In just a couple short weeks, Two Harbors Heritage Days will kick off on what Cheryl Sundstrom, the Chairman of the Heritage Days Committee, has dubbed “Kid’s Day.” The Kiddie Parade is a popular event, albeit a bit short. According to Cheryl, “The kids find their way pretty easily and quickly. Within ten minutes that parade is done!” Those kids might be speedy because they know there is ice cream and games at the finish line in Tomlinson Park. Each of them also has coupons donated from local businesses like McDonald’s and Culver’s burning a hole in their pockets, as the organizers like to ensure each child gets something for entering the parade.
Cheryl, a Michigan native, has been involved with Heritage Days since moving from Texas to Minnesota in 2007. When asked by the then chairman of the Heritage Days Committee if she would help with a “festival that we do.” She said she’d be happy to. Little did she know that within just a couple years the chairman would retire leaving her to fill the role. “I felt like the new kid on the block,” she said. “I didn’t know a lot of people.” It is a lot to take on, especially with no contacts. On top of the fundraising and booking bands and setting up the parades, amongst all the other planning and scheduling she had to do, Cheryl had to find vendors. She started reaching out to crafters who advertised in magazines. “It worked out really well,” she laughed, recalling securing ninety vendors that year. “We didn’t have space for all of them. You could’ve barely fit a blade of grass between their tents.”
That was in 2010, and these days Cheryl and the Heritage Day Committee are a well-oiled machine. Much of the next year is planned within a few weeks after the event ends and the entertainment is booked by the end of August. That’s not to say it’s a summer job, there is more to be done throughout the year. A lot of that work is fundraising. It may not surprise anyone out there that the costs have doubled since the first Heritage Days Cheryl volunteered for in 2008. The City of Two Harbors generously provides in-kind services, but all the expenses rely on grants from organizations such as Lovin Lake County, Co-Op Light and Power, the Two Harbors Moose Lodge 1463, and other donations from the community.
It’s a big job for the small but mighty Heritage Days Committee (Cheryl’s daughter in law recently became the 4th member). Their efforts have sustained a venue for the local organizations to do some fundraising on their own, such as KTWH who will have a dunk tank at the community center this year to raise money for the radio, and the Moose Lodge is having a barbecue. (Cheryl encourages school groups to consider setting up stands to fundraise, as well.)
Their efforts also bring a big economic boost to the community by drawing thousands who attend Heritage Days to shop and enjoy the local fare. “We have been told in the past,” says Cheryl, “that the Heritage Days weekend sustains some businesses in the downtown area for the year.”
The schedule from Thursday, July 6th through Sunday, July 9th is packed with festivities occurring all over town. There will be music at Thomas Owens Park and the Heritage Day Stage, a car show in the church and county parking lots (note: this location is a change from the previously posted schedule), a street dance on Waterfront, and happenings at the Community Center to name just a few spots to stop while you are roaming around. (Another note: The Airport Pancake Breakfast on Sunday has been cancelled, but you can still get your pancake fix at the Fire Department’s Saturday and Sunday Pancake Breakfast.)
There are nine, that’s right nine, class reunions occurring over the weekend, adding to the festivities. These alums will be part of the Two Harbors Heritage Days Parade on Saturday and I’m sure will be bumping into other alums as they check out the mixture of music (including country music artist Ricky Sundstrom, Cheap Trixx, the Two Harbors City Band, and the Northwoods Band), or as they grab a bite to from any of the nine food vendors bringing their food trucks in for the weekend, or as they bring their families to see the magician and the ventriloquist, or as they toss lutefisk. (Author’s note: I might have to put this last one on top of my agenda. I would much rather toss lutefisk than eat it.)
A wide variety of crafts and treasures of all kinds will be available for purchase from numerous different sellers. Spots filled up so quickly this year that applications had to be cut off by April 1st. The crafters will be elbows to elbows which ensures everyone will be able to find a special present for themselves or a unique gift for a friend.
Before our interview concluded, I asked Cheryl what she wanted to ensure I included in this article. She said she would like to express gratitude to the local businesses. “We have to shut the road down for the street dance, we have to shut down the road for the parades,” she pointed out. “They are giving up some of their time and space, too, for those things that are happening, and I really appreciate that they do that. In one way or another, they are all supporting us.”
I want to express gratitude to Cheryl and her team, as well. The amount of work they do allows locals, and visitors to the city, to spend a weekend celebrating community and enjoying the incredible talents and sights of what the area has to offer.
You can find the full schedule of events at the Two Harbors City website (https://www.twoharborsmn.gov/city_departments/ ). Also, please consider joining the Two Harbors Heritage Days Committee, becoming a volunteer, or donating to keep the tradition going. For inquiries, Cheryl Sundstrom can be reached via direct message on the Heritage Days Facebook page or by cell: 218-830-0897.
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