July 4 march set in Ely

Independently-sponsored procession will follow parade route

by Tom Coombe
It may not be an official parade, but a Fourth of July event in Ely is shaping up to be perhaps the next-best thing.
Using the traditional parade route as well as an additional five blocks to allow people to spread out, Ely will have a “Patriotic March” on Saturday, July 4.
Starting at 1 p.m., the march figures to look much like traditional Independence Day parades in Ely, complete with the Ely Honor Guard, fire trucks, floats, bikes and a plethora of groceries and goodies distributed by Zup’s Food Market.
“We thought it was important for Ely to have this,” said Nick Wognum, one of several members of the Ely Patriotic Club, which formed this month and is organizing the event. “Whether or not you call it a parade doesn’t matter. It’s the chance to express our First Amendment rights and gather on the Fourth of July in a patriotic way, like we always have in Ely.”
Ely council members were briefed Tuesday about plans for the event and agreed that the city would provide traffic control.
Plans for the new event evolved quickly after the city’s July 4 parade was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The march was planned in its place by the club, and neither city nor state approval was required because it is being called a march rather than a parade.
City Attorney Kelly Klun said the city received “significant pushback” from the League of Minnesota Cities, which cited Gov. Tim Walz’s coronavirus-related restrictions in opposing a traditional parade permit.
Klun said the group is instead exercising its First Amendment rights by holding the event and that the city is supportive.
“Individuals to have First Amendment rights and they are going to exercise that right and will do so in the form of a patriotic march,” said Klun.
The city also provided traffic support for the June 1 Black Lives Matter march, in which about 250 people walked from Central Avenue to Whiteside Park.
Because of the pandemic, some adjustments to Ely’s usual parade festivities are in order.
Most notably, people will not be allowed to set out chairs overnight to reserve viewing spots. Any chairs set out in advance may be confiscated.
To allow for more social distancing, the route will also be longer than usual.
The lineup will begin on Stukel Way (Seventh Avenue East) next to Veterans Memorial Field, and participants will travel on Harvey Street to Second Avenue East, turning right to Sheridan Street, and venturing east down Sheridan to finish on Eighth Avenue East.
Organizers say floats are welcome, and participants will include the Ely Klown Band, an Ely parade staple.
Commanders of Ely VFW Post 2717 and Ely American Legion Post 248 have shown their support for the march and indicated that veterans from both groups will take part.
Other July 4 events, including the post-parade festivities at Whiteside Park and various races won’t take place this year, but the annual fireworks show is set for dusk, with fireworks being set off over Miners Lake.
In addition to the Black Lives Matter event, Ely has had several other processions in the last several weeks, including a graduation parade down Sheridan Street including over 50 vehicles, as well as smaller procession involving school faculty and staff at the end of the 2019-20 school year.