MAIN AVENUE FILLED WITH MUSIC, DANCE
"It's just a remarkable day!"
And with those euphoric words Park Rapids Mayor Nancy Carroll and assistant mayor Sue Tomte cut the bright red ribbon across Main Avenue, ending a decade of planning, sacrifice, and hard work to make downtown a modern and charming showpiece.
The geriatric sewer system is history, but the center parking remains, along with new accoutrements that will become signature pieces such as the sidewalk cornerstones featuring area lakes in granite inlays.
The flowers were in full bloom and it was a time to celebrate a day, by Carroll's own admission, some thought would never arrive.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar addressed the Main Avenue crowd via live radio feed that gathered for the festivities, stressing the importance of the downtown facelift to tourism and opportunity, adding her regrets she couldn't be present.
She lightheartedly said when she comes to town she would "kiss the pavement."
Both she and Carroll thanked the businesses that were the catalyst to get the project done, the city staff, employees and council members who saw the project to its completion.
Carroll said the work is not done yet. "We need to fill the store fronts, attract more businesses and continue the Armory project," she said.
The family-friendly event featured music throughout the day, face painting and games for kids, and ended with a fireworks flourish.
With the Highway 34 project also ending next week, Hubbard County residents ended six long years of road construction, traffic delays and business interruptions.
From the moment Park Rapids Area High School choir students lifted their voices in an a cappella version of the "Stars Spangled Banner" to "wows" from the crowd, the audience knew something special was in motion.
Tykes and adults boogied to the bluegrass renderings of Monroe Crossing, clapping their hands and dancing.
Greta Ertl of Park Rapids put on a dazzling display with her fiery hula-hoop during the intermission.
"Grandpa it's real fire!" a pre-schooler exhorted.
Even members of the bluegrass band extolled the virtues of their new venue, pointing out that merchants and eateries stayed open late to accommodate the party.
"Please, now that you have a downtown again support it," bandleader Mark Anderson urged.
As hundreds of folks from throughout the region and vacationers settled into their new downtown after dark, streetlights twinkling, the 'Park Plaza' was christened with an uplifting spirit of celebration and sense of belonging.
And a whole new generation in strollers will be able to tell the next generation what it was like to be there when Main Avenue re-opened. And they doubtless will say, "What a wonderful experience."