dusted them off and asked, “Is it too late?”

It’s easy to confuse returning with regressing. Sometimes going home can feel like a failure. Sometimes life feels like a loop. One of my professors explained that the word “essay” means “attempt.” When you write an essay, you are not so much nailing down a subject. You’re circling the subject, a central question or point, and finding the shape. There’s a reason to circle back, to return. So that we can do it differently. So that we can gain depth.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends.


Let’s have some fun. North Mankato Fun Days are back at Wheeler Park! Carnival rides, live music, BINGO and so much more. Check out the schedule on their Facebook page. Madelia Park Days are happening this weekend! This FREE summer party will have food, music, family fun, a beer garden featuring local Brew Masters and so much more. Kick off with the 7 p.m. Grand Parade and enjoy free music and fireworks. Vendors will be available with food and drink. Check out their full schedule to plan your weekend of fun.

Vine will host another Tai Chi for Health class at Spring Lake Park beginning at 9:30 a.m. This program is perfect for those dealing with back or joint pain, those interested in improving balance and anyone interested in calm, rejuvenating movement. All moves include accommodations for any fitness and mobility level. Register online to attend.

Do your good deed for the day and keep our parks beautiful! Head to Minneopa State Park to volunteer with the park staff. They’ll be removing invasive species, collecting native prairie seed and pulling weeds. Send an email to Scott Kudelka at to register.

End the evening with a sip of something refreshing. The newly opened Cork & Key of Mankato will host a Chankaska Tasting featuring wines and spirits from the local winery and distillery. Bent River Outfitter of Mankato will host another Happy Hour Float from 5:30-7:30 p.m. You can also pack a cooler (no glass bottles, please) and head to Minnesota Square Park in St. Peter for Hot Jazz for Decent People: Late Night Sounds at Early Evening Hours. Music begins at 7 p.m. with FREE admission and donations accepted for the Arts Center.


I was rained out last time I attempted to get to the Mankato Farmers’ Market, so I’m excited to swing by and check out the latest produce. I’ve also been eyeing those Adirondack chairs by Tim’s Woodcrafts. They’d be perfect on our farm!

Mankato Fun Days parade takes off at 11 a.m., then stick around for rides, a beanbag tournament, live music and more! Store It of Mankato is hosting Mankato’s Largest Street Market. Check out classic cars and browse vendors at this FREE event, open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. See their event page for further details.

Chankaska Creek will have Trivia and Wine from 2-5 p.m., and Mankato Brewery will have S&B Barbecue in the lot with food to pair with their local brews. Then, the Circle Inn Bar on Belgrade is hosting a fundraiser for the North Mankato Fire Department’s Relief Association. Enjoy live music by Nate Boots & the Little Boots, Rain Kings and MAMMOTH BONE, then Beer Gardens open at 7 p.m.

As always, there’s great live music all over southern Minnesota, with Lauren and the Drifters playing Mankato Brewery from 5-11 p.m. and Another Time Around playing the Westwood Marina Bar and Grill from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Check out Ian Hilmer and Jesse Smith at the Wine Café starting at 7 p.m. for The Golden Hour or catch the Whiskey Richard Band at Spinners on Belgrade beginning at 7 p.m.


Time to treat yourself. Wrap up the weekend with a sweet treat from the Apple Cider Mini Donut Truck, parked at the Fleet Farm in Mankato from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Vagabond Village will have their Community Day & Village Market, with vendors and local creatives to shop, and space to hang out and tailgate. Fun Days will conclude Sunday with a Car & Motorcycle show beginning at 10 a.m. with Bingo, rides and more.

Alpensterne will be performing live music at the August Schell Brewing Co in New Ulm beginning at 1 p.m. Carter Guse will play at Indian Island Winery from 1-3:30 p.m. Or, you can catch Killin’ Time at The Landing on Madison from 3-6 p.m. or Amy Manette at Westwood Marina Bar and Grill from 4-7 p.m.

Bonus: Reread

Speaking of circling, it looks like I’m stuck on books and professors this week.

American Poet, Matt Rasmussen, taught several of my classes in undergrad. There was one particularly unfocused day my senior year when I was taking World Lit with an entire freshman class because I’d forgotten to knock this standard requirement out earlier in my college career. We were meandering into irrelevant topics, phones were out, our hour together nearly up when Matt said something like, “People listen to their favorite songs over and over again. But they rarely reread their favorite poems, their favorite books.”

Of course, we started piping in with arguments about effort. We made cases and excuses. You can’t just read a poem while you’re driving. What about audiobooks? Ugh, some of the voices are awful. You already know what’s going to happen. It’s boring. No. The hour was up. The class packed up. I still think about that conversation. It changed the way I look at my bookshelf.

Baker Lawley, another wonderful professor, told our class that sometimes, you aren’t ready for a book. Sometimes timing is what changes everything. “J.D. Salinger isn’t always for high schoolers. Reread him in a few years. Things change.”

If I could hand out assignments, mine would be to reread. That book you loved, that book you quit halfway through, that book you hated because it was homework. Things change. Reread.


Weekend High Notes is a regular feature by Molly Butler. Molly covers weekend events, live music, and culture in the Greater Mankato Area. Suggestions are welcome using the MankatoLIFE contact form.