4th of July Ely Parade
Going to Ely for the 4Th of July? Here is what you need to know first hand:
1. It will be hot. I may be wrong but do get an umbrella (will work for rain too), a brim hat, or a tree if you can (this one is the best) or find one on the street.
2. There will be things thrown at you so bring your medieval armor and a big plastic bag.
3. You will need to act fast to compete for the candies so think about getting your body in good shape. You only have 10 days. You don't want to be the next big looser.
4. Don't forget to make a doctor appointment right after 4Th of July. You never know what could happen.
5. "They" don't provide bear, so get your own or look for your neighbour cooler. People are friendly up north.
6. Don't look for that delicious blueberry pie. It's not on the market yet.
I'm new to the 4Th of July celebration. Until 7 years ago (23rd of June 2003 was my first day in United States), I only saw 4Th of July in movies and read about it in books.
Sometime, If I got lucky, I would get an invitation from US Embassy in Bucharest, to watch the fireworks they were set up in the biggest park in the city.
Other times one of my friends would invite me in that park, at night, to watch them from the distance. Most of the time I would ignore the event or forget about it all together. As a matter of fact, I wasn't totally aware of this holiday until late in my youth, after the '89 revolution.
I recall the mixed feelings of envy and admiration I always had towards the way Americans were celebrating...with barbecue and funny parades, balloons, parties, drinks and food...as opposed to the Romanian national day, on December 1st, and its official boring and political bombastic show. As I moved in America, 4Th of July became part of my life too.
how to get to Ely
My first 4Th of July in United States was celebrated on an isle in the middle of a lake.
My husband took me up north, at the cabin. He wanted to show me the fireworks because he thought I never saw such things. We were supposed to go up Ely and have dinner and celebrate among the locals and tourists in the central park. For some reason we ended up on the island all day and night, at the lights of gas lamps and candles, grilling stakes on a wooden fire. It was cloudy so we couldn't even see the fireworks that went out on the shores.
The second year we didn't get up north anymore and, as our child was just few weeks old, we went to bed early and really tired.
The third year I just don't remember at all, the same with the fourth. Only when our daughter turned 3 years old I regained my memory: we went to see the parade in Ely, Minnesota. And so we've done ever since.
Elly and surroundings
Ely is a charming little town in upper Minnesota, by the border. The land is part of Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) that, according with their website covers "a million acres of wilderness with over 1,000 pristine lakes and streams, and over 1,500 miles canoe routes" and "National Geographic named it one of 50 Destination of a Life Time."
I have only visited Ely in the summer time. It is really the "coolest small town" as Budget Travel magazine put it.
The 4Th of July parade starts around 1 pm and blocks the single main street. People line up on the sidewalks. Some of them bring chairs, umbrellas and coolers loaded with beer. These are the natives. The tourists have huge backpacks and usually sit down right at the edge of the sidewalks being dusty, dirty or clean. They wear washed grey t-shirts and explorer's shorts, with plenty of loaded packets.
The parade goes on for about an hour. I like to watch the local business marching through, throwing candies and beads chains. A grocery store hits us with boxes of potatoes chips and samples of cereals and another throws sunflower seeds. Last year I was the lucky catcher of an orange tee-shirt, to big for me to wear.
One of my favourites is the march of the old cars and their even older drivers. The cars are deliciously painted in vivid colors like light blue, yellow, green and even pink. Some of them are nice and clean but others have just came out of dirty roads. As they roll down the main street, honking and puffing, the cars look somehow happy in their oldness, fortunate to live the day of being part of the 4Th of July parade.
When the show is over and the kids have collected the leftover candies, people leave the main street, repopulating the little town. Some of them fill up the restaurants that have good food and lots of happy hours, others move across the street, in the park, where another show begins. We, slowly, make our way back to the car to decide what to do next.
Ely has other things to explore.
In my first and second year I've seen The International Woolf Center, Dorothy Molter Museum (she was a lady that lived her whole life in wilderness making root bear) and I've been to the Harvest Moon festival and Blueberry Art Festival.
I still have to see the Bear Center and go canoeing. This year I will be missing the Boundary Waters Blues festival, which will move to Grand Rapids forever, after 9 years in Ely. Maybe one fall I'll go there but for now, I'm preparing my 4Th of July vacation.