Red, white and blue area a watercraft tradition on July 4 : Patriots on (boat) parade

July 2011 News

With Detroit Lakes being known for having 412 lakes within a 25-mile radius, it's no surprise that boat parades on the Fourth of July are popular.

A tradition on several of the surrounding lakes, boat parades give residents a chance to decorate, view their neighbors' creativity and simply enjoy time out on the water.

And for some, the boat parades date back many, many years.

Hans Tronnes, who lives on Lake Melissa, said he has spent "every summer of my 69 years" in the Shoreham area and can't remember when exactly the boat parades started, but he does remember they were also a big event.

In the late 1960s, he said, the organization of the parade "floundered" and it wasn't until a few years later that he helped organize and publicize the boat parade and it made a comeback.

"Since then, the Tronnes' pontoon has led the parade with multiple flags, a patriotic sound system, loud horns and sometimes throwable souvenirs," he said.

Participation continues to grow, and on years with good weather, he said, there are 45-50 boats.

Bob Mullikin, a Long Lake resident, shares the same memory only a different location. The boat parade has been going on Long Lake since the late 1970s, he said, and it too dwindled after some years.

"It was Cookie Bergen and I who actually got it started," he said.

"When we first started it, we had the boat parade and then we met back at the city park on the north side of Long Lake and we would have an ice cream social afterwards," he added.

In the fast-paced, computer and technology driven age nowadays, Mullikin said it's sad because people don't take the time to meet their neighbors and spend time together, like the days of the ice cream socials.

There were only about six or seven boats at the first parade, but it continued to grow over the years until the early 2000s when it wasn't held for a few years.

"We moved here in 1995 and enjoyed it for a couple of years until they stopped it," Long Lake resident Cheri O'Neill said. "So four years ago, I took it upon myself to bring it back. I sent out emails and put up posters around the lake and put it in the Happenings.

"We were thrilled at the turnout. Each year more people seem to join in by being in the parade or waving and cheering as the boats pass their way. It is a great sense of pride in our country and in our community."

Organizers encourage people to decorate their boats in red, white and blue, and some have taken it to the next step.

"Some have even gone as far as to have `A Floating Tropical Paradise' or pirate ship and other creative crafts," she said.

Several other area lakes host boat parades each year, including Cotton Lake.

Although she's not certain when exactly the Cotton Lake boat parade began, Mary Ulmer said it's certainly grown in creativity.

When it started in the early 1990s, people brought their boats out with some flags and maybe balloons attached. Now, themes range from Founding Father to Wizard of Oz, raising of the flag at Iwo Jima to North Dakota State University Bison.


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