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Celebrate the 'labor' in Labor Day

It's Labor Day weekend and Northlanders know that means: Cloquet will celebrate in a big way. This year marks the 98th annual Labor Day parade, the largest in the area and one of the longest continually held Labor Day parades in the entire country.

Labor Day weekend is a time to celebrate the everyday American laborer and the unions that support them. Therefore, organizers said they aim to honor Jarden employees and local United Steelworkers 970 who lost their jobs this summer when the Cloquet plant closed. The Jarden plant (formerly Diamond Brand and Newell) existed in Cloquet and employed citizens from Cloquet and the surrounding area for more than 100 years.

"We want to honor past employees of Jarden," said Dianne Barkos, vice-chair of the Carlton County Labor Day Celebration. "We can feel a loss in the community ... they're our neighbors. It's sad and a big deal to us."

Residents will have an opportunity to help their displaced neighbors as volunteers walk through the crowds collecting donations for the Jarden employees. There will also be a donation box at the Labor Day Picnic after the parade.

This will also the the last year for a Jarden float in the parade, which promises music, floats, labor organizations, the Range Motor Patrol and plenty of politicians.

Speaking of politics, former senator and state representative Becky Lourey was selected as this year's Grand Marshal. Lourey participated in past parades many times over the years during her runs for office.

"She has been very active in the community," said Barkos enthusiastically. "She is a great example of a service leader!"

The Carlton County Central Labor Body float will feature the Grand Marshal as well as Carlton County Central Labor Body President Tamara Jones and Minnesota AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Julie Blaha.

The festivities are not limited to Monday.

Cloquet's longstanding tradition of celebrating local unions and workers will begin at noon Sunday with the "Old Timers Banquet" at the Cloquet National Guard Armory, where a free lunch is served to Carlton County residents of at least 10 years who are 62 and older. There are prizes for the least young man and least young woman, the longest married couple and for presentation of the oldest Cloquet or Carlton County Labor Day button. There will also be a mystery category.

Labor Day activities begin at 8:30 a.m. Monday with three different races at Pine Valley Park (1106 Olympic Drive).

Car enthusiasts will enjoy the car show featuring about 100 classic cars from all over Minnesota from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Avenue C and 13th Street near City Hall.

Of course, the highlight of Labor Day for many is the parade, which begins at 11 a.m. and travels down Cloquet Avenue from 18th Street North to Eighth Street.

The free Labor Day picnic is open to the public from noon to 2 p.m. upstairs at the Cloquet Labor Temple, 1403 Avenue C.

The annual Labor Day Carnival will again occur from noon to 5 p.m. at Pinehurst Park. The carnival is free and features a petting zoo, inflatable amusement rides, face painting, the Army National Guard Rock Climbing Wall and a folk singer.

According to Barkos, there will be a few prizes offered at the carnival. There will be cash prizes and gift certificates for the younger age group and a chance to win a pair of Oakley sunglasses for the older age group.

Barkos is looking ahead to the future as the Cloquet Labor Day celebration nears its 100 year anniversary.