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Fun Fest on the move

Russ Korpela paints a promising picture for the future of Fun Fest in New Richmond.

As he stands on the new grounds for the annual community festival, the executive director of the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce enthusiastically explains the planned lay-out.

"Once people see it, they'll come to appreciate how much nicer it sets up than city streets," Korpela says. "Green grass is better than city streets. It will encourage people to come to the festival and stay longer."

The midway of rides, provided by Christman Amusements, will sit in the St. Croix Press parking lot to the northwest. The carnival will even open a day earlier than normal, Korpela reports, allowing ride enthusiasts to get a jump on Fun Fest weekend Thursday evening.

The entertainment stage will be on the southern end of Cyclone Park, along Highway 65 across from the movie theater. Food booths and assorted family entertainment options will fill the park to the north.

Among the new offerings are an inflatable Bounce & Ride Garden for kids to enjoy.

"There will be five large inflatables going from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday," Korpela said, "at a very modest charge."

Happy Hill Choo-Choo Train will be providing rides for kids 7 and under on Saturday and Sunday. Fantasy Corral Petting Zoo and pony rides will be at the festival grounds from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Another new addition to the line-up is a kids' junior olympics on Saturday and Sunday, including such activities as gunny sack races, water balloon toss and more.

"I think we've been successful in really expanding events for children to do," Korpela said. "If a family wants to come to Fun Fest on a very modest budget, they can do that. That's important to us."

The festival will also feature almost continuous musical entertainment at its main stage and in the Family Fun zone. Bands playing throughout the run include the New Richmond Middle School Band, High School Band, Pete Neuman & The Real Deal, Kurt Jorgenson Band, EkoFlo, The Cut Aways and Jonah & The Whales.

"There will always be something to watch or listen to on the festival grounds," he says.

Thanks to the change in location, families will now be allowed to attend the evening street dances together. Previously the separate beer garden area restricted access to adults only. A wristband system will allow servers to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors.

"This is a huge improvement," Korpela said. "Families can attend together."

Korpela happily points out the new electrical system along the edge of the park, which has been provided by the city to power up the festival. No more will organizers have to be concerned about having ample power for rides, lights and sound systems.

He also points out three trees that will be moved to improve the sightlines for the festival's main entertainment stage. Otherwise, Korpela says, the park is perfect for the community gathering and will easily accommodate up to 10,000 people.

"We could use a little rain," Korpela says as he points to the brown grass which blankets the park. It's his only negative comment about the new event location.

The change in location for the 51st annual Fun Fest comes on the heels of a half-century of history in New Richmond's downtown.

But when the Chamber hired Korpela in January, top on his priority list of goals was the revitalization of Fun Fest.

At that time, Korpela suggested that the community celebration's survival was at stake if changes weren't made.

Among Korpela's ideas was the move from Fun Fest's traditional downtown location to Cyclone Park. He said the downtown site was too fractured to give the celebration a cohesive feel.

The Chamber Board of Directors agreed, and organizers have been working on plans to move ever since.

Korpela admits that some people are concerned about the changes, but he's convinced almost everyone will see the wisdom of the move after this year's Fun Fest is done.

"I've become more and more convinced that it's a wonderful area for the festival," Korpela said. "It's a very inviting area with lots of green space. People are really going to enjoy it."

He says safety concerns have been addressed (security fencing will be installed to shield festival goers from Highway 65 traffic) and passing vehicle noise is much less than one would expect.

Korpela says he predicts the Chamber will "tweak" the festival line-up after they see what works and what fails this year. He doesn't expect any big changes, however.

"This is where Fun Fest is going to be for the foreseeable future," he said. "We're pretty heavily invested in this relocation."

Among the many events planned during Fun Fest weekend are:

• Sidewalk chalk drawing, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, in front of Sweet Greetings.

• Community talent show, 7 p.m. Thursday at Old Gem Theater.

• The American Legion will host a chicken, ribs, brat and hot dog meal Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Beer, pop and ice cream will also be sold. Live music on Friday and Saturday night from 7 to 10 p.m.: "Heutmaker and the Hunyoks."

• Crazy Days, downtown New Richmond on Friday and Saturday.

• Fireman's water battle, 7 p.m. Friday at Citizen's Field.

• Millers Baseball at 7 p.m. Friday, Citizen's Field.

• Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

• Willow River Run, 8 a.m. Saturday at Mary Park.

• Kiddie Parade, 10:30 a.m. Saturday on Campus Drive near Wisconsin Avenue.

• Canoe Races, 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Mary Park.

• Grand Parade, 5 p.m. Saturday along temporary route near the YMCA and Middle School.

• 5-on-5 Soccer Tournament all day Saturday at the St. Croix Press fields.

• Softball tournaments Friday and Saturday at Hatfield Park.

• Tennis tournament Friday and Saturday.

• Basketball 2-on-2 tournament, Sunday in the S&C Bank parking lot.

For a complete listing, see the advertisement in this week's edition of The News.

Parking for the event will be available throughout the Industrial Park.

A convenient shuttle service will continuously run from the County Market, Pamida and downtown city lot (at 2nd Street and Arch) throughout the festival. The shuttle hours are 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

"We encourage people to use the service," Korpela said.