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Thousands of Maplewood residents and visitors ventured to beautiful Hazelwood Park on Independence Day to enjoy great food, danceable music, and, to cap it all off, an absolutely outstanding fireworks show.
Oh, and let’s not forget the line-up of huge inflatables that kept the young ones laughing and smiling for hours. And if the kids needed a break from the inflatables, Kid City and Z Puppets were there to entertain.
Maplewood resident Ed Stepnick was making his first in-person appearance at Light It Up Maplewood. In previous years, Ed and his family watched the event’s fireworks from vantage points outside the park.
“We were at a party nearby so we thought we’d check it out,” Ed explains. “I’m glad we did, it’s a great event.”
Food trucks and inflatables began at 4 p.m. and visitors could choose from Asian Invasion, Camila’s Taqueria, I Heart Smoothies, Home Creamery, 9-2-5 Foods, Milk Mart Ice Cream, Crepe and Cake, Tot Boss, Papa John’s, Lucky Brisket BBQ and KP Concessions. One of our event sponsors, Costumes Plus, was at the event selling light up toys and collectibles.
“Events like Light It Up Maplewood can really bring people together and create a sense of community,” notes Maplewood Parks and Recreation Manager Audra Robbins. “It’s great to see residents and visitors really enjoying the event and getting to know each other.”
Norgard Court Apartments residents Richard and Pam Anderson recently moved to Maplewood from St. Paul and were attending Light It Up Maplewood for the first time.
“I really like it,” Pam says. “There’s so much going on.”
“There’s lots of people who really seem to be enjoying themselves,” Richard adds. “It’s been a great night.”
There were also a couple of other very special guests at this year’s event. Princess Anna traveled all way from Arendelle with her snowman friend Olaf. Both Anna and Olaf seemed to handle the summer heat without any major problems. Paw Patrol police dog Chase got the day off from his duties in Adventure Bay and decided to spend it in Maplewood.
Both Anna and Chase spent time chatting with the kids and posing for photos.
Throughout the night, popular regional band Good For Gary got people up and dancing with an eclectic mix of classic tunes and current chart toppers. How many bands can get toddlers, teens, and grandparents up and dancing at the same time? Good For Gary can.
“Planning for an event like this begins months in advance,” explains Maplewood Recreation Supervisor Neil Breneman. “So to have it all come together, and to see people having a lot of fun, is really exciting.”
Maplewood resident Matt Holkup has been to several Light It Up Maplewood events. What keeps him coming back?
“It’s a fun event,” he says. “I think the fireworks show is as good as any you’ll find.”
White Bear Lake residents Ron and Micki Lindeberg are also longtime fans of Maplewood’s event.
“This has always just been the place to be,” Ron says. “We look forward to it every year.”
Micki adds she loves the people watching.
“It’s just a great place,” she says. “It seems to be growing each year too, which is a good thing.”
At 10 p.m. sharp, the fireworks began and the air was filled with the sounds of booms and blasts but also oohs and ahhs. Perhaps best of all were the countless “oh wows!” heard from children.
For his part, Economic Development Director DuWayne Konewko heaped praise on the Parks and Recreation team, other city staffers, and volunteers, who helped make the event happen.
“Audra and Neil, and really the entire team, did an outstanding job,” Konewko says. “We also had Maplewood police, fire and EMS at the event to help keep everyone safe. Light It Up Maplewood happens through the hard work of dozens of people.”
Mayor Nora Slawik spent several hours at the event talking to residents, staff, and volunteers.
“From the delicious food trucks and great music, all the way through the fireworks, it was just a great night,” she says. “We had an outstanding combination of staff, volunteers, and sponsors who came together and made Light It Up Maplewood really special. It was also wonderful to spend time chatting with our residents and hearing their feedback about how things are going in the City.”
Maplewood resident Nikki Giel and her husband were attending their first Light It Up Maplewood event. So what finally drew them to Hazelwood Park?
“The food trucks!” Nikki says with a laugh.
She adds that was impressed with the event.
“It’s been great, a really great family event, too,” Nikki notes. “I like how it’s in such a big, open space with room enough for everyone, that’s really nice.”