Why no Fourth of July schedule?

(PHOTO: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Flickr CC-BY)

Longtime readers know that for the past several years I’ve prepared a concise listing of Iron Range Fourth of July parades, street dances and fireworks displays. It was routinely among the most popular posts I produced each year as thousands read and shared the schedule with friends and families.

I’ve decided not to produce this schedule in 2023. Here’s why.

For one thing, you know I’ve been posting less frequently to work on my book. The editing continues, but even as I approach the finish line I know that this site will be used mostly as an author page once its done. I won’t be resuming daily news reporting here like I did ten years ago. The Fourth of July post was a holdover from that era.

Last year, reader response to the schedule dropped precipitously. And yet I found several versions of my schedule copied and pasted into Facebook posts that were widely shared. I have no practical way of preventing this. It takes a great deal of work to make all of the Fourth of July info as concise and easy to read (and copy and paste) as my annual listing. Professionally, I can’t justify that time if I don’t get the readers at my site. 

My mother is still recovering from her stroke last November. She’s had medical problems that have required a lot of attention lately. And it’s baseball season, a big deal for one of my teenage sons. 

So, I’ve decided to let this one go. But I know how important the Fourth of July remains in Iron Range culture and you should know that the traditions continue. 

Here’s how you find the information.

Begin by making a list of the information you want to know. List the towns and events that have been reported in the past.

Some events are “always” on certain dates at certain times, but others flex with the changing calendar each year. Always confirm this year’s date and time.

Yes, first you Google. Use complete search terms (“Aurora, Minnesota” and “Hill City, Minnesota” not just “Aurora” and “Hill City”). Sometimes the local newspaper has posted an article about one place’s celebration. Check the dates on everything you find because old articles are more common than current ones.

Go town by town. Start by going directly to the websites for cities and chambers of commerce. Warning, these websites are often terrible. They’re not updated frequently and are often locked into some clunky template that a web design company sold them 5-20 years ago. But many have at least figured out that people want the Fourth of July info and have that on their events calendar or a dedicated page.

Call them. If the websites are irredeemably bad, call the number. The clerk often knows the days and times you’re looking for. You can also call the town bar or gas station. Someone there is usually in the know.

Many towns use Facebook as a sort of website. Search on Facebook for accounts related to the towns or even specific Fourth of July committees. Sometimes the only place they post things is on Facebook. Again, make sure you’re checking dates and assessing the credibility of what you’re seeing. Rampant speculation about Fourth of July events dominate many threads. The best artifacts are cell phone pictures of the printed flyers.

To that end, go to your grandma’s house. On her fridge will be a Fourth of July flyer for your hometown. If you don’t have a grandma anymore, try your parents. No parents? Any old person will do. Perhaps you, yourself, are an old person. Go down to where the old people gather and get the flyer from the person on the committee who is also there. 

Oh, and media outlets? The key to a good schedule is to remove as much detail as possible. Stick to the most important things (parades, street dances, fireworks) and then just create a link to everything else (kiddie races, water balloon wars, street performances) on the web. People are looking for the basics. That’s what they google and why they found my schedule each year. That’s why it’s so easy to copy and paste the end result, too, but so it goes. 

My list included the Mesabi, Vermilion, and Cuyuna Range towns. I expanded to include the Bemidji area, Brainerd Lakes and Duluth in recent years. That felt like a good encapsulation of northeastern Minnesota.

Good luck, and have fun!


  1. Sorry to hear you plan on dropping the reporting. I was looking forward to it once you finished your book, but can understand the amount of work it takes and the personal attacks that often follow might discourage you from continuing, especially in the light of your mother’s troubles.

    We are entering an era when political reporting in NE Minnesota is rapidly becoming an empty wasteland. The traditional papers and electronic media no longer want to devote space, money, and energy to that, and too often any alternative is actually functioning as a biased cheerleading and attack site, largely free of any real reporting. We are returning to the great days of a hundred or a hundred and fifty years ago when every paper and other news source was openly affiliated with one or another political organization, and served that organization slavishly. The days when newsrooms prided themselves as independent sources and tireless researchers of the facts, filled with men (almost exclusively) who were for the most part divorced or at best would have trouble recognizing their own children, are behind us. Cronkite, Murrow, and their print analogues are gone, and won’t be coming back. Jeff Bezos and his adventure with the Washington Post is behind us, along with the hope that very rich men indulging in what amounted to hobbies could save the news media. Pressure on Bezos’ other businesses has forced the Post sharply right, and the new standard seems to be for men like Elon Musk to take over media as a way of trumpeting their own often ignorant and hateful ideas, firing employees who disagree with him rather than giving them any independence and objectivity.

    I do not mean to imply that you have any personal responsibility in all this. It is unfair to you and your family to suggest that.

    Best of luck. I will continue to read your columns with pleasure.

  2. Thanks, Gerald. I’m still going to be writing and sharing my work here, but I’m no longer planning to resume daily “blogging.” That word is no longer relevant as the mediascape has changed once again. My goal now is to produce a regular flow of columns and long form essays about life in Northern Minnesota, covering the same diverse range of topics that have always interested me. I’m hoping the book opens up some new avenues to do media projects beyond writing.

    I’m not really worried about criticism. I accept it. I do find that certain venues, like social media, become time sucks if you try to argue all the time. I’ve had a few relentless trolls in my time, some that have even harassed me at work, but that’s a reflection on their state of mind and little else. It’s informative in its own way.

    The centralization of media ownership and the ease of disinformation now meets the perils of human nature. Cranks are now moguls. Ignorance finds strength in a closed loop of repetition. I just saw someone share stupid stuff (not political, just stupid) on Facebook, only to say “I didn’t know if this was true so I shared it.” The forest is in transition. Conditions like this eventually cause collapse. Something new rises in place. It’s just unfortunate we all have to wrestle the monsters in our time.

    • Gerald S says

      I am very interested in the problem of how politicians and candidates reach the voters. About thirty years ago, when I moved back to Minnesota from out of state, the local papers in the Northland had a serious interest in local politics — state legislature and city and county contests. They regularly interviewed the candidates in depth, covered campaign events and forums and debates, and published regular articles about what the candidates were doing and saying. Electronic media followed suit, at least to the extant that ninety-second news-bites could do that. But over the next decade or so, that interest disappeared, and coverage became almost nil. It was at that time that someone tipped me off that you were regularly following political activity in Northeast Minnesota in depth, with regular reports about races and candidates. I found that a great service.

      I enjoy your in depth reports on issues, your “big idea” pieces, and your personal interest pieces. But I am worried that we are rapidly approaching the era when the first exposure voters will have to candidates is when they pick up their ballot and fill it out. I don’t see that problem as your job, but will miss the time when you made it yours.

  3. Hard to hold it against the people when there is a fb share icon at the bottom. I am sure everyone who read your compilations found them useful and most appreciated it. The lake and the range are spelled “Vermilion.”

    • I never had a problem with people sharing my post on FB. The problem occurs when they copy and paste the content of my article into their own Facebook posts. This leads to the content leaving my site and no one coming to my site. It’s a form of plagiarism. I think many struggle to understand the difference and why that matters to people who produce content.

  4. Amber Svoboda says

    Thank you so much for your past schedules. I knew every year where to go. I also understand why you aren’t continuing, thank you again.

  5. It’s ironic as I love your blog but that’s the way I came across it, a friend shared the website and I put it in favorites and went back and started clicking. Thanks for all you do and good luck with your book!

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