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Block Party highlights Willmar Fests activities

WILLMAR -- A crowd descended on downtown Willmar Thursday to celebrate the Willmar Fests Block Party, hosted by the Willmar Jaycees. The Block Party featured food trucks, a petting zoo, a kiddie parade and the junior royalty coronation. Members o...

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Briana Sanchez / Tribune Emmett Strand wears a tiara while listening to Willmar Fests royalty read children's books during the Prince and Princess Story Hour Thursday at the Willmar Public Library.

WILLMAR - A crowd descended on downtown Willmar Thursday to celebrate the Willmar Fests Block Party, hosted by the Willmar Jaycees.

The Block Party featured food trucks, a petting zoo, a kiddie parade and the junior royalty coronation. Members of the Humane Society of Kandiyohi and Meeker Counties were also on hand with dogs available for adoption.

One of the Block Party's main events was the coronation of the Willmar Fests Junior Royalty. This year there were 15 female candidates and eight male candidates. Annelyse Scott and Dante Ramirez were crowned this year's junior royalty. They will represent the community throughout the coming year as part of the Willmar Fests royalty.

The Block Party also featured a children's carnival hosted by Bethel Lutheran Church, the proceeds from which will go to fund their youth group.

Willmar Fests activities continue with sports tournaments and a Stingers game today, and the Grande Day Parade and royalty coronation downtown Saturday, followed by the Beach Party at Robbins Island featuring the Little Crow Water Ski Team, music by the White Keys, fireworks and more.

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The Willmar Jaycees have hosted the Block Party for 14 years, and have been part of the community for 80 years. Members of the Jaycees are between the ages of 18 and 40 and volunteer in the community to put on public events and develop leadership skills.

"Back when it was started, they wanted something to get younger men into the business community," said Nancy Stredde, an alumnus of the Willmar Jaycees who still volunteers with the group. "It's basically leadership training. You learn your leadership skills by planning things like (the Willmar Fests Block Party)."

The Willmar Jaycees, currently with 22 members, started planning the Block Party in January.

"We break up into groups," said Lacey Larson, Willmar Jaycees' treasurer. "We've got a person who handles the stage. We've got a person who handles getting the knocker balls here, getting the pony rings here, people who are getting the vendors. And then, we have people who are working on getting donations from companies or organizations that want to help us out too."

The Willmar Jaycees use the funds from the Block Party to put on events for the community such as the Jaycees Egg Hunt and Christmas tree collection.

They host the event for Willmar Fests to take some of the burden off other Willmar Fests organizers.

"It has just been a great cooperative arrangement for a number of years," said James Miller of the Willmar Fests board. "We're really proud to be a part of it. We really enjoy it. And, obviously they do a phenomenal job of gathering all of this together. ... Without the support and help of the Jaycees, this is one of those things in Willmar Fests that probably would not happen."

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