A look back at former Independence Day parades in Albert Lea

Published 8:18 pm Thursday, July 2, 2020

Parades have been an important part of Albert Lea’s Independence Day celebrations for many years, with evidence of parades taking place even back in the 1880s, according to records from the Freeborn County Historical Museum.

Albert Lea’s traditional Third of July Parade was canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the past has brought thousands of people into the community to watch youth groups, businesses, churches, politicians and nonprofits take to the streets on patriotic floats or by foot.

An especially large parade took place in the city for the nation’s bicentennial Independence Day celebration on July 3, 1976, and ran from Hayek Field to the fairgrounds, along Clark Street and Bridge Avenue, an article in The Evening Tribune on June 29, 1976, stated. The parade and many other events happening that year were sponsored by the Albert Lea Jaycees.

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Trophies were awarded in three categories: best float, best band and best marching unit with a youth, organization, commercial and governmental entry chosen for each category.

In 1984, Bidney Bergie, who was known as “Mr. History,” was named grand marshal of the parade. Bergie was recognized for his many contributions in life in Albert Lea and his appreciation of its historical heritage.  He had a collection of slides of scenes from the past and was heavily involved in the Freeborn County Historical Museum.

Parades in recent years have been sponsored by the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce and also recognize a grand marshal each year of a person or group of people who have impacted the community.