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Christmas parade was great - but it wasn't the 50th

About that "50th annual" Christmas City of the North Parade ... Before I go any further, let me state for the record that the parade is a wonderful event. I truly thank the staff of KBJR-TV for putting in so much time and effort to make it happen...

About that "50th annual" Christmas City of the North Parade ...

Before I go any further, let me state for the record that the parade is a wonderful event. I truly thank the staff of KBJR-TV for putting in so much time and effort to make it happen.

That said, this year's parade wasn't the 50th. It was the 48th -- and here's why I say that:

A mini mystery emerged last week in our pre-parade article. The TV station said it was the 50th, but no one seemed to have any proof. We solicited feedback from readers, and a number of people shared very nice parade memories -- but some insisted it started in the late 1950s, some insisted it started in the early 1960s, and no one could offer any definitive answer.

So, with all due respect, I discounted those stories and headed up to the third floor of the News Tribune building -- the home of the archives I mine for the "News Tribune Attic" blog on our Web site.

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The 1961 parade was thoroughly covered by the Duluth Herald and the Duluth News-Tribune, though the articles did not say if it was the first.

Stepping back a year, I read front pages and TV listings from November and December 1960 -- and entire papers on Fridays and Saturdays those months. I did the same spot checks of 1959 and 1958 papers -- and found nothing about the parade.

What I did find were that the two papers covered the Northland in painstaking detail. It's implausible that papers that reported the most trivial events (want to know the scores of the Seaway Duplicators contract bridge league at the YWCA? Check the Herald of Nov. 21, 1960) would completely ignore a big parade down Superior Street for two years in a row.

Then I started looking forward. In 1964, the News-Tribune referred to the "fourth annual" parade -- supporting a 1961 start date. In 1975, the News-Tribune Sunday supplement promoted the 15th annual parade -- backing up 1961.

Evidence was starting to mount, but all of it was in stories and captions produced by my predecessors at the paper. I needed some independent verification.

I trudged back up the stairs to the archives one last time -- and found what I was looking for.

On Friday, Nov. 21, 1980, the Duluth News-Tribune contained an ad from KBJR promoting the 20th annual Christmas City of the North Parade, "with your host Jack McKenna and commentators Joan Steffend and Duke Skorich."

1980. 20th annual. That, yet again, indicates a start date of 1961 -- and it's the station saying it.

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Would I bet my life on 1961? No. Would I bet a dollar? From what I've found, absolutely.

Where did things get mixed up? Some readers who wrote in suggested the parade we know evolved from other holiday events. Certainly Duluth had other Christmas celebrations before the Christmas City of the North Parade.

Whatever the case, I'll bundle up and head down to Superior Street next year to see the 49th annual Christmas City of the North Parade -- and I'm looking forward to watching the 50th ... in 2010.

Andrew Krueger is a copy editor at the News Tribune. Reach him at akrueger@duluthnews.com . Visit his local history blog at www.areavoices.com/attic .

Related Topics: CHRISTMAS CITY OF THE NORTH PARADEHISTORY
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