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Fire victims to be honored at Afton Fourth of July parade

Crowds fill the streets of downtown Afton during the community's annual July 4 parade. (Bulletin file photo)

The crowds will be coming to Afton by the thousands this week.

Afton’s annual Fourth of July Parade with take place at noon Friday in Afton’s Old Village.

The parade will traverse down both sides of St. Croix Trail South.

This year’s grand marshals are Afton residents August LaRenzie and his wife Tammy Seidl, whose home burned down earlier this year.

“The selection of this year’s grand marshal is a little bit of a departure from past years,” said Stan Ross, a member of the Fourth of July Committee and president of the Afton Museum.

He said past grand marshals are generally culled from local volunteers or people who have positively impacted the community.

“I’m certain it was a very traumatic event and we are hoping being the grand marshal will in some way give them a bit of a boost in morale while they deal with the obvious issues of rebuilding their home and lives,” Ross said.

In addition to the parade, the Fourth of July celebration will feature food, live music from the Zingrays, from 1-3 p.m., and a beer tent in Town Square Park.

“All of that money from the beer tent goes directly into (the Afton Museum’s) operating costs,” Ross said, joking that “everybody has to drink a lot of beer.”

Come one, come all

Afton’s Fourth of July parade has earned a reputation across the state as one of the best parades thanks to its traditional and festive feel.

However, the parade wasn’t always what it is.

The community held its first ever Fourth of July parade at the turn of the 20th century, but for one reason or another it dropped off the radar the following year and wasn’t resurrected until 1975.

Ross, who called Afton home even back then, said he can vividly recall the parade having about 20 spectators and featuring a tractor, a horse and a Selma’s Ice Cream Parlour float.

Nowadays, the parade draws thousands of spectators and dozens of parade units.

“It’s always very difficult to know exactly what’s going to end up in the parade because it is an open parade,” Ross said. “There’s no charge, so people just show up with whatever they have.”

This year’s parade will feature a few new and unique units including the St. Paul Winter Carnival Royalty and Vulcan Krewe.

Additionally, Love Your Melon, a new business in Afton that donates hats to children with cancer for every hat sold, will have a bus in the parade.

A local resident will also put some old U.S. Army equipment that are in his possession in the parade.

One of the biggest draws this year, Ross said, will be a replica of an 1880s medicine man wagon.

“It’s like something you’d see out of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ sort of thing,” he said. “These guys would go around and sell their brew out of the back of it, and they all had this hokey medicine, so they were basically scamming people.”

The wagon is owned by Kate Sulllivan of the Old School Art Studio, who bought it from the man who built the wagon.

“He built it from the wheels up,” she said. “That’s as close to a replica as you can get.”

In fact, the man who built the wagon will be riding in it during the parade dressed in traditional medicine man attire.

Ross said he expects this year’s Fourth of July Parade to be just as popular as years’ past.

“It’ll be a lot of fun down here,” he said.

Afton’s Fourth of July Parade will start at noon with food being sold in the park from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Zingrays will perform from 1-3 p.m. Afton streets will be closed at 11:45 a.m. A shuttle service from Lakeland Plaza will be available for $3. 

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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