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Longtime Afton residents Rick and Joan Meierotto will serve as the grand marshals for this year's Fourth of July parade in Afton. Submitted photo.

The best seat in the parade

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Rick and Joan Meierotto moved to Afton in 1978, and according to the couple not much has changed.

“It’s still quiet and Selma’s is still here,” Rick said. “Afton has been a great place to have been.”

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The Meierottos will be celebrating their legacy this Thursday during Afton’s Fourth of July parade since Rick and Joan have been named the 2013 grand marshals.

“We think it’s a real honor to be asked to participate in this way,” Joan said.

The parade will begin at noon and traverses down both sides of St. Croix Trail South in downtown Afton.

The selection process

The grand marshals for the Fourth of July Parade are selected annually by the  board of directors for the Afton Historical Museum.

Ross said the museum is looking for people who have lived in Afton for some time and who have done a lot of volunteer work.

Ross said Rick, a retired professor of biology and wildlife management at the University of St. Thomas, and Joan, a retired nurse, were a natural selection for this year’s grand marshals based on how involved they have been in the city.

During their time in Afton Rick has volunteered at Belwin Conservancy and was a member of Belwin’s advisory board whereas Joan has volunteered for the Minnesota Land Trust, was on the advisory committee for Afton State Park and volunteers as an election judge for Afton.

Both Rick and Joan served terms on Afton Planning Commission.

The Meierottos said they were both shocked when they were asked to serve as this year’s grand marshals.

“I thought they were kidding,” Rick said. “There are a lot of people who have been around longer.”

A legacy in Afton

Rick and Joan decided to move to Afton from Mendota Heights in 1978 because they needed more space for their two horses.

“It was getting pretty crowded for horses,” Joan said. “Our neighbor turned out to be a real enthusiastic woman realtor and she found the place for us.”

Rick and Joan said Afton was the perfect spot for them since both of them grew up in rural communities in Iowa and northern Wisconsin.

“It’s a beautiful place,” Rick said of Afton.

The parade

During this year’s Fourth of July parade in Afton, crowds can expect the unexpected, Ross said.

“It’s an open parade so we never know from year to year how many entries are going to be there,” he said. “Whoever wants to be there shows up.”

Ross said he believes the unexpected is what makes Afton’s parade such an attraction.

“It’s a lot of fun when we have all these unexpected people,” he said. “There’s all these people that show up out of nowhere to be in the parade.”

The Meierottos said their favorite attractions from parades past have been the Schooner Band, a band made up entirely of community members, and the Boy and Girl Scouts.

“There could be more horses though,” Joan said.

Rick said he is excited to see the parade from a different perspective since he and Joan will be riding in a car during the procession.

“We can see who’s coming rather than see who’s going by,” he said.

Ross said the Fourth of July Committee has arranged for a few specific parade participants, however, and they include the Crackerjacks drumline, the St. Paul Winter Carnival Royalty and Vulcans, and some Segways.

Following the parade, food, music and a beer tent will be in Afton’s Town Square Park until 3 p.m.

“The Fourth of July celebration its so much fun when there’s a lot of people,” Ross said.

Afton’s Fourth of July celebration will be from noon until 3 p.m. The parade starts at noon. Food, music and a beer tent will follow in Town Square Park. The St. Paul Winter Carnival Royalty and Vulcans will also be in the park for pictures.

All roads will be closed in and out of Afton from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., or whenever the parade ends. There will be a shuttle bus transporting paradegoers from Lakeland Plaza, located one mile south of I-94 and County Road 18.

The shuttle will drop passengers off at Afton City Hall. Cost for the shuttle is $3.

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