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Fourth of July parade pulls in 30,000 people

Ashlee Weiland provides her best Fourth Of July smile during the Brainerd parade1 / 6
Reaching for the sky, children rush at catch inflatable balls shot from the DE M2 / 6
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Izack (left) and Eyan Jackson soak up the water spray from a passing parade unit4 / 6
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Everyone has their perfect method.

Some people used caution tape. Others, rope and string. A few even resorted to chalk.

Whatever the method, it paid off in order to get the perfect spot for the Fourth of July parade in Brainerd.

Robert Stevens of Baxter brought out some long rope and a camper to mark off a rectangle plot on East River Road.

For the last five years, he and his family have been setting up there. It’s the perfect view of the floats and the evening’s fireworks. Plus the ground is flat enough to grill out.

For the three generations of the Stevens family, the Fourth of July is more than just a holiday. It’s about spending quality time with loved ones. It’s also he and his wife’s anniversary.

“We just love it,” he said of the holiday. “The people walking back and forth, seeing your friends.”

And to really get the most out of the day, they needed the perfect spot. So Stevens scoped out the grassy plot about a week and a half ago. He set up the camper and rope by Sunday.

Claiming the spot is important, he said. The first year he waited until the morning of. Nowadays, spots go much faster.

Robert’s mom, Agnes Stevens, cradled her granddaughter as the parade floats went by.

“It’s family time,” she said. “My parents took me to the parade in Staples when I was a kid. It just got passed down.”

This year’s celebration was once again in its original spot, having taken a detour last year to Baxter because of the College Drive road construction project.

It was also a lot cooler during the 2013 festivities, with temperatures keeping steady in the mid-80s instead of last year’s heat index of 105 degrees.

Nancy Cross, executive director of Brainerd Community Action, which organizes the parade and fireworks, said the event went smoothly.

“It was kind of the perfect day,” she said.

Cross said there were about 80 parade floats and 30,000 people.

A few of those parade-goers started claiming their spots along the route by July 1.

“Once one person starts, there’s no controlling it,” she joked.

It’s the tradition, she said, that keeps people coming back year after year.

“Our whole goal is for families and friends to be together, to celebrate the birth of our nation and to build memories,” Cross said. “I think we do that pretty well. ...This is a day people can forget the trials and tribulations of what’s going on in life and just be with family and friends.”

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at