By Curt "CJ" Johnson
Every morning in coffee shops across Minnesota, world problems are being solved. Taxes, medical insurance, education, the recession and transportation problems are only a "second cup" and a "shot of cream" away from being handled by local coffee-klatches. And sometimes an idea that started out as a tongue-in-cheek remark can turn into a big deal.
More than two decades ago some Aitkin, Minn.coffee-sipper regulars were engaged in deep discussions at a local main street coffee shop. One of the participants interrupted the discussions by pointing out the store window at the number of pick-up trucks passing by the window all carrying ice fishing houses. One of the guys commented, "If we could just get the police and fire department out in front of that line-up at the stoplight, we'd have us a fish house parade!"
Pretty soon the idea was the "buzz" in Aitkin. Some folks liked the idea right from the start, others wondered out loud., "Who would actually come to Aitkin, Minnesota, to see a bunch of ice fishing houses pulled down main street?" (You can't see my hand is raised in the air right now.)
There was really only one way to find out -- have a parade!
Well, 1991 was the first official Aitkin Fish House Parade. Besides being a true novelty, it is a celebration of Minnesota's frigid season.
Things do get a little crazy however!
The Fish house parade has been honored by the entry of one fish house titled "A Flush Beats A Full House." As you might have guessed, the entry was offered by an area plumber and is in the shape of a typical "Outdoor Facility." And then there's the "Grumpy Old Women" fish house that had several ladies staying warm against the November chill by immersing themselves...bathing suits and all (I think they had on bathing suits)...in a hot tub on wheels!
And so it began. The fish house parade is held the Friday after Thanksgiving and has had up to 60 entries in a single parade. Viewers are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, and possibly a snowmobile suit and grab a spot along the curb on Main Street.
The community also invites Santa and Mrs. Claus for the youngsters, provides wonderful food, great shopping throughout Aitkin, prize drawings, lively music, and even a fish house story contest. Many of these stories get better the more they're told...kind of like the stories told by anglers.
Aitkin's annual Fish House Parade has created media attention worldwide. Wacky floats, dressed-up ice fishing houses and celebrity guests all make this world-famous event a must-see annual event. The past parades have gained attention from USA Today, HGTV, Voice of America, and Aqua magazine, as well as many Minnesota publications and newspapers.
Some of the Grand Marshals of past Aitkin fish house parades have included former Minnesota Vikings, television personalities and Governor Tim Pawlenty...to name a few!
And, although this parade started out as a local fun time event it has grown into much more. Today thousands of visitors come from across the Midwest and places beyond to take in the wacky Fish House Parade in Aitkin. I guess if we were to use a bit of philosophy, we could utter the oft-quoted line..."from the smallest acorn a mighty oak will grow," or something like that. That's kind of what has happened in Aitkin with their, now annual, fish house parade.
So, when you're pondering how to shake off the "cool blues" in November, think about the Fish House Parade in Aitkin. You'll have yourself a good time family outing. It's more than a parade; it's a festival...have you ever tried frozen turkey bowling?
And, if you get there ahead of me, would you mind saving me a spot at the curb on Main Street?