Nice weather brings lapsed parade fans back to downtown DuluthIt was homecoming night at the Christmas City of the North Parade as thousands of people packed the route on what could be called a comparably warm, albeit wet, Friday night.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
It was homecoming night at the Christmas City of the North Parade as thousands of people packed the route on what could be called a comparably warm, albeit wet, Friday night.
Perhaps it was a forecast calling for warm weather — and a ground-covering dose of snow in the afternoon — that had some people coming to the parade for the first time in years.
Angie Weems of Duluth is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and hadn’t been to the parade since she was in one. She shudders when thinking of her 4-year-old self in a skimpy outfit prancing around to promote a dance school.
“We looked like hookers on a hay wagon,” she said of the imprinted memory.
Her mother, Julie Weems from the St. Cloud area, laughed. It was a foursome as Angie’s aunt, Laurie Fonger, and grandmother, Eleanor Fonger, both of Superior, also lined up on Superior Street. Eleanor is the parade veteran, saying she’s attended “most of them.”
When Julie Weems broke out the four lighted snowflake necklaces, they were donned immediately. “You gotta have some bling on,” Angie said.
Tammy Jones of Moose Lake hadn’t been to the parade in 10 years. She brought her mother, Kathy Jones, also of Moose Lake, to the lighting of the tree on Lake Superior Plaza. Then they grabbed some curb between First and Second Avenue. Kathy Jones said she hadn’t been to the parade in all of her 60 years.
“Our parents never took us,” she said.
To celebrate, her daughter hooked a vendor and bought her a pair of neon-glow rabbit ears.
Two blocks down, another Moose Lake contingent lined up. Helen Jacobson said she went to the parade all the time when her kids were in bands. Now she’s got a grandson in it, so she’s back.
Not to disrespect the parade, she wondered aloud, “How are the Rebels doing?” The Moose Lake-Willow River football team was in a state playoff game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis during the parade.
In the consistency department, Vineyard Church has been handing out free hot chocolate at the parade for 10 years. More than 40 volunteers offered 600 cups this year, Pastor Michael Gatlin said.
They’ve learned, he said, to work in volume. The first year, a cold one, they made only a couple of vats, about 80-cups worth. “It was gone in five or six minutes,” Gatlin said.
He said business was slower Friday because it wasn’t nearly as cold as in past parades. Temps were in the 30s as the parade passed.
So why does the church offer the free cocoa? “It’s simply a way to say God loves you,” Gatlin said.
Caleb Wedin, 9, of Duluth was amped for another parade. He likes the lights and the parade’s meaning: “It’s the beginning of the holidays.”
Next to Caleb is Annie Miller, 7, who is in it for the good stuff: “Candy,” she said when asked about her favorite parade element.
Five-time parade player Isaac Enyart was the one with advice in the University of Minnesota Duluth pep band. “It’s been 60, it’s been 20-below,” he said of parades in his past. “Layers” is what he told first-time bandmates Friday as they warmed up in a parking garage.
Unlike the tight lines of the marching bands, the pep players get to mingle with the crowd.
“I get some funny pictures,” Enyart said. “We don’t march, we meander.”
THICK CROWDS, TRAFFIC
Good luck to those driving, or even walking, from downtown to the Bulldogs hockey game at the harbor. Traffic crawled along First Street as it had to detour west around the Duluth Public Library to get on the Fifth Avenue West overpass across Interstate 35.
From Lake Avenue to Fifth, people lined both sides of Superior Street. To pass through, a single-file only lane remained for scraping shoulders with downtown buildings.
Spittling snow throughout the parade only added sparkle to hatless heads of hair.
“It’s such a beautiful night,” Kathy Jones said, her neon bunny ears still glowing.