LET: …never seen people holding toilet paper while standing on the sidewalks

Dear Editor:
Ely held what could be defined as an almost impromptu (and greatest) Patriotic March on the 4th of July. I attended as a member of my organization, Fight For Mining Minnesota.
We brought along my painted canoe that, when not being dragged around in patriotic marches, otherwise resides inside the Fernberg Gallery as a large historical display.
A handful of patriotic renegades in Ely cobbled together a parade that was probably the best I have ever seen. They extended the route for social distancing purposes, worked with the Ely Police Department and City of Ely, acquired the permits, and even arranged insurance via a quick, really-successful, fundraiser.
It was about 92 degrees F, as I walked the route handing out “Iron Range Proud” yard signs along with two young and very motivated helpers. Ahead of me were logging trucks, fire engines, classic cars, old jeeps, American flags and blue stripes to support law enforcement officers. The wildly popular, Ely Klown Band played brashly and slightly out of tune to the beat of rattling, pounding drums. There were heavily decorated ATV’s, side-by-sides, heavy-equipment trucks with Fight For Mining Minnesota banners, more Jeeps, motorcycles, someone with a really huge, old, twin-screw boat on a trailer that I was told was worth over “a hundred grand”, and on and on. There were “Iron Range Proud” signs everywhere plus we handed out another 250 of them to whoever wanted one. Our Congressman Pete Stauber was there with a trailer and looked me up in the lineup to say “hi”. As he shook his head in amazement, he said “Ely is going to be put on the map for this one”. We were both in awe of the spectacle. It was stunning. There were Trump/Pence signs from one end to the other for as far as the eye could see. No other signs were present. None…
As I walked the street handing out signs next to my canoe (Greg & Jane Mosher pulling the trailer with their SUV in air-conditioned comfort), I got to an area where there were so many people yelling my name for signs and just to give me a thumbs-up, I didn’t know which way to look/turn/run next. It was pretty crazy and lots of fun!
Then, there was Zup’s Food Market. I swear Jimmy Zupancich is one of Ely’s most creative business owners. As per usual, they were almost shoveling candy with snow shovels out to the socially-distanced crowds. Spectator kids were standing with buckets full of cavity forming goodness. It was a sea of Tootsie Rolls and a wide variety of other sweets. They were also tossing what looked to be packages of cookies, and all sorts of toys and potato chips.
As we approached the end of the route, a Zup’s, un-decorated, windowless van, suspiciously squeezed off from an avenue into the parade line right behind me as I sat on the back of the trailer. When it straightened out on the road, the side doors were FLUNG open. I could have sworn I heard someone yell in a thick, Spanish accent “Say ‘Hello!’ to my little friend!”. The innocent, unsuspecting bystanders were unmercifully pelted with even more bags of chips, plastic toys, toothbrushes (?) and cookies. Jim Zupancich, Sr. was sitting white-haired in the passenger seat laughing his head off.
But the pièce de résistance was the funniest part of the parade: Toilet paper. Zup’s had a huge trailer full of toilet paper and was tossing rolls to the crowds. I’ve never seen people holding toilet paper while standing on the sidewalks before. This week’s Ely Echo is going to be pretty fun, I’m sure.
As the parade approached its end near Whiteside park, we had run out of Iron Range Proud signs. Me and the little red-cheeked kid sat on the trailer until Mort Tome was seen standing on the north curb with a garden hose.
The kid and his sister (Mike Banovetz’ grandson and granddaughter), both stepped off to get hosed down in the street with cool water by Mort. Towering Mort laughed in his usual, bellicose manner, the soaking wet kid thanked him and hopped back on the trailer. It’s little things like that which add life to any painting or story.
All this activity was officiated with two F-16s blasting low and westward down Sheridan Street (Steve Saari organized that) and ended in a raucous fireworks display over Miners Lake later that evening.
It was great to “feel American” again.
You missed this year’s Ely parade. Doesn’t mean you have to miss staying in the woods for a vacation in northern Minnesota. We’re very proud to be Americans up here in Ely.
Joe Baltich
Northwind Lodge
Ely, MN