A full, fun Fourth in Ely

Parade, games, flyover and fireworks all part of busy Sunday

by Tom Coombe
If it’s possible to cram two years’ worth of fun into one day, Ely just might do it on Sunday.
After a 2020 Independence Day that included a scaled-back parade, the usual fireworks but not much else, the community’s Fourth of July festivities are back in full force this year.
With COVID-19 pandemic restrictions over and the city of Ely resuming sponsorship of Fourth events, the celebration has returned to a more typical affair - including a few new twists.
As usual, the parade and fireworks remain the signature events, but early risers have a pair of events to choose from - including the newly-added flag raising ceremony and the annual “Four on the Fourth” race around the Trezona Trail - but festivities continue throughout the day.
Community organizers kept Ely’s parade tradition alive in 2020 with an event that got rave reviews and in many ways mirrored previous parades.
The 2021 event should be even larger with the return of some acts that were unable to take part a year ago because of the pandemic.
Given decades of history, Ely’s sidewalks will be full and thousands will take in the parade, which begins at 1 p.m.
Lineup starts at 10 a.m. on Fourth Avenue East between Harvey and Boundary streets, and float judging begins at noon.
“We are asking all parade entries come into the lineup on Fourth and Boundary and we will direct them where to go,” said Casey Velcheff, the city’s July 4 parade and activity coordinator.
Prizes will be awarded in both commercial and non-commercial categories, as well as for bikes/trikes, individual and group costumes and wagons.
The parade usually attracts well over 100 entrants and this year figures to be no exception.
The Ely Honor Guard will be leading the parade, along with area veterans who will be in a military truck provided by Tom Gentilini of Eveleth.
Brad Chase will also be here with his patriotic semi.
The Ely schools did not offer band this year because of the pandemic, but neighboring Northeast Range High School of Babbitt will send its band here.
The Ely Klown Band returns this year, and the Shriners will be participating with the Aad Shrine Dune Buggy Patrol.
Without it being an election year, don’t look for many political leaders to be out shaking hands. The only confirmation, other than city officials, is St. Louis County Commissioner Paul McDonald.
For the first time in recent memory Ely will have a grand marshal (see related story) for the parade, with Virgie Ivancich selected to preside over this year’s celebration.
To enter the parade call Velcheff at City Hall at (218) 226-5449 or by email at casey.velcheff@ely.mn.us.
“We do accept day of entries, but would like to know who is coming ahead of time,” said Velcheff.
The city is encouraging kids to participate in the parade, and kids who decorate a bike, trike or wagon - and want to be entered in judging for prizes - should gather by 11:30 a.m. at the arena parking lot.
The parade route goes from the corner of Harvey and Fourth to Second Avenue East, where it heads south to Sheridan Street, then up Ely’s “main drag” past Whiteside Park and ending on Eighth Avenue East.
New this year are porta-potties that will be stationed along the parade route by Kerntz’s, Zup’s, the Post Office and the parking lot by Ely Liquor.
The nation’s 245th birthday celebration is also set to include a flyover.
Two military jets from the Bulldogs of Duluth’s 148th Fighter Wing is set to zoom over town, some time between 12:06 p.m. and 12:16 p.m.
Whiteside Park serves as a hub of community activity both before and after the parade.
As they have since 1997, adult volunteers and youth members of Young Life will coordinate much of the fun.
While the city of Ely provides in-kind services, and nominal funding, YoungLife takes on most of the organizational and work responsibilities.
The event serves as a major fundraiser for the local branch of the Christian youth organization, and the group will oversee children’s games and contests, cook up hot dogs and bratwurst, and coordinate any in a number of other activities.
YoungLife will also be having numerous games and activities in the park including the always popular needle in the haystack and many other family fun events. The traditional Mattress Races are prior to the parade at noon, while other races are set for 2:30 p.m.
Music has become a staple of an Ely Fourth, with Van and the Free Candies putting on what’s billed as a family friendly music event starting at 4 p.m. at Semers Park.
In what has become an Ely tradition, people will gather at the St. Anthony’s parking lot, along Pioneer Road and other great vantage points to see the fireworks display. It usually begins around 10 p.m. and is put on by Premier Pyrotechnics.
Donations for the fireworks display are still being accepted at City Hall, and members of the Ely Jaycees have in recent years walked the parade route - carrying fire boots - and accepting fireworks donations.