Explore West St. Paul Days

Thank You Explore West St. Paul Days

I want to take a minute to express my gratitude for all things West St. Paul after the inaugural Explore West St. Paul Days event. This was going to be just a social media post, but then I had too much to say. I hope you’ll indulge me.

History

First, a nod to the past. Lambert Motz started Celebrate West St. Paul Days back in 1991. There were parades and city celebrations before that, but West St. Paul Days as we know it existed for almost 30 years thanks to the tireless efforts of volunteers. The last one came in 2019, and then a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of volunteers meant an end to Celebrate West St. Paul Days.

Those intrepid volunteers will tell you how much work it is to put on a city event, and I think we owe them a great debt for setting the bar high. So thank you to all those who came before and made West St. Paul Days a thing.

A New Era

But times change. The City of West St. Paul started talking about taking over the West St. Paul Days banner and bringing the city-wide celebration back. We had two years off with the pandemic, and in 2022 the city event returned—rebranded as Explore West St. Paul Days.

City staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to bring this new event into existence. It hasn’t been easy and some planned events were canceled along the way as interest wasn’t quite there. For a while it wasn’t clear if the parade itself would have enough entries.

But West St. Paul Days is back.

Police and fire vehicles at the West St. Paul City Open House.
West St. Paul Open House

The City Open House kicked off the events with free food, music, and more. The city agreed to pay for 500 free tacos and they had to authorize more. The fireworks over Harmon Park were loud and proud. The parade saw Charlton Street lined with people, full of smiling faces and waving hands—you could tell people were thrilled to be back in person. Friday night had a throwback movie in the dome with The Goonies. Then it all concluded with food trucks, a beer garden, and a concert at the Sports Complex.

Pop Rocks concert at the West St. Paul Sports Complex
Pop Rocks concert at the Sports Complex.

There were also several ancillary events from partnering organizations, including the West St. Paul Rider community bike ride, Clothesline Laundromat and El Destino Market with giveaways, performers, and their own party, and a parking lot give away at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church.

Riders getting started in the West St. Paul Rider community bike ride.
West St. Paul Rider community bike ride (Photo by Sam Amundson)

So this has been a massive undertaking. A huge thank you goes out to Sam Murphy, Dave Schletty, and the many other city staff and volunteers who made this event happen. Thanks to the sponsors for helping make it all possible.

How many parades have a walking water tower, the whimsical work of local artist Carolyn Swiszcz?

Water tower walking down the street in the Explore West St. Paul Days parade.
Water tower and Art Park mosaic shapes in the parade (Photo by Sam Amundson)

Our West St. Paul Days Experience

As the neighborhood news source, we wanted to have a presence in West St. Paul Days. We partnered with the city and county and moved our community bike ride to be part of the festivities. We also had a booth at the city open house and an entry (or three) in the parade. So we’ve had a busy week too.

West St. Paul Reader's Kevin D. Hendricks at our booth at the city open house.
West St. Paul Reader founder and editor Kevin D. Hendricks at our city open house booth.

But we pulled out all the stops for the parade. First, we helped out with WSP Art and their effort to include public art in the parade (did you see the water tower and mosaic shapes walking down the street?!). Then we recruited some bike riders and made creative use of trailers to promote the West St. Paul Rider. Then we had our own entry:

I’ll be honest, I was jealous of the bike riders and the art folks. I wasn’t that excited to drive a truck when they were doing something much more fun.

Boy, was I wrong.

Slowly crawling through the parade with the windows down and just seeing and hearing the reaction to everything was wonderful. Our giant cell phones in the back of the truck were instantly recognizable (shoutout to the kid who pointed out it wasn’t 6 p.m.) and we could hear people reading the headlines and reacting. Apparently Cafe Zupas was the right choice for the top-line story. We handed out stickers and our first-ever print edition, an Explore West St. Paul Days special edition.

There were so many smiles and shouts of joy. Everybody waved back to us. The bike riders were right behind us, and every time the parade pace slowed too much, that giant Pac-Man would circle in front of our truck and I laughed every time.

Bike rider pulling a trailer with giant cardboard Pac-Man.
Pac-Man in the parade (Photo by Sam Amundson)

Best of all, people kept exclaiming when they recognized West St. Paul Reader. I know we have a lot of supporters, but I didn’t expect that. People kept shouting out ‘thank you’ for our coverage and telling us how much they appreciate neighborhood news. It never gets old hearing that kind of support, and getting it in the middle of a parade was an experience I’ll never forget.

Thank You

In short, Explore West St. Paul Days has been amazing. Thanks to everyone who came out and thanks for all the kind and supportive words!

Big thank yous to Inver Grove Ford for loaning us a truck, Plaza TV for the cardboard, ABC Rentals for a parade discount, Carolyn Swiszcz and Wilson Webb for the sign, and Travis Olson for the ideas and ingenuity. Also thanks to all our bike riders (Andrew, Carly, and Emily), our trailer pullers (Andrew and Matthew), trailer loaners (Ken and Dan & Bobbie), and print edition/sticker distributors (Milo and Sebastian). And thank you to Sam Amundson, the photographer we hired to document the parade and bike ride (thrilled to give a local student a shot). And I probably forgot a few folks. Thank you.

Thanks to our supporters for making all of this possible. We couldn’t do neighborhood news, and in turn do any of this community involvement, without the generous, ongoing support of our members.

This comment on Facebook pretty much summarizes our experience:

“Thank you to those who organized and participated in the parade. It felt like a community. My daughter asked if there could be another parade the next day.”

Jessica Mager
Paper with "What do you love about West St. Paul?" and a number of answers.
“What do you love about West St. Paul?” at the city open house.

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