Why do 3,000 North Dakotans gather annually in a Mesa park?

Valley 101 show

Summary: Before social distancing became the norm, people used to gather. We'd get together for barbecues and cocktails, catch a movie or see a concert.  But in world shaped by the coronavirus pandemic, the thought of 3,000 people from North Dakota congregating in a Mesa park seems distant. Still, that's exactly what happened on March 1.  Perhaps the largest gathering of North Dakotans outside of the state, the North Dakota picnic gives transplants like reporter Rachel Leingang the chance to reconnect with those who sound and feel like home. A first-time attendee, Leingan decided to play a game: she attempted to find an unknown relative on a Saturday morning, 1,400 miles away from her hometown.  Did her experiment work? And how did she feel afterward? Find out in this week's episode of Valley 101, a podcast from The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com. Producing the episode this week is podcast editor Katie O'Connell.