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Cloquet goes big for Labor Day

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What’s the recipe for a successful Labor Day in Cloquet?

Equal parts safe working conditions and fair wages, a pinch of politics and plenty of advance preparation.

Longtime Carlton County Labor Day organizer Mike Kuitu added one more very important ingredient: “The best volunteers money can’t buy.”

The Carlton County Labor Day Celebration endeavors to honor and recognize the labor of all by holding its 97th Annual Labor Day Celebration in Cloquet.

It’s an important holiday, Kuitu said.

“The struggles of labor still aren’t being brought forward. This is an event for people to talk about that,” the former Central Labor Body president said. “It’s also a time to remember where we came from. The whole celebration was set up to appease some of the labor activists back in the 1800s, to give them a holiday of their own. They fought for things like the eight-hour day and the right to have unions. Increasingly there are people in the world who don’t think workers should collectively band together to bargain with their employers.”

He admitted that most folks are there for fun and community more than talk of labor issues though, and that’s OK.

Expect to see plenty of familiar faces and some visitors Monday, as Cloquet holds the largest Labor Day parade in the Northland and also one of the longest continually held Labor Day parades in the entire country.

The holiday festivities begin early on Sunday with the Old Timers Banquet at noon at the Cloquet National Guard Armory, and wrap up that evening with the “Light Up The Night” 5K Glow Run/Walk at Washington Elementary School. Monday starts with another run, the 8:30 a.m. Blue House Orphanage Fun Run at Pine Valley Park. In addition to the 11 a.m. parade — definitely the highpoint of a lot of great events — there’s a community picnic at noon, a car show downtown from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and free festivities at Pinehurst Park from noon to 5 p.m. (the usual location in Veterans Park is currently under construction).

Kuitu said the Pinehurst Park location was suggested by committee member Kevin Boedigheimer — who also came up with the new “Sawdust Scramble” — and will be a central location easy for people to see and walk to.

“When we were growing up, the carnival was held at Pinehurst many times,” Kuitu said. “So it’s kind of a nostalgia trip for those of us who grew up here.”

Details of the various Labor Day holiday weekend activities follow:

SUNDAY, SEPT. 4

Noon: Old Timers Banquet

This free luncheon, to be held at the Cloquet National Guard Armory, is for people 62 years of age or older and have lived in Carlton County for at least 10 years. Doors open at 11 a.m. Prizes will be awarded to the least youngest man, the least youngest woman, the longest married couple, and for presentation of the oldest Cloquet or Carlton County Labor Day button. Also, there will be a prize awarded for a mystery category. There will be drawings for other prizes as well. There will be music by renowned polka legend Lorren Lindevig.  

8 p.m. “Light Up The Night” 5K Glow Run/Walk  

This event is run and organized by Sarah Kulig, a Washington Elementary school teacher. The official route will begin and end at the Washington Elementary parking lot. Our Savior’s Lutheran Church is allowing race entrants to use their parking lots for the evening. This is a family event and strollers are welcome. Prizes will be awarded for most illuminated, best neon, and best team costume. Registration fees are $25 for ages 13 and up, $15 for ages 12 and under, and free for children 4 and under with a paid adult entry (but will not receive an official race bag, T-shirt, or bib number). Proceeds from this fundraiser support Washington Elementary enrichment programs and the Backpack Food program in Cloquet. Register online at lightupthenight5k.wee-bly.com/ or same-day registration begins at 6 p.m. in front of Washington Elementary. For more information, contact Kulig at skulig@isd94.org  

LABOR DAY, MONDAY, SEPT. 5  

8:30 a.m. — The 5.5K and 11K Blue House Orphanage Fun Run

This event at Pine Valley Park in Cloquet is organized and run by Tim Krohn, an international runner from Cloquet. Proceeds from this run will help fund the Blue House Orphanage in Uganda. For more information or to register for the run, visit

http://www.hopemultipurpose.org/ or call Tim Krohn at 218-341-1415.

10 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Car Show

This classic car show will be located on Avenue C  between 12th and 14th streets, and on 13th Street between Cloquet Avenue and Avenue B. It is organized and run by Cloquet resident Mike Tillman and sponsored by Duluth-Superior Trophy and Awards. Roughly 100 classic cars from all over Minnesota typically enter this show. There is a $5 entry fee for show cars. To enter a vehicle, enter on 13th Street off Avenue B. Awards include a Bronze Eagle for the Bob Oswold Memorial Award. Awards are voted on by registered participants. Profits from the car show food wagon will go to charity. For more information, call Mike Tillman at 218-390-9825.

11 a.m. — Parade

Cloquet Mayor Dave Hallback is the Grand Marshall of the 2016 Cloquet Labor Day Parade. Mayor Hallback will join with current Carlton County Central Labor Body President Tamara Jones and Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy on the Carlton County Central Labor Body parade float.

The parade begins at 11 a.m. Monday and follows the usual Cloquet Avenue route from 18th Street to Eighth.  

The parade will feature several bands, including the Cloquet Community Band, the Duluth Scottish Heritage Pipes and Drum and the Spirit Valley Drum and Bugle Corps. Fan favorites Adam Bailey and friends and staff from The Lumberjack Lounge are also registered for the parade, although Bailey is also registered as a city council candidate, so expect to be surprised … as usual. There will be floats, the Range Motor Patrol, dignitaries and community and area labor organizations along with businesses and workers proudly displaying their professions.

Parade participants must register to receive a lineup position by calling Mike Kuitu at 218-391-6367 or emailing mikekuitu@msn.com by Saturday, Sept. 3.

Noon to 2 p.m. — Community Picnic

This free picnic, open to all, will be held upstairs of the Cloquet Labor Temple, 1403 Avenue C, and begins right after the parade. Service will end at 2 p.m.

Noon to 5 p.m. — Carnival

Free entertainment for youngsters of all ages will be set up in Pinehurst Park in Cloquet. This “home grown” event will feature a petting zoo, inflatable amusement rides, face painting, Army National Guard rock climbing wall and a folk singer who will conduct sing-alongs and maypole dances. There will also be a "Sawdust Scramble" for $100 in coins at 1:30 p.m. for ages 5-10 and 3 p.m. for ages 11-15. Various vendors will also attend.

“The Carlton County Labor Day Celebration wishes to thank the many generous community-minded businesses, area labor organizations and community organizations for their monetary donations that fund our Labor Day Celebration,” Kuitu said. “Without all of this financial support we could not continue to offer most of our events for free and open to the public.”

Small monetary donations from individuals still help defray the cost of the event, and Labor Day buttons, designed by Justin Oswold, are available for the minimum donation of $2, usually at the Labor Temple during the community picnic.  

As in recent years, there will be no fireworks displayed by the Carlton County Labor Day Celebration this year.