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July Fourth preparations lack only volunteers

VFW Sewing Group members (from left) June Lembke, Paula Burgett, Sharon Hubbell, Sandy Franke and Judy Moon stand with the large red, white and blue quilt cover they made, which will be finished and raffled off to help raise money for the Cloquet July Fourth celebrations. Tickets ($1 a chance or $5 for six tickets) will be available for purchase in the Pine Journal office and Cloquet Chamber office starting today. Jana Peterson/Pine Journal

Plans for this year's Cloquet Fourth of July celebrations nearly all "sewn up," said July Fourth committee coordinator Alyson Leno ... including a large red, white and blue quilt stitched by members of the Cloquet Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary sewing group.

This is the third year members of the sewing group have donated a quilt to the event, which is raffled off to raise money to help support the Independence Day celebration. This year the group had the final long-arm stitching done in a Fourth of July pattern, featuring elaborate fireworks and star patterns going through both sides of the quilt.

"It's phenomenal that they do that for us, donating their time and effort and then putting it all back into the celebration," said Leno, adding that raffle tickets ($1 each or six for $5) are available in advance at the Chamber and the Pine Journal offices. "It's great."

She is quick to point out another group of supporters that need to be recognized: local businesses. While the city largely donates "in-kind," by waiving fees, offering city staff for whatever set-up and tear-down duties they can do, the majority of the financial donations come from Cloquet businesses.

In particular, SKB Environmental Cloquet Landfill (formerly SKB Shamrock) again offered $5,000 toward the fireworks, something the industrial landfill owners have done since 2012. In addition, after the committee reached out to some of the larger industries to try to share the financial burden among more local businesses, Upper Lakes Foods and Sappi donated $2,000 each.

"Because of how generous the businesses have been, we're above and beyond where we've been in the past," she said. "So we are increasing the amount of the fireworks to $12,000 this year, up from $10,500 last year.

Many of the activities offered aren't new ... Sawdust 5K, Fourth of July parade, family fun at Veterans Park, bouncies, Dash for Cash, face painting, swimming pool party, movie in the park ("The Secret Life of Pets"), carnival, car show and, of course, a fireworks display over the St. Louis River. Live music will again be a feature of this year's festivities. (Editor's note: Look for a story on the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank in next week's Pine Journal, along with a more detailed story and events listing on all the festivities.)

The only thing the committee doesn't have figured out — and this is also not a new thing — is where to find people to volunteer during the day on the Fourth.

"Of course the Fourth is special to many people of all ages," Leno said. "But maybe families can donate their time together, and just take a couple hours out of their day to give back to their community. It really is fun to be right there in the mix of things."

Volunteers are needed for everything from set-up the evening before (Monday, July 3) to helping with the bouncy houses, kids games, face painting, garbage collection, pick up, parade helpers and more.

To donate your time or money, contact Alyson Leno at the Cloquet Area Chamber of Commerce at 218-879-1551 or aleno@cloquet.com. Or leave a message on the Cloquet Fourth of July Festival Facebook page.

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