BLAINE, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s considered one of the fastest growing cities in the state.
This weekend, thousands who call Blaine home will be getting Back Together.READ MORE: Itchy Eyes? Scratchy Throats? Allergies Likely Not To Blame This Summer
WCCO’s Liz Collin was in the north metro where an annual tradition is making a comeback
The Blaine Festival officially kicks off with a special ceremony Friday.
Last year, all was quiet in Blaine on the last weekend in June, so there is certainly excitement heading into a weekend like this.
“Everybody knows Blaine because they’ve played soccer up there or ice hockey up there,” Mayor Tim Sanders said.
The things that put Blaine on the map looked much different during the pandemic.
“We’re just super excited to get back on track and have everything open,” Sanders said.
There is a palpable sense of relief. Blaine’s mayor is looking forward to a festival that’s been around for more than 50 years.
“Designed to get the community and the families out, to have fun, to re-engage and to really be focused on the community and being great neighbors,” Sanders said.
The high school football team, the Blaine Bengals, put up tents as part of their summer workout schedule.
“Trying to give it back to the community because they’re a really big part of this family right here we have here,” player Preston Meyers said.
They missed that family this past fall with just 200 fans allowed in the stands.
“We wouldn’t be the same without them. They give us that extra bit of motivation,” Meyers said.READ MORE: How Can People Limit Water Use At Home? Do Small Changes Make A Difference?
The whole community is counting down to a summer carnival that signals another return to normal for all ages.
“We’re stronger for it and I think now that we’ve got a great opportunity to come out and celebrate about what’s possible now,” Sanders said.
In addition to the rides and carnival games, a big parade is planned on Saturday. Many other family focused events are planned at the park through Sunday.
Blaine, of course, is home to the National Sports Center and the Target USA Cup where they too are getting back together this summer.
“We’ve started playing soccer again which is fantastic and we’re really excited to bring the Target USA Cup back to Blaine,” National Sports Center Director of Marketing Sara Soli said.
Come July 9, the National Sports Center will start looking more like a typical Minnesota summer.
“You go from a bustling place with kids playing every day to literally doors locked, facilities shut down,” Soli said.
After last year’s cancellation, 800 teams from across the country will be back to Blaine next month. Still, no international teams are allowed, meaning 70% of the usual 25,000 on campus each day.
Soli says the cup brings with it $40 million dollars into a growing Blaine economy.
Beyond furloughing a few of the center’s employees, most full-time staff took over seasonal jobs to make it through.
“Many people were on lawnmowers or washing golf carts just making sure that we got by during the pandemic,” Soli said.
She fully expects the international title to be back in the youth soccer tournament come 2022.
“All of the international teams that we’ve been talking to, they’re very excited to get back to Blaine and to the Target USA Cup,” she said.MORE NEWS: Friends Remember Mack Motzko and Sam Schuneman, Killed In Orono Crash
The Target USA Cup runs from July 9 to July 17.