A pony, a kilt-wearing bagpiper and Uncle Sam on stilts.
Not the first things one might envision walking down a Brainerd street, but for Monday’s Fourth of July Celebration they fit right in with the festivities.
Of course, there were the standards for any parade — fire trucks from several agencies sounding their horns, politicians waving flags and shaking hands, marching bands keeping time, pageant winners waving from cars and Color Guards receiving salutes.
And, as it has for the past several years, the weather cooperated with sunny skies, near 90-degree temperatures and just enough of a breeze to keep things cool.
“I’m in charge of the weather today. It’s all because of me,” said Nancy Cross, director of Brainerd Community Action, the group that puts on the annual Fourth of July celebration, while preparing to get the parade started. “I take full credit.”
In fact, Cross said with the exception of rain the first five years she has been involved in the event, the weather for the Fourth of July has always been “absolutely gorgeous.”
Still, the shady spots were at a premium along the parade route. People looked for any protection they could find — trees, umbrellas, canopy tents and even the shadows of buildings. Winds of 12 to 15 mph also helped stave off the heat.
“This wind is saving everybody’s life,” one man was heard saying as he walked down East River Road to find a spot to watch the parade.
Linda and Dave Bartylla have been traveling from Staples to Brainerd for the Fourth of July parade for more than 10 years. Dave Bartylla said they always pick the same spot — under a tree on East River Road not far from Laurel Street.
“It’s usually pretty hot and anything is better than being in the direct sun,” Dave Bartylla said. “And it’s brutal today.”
The Bartyllas only stay for the parade. And even though the parade is only about an hour long, the trip from Staples is still worth it, Dave Bartylla said.
“I just love the Brainerd parade,” Dave Bartylla said. “There’s a lot of people and it’s a lot of fun”. The only negative, he said, is that the Crosby Bar no longer enters a float, which often were elaborate shows. That sentiment was shared by several others at the parade.
“We miss that one, too. They always put a lot of work into that,” said a Pine River man who only identified himself as Leo. Cross said the Crosby Bar stopped entering floats in Brainerd and Crosby because of safety concerns.
At the end of the parade route on College Drive, Holly Lueck and her son, Shane, sat in the shade of a canopy and waited for other family members to arrive.
Holly Lueck said her family has been picking the same spot along the parade route for years. It’s a convenient spot, she said, with a short walk to the fireworks and Kiwanis Park and bathrooms just across the street. The Lueck family stays for all the days events, which include the parade, live music and the fireworks show.
“We just enjoy spending the day with family and friends,” Holly Lueck said. “It’s the best fireworks, I swear. I don’t know how we have to outdo themselves every year but they sure seem to.”
By shortly after 10 p.m., when the fireworks began, the temperature was about 80 degrees with clouds moving in from the north where storms were reported. The fireworks lasted 22 minutes.
Political backlash over the shutdown of state government was at a minimum in the parade. Near the corner of Laurel Street and East River Road there were no boos or catcalls, but a few in the crowd did offer their opinions on the July 1 shutdown.
“I’d have a better Fourth if they did their jobs,” one man yelled back to a member of the Republican Party float who was wishing people a happy Fourth of July.
Rep. John Ward, D-Brainerd, yelled to the crowd he’d be getting back to work Tuesday morning. Ward was the only state legislator in the parade. U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., also was present, jogging up and down the street to shake hands. “Hey Chip, hang in there,” one man yelled while Cravaack ran by.
In all, there were about 90 entrants for the parade, Cross said. The cutoff is usually 120 entries, Cross said. The lower number in this year’s parade was probably due more to a cold spring and early summer than to anything else, she said.
“People were not thinking Fourth of July,” Cross said.
The size of the crowd, however, looked to be about average, Cross said. That’s what was most important to her.
“Today is a day for family, fun, laughs and to forget worries,” she said. “Our true goal is to build memories. If people walk away and say, ‘You know, this was a great Fourth of July, the kids had fun and memories were built,’ we’re successful.”
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.