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Celebrating the Fourth of July, parade style

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Paradegoers packed areas of the route for the annual Brainerd/Baxter Fourth of July parade.

The breeze, mid-70s and overcast skies made for comfortable parade watching. The sun broke through the clouds as the last parade units were returning to the staging area in time for the bands to play at the stage near the high school.

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On Laurel Street in Brainerd along the parade route, a massive flag at the Brainerd Fire Station was waving steadily in a strong southerly wind.

Before the parade started in Brainerd, people were dancing on the street to the band at the Eagles Club.

Along the parade route folks sat in areas staked and roped eight hours before the first parade unit approached. On East River Road, people kept themselves entertained by playing catch with footballs or kicking a soccer ball.

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Campers along the street gathered in large groups with barbecue grills going and tables laden with food bowls. The wind, gusting up to 26 mph, was enough to keep any mosquitoes at bay. The parade route was a little sparse along the East River Road route by the athletic field, perhaps held off by the nearby construction, which meant a change of venue for the stage and seating area this year.

For regulars and first-timers, the spot at College Drive where the parade units start as they turn on to East River Road had multiple bonuses as the place to be.

Tom Murray, 29, Brainerd, is a regular at the spot near the entrance to Kiwanis Park.

"I get to watch the whole thing twice," Murray said of the parade. "I love the Brainerd parade."

Units were still waiting to enter the parade starting area as those at the front of the parade were making their way around the roundabout behind the high school coming full circle back to Kiwanis Park.

Chelsea Kari, who was watching with Murray, moved to Brainerd two years ago from the Twin Cities.

Kari said the Brainerd High School marching band helped make the parade for her. But it was a moment with a little boy who was watching the parade across the street that nearly moved her to tears.

The little boy picked up a bag of candy and was excited it was his favorite. He brought the candy bag over to Kari and when they noted what they just overheard him say about liking the candy, the boy replied, "yeah but sharing is more important."

"Everybody here is so much nicer, but that little boy was neat," Kari said.

For a family of seven, the corner of College Drive and East River Road was also a bonus for candy.

"You get double," said first-time Brainerd paradegoer Eric Heckman. "You get candy when they are enthusiastic and when they are trying to get rid of it."

Heckman and his wife, Jonie, moved to Brainerd about a year ago and attended with their three daughters and one son - between the ages of 10 and 4. After the parade, the family expected to take in the fireworks, which they heard were extraordinary.

"We've been impressed at how patriotic the city is," Jonie Heckman said, at the Fourth of July and throughout the year.

"It's good to see patriotism and a celebration of freedom," Eric Heckman said.

The favorite parade unit for their children was the Paul Bunyanland entry of a giant Paul and his friend Babe the Blue Ox. While at least one adult on the route marveled at how many pounds could be lost by the people inside Paul and Babe who were motoring them by foot. For parade units, including a gentleman dressed as a gorilla, the cooler than expected day was its own bonus.

Nancy Cross, Brainerd Community Action executive director who coordinates the annual parade, said the parade went well and had a lot of variety.

There were tiaras in abundance as a variety of title holders graced the parade along with the traditional mix of fire trucks, politicians and horses. The combat wounded veterans unit received applause from onlookers.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who was scheduled to attend, wasn't able to be part of the Brainerd parade. Cross said she was informed by his office about an hour before the Brainerd parade's 4 p.m. start that the governor had injured his hip in an earlier parade and wouldn't be able to make it here.

"We were very pleased we were on his agenda," Cross said.

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Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
(218) 855-5852
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