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Assistant mayor Sue Tomte, left, and Park Rapids Mayor Nancy Carroll presided over the ribbon cutting on Main Avenue. The party celebrated a collective sense of accomplishment by business and community leaders. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 9
Monroe Crossing overlooks dusk downtown in Park Rapids' new showpiece. Audience members loved the charm, the new benches, the lighting, the granite lake panels. Most said the sacrifice was worth the end result and they want downtown used more for events. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 9
Irene Fogelman, 4, was one of many youngsters dancing to the bluegrass music. She is the granddaughter of Maurice and Carolyn Spangler of Park Rapids and is from Bloomington, Ind. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)3 / 9
The flowers at Park Salon were in spectacular bloom and invited many compliments. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)4 / 9
Tyler Pearson, 6, gets his fingerprints inked and registered by Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes. There were plenty of games for kids to enjoy. (Abbie Grossman / Enterprise intern)5 / 9
Greta Ertl was asked to perform several fire dance encores during the intermission of the concert. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)6 / 9
Kyron Wohlenhaus, 8, of Park Rapids, displayed his pirate look. Several face painters went to work on the dozens of children that came downtown. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)7 / 9
Downtown business owner Cynthia Jones gets caught in the red ribbon party organizers were stringing across Main Avenue. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)8 / 9
Nicky Henry throws beanbags in a game hosted by the Kitchigami Regional Library's Park Rapids booth. (Abbie Grossman / Enterprise intern)9 / 9

"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."

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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