PARK RIVER – Park River has held an Independence Day parade for nearly 100 years, and 2020 will be no different.
The annual parade in the Walsh County town about 55 miles northwest of Grand Forks is part of a bang-up celebration that brings in thousands of people from miles around. Besides the parade, which this year will be held Saturday, July 4, the celebration includes food, Bingo, a children’s event and a fireworks display.
Dan Stenvold, Park River mayor since 2006, said he closely monitored North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s recommendations this spring regarding whether to hold events during the coronavirus pandemic.
"He kept lifting lifting, lifting” restrictions, " Stenvold said. Then, in early June, Stenvold saw the results of a Grafton Record newspaper online poll asking whether Park River should host its July 4 celebration.
“(Of 788 who responded) 89 percent were in favor,” Stenvold said.
Meanwhile, Park River residents pleaded with him not to cancel the parade, which has been an annual town tradition since 1901, Stenvold said.
“As a mayor, you have to do what people want; it was overwhelming the people who called me, texted me, sent email,” he said.
In past years, the Park River Fourth of July parade and celebration has drawn from 5,000 to 9,000 people from across the area, Stenvold said. The only one that wasn’t held was in 1942.
"Because of World War II, they didn’t have enough men and boys,” he said.
The parade – featuring a variety of entries, including antique tractors, floats and new farm equipment – typically lasts from 1.5 to 2 hours, he said. One year,there were 201 entries.
Stenvold is unsure how many entries there will be this year because he doesn't know the extent of people’s concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
“She could be the biggest or the smallest,” Stenvold said.
Parade organizers will encourage social distancing during the parade by spacing entries several feet apart and asking people watching to stand the recommended distance apart. The parade route is 1.8 miles, so there is plenty of room for viewers to spread out, Stenvold said.
“People can wear a mask, but we’re not requiring it,” he said.
People who don’t want to watch the parade in person can view it on the Park River Area School television channel, Stenvold said.
Stenvold, driving his red convertible M2 Spyder, will, as usual, bring up the rear of the parade.
“I'm a leader from behind," Stenvold said with a laugh.
Stenvold, the North Dakota Vietnam Veterans of America president, is serious about his commitment to his organization and will advertise it on his car, he said. Meanwhile, his car also will carry a message to parade enthusiasts: “Thank you for participating. Come back again.”
After the parade, several events will be held, including kite flying for children. The celebration canceled its annual children’s pedal tractor pull; instead, children will fly free kites, which will be distributed to them.
“We're hoping to get 100 kites in the air at the same time,” Stenvold said.
A Fourth of July celebration tradition that will continue Saturday is sales of Randy Hahn’s beans, which will be available in to-go containers.
“He makes the best baked beans in the world,” Stenvold said.
He hopes that the celebration will be a success, and that residents and visitors will have fun during the event, which will conclude with a 10 p.m. fireworks display at the town park.
“Our motto has been ‘Come for an old-fashioned Fourth. Bring your picnic basket, and stay for the fireworks,”’ Stenvold said.