Labor Day tradition still going strong in Cloquet
For Labor Day organizer Mike Kuitu, Labor Day is more than a holiday. In fact, it's more like a holy day. "It's a combination of things," he said. "It's partly Thanksgiving, because we're thankful, and part Memorial Day, because we remember peopl...
For Labor Day organizer Mike Kuitu, Labor Day is more than a holiday. In fact, it’s more like a holy day.
“It’s a combination of things,” he said. “It’s partly Thanksgiving, because we’re thankful, and part Memorial Day, because we remember people’s efforts in the past. It commemorates the struggles of labor to gain a liveable wage and maintain it. Frankly, in my mind, we’re not.”
He brightened up quickly though, with the morning’s parade and free luncheon behind him and a good-sized crowd enjoying the activities at Veterans Park in front of him.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s really a lot of fun,” said the retired Central Labor Body president.
With Bovey the only other northern Minnesota town to hold a parade on Labor Day, Cloquet was the place to be Monday morning, for businesses, bands, kids who love candy, and politicians, of course.
Kuitu rattled off a list of the elected officials - and those running against them - who came to Cloquet for the Labor Day parade.
- Governor Mark Dayton
- U.S. Senator Al Franken
- Congressman Rick Nolan and his two opponents, Republican Stewart Mills and Green Party candidate Skip Sandman
- State Auditor Rebecca Otto
- Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
- State Representatives Mary Murphy and Mike Sundin
- State Senator Tony Lourey
Add to that list at least two Cloquet School Board members along with candidates for county commissioner and county attorney.
George Siebold and Maxeen Burns certainly enjoyed the day, starting with the parade, then the car show, then hot dogs at the Moose Club.
“We go to the parade all the time,” Siebold said. “I like parades, and I don’t mind seeing the politicians either.”
“I like watching the little kids at the parade,” Burns said, adding that she enjoys watching their faces as they scoop up some candy or see a clown or something even funnier.
One of the most anticipated acts in the Labor Day parade didn’t disappoint. The Jack bar and its dance team gyrated in flannel shirts and cut-off blue jeans this year, showing off their roughly choreographed danced moves as they made their way down Cloquet Avenue.
There were also numerous labor unions represented in the parade, including the United Steelworkers, AFSCME, along with various military and veterans organizations as well at the entire Minnesota Wilderness hockey team.
Car lovers got their fix, too. There were Shriners in tiny cars from Hibbing, along with a whole row of fabulous Corvettes, in addition to the annual classic car show near City Hall.
Organizers put the number of people who attended the free lunch (donations of $2 for Labor Day buttons were accepted, but not required) at the Labor Hall at between 400 and 500, with the line extending down the stairs and across the street for about an hour after the parade.
At Veterans Park, kids could meet Sparky the fire dog and try spraying a fire hose to knock out the “fire” shining through the windows of a two dimensional house, watch the CLIMB theatre, jump in bouncy houses, see how fast they could throw a baseball or grab a ribbon and join in the dance around the Maypole, courtesy of Terrance Smith.
When Smith wasn’t directing young and old around the Maypole, he was belting out his own lyrics to popular folk songs and other musical genres.
“Oh Lord, I want to be in that number, when the rich go out to work,” he sang to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Sometimes the lyrics needed a bit of wedging in to make it work.
“Oh Lord, I want to be in that number, when the laborers get paid what their worth,” he sang for the next verse.
Kuitu pointed out that events on Sunday and Monday marked Cloquet’s 95th annual Labor Day celebration.
“Remembering those who got us here, that’s part of what we do at the Oldtimers Banquet,” Kuitu said, referring to the free dinner on Sunday served to any Carlton County resident age 62 and older. “We thank people for the struggles they went through in the past. By standing up for themselves, they helped set community standards, wages and benefits.”