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Fourth of July, summer events getting called off

With COVID-19 cases still increasing in Minnesota, summer events are starting to get called off.

EXCELSIOR, Minn. — One hundred thousand people flock to Lake Minnetonka each Fourth of July to celebrate Independence Day. Athletes participate in the Firecracker Run, kids join a parade, and everyone gathers to watch the fireworks at 10 p.m. sharp.

Excelsior has hosted the party, in some form, since 1888.

“We have generations of people that come back year after year,” Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce marketing and membership director Jen Weiss said. “We have people that fly in for these events.”

They’ll have to adjust their plans – if they weren’t planning to do so already.

With COVID-19 cases still increasing in Minnesota, the Chamber of Commerce announced Monday it has canceled the 2020 Lake Minnetonka Fourth of July Celebration. The decision was made with safety in mind, first and foremost, but also because of the devastating economic conditions. The Chamber of Commerce has lost significant revenue from two previously canceled events this year, and it cannot count on the same level of sponsorship money from struggling local businesses.

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“People are frustrated with the loss of fireworks, and the loss of an event, and I totally hear them,” Weiss said. “I think the bigger picture is thinking back on the business community, and people that are fearful for losing not only jobs but their entire livelihoods.”

Communities across the state of Minnesota are feeling the same impact, due to canceled festivals, parades, and gatherings. Afton’s Fourth of July has been called off. Twin Cities Pride, one of the largest events of its kind in the United States, has been postponed. The Irish Fair in St. Paul won’t happen.

And in Stillwater, the long-running Lumberjack Days will have to take a break in 2020 due to COVID-19.

“We take a lot of pride in our small town,” brand manager Josh Ernst said. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback that folks are really disappointed.”

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Organizers had feared cancellation since March – and in late April, the city of Stillwater canceled Lumberjack Days as well as the city’s Fourth of July fireworks. The event, which dates back to the 1930s, celebrates Stillwater as the “Birthplace of Minnesota.”

Many downtown restaurants and shops rely on Lumberjack Days as one of the most profitable times of the year.

“The things that hurts even more,” Ernst said, “is that it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a way to help our local business community.”

Still, organizers are thinking ahead to 2021 – which Ernst predicts as a “fantastic party” for Lumberjack Days.

Jen Weiss and the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce feel the same way.

“We are planning for 20-21,” Weiss said. “I think it just means bigger and better.”

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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.