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Albert Lea sparkled during July Fourth celebrations

By Linda Evenson

Photos courtesy of Freeborn County Historical Museum

In 1885, a local newspaper declared, “the grand anniversary of American Independence is at hand.”  That July Fourth, the city woke early to the boom of a cannon followed by firecrackers. A parade formed at the courthouse, went up Broadway to Water Street and then west several blocks.  Marching in the parade were members of the Robson Post of the Grand Army of the Republic. Later in the day, several races were held. Many competed in the foot, potato, sack and wheelbarrow races.  In the heat of the afternoon, a baseball game between Mankato and Albert Lea was played. The 2,000 people in attendance witnessed only four innings before the Mankato club was compelled to take the 5 o’clock train home. The score was 5 to 4 in favor of the visitors. The day closed with a display of fireworks on the baseball grounds and the firemen’s ball at the skating rink.

Thirty years later, July Fourth fell on Sunday. City festivities were held on Monday, July 5, 1915. Stores were closed but the restaurants and saloons had a thriving business. People enjoyed the two baseball games, a carnival, the Broadway theater and several public dances. Three bands performed throughout the day. Flags and pennants were draped from buildings and across Broadway, creating an inspiring sight.