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Sparks will fly, but no parades

Tower and Ely cancel Fourth of July parades

Jodi Summit and Keith Vandervort
Posted 6/3/20

TOWER- At least there will be fireworks. But there will be no Fourth of July parade this year. There will be outdoor food and drinks at Main Street businesses, plans for live music, and hopefully a …

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Sparks will fly, but no parades

Tower and Ely cancel Fourth of July parades


TOWER- At least there will be fireworks. But there will be no Fourth of July parade this year. There will be outdoor food and drinks at Main Street businesses, plans for live music, and hopefully a nice show of patriotic community support for this year’s Fourth of July.
At the Tower-Soudan Lake Vermilion Events Board meeting on Monday, the committee voted 7-2 to cancel the parade.
“This is such a painful vote,” said committee chair Julie Johnson.
“At least one-third of the parade is already out,” said Johnson. “No marching bands, no color guard, no kiddie parade, no Shriners, no school or church floats, no politicians, and no Miss Embarrass…”
Tower has traditionally hosted one of the finest small town Fourth of July parades in northeastern Minnesota.
“People have supported the Fourth of July for so many years,” said committee member Lori Tomsich, who was clearly heartbroken at the idea of having to cancel the parade.
“I really want to commend this committee,” said Tower Mayor Orlyn Kringstad, “but we don’t know where we will be come July. We need to act on the side of caution.”
The committee is hoping that Tower-Soudan and Lake Vermilion residents and summer visitors will still show their Fourth of July spirit. The committee voted to purchase over 700 small flags to give away, and they will be encouraging area families to submit photos of their Fourth of July decorating, decorated boats, children’s floats and decorated bikes to be published online and in The Timberjay. Businesses will be encouraged to decorate their buildings. The committee also discussed the idea of having fire trucks and police cars drive around town on July 4, sirens wailing, and also having churches ring their bells and the two towns both sound their warning siren to commemorate the holiday.
The committee voted to go with Pyrotechnic Display for fireworks this year. The company will also be doing the fireworks for Virginia, Gilbert, and Aurora. The company handles the complete show from design, purchasing fireworks, to running the electronically-controlled display, including the cost of insurance liability. The display is expected to be a non-stop show with aerial shells, specialty pattern aerial shells, candles, comets, mines, whistles and multi-effect items that will last 20 minutes.
“The grand finale of every traditional display is created to paint the sky with a kaleidoscope of color and noise,” they wrote.
The Tower Fire Department has traditionally handled the fireworks and has raised money to cover the cost with their charitable gambling. But this year the department does not have anyone who is certified to run the show; and in addition, the tubes used to light the fireworks were damaged, and many need to be replaced. Tower Fire Chief Paige Olson is planning to be certified, but won’t have her certification until next summer, committee members reported.
The parade cancellation comes on the heels of the cancellation of many other traditional Fourth events, such as the Breitung Community Picnic, the pancake breakfast, kiddie parade, sawdust scramble and children’s races, and Fourth of July 5K and 10K run.
The committee is tentatively planning to hold an outdoor Harbor-palooza event in mid-August, if safety guidelines can be met. This would include a boat parade, live music, games or races, outdoor food, and more. The committee will hold its next meeting on July 13.

Ely council nixes grassroots effort to hold unsanctioned celebration

ELY – Any Fourth of July celebration here is off for this year due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus and large gatherings.
The city council Tuesday night accepted a memo from the Ely Fourth of July Committee canceling festivities this year.
A grassroots effort to circumvent that decision was also stopped in its tracks.
The committee memo stated, “The Ely Fourth of July Committee has been closely monitoring the continually-evolving situation around COVID-19. Ely’s Fourth of July parade draws thousands of people each year. Because of the uncertainty around what the coming months will hold for large gatherings and health and safety recommendations, we have made the decision to cancel Ely’s 2020 Fourth of July parade. The Fireworks by Premier Pyrotechnics will still go on the night of the Fourth. This has been a very tough choice as Ely’s Fourth of July Parade is always a highlight of the summer. We hope next year we can have a bigger and better celebration.”
Council member Al Forsman noted that “scuttlebutt around the community” indicated an effort was in the works to conduct a rogue celebration. “They want to know the council’s take on this and whether it would be allowed if they wanted to move forward on their own,” Forsman said.
Mayor Chuck Novak confirmed that he, along with Ely Deputy City Clerk Casey Velcheff, also the Fourth of July Committee chair, received an email on Tuesday requesting the council take a position on a separate committee planning their own celebration in the city.
Novak did not reveal the source of the email. The Timberjay confirmed that the author of the email is the publisher of an Ely-based newspaper and printing company.
“I would offer this,” Novak said, “we have some rules out of St. Paul that we have to adhere to. I’m not sure that MnDOT would allow a permit for a parade on the Fourth of July. But the driving force here is that we have a lot of boards and commissions and the council has to beg for volunteers sometimes. These volunteers put their heart and soul in and wrangle with having to make this type of decision. I’m not in any mood to override their decision. The only parade on the Iron Range this year is in Eveleth. Everyone else said no. I’m going to respect our committee’s decision.”
Novak said that in addition to approval from MnDOT for having a parade on the state highway right of way, the city of Ely would need to agree to issuing a permit for any event held in the city.
Council member Heidi Omerza said the Fourth of July Committee has struggled to find volunteers. “I find it very interesting that when we cancel the event, people are, all of a sudden, coming in wanting to take over and have a parade. I question the validity of this group of people,” she said.
Forsman added, “It hurts me that there won’t be a Fourth of July parade this year.”


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