Activity fills city’s early holiday bash

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 2, 2003

The Independence Day celebration is getting an early start in Albert Lea.

The Albert Lea Jaycees’ parade kicks off the celebration at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The parade runs from the fairgrounds south on Bridge Avenue to Fountain Street, west on Fountain Street to St. Mary Avenue and south on St. Mary to Central Park.

According to Tom Jones, parade co-chairman, 144 units are expected in the parade. &uot;That’s the second-largest to my knowledge,&uot; Jones said. &uot;Last year was the largest ever.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

Jones said there are 35 to 40 units that haven’t been in the parade before. &uot;We lost some, but we picked quite a few up,&uot; he said.

The organizers estimate that more than 20,000 spectators turn out to watch the parade. &uot;We also have over 2,000 participants,&uot; Jones added.

Of particular interest to spectators will be the Wells Fargo stage coach. Wells Fargo actually arrived in Albert Lea behind the rushing locomotives of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad in 1909. Agent H.K. Taylor offered Wells Fargo’s financial and delivery services from 130 W. Clark St., currently the site of Four Seasons Travel.

The Minnesota Over-60 Band will be back in the parade again this year, and will give a free concert before the parade in New Denmark Park at 4 p.m. The band, based in Gaylord, had its start in 1953, when the Sibley County Senior Citizens were invited to exhibit their hobbies at the annual meeting. Then-Mayor Otto Zarnott was going to show his baritone horn and the thought came to mind, &uot;Why not blow them instead of show them,&uot; and he organized some of his friends to play a few numbers. The group was first known as the Sibley County Senior Citizens Hobby Band, then changed its name to the Minnesota Over-60 Band when a large portion of the membership started coming from outside Sibley County.

Now in its 50th year of existence, the Minnesota Over-60 Band performs 30-35 parades and concerts each summer in locations throughout the state. Bill Vosler of Albert Lea is a member.

Other bands coming to the parade are the Albert Lea, United South Central and Glenville-Emmons marching bands, as well as the Schell’s World-Famous Hobo Band.

Jones said KATE Radio will be playing patriotic music beginning at 6 p.m., and &uot;The Star Spangled Banner&uot; will be played just before 6:30. At its conclusion, the parade will begin. The station plans to broadcast the parade, Jones added.

Judging of the parade units will take place on Bridge Avenue in front of Zion Lutheran Church.

The grand marshal is Al Christensen, a Marine who has just returned from serving in Iraq. Korean veterans are being honored in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

While many units will be handing out candy, a few will be asking for donations. The Salvation Army’s food shelf is low, so people are being asked to bring non-perishable food donations. Albert Lea Firefighters are asking spectators to help them &uot;fill the boot&uot; with donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Cub Scout Pack 72 and Crossroads Evangelical Free Church, numbers 16 and 17 in the parade, will hand out bags approximately 5,000 bags for people to use to dispose of their trash, Jones said, adding there will be five rolling Dumpsters along the route.

&uot;Hopefully people will pick up after themselves,&uot; he said.

The parade was changed from July 4 to July 3 a number of years ago in an effort to get more bands in the parade.

&uot;It also works out well because it gives people an opportunity to come from other areas and attend their own hometown celebrations as well,&uot; Jones said.

Following the parade, George Marin and Todd Utpadel will give a concert in the Fountain Lake Park gazebo. A special offering will be received for the Prairie River Youth for Christ Camp.

The Northern Lights Amusement Carnival will be set up in downtown Albert Lea beginning in the afternoon.