Fourth promises fun, festivities

by Tom Coombe

Take Ely’s traditional Fourth of July celebration, add the fact that Independence Day falls on a weekend this year, and throw in the Ely High School All-Class Reunion on the side.<BR><BR>What do you get?<BR><BR>Perhaps one of the largest, most activity-filled Fourth of July celebrations in recent Ely history.<BR><BR>A full day of festivities, from an afternoon parade to the annual fireworks display over Miners Lake, is in the works.<BR><BR>Young Life Ely, the local branch of the national Christian youth organization, has taken over sponsorship of the festivities, in conjunction with the city of Ely.<BR><BR>“This is our third year and we’re trying to make it bigger and better than ever,” said Martha Scott, who heads Ely’s Young Life organization.<BR><BR>And while the bulk of the schedule is almost identical to that of previous years, a few new wrinkles and a natural tie-in with the class reunion make for an expanded celebration.<BR><BR>That will be most apparent during the parade, set to start at 1 p.m. Sunday.<BR><BR>“It’s considerably bigger this year,” said organizer Jodi Martin. “With the class reunion, we’ve put a lot more into it. We’re getting two or three calls per day from people wanting to be in it.”<BR><BR>Ellen Hanson, a graduate from Ely Memorial’s Class of 1923 and the oldest participant in the class reunion, will serve as grand marshal of the parade.<BR><BR>Organizers also hope to have a representative from each graduating class in the parade. They’ve lined up several large trucks and hope that each decade - and each class from those decades - will be represented.<BR><BR>Graduates can call Martin at 365-2497 to enter.<BR><BR>The parade will also feature classic cars, local fire trucks, various floats, polar explorer Will Steger, the red hat societies of both Ely and Aurora, the Ely High School and Ely Klown bands, local dance troupes and many other participants.<BR><BR> Parade lineup starts at noon, on Seventh Avenue East next to the baseball fields, with judging for floats, decorated bikes and more. Prizes will be awarded in several divisions.<BR><BR>The parade moves along Harvey Street to Second Avenue East, north on Second to Sheridan Street, and down Ely’s “main drag” to Whiteside Park.<BR><BR>It’s not too late to enter a float or participate in the parade. Those who wish to enter can come to the lineup and take part. There is no charge for entering and cash prizes for top floats range from $50 to $150.<BR><BR>After the parade, the annual kids’ races are set for the southeast corner of Whiteside Park. Children from age 5 through 18 can participate in running races, plus a series of themed events such as “Canoe Country Golf” and “Mining for Nuggets.”<BR><BR>The inflatable bouncer will also be set up in the park, and the popular “Car Smash” is back for a second straight year. <BR><BR>Thanks to the donation of Jack Alexander, an old vehicle will be parked in the south half of the park and for $1 a swing, people can smash the vehicle with a sledgehammer.<BR><BR>Carnival games, bingo, food and music are all scheduled for the park.<BR><BR> Entertainment in the park bandshell is set throughout the afternoon, with polka music, area dancers and more.<BR><BR>Food and beverages will be on sale, as well.<BR><BR>“We’ve had long lines last year but we’re taking some steps to revamp (food sales) so the lines won’t be as long,” said Scott.<BR><BR>After the park events, Young Life is working with the Ely Baseball Association to sponsor a home run derby (5:30 p.m.) at Veterans Memorial Field, featuring Josh Mathson, the Babbitt-Embarrass-Soudan-Tower and Ely Legion baseball power hitter and Minnesota’s all-time leading high school baseball home run hitter.<BR><BR>In what has become an Ely tradition, people will gather at the St. Anthony’s parking lot, in the business park area, near Pioneer Mine and other great vantage points to see the fireworks display, put on by the Ely Fire Department. It usually begins around 10 p.m.<BR><BR>Young Life will sell glow in the dark necklaces near the fireworks viewing areas.<BR><BR>The Fourth activities serve as a fundraiser for Young Life, and a virtual platoon of volunteers are needed to make the events go off without a hitch.<BR><BR>Planning for the event began several months ago.<BR><BR>Fourth of July buttons are now being sold for $2, with proceeds going toward the Fourth activities, the fireworks program and Young Life. The buttons are available this week at City Hall, the Ely Dairy Queen, Hardee’s and Country Simple Pleasures and both Zup’s and Northland Market.