Off to the carnival!

Published 2:11 pm Saturday, July 3, 2010

Albert Lea’s Fourth of July weekend got off to a strong start in the historic downtown Thursday and Friday with Crazy Days, a classic car show and a carnival.

Crazy Days, typically held later in July, was moved up a few weeks to take advantage of the number of people in the downtown for the Fourth of July weekend, said Tami Staker, owner of Celebrations Party & Gifts and part of the Albert Lea Downtown Association.

“I think the downtown got a lot of visibility,” Staker said. “And that’s just as important as what was sold.”

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During Crazy Days, many store owners bring products out from their store to the sidewalks and there are numerous sales.

Staker said there was a high turnout Thursday, especially, with a lot of people visiting Albert Lea from out of town. Vendors were also outside selling snacks.

She anticipated Saturday to be a big day as well.

Linda Knudsen, owner of Plymouth Shoes and a member of the Downtown Association, summed up the weekend like this: “There’s been great weather and lots of people running around.”

“I’m glad we did it this weekend,” Knudsen said. “It’s turned out to be a great Crazy Days.”

The classic car show, sponsored by the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau and the American Legion Leo Carey Post 56, had 28 participants. People walking through the show on North Broadway Avenue, between Fountain Street and Water Street, could vote on their top two favorites.

“We asked, what could we do to keep people here?” said Albert Lea CVB Director Susie Petersen.

Merriam’s Midway Carnival was setting up a carnival in the North Broadway Avenue parking lot on Friday afternoon and was open in the evening, so there would already be people coming to the downtown for that.

Plus, with how the old car cruises and car shows have been so successful in Albert Lea in the past, the two organizations decided to give the new show a try.

“It brings families together,” Petersen said. “That’s what the Fourth is about.”

Coming in with a first-place tie were Larry Wangen with his 1966 Pontiac GTO and Cobb Knutson with his 1931 Ford Deluxe Roadster.

Second place went to Larry Hopkey with his 1967 Chevy Corvette.

Petersen said 199 people cast ballots, and every car entered received a first-place vote.

The winners received either an automobile detail kit sponsored by the American Legion or a reward card from Sanderson Auto, which included free or reduced oil changes, free tire rotation, money off a set of tires and a reduction in service costs.

Organizers hope the event grows in upcoming years.

Allen Kaderabek and Roger Wessels were two of several people walking around at the event Friday night. They said they voted for the Ford Roadster.

They said they go to a lot of the classic car shows and car cruises that various car clubs sponsor over the years, and they were glad about the show this weekend.

“You’re going to draw more people in here,” Wessels said. “Albert Lea is one of the most beautiful cities.”

Right next to the car show in the North Broadway Avenue parking lot was Merriam’s Midway Carnival, which opened Friday at 5 p.m. next to the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center. This is the second year for the carnival, which includes rides for children, teenagers and adults, along with other games.

The carnival will continue through Sunday at 11 p.m.

Events planned for Saturday include the Albert Lea Farmers Market, Crazy Days, the carnival, a Pelican Breeze public cruise, and, of course, the annual Third of July Parade.

On Sunday, the Legion Club has scheduled a breakfast starting at 8 a.m., and the Wedgewood Cove Golf Club will host a horserace golf event. The event starts  at 8:30 a.m. with a shotgun start.

The Bayside Skiers will present their annual Fourth of July Ski Show at 2 p.m. Sunday, the annual Fourth of July Organ Blast will be at the United Methodist Church at 4 p.m., and the Albert Lea Community Band will play from 8 to 9 p.m. at Fountain Lake Park.

Fireworks are scheduled for dusk Sunday over Fountain Lake.