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Willmar Fests to kick off Wednesday

Rand Middleton / Tribune file photo The KMS Marching Saints march in the Willmar Fests parade in this 2016 file photo. The Grande Day Parade for this year's 72nd annual Willmar Fests begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

WILLMAR — Willmar Fests opens Wednesday with a flag-raising ceremony at Selvig Park in downtown Willmar.

Events of the 72nd annual Willmar Fests continue through Sunday and include concerts, a Block Party, a Grande Day Parade and a water ski show among other things.

Willmar Fests started out as the Willmar Kaffe Festival.

"Willmar was very rooted in the Scandinavian traditions of having coffee, sitting down and talking, building relationships, building community," said James Miller, the Willmar Fests board secretary. "That's what the festival is, it's a celebration of what's going on in Willmar."

Willmar Fests also has a royalty component. Judges select a queen and two princesses from a slate of candidates. This year, there are 10 candidates. Each candidate must be a Willmar resident, have graduated from Willmar Senior High School and have been out of high school for one year. They are sponsored through the process by local businesses.

"We have a judging core that judges them throughout the process," Miller said. "Not on a beauty standard, but on community abidingness, how they speak, what their public persona is, how they are out in public."

One big event of Willmar Fests is the Block Party on Thursday night, hosted by the Willmar Jaycees. This is the 13th year the Willmar Jaycees have hosted the Block Party, which will feature a bike rodeo, a "Minute 2 Win It" competition, the crowning of the junior royalty and a kiddie parade.

"The crowd really seems to like 'Minute 2 Win It,'" said Lacey Larson, treasurer of the Willmar Jaycees. "So we created the Jaycees' 'Minute 2 Win It' (based off the television game show). We do have a cash prize that is given out."

Friday night will feature a Willmar Stingers baseball game at Bill Taunton Stadium. Saturday will start off with a pancake feed hosted by the Willmar Fire Department and later in the morning the Grande Day Parade. The coronation of ambassadors also is on Saturday, and the kids carnival and Beach Party at Robbins Island, featuring a beer garden and food vendors, the Little Crow Ski Show, a concert by the White Keys and fireworks.

"We just really want to see a lot of people out and about," Miller said. "We'd love to see people get involved in the events as much as we can."

View the schedule at