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Mike Creger: Heritage Days is simple fun

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There was the girl at Friday's street dance who let the music enter her soul and spit it back out with dancing that could only make you smile and be a little jealous of her abandoning any notions of care for what those watching might have thought.

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There were the horns and drumming of Marty's Goldenaires in the American Legion that dominated any of the regular barroom din and further lathered a hot and sweaty crowd after the parade.

There was the toe tapping and mouthing of words from nearly 400 people as Todd Eckart sang classics from Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Saturday night.

Those were some of the highlights I took from my first Heritage Days celebration.

The low-key nature of the festival was appreciated as the 80-degree temperatures had many of us feeling like sloths. You could waltz event to event without straining too much, with time to take in some water or other refreshment, have a conversation.

The weather made me think of the southern Minnesota festivals I grew up with. Hot, sticky, messy. It was odd to get that familiar vibe perched next to the usually natural air conditioner called Lake Superior. I was also clearly remembering our miserable June with its wet and cold that tried to nullify what had been a model spring.

The News-Chronicle staff tried to be at every event this year. I am glad to report that we mostly made good with this effort. I hope you enjoy the fruits of our labor on the many photo pages this week.

I like northern Minnesota festivals. They are distinctly different from festivals in farm country. Perhaps it's because the weather here can be so fickle. Perhaps it's the sparser population.

Festivals here are simpler. Less demanding, especially from a newspaper reporter's perspective. Somehow they have a human scale I can relate to.

I grew up celebrating in the Kolacky Kapitol of the World, Montgomery, and its annual Kolacky Days. From the 1930s to the 1960s, more than 100,000 people would show up for the parade Sunday. Like all small-town festivals, things have dwindled a bit from those heydays, but it's still a big deal. There are more than 100 events, a still too long parade, and food that rivals that at the State Fair.

And it's always hot. Too hot. There's been talk for years to move the event to its old "harvest festival" slot in September to avoid the late-July heat and the stench of silage from the Green Giant corn plant. But that would likely severely cut into the gate. Most people aren't thinking of festivals by the time fall comes around.

Maybe it's because they've just gone to the State Fair and are in recovery. I haven't been to the fair for years because even thinking of the logistics involved leaves me exhausted. As I get older, the bigger the event, the less I want to be part of it.

Only in the past few years have I been going back home for some of the Kolacky Days frivolity. It's a chance to catch up with family and maybe see a few odd souls from high school if I hit town on Saturday night. I've been thinking about going again next weekend but just heard the Twin Cities area and parts south are in store for a record heat wave. If so, it's goodbye sticky crowds and hello Lake Superior.

I like that Heritage Days has no greasy carnival midway and the vibe that comes with them. The helicopter rides were enough to satisfy the adventurous, though the noise was a bit bothersome after a while, especially during Saturday night's show by the community center.

I felt sorry for the few food vendors stuck in the parking lot by the depot. Because the craft fair and regular stage entertainment (and shade) was at Thomas Owens Park up the street, things got pretty lonely going toward the community center stage area. Let's hope these areas of activity are joined next year or at least let people more easily know the breadth of the events around town.

I liked the sidewalk dining and camaraderie downtown. It reminded one of what will likely be the norm once there is a marina and other amenities downtown to draw more people in all summer.

There seemed enough events to satisfy the young and not tax the old stuck with herding children all weekend.

In short, it was good, simple fun. Not much more you can ask for.

Well, perhaps some raspberry-filled kolackies would fill out my bill. I'll demand it once we get the new bakery downtown.

Mike is the editor of the News Chronicle. He can be reached at 834-2141.

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