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Carnival to add color to Fourth of July

For the first time in a long time, there will be carnival rides brightening the riverbank in Cloquet the weekend of July Fourth.

Barry Stipes, owner/operator of Stipes Carnival, is hoping to make that a permanent arrangement.

“We were looking for a new home for the July Fourth holiday,” said Stipes, explaining that the family-owned carnival travels over the summer months to most of the same locations every year, including the Carlton County Fair, where they have played for more than 20 years. “We heard that Cloquet has a great festival, and is a great community, so we’re hoping this will be the beginning of a long and happy relationship.”

The carnival is the icing on the cake for this year’s July Fourth Fest in Cloquet, which offers a whole day’s worth of activities for folks of all ages. Organized by a volunteer committee (which picked up a number of new members this year), the name of the game is good, clean, family-friendly (mostly free) fun.

As has been the case for the past several years, the day will begin at 8 a.m. Friday with the Sawdust 5K race at Pinehurst Park, organized by Jeff and Alyson Leno of Leno Chiropractic. The race continues to grow in popularity, not only because it allows you to eat mini-donuts later without feeling guilty, but also because of its hilly course. “Conquer the hills,” is the race motto and that’s what many people come here to do, said Jeff Leno at a recent Noontime Kiwanis meeting.

The Carlton County Farmers Market will set up at its new location in the downtown municipal parking lot, opening at 9 a.m., to give people a taste of all the local growers and artisans have to offer.

At 11 a.m., the much-loved Veterans Celebration Parade begins, featuring everything from current and veteran military members to majorettes, music, fire trucks, floats and more. Dennis “Picc” Picconatto will be the Grand Marshal. The parade route goes down Cloquet Avenue from 18th to Eighth street. (This year’s parade organizer is Suzan Desmond, and interested groups can contact her at 218-879-0701 to participate.)

As soon as the parade finishes, events kick off at Veterans Park, beginning with patriotic music by the Cloquet Community Band. On your way down, stop at the Cloquet Area Fire District station for an open house or pop into the Carlton County Historical Society for some added fun (and an accordion concert at 4 p.m.).

Activities at Veterans Park in the afternoon include the kids’ Dash for Cash at 1 p.m., bouncy castles and a blowup climbing wall, wiffleball for anyone who wants to play, face painting, skateboard demonstrations, yard games, music, pony rides — all for free — plus bingo, lots of food options and a beer tent run by the VFW.

The annual July Fourth Car Show starts at 10 a.m. at the Northeastern Bar and lasts until 2 p.m., with bands from 3-5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.. for those over age 21. “The Jury” will also play there from 9 p.m. until late on Thursday, July 3.

Walk or catch a wagon ride from Veterans Park to the car show at the Northeastern, Voyageurs Park for the carnival, or over to Pinehurst Park for fun at The Beach swimming pond, where there are more games and contests in honor of the Fourth included with admission, starting at 2 p.m.

While many of the family activities will wind down just before the supper hour so folks can go home, eat and apply bug spray, things pick up again at 7 p.m. with the free Amazing Charles Magic Show, followed by an outdoor showing of the movie “Frozen” starting between 8:30 and 8:45 p.m.

The fireworks display over the St. Louis River starts at approximately 10:10 p.m. Thousands of people traditionally attend, so come early and find the perfect spot.

Organizing committee member Jana Peterson noted that the festivities wouldn’t happen without donations from local businesses and organizations, especially Shamrock Environmental Landfill (which puts up $5,000 in matching funds for the fireworks) and the Noontime Kiwanis, which are the primary sponsors of the family activities in Veterans Park.

Peterson said the city of Cloquet has taken on a larger role this year too, by acting as the sponsoring organization for the festivities.

“The Fourth is the perfect day for everyone to come out and enjoy something together, as a community,” Peterson said. “We can celebrate democracy and the joys of living in a small town in northern Minnesota. That’s why we like to make as much free as possible, so anyone can come and have a great time with friends and family, even if they don’t have a cabin on the lake somewhere.”

To make a donation of money or to volunteer your time, leave a message for organizing committee member Barb Wyman at City Engineering at 218-879-6758.