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Esko Fun Days Parade brings out the crowd for 100-year reunion

The Esko Fun Days Parade included floats from the all-class reunion, local businesses and other community organizations.

A parade in Esko
Kids go into the street on East Highway 61 to collect tossed candy as members of a group commemorating 100 years of Esko Schools look on during the Esko Fun Days parade on Saturday.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
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ESKO — A crowd gathered along both County Road 61 and Canosia Road to watch as cars, floats and even horses went by as part of the Esko Fun Days Parade on Saturday, Aug. 6.

Esko Fun Days, the week-long event, is celebrating an all-class reunion this year, as in 2021 the school district celebrated its 100th graduating class.

The parade was made up of a variety of different types of floats and vehicles, from a pontoon boat, to a Model T Ford and even a 1924 "two horsepower" Esko school bus.

Man driving a tractor pulls a historic school bus
Chris Eblom smiles while driving a tractor that pulled a 1924 Esko school bus on East Highway 61 during the Esko Fun Days parade on Saturday.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

The children who came to watch the parade were busy cheering and picking up candy thrown by those in the parade.

Other than the many reunion floats, the parade had young Esko hockey players skating alongside their car, Esko teachers handing out pencils and candy to children, and Mike's Cafe and Pizzeria towing the May Prachar Band playing polka music.

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Band rides in a trailer while playing music
Members of the May Prachar Band perform while riding on a trailer as part of a float for Mike's Cafe and Pizzeria during the Esko Fun Days parade on Saturday. The band's originator, May Prachar, passed away in 2014.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

But children weren't the only ones enjoying the candy.

Diane Bordwell said her 97-year-old father Duane Arnston was taking home a goody bag of candy as well.

Kids go after candy during a parade
Kids run into the street to pick up candy that was tossed by an Esko fire truck on East Highway 61 during the Esko Fun Days parade on Saturday.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Bordwell hadn't been to a parade before since she had moved to Chicago, but said the all-class reunion was a great reason to visit her father, who is a World War II veteran.

"There is a lot of participation and that is nice," she said. "It is nice to see so many young families; the community is growing."

Young boy points at a parade float while being held by his father
Charlie Morgan, 2, of Esko, points while being held up by his dad Matt Morgan, of Esko, as they watched the Esko Fun Days parade along Canosia Road on Saturday.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

Gretchen Maslowski, a graduate from 1992 who helped to coordinate the event, said having an all-class reunion made it a little more challenging this year.

Maslowski said there are many more pieces than when she had helped organize her own class reunion where all she has to do is send out a message to their Facebook group.

"This is a little more involved and there was a lot of people that really worked hard and got all the classes (together)," she said.

Despite it being a little harder to organize this year, Maslowski said the turnout has been one of the biggest since she has been coming to the parades.

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Floats move along during a parade
Spectators along Canosia Road look on as floats pass by during the Esko Fun Days parade on Saturday.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

During the class of 1992 mixer held earlier in the week, Maslowski said a classmate has a granddaughter starting school in the fall and she will be a fifth-generation Esko student in that family.

"That is amazing to me that there are so many generations right here in town," she said.

Two friends smiling after reuniting
Longtime friends James Aman, left, of Arden Hills, Minn. and Gretchen Maslowski, of Esko, smile after seeing each other at the Esko Fun Days parade on Saturday. Aman graduated from Esko High School in 1988 and Maslowski graduated from Esko High School in 1992.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

James Aman, a graduate from 1988 who now lives in the Twin Cities, said coming back for the parade reminded him of the sense of community Esko has.

It had been a few decades since his last parade, but Aman said it was great to see so many familiar faces again and recognize people he hadn't seen in years.

People walking in a parade
Esko High School alumni play to the crowd during the Esko Fun Days parade on Saturday.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

"It has gotten a little bigger and the weather cleared up and made it impossible to say no to," he said.

Aman said his favorite part of the parade was watching the first float go by, which was a semi with a flatbed holding alumni on the back.

Boy smiles after getting candy in a parade
Bronx Hudspith, 4, of Esko, smiles while running back to the sidewalk after he picked up candy that was tossed on East Highway 61 during the Esko Fun Days parade on Saturday.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune

"You can't watch something like this and not have it boost your spirits," he said.

While Esko has grown since he left, Aman said there is still a real sense of community.

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"It is still the same old Esko it used to be." he said. "There are a lot more people ... but it still hasn't lost that sense of a small town, small community and caring people."

MORE FROM DYLAN SHERMAN:

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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