Worthington has no shortage of parks, as anyone who lives here or has lived here knows. Chautauqua Park, along Lake Okabena, is probably the classiest of the bunch, as it has fine playground equipment, a stage that’s home to the weekly Amazing Worthington City Band concerts during the summer, a multi-use path and more. Centennial Park is large, and has the lure of a small beach and – in the summer months – The Beach Nook snacks and refreshment store (I sincerely hope it opens again this year.) Olson Park is a nice place for families to camp. Freedom Veterans’ Memorial Park is a wonderful spot honoring those who fought for all of us … and the list goes on and on.
Yet, Grace and Zach’s favorite place for an outdoor outing isn’t at any of Worthington more than 25 parks. They love going to Sibley most of all.
I’m convinced the affection for "Sibley Park" (I believe it’s actually called Central Park, located just a few blocks from downtown Sibley) is a result of at least a couple of different circumstances.
The main thing, I think, is the sheer size of the park. There are two distinct play areas there with a fair share of swings and slides in between, leaving no shortage of space to run wild. If the park is filled with kids, there’s still plenty of room for activity – and the slides may be the highlight of the action to be had. While most of the playground equipment at Sibley’s park can be easily deemed modern, there are two old metal slides that require a fair degree of climbing and a greater share of bravery. Most towns, including Worthington (with the exception of Orchard Knoll Park and Cherry Point Park) have replaced these types of slides that meet some new set of safety guidelines – or something or other. Sibley, though, is bucking that trend … and even though my heart flutters a little bit every time Grace scales the tallest slide there is there, I love seeing the thrilled smile on her face every time she’s descended down.
Secondly, I think "Sib-wee" (as Zach says it) has become the preferred place to play because the kids have gotten a little spoiled when they go there. Last summer, on a particularly hot day of outdoor fun, we got to town and stopped at Jackrabbit Junction (Cenex) gas station/mini-mart, right off the newly four-laned Highway 60, for drinks and a snack to bring to the park. From that point on, that place became a must-stop everytime down there. Usually, the standard purchase is a good-sized bottle of water for the kids to share, a small bag of Cheetos, an iced coffee for me and – if the front page offers any kind of intrigue – a copy of the Sioux City Journal. So … each trek to Sibley means a little money spent (including, too, the more than 35-mile round trip in gas), but it’s not like we do it terribly often.
And, that’s what also makes Sibley the favorite, I believe. We play in Worthington a lot, and that only makes sense; a majority of the parks are great, and there is no real reason to drive anywhere else. But when I mention "Sibley Park," there’s always excitement. I think they realize it’s a kind of special treat, plus I think both kids actually enjoy the short road trip (Grace and Zach, it should be noted, both also enjoy playing at the park in Brewster.) And, whenever we travel on a longer trip, whether it’s going to Sioux Falls or on last summer’s three-day jaunt to New York State, Grace (and, probably soon, Zach) always has to know if every town we stop in has a park.
I’m so glad spring has arrived, as I can’t help but look forward to a summer of playing outside wherever we may happen to be.