This past weekend to celebrate my mother’s birthday (which just-so-happens to be on the 4th of July), my family took a boat cruise on the St. Croix River. Although we live five minutes from the launching point in Taylors Falls and know the owners of the company, I hadn’t been on one of the ferry boats since I was a little girl.
Due to wildfires in the Western U.S. and Canada, the air has been incredibly hazy over the past week. For days the sky was stained white from the smoke that’s drifted across the continent. At one point, we could even smell the smoke.It’s amazing how events have a way of effecting everyone–even people hundreds of miles away.
The haze made for some beautiful photos. I’m no photographer, but I like to dabble with my iPhone every now and then. Here’s a shot of the Taylors Falls Princess, one of the oldest ferry boats in the country. Or, as my best friend and I used to say when we spotted it on the river from our school bus, it’s the “Fairy with No Wand”.
One of the greatest delights in small-town Minnesota are summer festivals. Every town has one. If you wanted, you could attend one every week of the summer. These festivals often feature a special 5K race, a craft fair with all kinds of food stalls, and an evening parade. Since I was in marching band back in high school, I played my flute in all the local parades.
This past weekend was Wannigan Days–a particularly special event, as it features not one town, but two! Every year, St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin teams up with Taylors Falls, Minnesota. The towns exist in different states, on opposite sides of the St. Croix River. The multi-state participation, in addition to the gorgeous scenery, makes for a memorable time!
The thing about small town parades is that they’re SO small-town. Elected royalty from all the local communities dress up, smile, and wave on their platformed floats. Businesses and organizations make appearances, tossing frisbees into crowds and handing out magnets. Political candidates smile and wave, slapping “VOTE FOR ME” stickers on audience members. Marching bands play patriotic anthems that are slightly off-key. The local football team blasts kids with super-soakers. Finally, all the fire trucks from the surrounding towns steamroll by, signaling the conclusion of another year’s show.
My mother is a member of the Falls Chamber of Commerce, an organization that strives to unify the communities and promote local businesses. Every year, they have a float in the Wannigan Days Parade. This year, they were relatively short-staffed and I was enlisted to help.
The parade was relatively short–ten blocks down the main street of St. Croix Falls, cross the bridge over the river to get to Minnesota, and four blocks through Taylors Falls.
My job was simple: Throw candy. One of the prominent chamber members bought $250 of treats, so I was free to lavish it on all the happy children in the crowd. It was an easy task. All I had to do was smile and toss handfulls of goodies to everyone under the age of fifteen. As I was going to sleep last night, all I could think about was how happy the kids were. They line up along the curb with bags in their little hands, waiting. Barely able to contain themselves, they bounce up and down. Their little eyes absolutely glow. Sometimes, I teased them. “You want candy?” I asked. “I don’t know if you’re excited enough!!” Of course, this only made them squirm more.
Just imagining their faces makes me smile.
I remember being one of those kids. When you’re little, you wait ALL SUMMER for parades. When they finally come, you take your position on the edge of the street and are like, “THIS IS MY MOMENT!!!” My brothers and I were ruthless. We would dive-bomb and shove each other out of the way just for a little piece of candy. When it was all over, we would spread our bounty on the carpet at home, count them up, and make trades to get rid of the varieties we didn’t like.
These events hold a special place in my heart and I loved every second of being part of them again. As my old marching band teacher always said way back when: “It’s a great day for a parade!”
Over the past week, I’ve rediscovered my outdoorsy self. Growing up, my parents were always taking us on outdoor adventures. Hiking, biking, fishing–you name it, we did it. Summers weren’t complete without camping in the woods of Northern Minnesota and swimming in one of the 10,000+ lakes.
During the school year, I get so bogged down by academia that I forget how beautiful the world is. I forget about fresh air, sunshine, and the smell of thawing earth as it awakens to Spring.
Filled with vigor from my ski-cation earlier this week, I decided yesterday to go hiking instead of lying around the house all afternoon. It was a short three-mile loop, but oh, it was worth it.
You see, I live in one of the most beautiful places in the state (after the North Shore, of course). Five minutes from the border with Wisconsin, the St. Croix River Valley is at my fingertips.
I parked in Taylors Falls, hiked to the top of the bluffs, back down along the cliff face, and back to town via a trail by the river. Along the way, I stopped to soak in the sunshine and do some reading.
I long for a life of adventure. I want to do things, meet people, and see the world. Sometimes, though, it’s good to step back and remember that adventure can be a mere five minutes away. All you have to do is stop and look for it.
Hiking down the bluffs via a trail along the cliff face
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m incredibly thankful for the past few days of peace, rest, and family. I’m also thankful to finally be able to listen to Christmas music. (Yes, I’m one of those snobs.)
It really has been a perfect break.
The extended family was here on Thursday and I handled the “So Amelia, what’s next?”question as well as I could. I ate lots of turkey and mashed potatoes.
On Friday, I finally got the Mother/Daughter shopping day that was supposed to come in October. We shopped from ten in the morning till four in the afternoon, taking advantage of Black Friday deals. I also got lunch at Chipotle, which in and of itself is always an answer to prayer.
Our family tradition is to attend the Taylor’s Falls Lighting festival the day after Thanksgiving. There’s a small parade down the six blocks that make up main street of the small historic town. At the end of the parade, there is a countdown and all the Christmas lights in town are lit at once. We also popped in the old one room schoolhouse (the oldest in Minnesota!) to see all the arts and crafts that the local third graders have been working on for the past couple weeks. My aunt and uncle came to the event with us and, so night ended with soup and cider at our house.
Yesterday, Mom and I took advantage of Support Local Saturday and made the rounds in all the cute little shops in the area. We found some good Christmas presents for family and friends, as well as delicious homemade fudge. The afternoon passed curled up on the couch pretending to watch the Gopher/Badger football game. I say pretending because, while the rest of my family attentively cheered for the Gophers, I sat and read Dracula.
Today marks the end of break. I’m not looking forward to going back.
Over the past year, I have not been home for more than a week at a time. It’s always a transition spot, somewhere I go to jump from here to there. As a result, my room has become a dreadful dumping grounds. I long to settle for a while, to clean the mess, to organize the stacks of books that don’t fit on the shelves, and lie low for a while.
Two and a half weeks, friends. Only an Early Modern English recitation, final portfolio, two ten page essays, and two finals standing between me and a month of Christmas bliss at home. It’s the final stretch.
I’ll survive by overdosing on holiday cheer and covers of Taylor Swift songs…