Fourth crowd is red, white and huge
Weather threatened, but was no match for parade, park activities and sports events
July 7, 2023
It was the Cloquet Fourth of July redemption tour, after being diminished by the pandemic, then kicked in the knees by Mother Nature last year. No more, said the people, in spite of a little afternoon rain.
They came out in droves. Runners and walkers headed to Pinehurst Park for the Sawdust 5K and then a 1-mile race down the parade route. People of all ages lined Cloquet Avenue for the annual July Fourth parade, several rows deep in places, kids with bags and buckets ready to be filled with candy. The 10-block-long parade honored the local and very active Disabled American Veterans group as Grand Marshals, and featured all kinds of businesses, organizations and community groups, a group of avid classic car owners, a giant buffalo and both political parties. State Representative Jeff Dotseth raced in from the Moose Lake parade as the Republican party float just started to roll, second to last in the parade.
It was the last July Fourth parade for Purity, a service dog who has been a part of the Cloquet Combined Honor Guard with her owner Captain Scott Sutherland. The white German Shepherd will retire in January, said Sutherland.
Many paradegoers made their way straight to Veterans Park following the parade, where the focus was family-friendly fun, with free bounce houses, face painting, magic, train rides, balloon animals, pie eating, and helicopters, which provided aerial tours all day long, flying over the city and the nearby St. Louis River.
Although forecasters had been predicting bad weather for days, the rains were moderate and held off until later in the afternoon. More importantly, they didn't include lightning.
The size of the crowd was a double-edged sword, with long lines for food, face painting and inflatables at peak times, but people seemed to enjoy themselves all day long.
"It wasn't a perfect day, but we'll take it," co-coordinator Jana Peterson said. "I think people really enjoyed being out and spending the day together. There was a really great vibe, from the parade to the park to the fireworks."
The annual car show at the Northeastern Hotel and Saloon also rebounded from about a dozen cars in the rain last year to dozens of cars this year, with plenty of car aficionados there to enjoy and vote for their favorite vehicles.
While the people celebrated, others went about the business of keeping everyone safe and entertained. Employees of J&M Displays set up the many fireworks, city workers parked their dump trucks at the end of the parade route to block any distracted drivers, scouts buried quarters and emptied trash, and all the different parts of the day happened, mostly on time and successfully.
Co-coordinator Ivan Hohnstadt was relieved by the volunteer turnout this year, especially for set-up the day before and tear-down the day after.
"It was great to see the community support and get the help to make this happen," he said. "I was very appreciative of everyone who stepped up. And the boy scouts were amazing."
Police were called for at least two fights between two groups of young women, and the alleged theft of a golf cart turned out to be a Country Club employee being vigilant and not a theft at all.
It was a day to remember, especially for Amber Snyder and A.J. House, who got engaged Tuesday, right before they came down to the park.
They won't forget their engagement date, said Amber, flashing a shiny new diamond ring.
The crowd ebbed at dinnertime and rebounded for the movie in the park, DreamWorks' "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish," which competed with private fireworks going off across the city in advance of the main show over the river at 10:25.
Folks were packing up and heading home by 11 p.m., another Fourth of July in the books.
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