Chamber president: Festival was great

This year’s week-long Rum River Festival that ended last Sunday was “great,” said Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce board president Scott Berry on Monday.

The festival ended with the Lion’s Club breakfast, classic car show and remote control airplane display at the airport. Attendance at the Sunday breakfast was 1,047, one of the higher turnouts for the annual event.

Berry, who was this year’s festival parade grand marshal, mentioned several of the festival events as standouts. They included the setup of 52 craft tents, along with several food vendors and a street carnival in the middle of the downtown last Saturday.

The Princeton VFW Club, meanwhile, was running a classic car show and sock hop nearby. Frank King, main organizer of the VFW event, said it went even better than expected. Thirty six classic vehicles were parked on the closed off street just north of the VFW club. “Everyone wants me to have it again,” said King.

The street carnival included various kids games and some inflatable type attractions. One of the latter had inflated trampolines that persons could bounce on to go skyward while strapped into a harness attached to elastic cords.

Even though the regular Saturday farmers market was not a festival event, it added to the downtown festivities with its large array of fruits, vegetables, bedding plants, flowers in a vast array of colors, and other offerings.

Berry complimented the parade that ran last Thursday evening, even though the plans to have a Princeton marching band unit for the third year in a row fell through.

“The parade was a blast,” Berry said, saying it had some “really good bands and some great floats.” Some floats reflected the festival’s theme – Treasure Princeton.

The festival began with a June 3 coronation that was different than past years here when the tradition had been to crown a Miss Princeton and two princesses. This year the coronation pageant culminated in the crowning of three community ambassadors with equal rank out of six candidates. The chosen ambassadors were Nicole Sorenson, of Princeton, and Sylvia Michels and Jasmine Carr, both of Zimmerman.

Kelsi Anderson, chair of the Princeton Ambassadors program board, said that having ambassadors instead of a queen and princesses is a growing trend in communities. Acceptance of this program by this year’s ambassador candidates in Princeton shows their “maturity,” Anderson added. That is because the coronation is not so much as a competition as a “community-involvement opportunity,” Anderson said.

She explained that all of the candidates in the two months leading up to the coronation receive benefits, such as attending presentations on personal development, etiquette, and the history of Princeton. The candidates also volunteered at this year’s Little Miss Princeton pageant that was conducted prior to the Rum River Festival.

Anderson said she wouldn’t change anything for the ambassadors-coronation pageant, which this year was conducted at New Life Church. But “we didn’t have the attendance we thought we would have,” she said, explaining that it was relatively low.

Anderson, who was a Princeton princess in 2005, added that she and fellow board members are going to try to figure out why the attendance was so low and why there have been a declining number of candidates for either the former Miss Princeton program or the present ambassador one.

Attendance or participation was down some this year at the festival’s annual Distinguished Service Awards banquet, and also at the Mille Lacs County Historical Society’s cake and ice cream social. The DSA banquet was early in the week of the festival and the cake and ice cream social was during the evening of the parade.

Mille Lacs County dairy princesses served the cake and ice cream but the event had only 40 attendees, a small fraction of previous years. Historical Society president Penny Quast said the Historical Society lost money on the event and does not plan to run it again.

A Christian concert called Spirit Quest was also scheduled on late Saturday of the festival.

Chamber president Berry said the one thing he would like to see changed in the festival is to have the presentation of parade awards such as best floats and marching bands, done in a more prominent part of the city.