The politics of Labor Day
Politics are woven into the fabric of Labor Day in Cloquet, from the parade to the picnic to the folk singer's lyrics at the carnival.
As such, a large number of politicians — ranging from local to federal candidates — made their way to this small northern Minnesota town to walk in the 99th annual Labor Day parade.
Gubernatorial candidate Tim Walz, wearing a "One Minnesota" shirt, introduced himself periodically to the crowds bunched up in between construction sites in downtown Cloquet. State Sen. Tony Lourey stumped for U.S. Sen. Tina Smith as the candidate, running for the seat she was appointed to when Al Franken stepped down, made her way down Cloquet Avenue.
All three candidates for the 8th Congressional District seat now held by U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan walked the parade route, stopping to shake hands — or hug, in the case of Independence Party candidate Skip Sandman — and talk with residents along the way.
Cloquet resident Mary Kay Markovich Wihela called Democratic-Farmer-Labor 8th District candidate Joe Radinovich over to say hello.
Born and raised on the Iron Range, like Radinovich, Wihela said she figures it will be a close race, but she's voting for Radinovich.
"I believe he's for the working class, and he knows the issues," she said. "I also think he understands the steel industry is the backbone of the country better than his opponent."
That opponent, Republican Pete Stauber, had a long conversation with Cloquet's Ron Riel, a Vietnam veteran who asked the Stauber what he knew about prisoners of war.
"He said he had met with David Wheat, a Duluth resident who was a POW with the late Sen. John McCain during the Vietnam War," said Riel. "And his wife is a veteran."
The parade had its livelier moments, too. There was music and majorettes with flaming batons, lots of candy, union floats, fire trucks, military honorees, classic cars and tractors. There were "Grandmothers for Peace," "Veterans for Peace," motorcyclists, athletes, educators, business people, a drum and bugle corps, a Black Lives Matter group and a "Make America Great Again" truck.
Woody the clown blew up balloons and rode his bike and hobnobbed with the candidates, too.
Many homegrown politicians were also in attendance.
Cloquet Mayor Dave Hallback rode on the union float, while his opponent, Roger Maki, walked the parade route with supporters.
Both Ward 2 City Council candidates, Sheila Lamb and David Bjerkness, were there with supporters, while At Large candidate Lara Wilkinson rocked the parade with music blasting while she greeted the crowd.
Ward 1 candidate Bunn Carlson drove a four-by-four.
Ward 3 candidate Dakota Koski walked behind the REACH mentoring group he directs.
Mike Sundin, DFL state representative candidate for District 11A DFL, zipped up and down the street on a red motorbike, while Republican challenger Jeff Dotseth walked the parade route.
Dressed in dazzling red, white and blue, Cloquet's Patti McPhail made her way from the parade to the Labor Hall for lunch, and then took her granddaughter down to the free petting zoo at the carnival and maybe even the car show a short walk away at the Northeastern.
When asked, McPhail said she's tired of all the money involved in politics.
"Greed and selfishness has no place in politics," she said. "I'm a nurse. I care about people's health and health care for all."
But politics is just part of Labor Day. It means many different things to different people.
Officially, the day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, it constitutes "a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country."
For many students in particular, it marks the end of summer and the imminent start of school.
Carol Perttula enjoyed visiting with people she hadn't seen in a while at the Oldtimer's Banquet on Sunday in Carlton.
And for United Steelworker Local 11-63 Union member and volunteer Doug Christofferson, who was working in the kitchen at the Labor Hall, it was about doing his part.
He loves the Labor Day celebration in Cloquet.
"It's something you can't find in very many places," Christofferson said, "especially not at the level they do it here. They make it a community event for everyone. And we attract a lot of people."
Labor Day Car Show results
This year, the car show moved to the Northeastern Hotel and Saloon. Organizer Bert Whittington called in results for the top two winners:
• Best of Show (voted on by contestants) — No. 14, 1967 Mustang Fastback, owned by Chris Bernsdorf, Meadowlands.
• People's Choice (voted on by spectators) — No. 13, 1970 Chevelle, shown by Ryan Bernsdorf, Meadowlands.