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Community picnic draws large crowd despite rain

A groundbreaking ceremony Thursday before the picnic had organizers taking a dig into Main Avenue before construction begins Aug. 2. Those who were instrumental in getting the project moving forward were on hand for a photo. From left are Kathy Grell, Jon Olson, Jeff Wipper, Greg Philippi, Joel Maxwell, Sue Tomte, Dan Walker, Paul Utke, Tyson Dokes, Rory Palm, Katie Magozzi, Brita Sailer, Ellis Jones, Cynthia Jones and Andrea Frank. On the stage, entertaining picnic-goers is Frank Gack playing the violin...1 / 2
Maggie Carrier, 5, sits still as she has her face painted during the Downtown Community Picnic Thursday evening. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)2 / 2

A dousing of rain didn't stop people from heading to downtown for a community picnic and groundbreaking for the Main Avenue reconstruction project.

"I think everyone had a great time, even with the rain," said Kathy Albrecht, an organizer of the event.

After a brief groundbreaking ceremony at about 5 p.m. the rain came. But people stuck around for free hot dogs and burgers, eating under awnings along Main.

"It really served its purpose in getting people together before the downtown renewal project begins," Albrecht said.

A sand pile for children to dig in was a "big hit," she added.

There wasn't a firm number on how many people attended the picnic but Main Street Meats ran out of burgers before the end of the evening.

"I was really surprised how many people stood in the rain for food," Albrecht said. "But you can't control the weather."

The Downtown Community Picnic was the official kick off for the downtown renewal project. Construction is slated to begin Monday, Aug. 2.

The first four blocks of Main were blocked off for the event, with tables lining the center of the street.

Aang, from the television series Avatar and the new film, "The Last Airbender," greeted fans at Pioneer Park, courtesy of Arvig Communication Systems.

Musicians and others entertained the crowd and kids received a sand pail and shovel to use in a large sand pile to dig for prizes.

Albrecht thinks the community is really getting excited about the project moving forward.

Greg Philippi, general contractor with R. L. Larson Excavating, Inc., said next week people will likely see workers doing some preliminary work in downtown. The plan is to start work Monday, Aug. 2 on the northern blocks of downtown.

There will be weekly construction meetings. The first meeting is at 8 a.m. Wednesday, July 28 at Bella Caffé. Future meetings will be Thursday mornings.

A parking plan has been established for downtown during the construction. Signs will be placed next week directing people to appropriate parking spaces.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561