Of all the months when Northfield enjoys events that celebrate and reinforce community, August is one of the best. We prepare to send our children off to school, welcome other people’s children coming here to school, and we gather for Night to Unite. All while trying to fit in that last family vacation.

This column is one of the ways that I as mayor get to talk with a lot of my neighbors at once. Some may think they are overly sunny, but I think it’s important to applaud what’s great about Northfield. The places and events that bring us together, like Night to Unite, are indispensable in sustaining Northfield as the healthy place that we get to call home. It was a joy—and I truly mean “joy”—to be with you at Night to Unite parties in August. A special thanks to Growing Up Healthy, our police, fire and EMS folks, and neighborhood hosts that made Night to Unite possible.

Rhonda Pownell mug


This year at “Northfield Shares A Dinner” we celebrated and built community in a new way. More than 1,000 people enjoyed the dinner’s delicious food, beautiful music, and most importantly, our neighbors. Thank you to the organizers and numerous volunteers who gave their time to make this happen.

A lot can be learned from these events.

First, we can do so much with who and what we already have here. We and our neighbors grew the food. We and our neighbors served the food and played the music.

Second, “we” includes so many different kinds of people. Many of our neighbors were born right here. But many weren’t. It was a better, richer dinner because so many contributed. That breadth of involvement can be the case with so many aspects of Northfield.

Third, people love to come downtown. One thousand participants, 200 volunteers, 50 musicians, and who knows how many others got there on foot, by wheelchair, or by bike. Meanwhile, many others (some of whom wanted to go to the dinner but couldn’t because it sold out!) shopped and ate at downtown businesses.

This month we’ll welcome 5,000 students from all over the world to our two colleges and thousands of visitors to celebrate the Defeat of Jesse James Days.

On the positive side, we can welcome all these folks without straining our infrastructure, thanks to the hard work of our public works staff. On the other hand, we have a lot of room to improve to be even more welcoming. We need more affordable places for people to live. We need people of all ages and abilities to be able to walk, bike, or take a mobility scooter downtown from all parts of Northfield.

Healthy, connected communities don’t just happen. Northfielders have been dedicated, passionate and loyal from the very beginning. Our predecessors worked to build our community into what it is today. Our opportunity, our responsibility, and our privilege, is to continue that work. It is an honor to work with you to continue to create a community that’s open, safe and welcoming, where everyone can thrive.

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