NORTH MORRISTOWN on the Fourth of July is grassroots Americana. It is also Minnesota’s longest running celebration of our nation’s birthday.
For 124 years, through generations of families, folks have gathered here in the farmland of southwestern Rice County on July 4.
Iolla, in her 70s, remembers coming here as a child, riding some of the same kids’ rides still operating today. Jen, in her 30s, remembers too and now brings her children, including the youngest, only two months old.
On July Fourth, this spot in the middle of farm fields, edged by several building sites and across the street from Trinity Lutheran Church and School, draws thousands.
They come for the mid-morning parade, the patriotic program, the medallion hunt, the food, the music, the carnival rides, the bingo, the fireworks and much more. And they come for the reunion with family and friends. Many grew up in the area. But many didn’t. Like me.
That matters not. I’ve lived in nearby Faribault for 34 years now, enough to know a lot of people. When my husband and I walked onto the North Morristown festival grounds early Monday afternoon aiming for the food stands, it took us awhile to get our pork sandwich, burger, onion rings and fresh-squeezed lemonade. Not because service was slow. Rather, we ran into a lot of friends.
North Morristown was the place to be this Fourth of July as organizers reported record crowds. I don’t have stats to share, only knowledge that food stands were running out of or low on food. That’s a good problem to have given more people equals more income for Trinity Lutheran School, the beneficiary of this annual fest.
There’s something about this rural celebration that is uniquely charming and appealing in the sort of old-fashioned way that makes you want to return every summer. Nothing really changes much.
The food stands and kids’ rides seem from another era.
Even the bingo cards feature sliders rather than daubers.
The pies are still homemade. The oily scent of crispy onion rings drifts through the air, drawing crowds to the hamburger stand. Polka bands still play in the beer shed.
Music blasts a bluegrass beat.
It is an idyllic place to celebrate the Fourth of July, in the heart of rural Minnesota.
FYI: Check back for a second post on North Morristown’s July 4, 2016, celebration.
© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling