Cancelled parade doesn’t diminish Aquatennial experience

There were plenty of memorable moments for Maple Lake’s 2001-2002 Queen NaDean Schroeder during her five days at this year’s Minneapolis Aquatennial. And those memories would have to include the first cancellation of the Torch Light Parade in the Aquatennial’s 62-year history.

NaDean said parade participants were all dressed up and ready to go at the Dunwoody Institute parade staging site when word came at 8:30 p.m. just before the parade was about to start that the latest in a long line of summer storms was forcing the first-ever cancellation of the Torch Light Parade.

“We were more disappointed for the Aquatennial’s royalty than ourselves,” NaDean said. “We already enjoyed our last parades in our hometowns, but they were the Minneapolis royalty and they didn’t get to have their last parade.”

The sting of the Torch Light Parade’s cancellation was made worse by the fact that the Grand Day Parade was also cancelled due to cut-backs in events as the Aquatennial celebration was reorganized under new management.

But with a suddenly free evening ahead of them, NaDean said she and the other 51 candidates for the Aquatennial royal court made the best of the situation by enjoying music and dancing at Dunwoody with other parade participants and a mini-party back at the candidates’ hotel.

And the rest of NaDean’s Aquatennial experience was marked by the opportunity to make 51 new friends.

NaDean said those efforts were helped along a bit when their chaperones locked the candidates in the hotel basement in an effort to spur collaboration over skits for a talent show. And it worked.

“We were going to include a part about our chaperones locking us up in the dungeon, but we never did,” NaDean laughed.

Another ice-breaking activity was a spaghetti-eating contest at the Buca Di Beppo Italian Restaurant in Minneapolis. “The candidate from LeSuer set a new record as the first girl to finish a plate of spaghetti,” NaDean said. “You couldn’t use your hands, only your mouth, and she finished her plate in only 42 seconds.”

NaDean said she didn’t finish her plate, but did enjoy visiting a list of expensive downtown restaurants, along with the magnificent 38,000 square foot Minnetonka home of “Born Technology” owner Rick Born, which served as the site of the candidates’ goodbye dinner.

“It was just hard to describe,” NaDean said, noting beach and guest houses, indoor and outdoor Olympic-size swimming pools, and Jacuzzis in the bathrooms. “It was just amazing,” she said. “And everything was professionally decorated, so it was just gorgeous.”

There was also time for a bit of career consulting with reporter Renee Tessman of KARE-11 TV, who served as the emcee for the Aquatennial Coronation. NaDean is working toward a career as a broadcast meteorologist at North Dakota State University and made the most of the meeting with Tessman. “We got to talk and she clued me in on a few things and offered to help in finding an internship if I wanted to come home for the summer,” NaDean said.

But she said it is the new friendships that represent the highlight of her Aquatennial experience.

“I came away with 51 new friends,” NaDean said, “plus, I have the addresses of the chaperones, who said they would like to stay in touch with us.  “The friendships are such a big thing,” she said, noting plans to get this year’s group of Aquatennial candidates together over the Christmas holidays. There was also considerable excitement when a member of Wright County’s royalty, Howard Lake’s Kelly Brose, was crowned as an Aquatennial princess.

And now that she has her Aquatennial experience behind her, NaDean has been inspired to get involved with Maple Lake’s festival next year.

“I want to volunteer to help with the St. Patrick’s Day festival and help get Jen (Pribyl, the current Miss Maple Lake) through the Aquatennial next year.”

For Queen Jen, such expert advice can only mean good fun and new friends.