Historic Fourth of July on White Bear Lake

by | Jul 2013

Celebrating Independence Day at the foot of Rose Street, Mahtomedi, 1901.

Celebrating Independence Day at the foot of Rose Street, Mahtomedi, 1901. Photo: White Bear Lake Area Historical Society

With fireworks, parades, races and more, Independence Day has always been a celebrated event.

Independence Day was and is celebrated in many ways around White Bear Lake. As early as 1896, the lake was the place to be for the summer holiday. That year, the St. Paul & Duluth Railroad provided discounted fares to bring people from St. Paul to enjoy the “ragamuffin parade” and sports in the park. Should you not want to ride the train, you could join the bicycle craze that was all the rage and take part in the race from St. Paul to White Bear.

By 1908, White Bear was touted as the mecca for holiday activities and claimed that year’s celebration would be the “greatest Fourth of July celebration ever held in White Bear.” Activities included a pony race, a “fat man’s race,” and an “egg race for women,” to name just a few.  Nearly two decades later, the fervor had waned a bit and the White Bear Association announced that the occasion would be celebrated quietly with three band concerts. People marked the day without organized activities.

In the 1950s, however, Birchwood started an Independence Day tradition that continues to this day. The Birchwood Community Club planned a number of activities to keep families busy throughout the day, including the longstanding parade, with prizes for decoration in several categories: bicycles, tricycles, wagons, doll buggies, costumes and miscellaneous.

Bald Eagle also had big plans in the works in 1952. The Bald Eagle Community Club and the Bald Eagle Sportsmen’s Club sponsored a large fireworks show complete with sky rockets, similar to those used in the Minnesota State Fair finales.

The annual Wildwood swim to mark the holiday weekend, popular in the 1920s and ’30s, was revived in the 1970s at St. Germain’s boat landing near the foot of the peninsula in Dellwood and followed the two-mile course to Willernie Beach.

Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She is among several community representatives sharing history thoughts monthly on the back page of our magazine. 651.407.5327.


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