More fun for the Fourth

Saturday night concert will lead up to traditional celebration

by Tom Coombe
There was just no way to fit that much fun into one day.
That’s why Ely’s Fourth of July celebration will start early - with Saturday night’s “Rock the Park” event - and continue into a full slate of activity on Monday.
Ely’s traditional Independence Day celebration is a familiar affair, full of the usual events including a parade and fireworks as well as a few new twists.
Meanwhile, organizers opted to turn Ely’s fun on the Fourth into a weekend affair -with two musical acts set to perform Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. at Whiteside Park.
Dubbed “Rock the Park,” the event features Nashville artist Steve Ernster as well as The Northwood’s Band, which is fresh off a popular performance during Babbitt’s Peter Mitchell Days celebration.
The concert in the park is the first of what figures to be an annual event - and organizers say initial response has been favorable.
“We’re expecting a good turnout,” said Casey Velcheff, a member of the Ely Events Committee and the city’s July 4 parade and activity coordinator.
Admission to the park requires a Fourth of July button and the event includes not only two musical acts but food and beverages - with several food trucks slated to be at the park as well as beverage service from Ely’s Fire Relief Association.
That leads up to a full day of activity Monday, with the parade set to begin at 1 p.m.
Ely’s parade generally attracts thousands to the city streets and well over 100 entrants and this year should be no exception. Given decades of history, Ely’s sidewalks will be full.
Lineup starts at 10 a.m. on Fourth Avenue East between Harvey and Boundary streets, and float judging begins at 11 a.m.
Prizes will be awarded in both commercial and non-commercial categories, as well as for bikes/trikes, individual and group costumes and wagons.
The Ely Honor Guard will be leading the parade, along with area veterans who will be in a military truck.
Neighboring Northeast Range High School of Babbitt will send its band here, while the Ely Klown Band will again be part of the parade. The Shriners will be participating with the Aad Shrine Dune Buggy Patrol.
Political leaders including Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and St. Louis County Commissioner Paul McDonald are among those slated to participate, and Betty Kunstel was selected to preside over this year’s celebration as parade grand marshal.
Same-day entries are accepted for the parade, and those wishing to take part are invited to go to the lineup area on Monday.
“We’re asking everybody to come in on Fourth and Boundary and there will be people there in bright orange shirts directing them where to go,” said Velcheff.
Several food trucks will be set up near the parade route on Monday, and Ely area residents should look to the sky just after 11 a.m.
The Bulldogs of the 148th Fighter Wing, the Duluth-based Air National Guard wing, will conduct an F-16 fly over at 11:06 a.m. Attendees can expect to see two F-16s conduct a single pass at approximately 1,000 feet, traveling from west to east.
A flag raising at 7 a.m., the annual “Four on the Fourth” run and walk around the Trezona Trail and a free concert at Ely’s Historic State Theater headline the July 4 morning events.
The park serves as a hub of activity throughout the day, with Ely’s YoungLife group putting on games, races and other fun events, along with a full slate of food and beverage offerings.
Velcheff said YoungLife is expanding the menu this year to include pulled pork sandwiches and corn on the cob, and the group is “doing more park stuff this year and getting back to the 2019 era” of pre-Covid fun for July 4.
After the parade, Semers Park is the venue for several hours of events, with five separate musical acts performing at a family-friendly event that runs until 9 p.m.
In what has become a tradition, people will gather at the St. Anthony’s parking lot, along Pioneer Road and other great vantage points to see the fireworks display.