The absolute, hands-down, no-doubt-about-it best part of my job is all the wonderful people I meet.

Quite often (far too often, actually), I get bogged down on my computer checking email, organizing the next edition of the newspaper and other projects, learning how to help keep our website relevant and keeping up with a lot of technical changes going on right now within our company.

Recently, it was refreshing to reconnect with the community in several different ways.

We love when readers send us story ideas, especially when those ideas come far enough in advance for us to plan. That’s just what Pequot Lakes resident Joanne Eickhoff did when she alerted me that her best friend of 85 years would be visiting her, and perhaps that would be an interesting story.

Of course I agreed, and Joanne was kind enough to keep in touch so we could plan an afternoon for me to go to her home when her friend was here. They were so delightful to talk to, and they had such fun sharing the story of their many years of friendship. I thoroughly enjoyed an afternoon talking to them and looking at scrapbooks Joanne had from so many years ago.

Another story idea came from Matthew Hill, Nisswa parks and recreation director, who suggested the free Thurlow T-ball summer program might be interesting since the daughters of that program’s founder have been running the summer session ever since their dad died.

Like most people in Nisswa, I know the Thurlow sisters and their mom, Mimi. I took on the assignment, and it turned out to be much more fun than I had anticipated. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed my night at Thurlow T-ball, as well as talking to Maggie, Jackie and Lizzy.

Most recently, a story about a 71-year-old water ski enthusiast (check out page A2 in this edition of the Echo Journal) took me to Ron and Lisa Engblom’s home on Lake Ossawinnamakee. I had been there once before to interview Ron for this story, which was published first in our Love of the Lakes magazine in May. I told Ron I wanted to run the story in the Echo Journal as well, and would return this summer to take photos of him and his friends water skiing.

I spent a beautiful early morning in the ski boat taking photos and videos. Afterward, the Engbloms hosted breakfast at their home for me and their friends. I know journalists aren’t supposed to take gifts from their sources for fear it might skew a story, but that definitely wasn’t the case here. (Truly, I don’t know that that’s ever been the case in stories I’ve done on people.)

Pure kindness and camaraderie are the reasons Ron and Lisa wanted to make breakfast for us, and again, I so enjoyed the casual conversation that defined the whole morning.

In one month, I met or reconnected with all these wonderful people.

One more assignment worth noting pertains to the recently concluded Pequot Lakes Community Theater play, “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.” If you didn't attend one of the nine performances, you really did miss a spectacular production. I took photos at a rehearsal, where I saw most of the first act. My daughter and I then attended a show, which we both loved.

Every aspect of this show was phenomenal - the singing and dancing and acting, the colorful costumes and sets, and more. The talent we have in the Brainerd lakes area is astounding.

I have one more thought to share. I absolutely cannot believe how much attention I received - from near and far - after being crowned this year’s Queen Bean at Pequot Lakes’ Bean Hole Days. A frequent question was, just how does one get crowned and what does it mean?

My best answer is, you’ll have to come to Bean Hole Days next July to find out.