Aunt Phyllis, Mom’s sister, explained to us that the 4th of July celebration in Park River is “bigger than Christmas,” and we saw for ourselves on Saturday just what a big deal it is.
I do remember how exciting the events of the Fourth of July were for me as a kid—the parade, the picnic, the carnival that sometimes occurred at the same time, and the fireworks—but I was surprised to learn that my memories reflected the true magnitude of this holiday in Park River to this day.
We—David, Mom, and I—arrived at the bleachers next to the City Hall in Park River an hour or so before the start of the parade. A free pancake breakfast was going on in the City Hall basement, but we’d already eaten at our motel, so we didn't go--although it looked like fun, with people crammed together in the large room, talking, laughing, and eating.
Jim Moon had arrived early to reserve bleacher seats for Susan, Phyllis, and us so that we could sit and watch the parade go by. Besides the bleachers, folding chairs lined both sides of Briggs Avenue—Park River’s main street—for four or five blocks, and many of the chairs were already claimed.
Soon, Susan and Aunt Phyllis joined us on the bleachers. The parade began shortly after 11:00 a.m. with the wail of a fire engine's siren, and it went on for two hours, ending with the wail of siren.
One of the first units of the parade was a group of flag bearers carrying the U.S. flag, and the parade watchers all stood up and most put their hands on their hearts as it passed by.
The highlights of the parade for me were the Park River High School Band, two bagpipe groups (one from Canada), the Matt Hodek "Dakota Dutchmen" oom-pah band, and a group of Polish-American kids folk-dancing behind their "Polish and Proud" float.
For David, the highlights were the bagpipers and the sight of Emil Shoveltusky—a bewhiskered codger with gold-tipped boots sitting on the back of the Class of 1963 float, waving to onlookers, and seeming to be enjoying himself immensely. David recalls getting in fights with Emil long ago when he was in—the fourth grade?
After the parade, we went to Aunt Phyllis’ house. As we parked along the side of the apartment building, we saw Terry Orstad*, our first cousin, and David Lindberg**, our second cousin, sitting with Jim and Jerry, the husband of our first cousin Cindy* (nee Orstad), at tables set out in the shade of the back yard. After greetings and introductions, some of the men hoisted Mom in her wheelchair up the steps of the house. Meanwhile, Joanne Lindberg, our second cousin, arrived. She’d been in the parade on the Class of 1963 float.
Aunt Phyllis’ dining room table was decorated with a stars-and-stripes tablecloth and napkins. Food was already being placed on the table, including freshly made lefse that Aunt Shirley, out of the kindness of her heart, bought and brought from Grand Forks. Uff da! It was so good.
It was a great get-together with lots of tasty food--fried chicken, pasta salad, Jell-O fruit salad, lefse, and I forget what all--and lots of reminiscing about the old days and the last times we'd been together. For dessert, we had birthday cake to celebrate Aunt Phyllis' birthday (July 10) prematurely.
We--David, Mom, and I--left Aunt Phyllis' for our Grafton motel in the late afternoon. I fully intended to return to Park River to watch the fireworks, but I ended up going to bed instead. For one thing, the fireworks weren't scheduled until 10 or 10:30 that night because it doesn't get dark in Park River until that late in July, and by 10 p.m., I was too tired to go back. And for another reason, it rained that evening in Grafton, so I assumed it was raining 16 miles away in Park River. However, I found out the next day that it hadn't rained in Park River, and the fireworks show went on without a hitch.
* Terry Orstad and his sister Cindy are Uncle Elroy and Aunt Shirley's offspring. Uncle Elroy is Mom's elder brother who died on January 1, 2006.
** Joanne Lindberg and her brother David are the offspring of Marvel Orstad and Vernon Lindberg. Marvel and Mom were double cousins because Marvel's father, Melvin Orstad, was the brother of my mom's father, Elmer Orstad--and Marvel's mother, Hattie Thompson, was the sister of my mom's mother, Lucille Thompson. In short, two brothers married two sisters--and this happened in my immediate family: my brother Kevin and my sister Katie married two Alsup siblings, Gary and Jennifer.