It was 400 years ago this November that the Pilgrims gathered with members of the Wampanoag tribe for the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Much like the Pilgrims and Native Americans of 1621, Americans today are emerging from a tough period and are ready for a celebration.

When Thanksgiving 2020 approached, America faced a major resurgence of COVID-19. This threat raised pandemic concerns, canceled travel plans and found many families avoiding their traditional Thanksgiving family gathering due to concerns for vulnerable grandparents and other family members.

The year 2021 was filled with challenges, and yet west central Minnesota navigated the continued coronavirus pandemic fairly well.

Thus, there is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

  • Come Thursday, many family members will be vaccinated and most families are planning to gather for a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci is planning to gather with his family for a holiday dinner. This is good.

  • The vaccination rate is growing at all levels. More than 90% of federal workers have had a vaccine shot by Thanksgiving week. In Minnesota, the vaccination rate is growing in most counties.

  • Minnesota's economy is holding its own in 2021. The state added jobs for the seventh straight month with the state's unemployment rate dropping to 3.5% in October, which is a full 1.3% ahead of the national jobless rate.

  • Minnesota farmers and agribusiness, especially in west central Minnesota, continue to supply an abundance of food and contribute a significant impact to the local and state economies.

  • America's armed forces remaining on guard this holiday weekend. They and their families continue their sacrifice every day to protect our nation's security and your freedom.

  • The U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights continue to protect every individual's right to freedom of speech as well as religion. Every American on Thursday can pray to the God of their choice, or not, if they so choose.

  • Every shopper on Thanksgiving weekend is free to choose where they shop. This year, especially with the supply-chain challenges of 2021, is a good year to shop locally for your holiday gift-giving.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

For all we have to be thankful for, there is still a need for caution during the coming holiday season.

As America celebrates this holiday weekend, it should be noted that many Native Americans do not consider Thanksgiving to be a happy holiday. Since 1970, the Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts has declared Thanksgiving to be a national day of mourning for the loss of Indigenous people's lives, culture and land.

Despite improving vaccination rates, Minnesota currently is experiencing one of the nation's worst COVID-19 outbreaks due to multiple factors. A major concern is that one-third of the Minnesota population remains unvaccinated. We continue to encourage individuals to get vaccinated for the sake of your loved ones.

Health experts warn that if you are traveling, or don't know the vaccination status of family members with whom you are gathering, then it is important to wear a mask for the safety of others and yourself.

While the vast majority of coronavirus-related deaths are among unvaccinated individuals, the threat of breakthrough coronavirus can still be a problem. So please get your booster shot and wear a mask, which remains the best way to minimize the risk to you and your family.

Due to the COVID-19 concerns, many people are driving on this Thanksgiving weekend. This, combined with distracted driving, drunken drivers and the onset of winter-driving conditions, can lead to highway accidents and deaths. So stay focused on the road and arrive safely.

Overall, Thanksgiving of 2021 remains a good time to celebrate life, family and our collective future.

On this Thanksgiving holiday, may your travels bring you close to your family with good food and memories. The West Central Tribune wishes a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

This Tribune Opinion editorial is the opinion of the West Central Tribune editorial board, consisting of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan. You may comment by emailing: opinion@wctrib.com.