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Fun Fest festivities kick off in New Richmond

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A heavy downpour and some hail greeted Thursday night Fun Fest enthusiasts, and Friday evening's forecast is for more heavy rain. But the rest of the big weekend promises better weather.

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There will be a few changes to Fun Fest 2008, including an expanded food court, plenty of parking, free bingo and live music on Thursday night.

According to Russ Korpela, executive director of the New Richmond Chamber of Commerce, the food court area will be somewhat larger this year to accommodate crowds at peak times.

Korpela also advises to check the WITC parking lot first before parking at other more distant sites.

"Last year people were parking in areas much further away and the WITC lot wasn't full," Korpela said. "There should almost always be parking available at the WITC lot throughout the weekend."

New this year will be free bingo for families on Sunday afternoon beginning at 1:30 p.m. and ending at 4 p.m. Small prizes will be awarded and everyone is welcome to play.

Also new this year is live music on Thursday, July 10. Thursday is being dubbed Country Music Night at Cyclone Park, located between the WITC building and St. Croix Press.

The festival grounds officially open Thursday at 5 p.m. with the Sonny Winberg Band playing during happy hour until 7 p.m. The food booths and rides will also be opening at 5 p.m. The rides run until midnight each night except Sunday.

From 7:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. the Nielsen White Band will perform on the main stage.

"We are very proud of our music line-up again this year," Korpela said, "and that it is offered to the community with no cover charge."

Firehouse, scheduled to play at 10 p.m. Saturday night, is a classic rock act that has sold more than six million albums, according to Korpela.

The band represents the second year in a row that Fun Fest will bring a national act to the stage, Korpela said.

"They are most famous for their power ballads including 'When I Look Into Your Eyes' and 'Love of a Lifetime,'" Korpela said. "Families can be assured that the Firehouse show is family friendly."

The American Legion has been part of the community's big weekend celebration in previous years, but this year they're setting up in a new location.

The Legion Hall is no longer located on Knowles Avenue, but is across the street from the New Richmond Armory on Wall Street. They will be serving chicken, brats, hot dogs and pulled pork sandwiches Friday through Saturday. Heutmaker and the Hunyoks will be playing Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. and North Country Karaoke and Sonjia Hogland will provide entertainment Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m.

Friday activities

On Friday the weekend softball tournaments begin at Hatfield Park. At noon the carnival once again gets underway with food booths and the Chamber Information tent opening.

From 3:30 until 6 p.m. the Cool Cat Phat Jazz band will play during happy hour.

The New Richmond Tennis Open starts at 5 p.m. on Friday at the High School tennis courts and goes all weekend. For more information on the Tennis Open, call 246-9787.

The New Richmond Millers baseball team will play at 7:30 p.m. at Citizens Field. This game will be preceded by a New Richmond American Legion baseball team game, which starts at Citizens Field at 4:30 p.m.

Pete Neuman & the Real Deal take the stage at the carnival grounds from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., followed by The Dweebs, a local favorite, on the main stage from 9 p.m. until midnight.

Saturday

The Fun Fest 5 x 5 Youth Soccer Tournament will run all day at the soccer field near St. Croix Press.

For early birds, the Willow River Run/Walk at Mary Park will begin at 7:30 a.m. Call 247-5995 for more information.

At 10 a.m. the antique and farm stock tractor pull will be held in the parking lot at Domain.

A pie and ice cream social will begin at 11 a.m. and continue until 6 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, 209 East Second Street.

Back at Mary Park the Friends of the Willow will have a canoe race at 11:30 a.m. Anyone interested may call 246-4109 for more information.

At the same time as the canoe race, the Kiddie Parade will begin. Korpela encourages those interested in the Kiddie Parade to call the New Richmond YMCA at 243-0842 for more information.

The blues duo Jess and Zeb will play at the carnival from noon until 2 p.m.

It gets wet and wild at 1 p.m. down by the Fire Hall when the Children's Water Competition begins. Call 243-0429 for more information. At 2 p.m. the New Richmond Fire Department will have their annual water battle.

Back at Cyclone Park the classic country sounds of the Sonny Winberg Band will be heard from 2 to 5 p.m.

All focus is on the Fun Fest Parade at 5 p.m., which starts an hour-and-a-half earlier than last year's parade. The route begins at West Second Street by the First National Community Bank and ends at Paperjack Drive, as it did last year.

Korpela warns that sound checks for Saturday night's performers will be ongoing during the parade and they can be overheard if people are in the area of the main tent.

"If people don't want to hear the sound checks we encourage them to watch the parade somewhere from the Starr Elementary area and points north," suggested Korpela.

Following the parade, the New Richmond High School Band will perform a concert at the south event area of Cyclone Park.

Classic rock night begins at 7:15 p.m. with the Arch Allies performing a tribute to the bands REO Speedwagon, Journey and Styx until 9:15 p.m.

Firehouse rounds out the evening as the headline performer for Saturday night at 10 p.m.

Sunday

Fun Fest wraps up the weekend with a non-denominational service from 11 a.m until noon. All are welcome to attend the service provided by Faith Community Church.

The Faith Community Praise Band will perform following the service from noon until 1:30 p.m.

Free family bingo begins at 1:30 p.m. in the Main Festival Area and ends when the festival closes at 4 p.m.

With the many activities offered during Fun Fest weekend, Korpela points out that the community celebration would not be possible without the 250 volunteers, sponsors, all the City departments that pitch in and entities such as WITC and St. Croix Press which allow the community to use their property.

"The Chamber asks everyone to take a moment to thank those folks," Korpela said. "All proceeds from Fun Fest allow the Chamber to provide more projects like the House to House Garage Sale, the Christmas Parade, Willow River Blues Fest and the downtown flower baskets, to name a few."

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