Brainerd or Baxter?
That was the question put forth at the Brainerd City Council Monday night as it pertained to the traditional 4th of July parade and celebration with the answer being, “Together they are a community.”
With that, the council denied Jaycees group’s proposal to bring the parade back in to Brainerd. The council members were split 3-3 on the issue, with members Lucy Nesheim, Bonnie Cumberland and Bob Olson voting in favor of having the Jaycees bring the parade back to Brainerd, while Mary Koep, Kevin Goedker and Dale Parks voted against it.
Mayor James Wallin was left with the deciding vote, choosing to keep the parade in Baxter for this year and in Brainerd Community Action’s hands.
“I want to start by thanking both groups for trying to make this parade happen,” said Wallin. “It’s a difficult and emotional decision but I want to thank Baxter for stepping up to the plate and I know that when they say it will only be for one year, they mean it, so I am going to vote no.”
A celebration historically held in Brainerd, Brainerd Community Action announced its plans to cancel the annual parade on April 12.
Following the cancelation, Brainerd Community Action approached the Baxter City Council to host, approved by council members on April 30, with the Baxter parade route set to run along Clearwater Road, Golf Course Drive, south to Excelsior Road and then north on Cypress Drive before cutting back to Clearwater Road and essentially circling the southern half of the former Pine Meadows Golf Course.
Discouraged that a Fourth of July parade wouldn’t be in downtown Brainerd this summer, Brainerd Jaycees began researching an alternative after first learning the traditional parade was canceled. In its letter in the city of Brainerd May 6, the Jaycees said: “We strongly urge the council to encourage Brainerd Community Action to cancel the parade and let the Jaycees run the 4th of July Parade in downtown Brainerd.”
The Jaycees reported they contacted the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Crow Wing County and Brainerd city officials about downtown parade routes and secured tentative permission, if the city approved, to temporarily detour South Sixth Street traffic during a parade down 13th Street. The county provided permission to use their parking lot for parade staging, the Jaycees reported. The proposal called for a parade route that starts on Laurel Street at South Second Street, goes east to South Fifth Street and then south to Norwood Street, east to South Eighth Street, north to Front Street and west to South Sixth Street.
Representatives from Jaycees, Brainerd Community Action and Baxter City Council were on hand to speak their side of the issue that drew out the masses to City Hall Monday night.
Henry Praska, representing Jaycees, addressed council first, explaining that Jaycees attempted to form communication with Brainerd Community Action to keep the parade in Brainerd. Communication, Praska said, that was not returned.
“We have not had any communication with Brainerd Community Action since a meeting, which left us (Jaycees) with more questions than ever, on April 26,” said Praska. “After seeing that the parade was going to be held in Baxter, Jaycees applied for the (parade) permit.
“The reason Jaycees feels so passionately about this is because this event has been in Brainerd for years. The citizen’s cherish it and we (Jaycees) have been encouraged to save this event because it means so much. This (proposed) site works. Call it an economic impact or a financial impact, but mostly, call it a community celebration, where people can be out to Brainerd.”
The lack of communication from Brainerd Community Action was troublesome for city council members as well.
“One thing that bothers me is the communication on this,” said council member Dale Parks. “It seems you (Brainerd Community Action) started planning two years ago and yet the city council wasn’t notified but instead found out about the canceling and relocation of the parade in the paper.
“It doesn’t sound right and it doesn’t seem right and it really bothers me.”
Brainerd Community Action member Chris Ford agreed that the communication on all fronts could have been clearer, but stood by the reasoning for moving the parade to Baxter, stressing safety remained priority when choosing a location.
“The biggest thing I want to let the council and the public know is that none of this was shortsighted or reactionary,” Ford said. “This is a temporary fix and as we started exploring options, the criteria we kept in mind was keeping the route safe and upon looking at all of the options, Baxter location would provide a safer location.”
Baxter City Council member Jim Klein spoke to council, ensuring that having the parade and fireworks held in Baxter was in no way to try and take away something from Brainerd.
"We did this as a service to help our sister city (Brainerd) out," Klein said. "And we have no plans to extend having this (parade) beyond this one year. It's a Fourth of July celebration that we want to see continue and if we can help out in anyway then fine."
And with the Baxter's willingness to help, Koep said it further proves the sense of community that the two towns of Brainerd and Baxter share.
"We have two groups who want to have a parade here," Koep said. "And I think our job here is to be community builders, not community dividers and that is the thing that bothers me is that I see this (parade) as a divider of Baxter and Brainerd.
"I think we need to take this opportunity to share in the community that we both are and not have it divide us."