'A Good Place To Be'
SoberFest is big.
And getting bigger. An estimated 150 to 200 people participated July 29 in the 11th-annual event in Veterans Memorial Park in Kasson.
Seven groups of recovering folks came out to enjoy softball, food and fellowship. The main goal is sobriety, “but the second one is to have fun, and to more or less train your mind in doing things that are positive in nature, that focus on recovery in the community,” said Joe Vogel, coordinator of the Olmsted County Drug Court.
“This is what the recovery community needs, social events like this in the community, the opportunity to do proactive, fun things, and that’s what we’re here for,” he said.
The first SoberFest included drug court participants from Dodge and Wabasha counties – the only such courts in the Third Judicial District at the time, Dodge County Drug Court coordinator Eric Thompson said.
Now they also come from Olmsted, Rice and Winona counties, and the joint Steele/ Waseca county drug court, plus Minnesota Adult and Team Challenge, a residential treatment facility in Rochester. Five teams competed Saturday in the big single- elimination softball tournament, won by the Team Challenge.
“Everybody’s here today and we’re all having a good time, showing everybody that they can have fun in a sober environment,” Thompson said. “They’re also here to give back to the community, to show that recovery is happening right here in Dodge County – in fact, all over this part of the state.”
“Our participants have come back, talked about it for months,” said Nicole Grams, Steele/Waseca drug court coordinator. “It’s a great opportunity for everyone to come out here and enjoy recreation and free time in recovery, with one another.” Participants also enjoyed a pork lunch catered by Erdman’s Supermarket, and a ra e featuring prizes donated by local businesses and individuals.
The grand prize: tickets to a Minnesota Twins baseball game, with seating in the Legends Club, near home plate at Target Field in Minneapolis. The annual Community Service award also was presented Saturday.
“I think that’s what’s so rewarding about working in the drug court environment is, we see a lot of success,” Thompson said. “I think a lot more success, probably, than is seen in the average probation setting. And it’s good to see these people who I’ve seen the jail environment, come out, get healthy, get happy. It’s a pleasure, frankly, to provide an opportunity like this for them.”
Recovery is a community effort, said Anthony Villerreal, a Team Challenge and drug court graduate who now manages the Teen Challenge’s long-term program, “and this gives them the opportunity to see that there are other things they can do, outside of abusing.”
“I think it’s all right,” said Darrell Luce, a member of the Olmsted County Drug Court softball team. “It’s a good place to be.”