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Spicer, Minn., 4th of July celebration steeped in tradition

Emily Maher, 10, left, and Sara Smith, 10, both of Spicer, wave their flags Thursday from the back of a Thein Well truck during the annual Spicer 4th of July parade. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)2 / 2

SPICER — With a blue sky hanging over Green Lake and temperatures Wednesday in the mid-80s, the estimated crowd of 15,000 people that lined Lake Avenue in Spicer for the July 4 parade had a good holiday show.

Fire engines wailed and blared down the street, politicians walked the route with smiles on their faces and queens and princesses from neighboring communities waved from their perches.

The parade is a tradition that many families wouldn’t dream of missing.

Shirley Simonson and her extended family have claimed the same spot under the same large shady tree for at least two decades.

Most families had plans for picnics and cookouts on Green Lake after the parade.

The Sletta family combined eating and the parade. Grandparents, parents and kids were sitting along the curb and had just served up a full brunch of egg bake, coffee cake, banana bread and fruit to their crew as the parade started Wednesday morning.

Ken Hanson, one of the many volunteers who play a role in keeping tradition alive and well in Spicer on the Fourth of July, said he enjoys helping out and being part of the parade and other activities in Spicer that continue throughout the weekend.

“It’s really a tradition here in Spicer,” said Hanson. “The Fourth of July has been celebrated her for over 100 years. It goes way beyond those of us that are around now and we just want to carry on the tradition.”

Whether it’s setting up the parade, taking tickets at the street dance or doing cleanup duty, Hanson said it takes many volunteers to pull off the holiday event in Spicer, which has a population of just over 1,000.

The payoff is seeing thousands of people in town for the holiday. “People are really enjoying themselves. It’s a real fun experience,” said Hanson.

“This is the greatest Fourth of July party on earth,” said Josh Hankin-Foley, who attended his first Spicer Fourth of July parade after traveling from Homer, Alaska, on his first trip ever to Minnesota.

“This is the most Americana place that I can possibly imagine,” he said. “I’ve been seeing pictures and hearing pictures for years. I was finally lucky enough to attend.”

Not only did Hankin-Foley attend the parade — he also was a participant in a float that caused more than a little buzz in the crowd.

Hankin-Foley ran down the street giving high-fives and whoops as a car with several women riding on the back trailed him. The sign on the side of the car had large letters: GLBT.

Most people recognize that as an acronym for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community. There were more than a few negative comments in the crowd when the car passed by.

In small letters, underneath GLBT, the sign said “Green Lake Blond Team.”

“I mean, who doesn’t love blond girls,” said Hankin-Foley, who demurred when asked about the intent of the float. “I think it pretty much speaks for itself.”

And then he added: “I think, on the Fourth of July it’s important to recognize we’re a nation of many different people and many different faces and we’re all on the same team.”

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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