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Fun Fest parade changes directions

This year's Fun Fest parade in New Richmond is in for major change.

Due to construction along Knowles Avenue and the lack of detour options, the parade won't be along the city's main drag this year.

Instead, the parade units will gather along Sports Center Road, then follow a parade route south on Starr Avenue, west of East 6th Street, north on Arch Avenue and east on East 3rd Street.

"It's really kind of a big horseshoe shape," said Russ Korpela, executive director of the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce, Fun Fest's sponsor. "Prime viewing areas are going to be around the Middle School area."

The same route was used previously when road work along Knowles Avenue temporarily detoured the parade a few years ago.

Korpela said the route will return to its traditional path next year after Highway 64 work is completed.

Also just for this year, the annual Kiddie Parade will occur along Sports Center Road.

While the route change for the parades is temporary, another major change in the community spectacle is permanent.

Instead of the traditional Sunday afternoon start time, Fun Fest organizers decided to shift the events to Saturday.

The Kiddie Parade will be at 10 a.m. and the Grand Parade is slated for 5 p.m. Saturday, July 15.

"The parade is easily the biggest part of Fun Fest," Korpela said. "By moving it to Saturday, it's a good way to strengthen the balance of the festival."

Although having the parade at the end of the weekend festival ensured Fun Fest would go out with a bang, parade goers usually just packed up and headed home when it was done. With a Saturday parade, organizers hope to capitalize on the increased traffic in town by offering more for families and individuals to do.

"There will be lots of additional entertainment options for people at the festival area following the parade," he said.

Apart from keeping the crowd at Fun Fest longer, the change in the parade day and time could help in several additional ways, Korpela said.

"You have a little bit more chance that it will be a cooler temperature at 5 p.m.," he said. "The sun won't be beating down on kids in band uniforms."

Also, a number of area high school bands have never been able to march in the New Richmond parade, due to district policies that prohibit students from marching on Sundays.

"Of all the changes we've made with Fun Fest, the parade change is the one that has generated the least controversy," he said. "People get why we're doing it."

Because the schedule changes occurred so late in the year, Korpela said the 2006 Fun Fest parade will likely be smaller than normal.

"But that's probably a good thing, because we're using the alternate route," he said. "It's a blessing in disguise."

From here on out, however, Korpela predicts the parade will only grow in popularity.

"Next year, when we're back on Knowles, we'll be able to go all out and recruit more high school bands and other units," he said.