Inaugural ‘Unity in Our Community’ draws a crowd, soaks superintendent
Students and their families from across Duluth’s school district were invited Monday to enjoy some music, eat some hotdogs, and more
DULUTH — Five or six kids had already tossed a few wayward shots at the dunk tank set up at Bayfront Festival Park on Monday, and Superintendent John Magas, perched over the hip-height tub of water, was getting pessimistic.
“I feel like I’m going to get wet,” he joked as Asher Harkness, 12, cocked his arm to throw.
Harkness rocked and fired three softballs at the tank’s target, each seemingly closer than the last. His fourth attempt clanged off the metal bull's-eye, but Magas didn’t go plunging into the water below and the few dozen spectators there groaned with disappointment.
But Harkness’ longtime friend and fellow baseball player Elijah Kinney, also 12, only needed one toss. His first and only attempt nailed the bull's-eye and, after a brief moment, sent the district's head administrator plunging down into the tank.
Harkness leapt onto Kinney’s back in celebration. They had briefly flirted with the notion that the game was rigged. Kinney didn’t think he was going to make his first throw – or even come close, he told the News Tribune.
“And then when I hit it I was like, ‘How?’” he said excitedly. “And then I thought, ‘Oh, he didn’t go in,’ because it took a second, and then he went in, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh.’”
Both are set to be seventh graders at Ordean East Middle School when classes at the school district resume next week.
The pair were at the park for the school district’s inaugural “Unity In Our Community” back-to-school get-together, which aims to bridge the city’s sometimes-testy east-west divide and emphasizes that the sprawling district is united under a common banner. The event is the brainchild of Assistant Superintendent Anthony Bonds, who spent Monday afternoon dashing around the grill and, later, helping emcee the event. It’s the district’s first.
“We want Duluth to shine,” said Jill Lofald, who chairs the Duluth School Board. “What better way?”
About 1,000 people were on hand as the event moved briskly into its second hour Monday. The dunk tank was one of many attractions, which included a DJ, bouncy houses, representatives from a host of Duluth-area institutions, and, perhaps most importantly, free barbecue.
“Go to school and learn something,” Jerome Strother, the “grill sergeant” of Rome’s Ribs, bellowed jokingly as he flipped burger after burger at a massive grill.
Leland Lundgren and his family quietly munched on some hot dogs in the grass nearby. Lundgren is set to be a fourth grader at Hermantown Community Schools, but was there with his stepmom Kate James and other family members.
James’ daughter is set to be a kindergartner at Congdon Elementary and her son is set to be a preschooler at Myers-Wilkins Elementary. James explained they wanted to get outside and have fun with the community.
Back at the dunk tank, Eric Sanders said he and son Eli, who was the first kid to try and soak the superintendent, showed up to get out of the house.
“Since COVID we haven’t been doing too much,” Eric said. “It’s nice that they do the free food and stuff and give us all a chance to hang out and just interact with people.”