St. Louis Park had not had a community celebration since the end of Robin Hood Days in 1971, a shame considering Park’s grand tradition of celebrations. Party in the Park began as a City-wide celebration centering on the Fourth of July. Phyllis McQuaid was a driving force, and she gave it its name as well. It was organized by a group of volunteers, and the City was not involved with the planning other than the obtaining of permits, etc. Each year, VFW Post 5632 sponsored fireworks on the Fourth of July, as they had since 1952.
Jim Rhodes was the General Chairman of the first Party in the Park. Festivities included a volunteer recognition reception at the Ambassador Motel. A mini-marathon was sponsored by the American Legion and Knollwood Mall merchants, and was won by Bob Hawkins. At Aquila Park there was a kiddie carnival sponsored by the Jaycees and the Optimists Club. Aquila Park was also the site of a family picnic and fireworks. There was also a parade.
On the 4th, conditions were too windy for hot air balloon ride, but three out of four skydivers from the Fall Company hit their marks. A 10K run attracted more than 300 runners, with Park residents breaking the tape in the men’s and women’s categories.
Jim Rhodes was again the Chairman. On July 3, 1981, Mayor Phyllis McQuaid and the City Council sponsored Pioneer Night at Knollwood Mall. Invited were the city’s 50 year residents – “Pioneers in the Park.” Entertainment at the event included the St. Louis Park Community Band and a barbershop quartet called “Something Else.”
Knollwood Mall hosted a carnival and performances by guitarist Peter Lang and the Shakey’s Banjo-Keyboard Band. A 5,000 meter and 10K run started at Wards.
1981 Party in the Park Run
The hot air balloon The Phoenix drew a crowd to Carpenter Park, including 90-year-old Bertha Townsend, who remarked that she wished the balloon had gone higher. Entertainment at the Volunteer Recognition Dinner at Knollwood was provided by the newly-formed Community Chorus, the St. Louis Park Community Stage Band and the Recycled Teenagers, a senior citizens dance group. An Olde Town Picnic was held at Jorvig Park, sponsored by the St. Louis Park Historical Society, and featuring the Twin Cities Harmonica Society. City and School staff played their “Town Versus Gown” softball game, with the City winning 10-2. (The school team was spared a more humiliating defeat by a rule allowing no more than 5 runs per inning.) Another activity was a street dance in the parking lot behind City Hall. Performances by the Community Theater were sponsored by Party in the Park. Fireworks were at Aquila Park. Other events were a 10K and a “fun run.”
Weather conditions were not right for the hot air balloon, but kids could get a peek inside. On July 4, Mark Nachbor won the 10K run. The City took on the Schools in a “town versus gown” softball game, with the City winning 7-2.
The 1984 celebration was held on July 3-7, and besides the annual fireworks, featured hot air balloons and a team of skydivers called the Fall Guys. Athletics were featured, including a fun run and 10K event. There were also tournaments in softball, baseball, tennis, and sand volleyball. The community band played, the Lions Club Clowns entertained, vintage cars were displayed at Jorvig Park, and a Recognition Night was held at Knollwood Mall.
Party in the Park was held from June 29 to July 7. Co-chairmen were Lyle Hanks and Jim Rhodes. Again one of the big features was the Fall Guys, but it was an almost-rainy day, and the wind knocked three of the divers off course. One landed in the crowd, one at Meadowbrook Golf Course, and one in Hopkins. Despite rain, the fireworks went on as scheduled, lasting for 45 minutes. The High School hosted a drum and bugle corps competition on July 5, won by the Minnesota Brass.
The 1986 fireworks marked the 32nd year that the VFW had sponsored fireworks in St. Louis Park. In addition, the program included a Beep Ball Invitational Tournament, a Big Wheel Contest, a concert by the Community Band, other concerts and dances, and a tennis tournament. The Rotary Club purchased a Showmobile for the City, which had been renting one owned by Edina.
The 1987 celebration was held on July 1 – 6, and featured carnival rides, fireworks, and much music by the White Sidewalls, the Flames, and the Northern Dixie Ramblers Band.
Party in the Park was held from June 28 to July 5, and Candy Johnson served as Chairperson. Attractions included a kiddie carnival, plays, a picnic, and a concert by the Minneapolis Chamber Symphony.
The celebration was held from June 28 to July 4, and featured the Buffalo Skydivers, the community band, a kiddie carnival at Aquila Park, Log Rolling by the Fischer Bros. Log Rolling Show, a Big Band concert at Oak Hill Park, a teen pool party and dance, and an ice cream social at the Depot. Candy Johnson served as Chairperson.
Party in the Park festivities included a parade, antique car show, carnival, bands, and of course, fireworks.
Bud Kraehling was the Grand Marshall of the parade held on July 1, 1992. There was a Bernie’s Super Valu Baseball Contest (ages 5-6) held at Carlson Park. Other activities were a carnival at Aquila School, a car show at Walser Ford, live music, a “Teach-in on Declaration of Independence and Constitution.” And fireworks at Aquila Park.
1993 saw the first annual All-City Talent Show. Other events were a fashion show at Knollwood, parade, fireworks at Aquila Park, arts and crafts festival at Miracle Mile, and music by the Wolf Pack and Sneakers & Tight Shoes.
1994 was kicked off by a parade on June 29, and events ran through July 4. Events included fireworks at Aquila Park, music by the Del Counts, and the Second Annual All-City Talent Show.
Activities included many Senior Olympics events: horseshoes, basketball and horse, billiards, and table tennis. The Minnesota Shakespeare Co. presented “The Twelfth Night” at Oak Park Village. Also at Oak Park Village were a carnival, petting zoo, All-City Talent Show, senior royalty coronation, and music by Sneakers and Tight Shoes. The Miss St. Louis Park pageant was held Sheraton Park Place Hotel on June 29, and was followed by a dance.
In the end, Party in the Park was run by only seven people led by Bonnie Blumberg. It had become a for-profit organization, and it was felt that there was not enough involvement with other entities, including the city.
Party in the Park was replaced by Parktacular in 1997.