Minnesotans delight in return to in-person July Fourth celebrations

Barbecue ribs and in-person smiles were on the menu for the Aguilar family this Fourth of July, enjoying the holiday at Eden Prairie’s Round Lake Park.

But there’s more than one reason to celebrate.

“We decide to go in person and celebrate the birth of the country that opened its arms to us,” Patricia Aguilar said. “Now the adults are fully vaccinated, so we feel the relief that we have access to the vaccine.”

There are fewer COVID concerns now as the Aguilars are enjoying their first in-person Fourth of July since emigrating from Venezuela three years ago.

“We need contact with other people, and we want our kids to share with other kids and with other families,” Aguilar says. “So it’s great here.”

That communal experience was felt by vendors here, too.

Last year, the pandemic forced Ross Harried to shut down his eight smoothie stands.

He’s hoping Sunday night will be a busy one.

“I think everybody wants to get out and socialize again, see fireworks, live music,” he said. “It’s amazing how much you miss seeing people. And in this business, and this event industry that I’m in, you’ve got to see people, so being away from them for a year was hard.”

Those rituals, even as simple as hanging American flags along Main Street in Hopkins, somehow just made the world feel a little bit normal.

Meanwhile at Aquila Park in St. Louis Park, preparations were in place all day for fireworks displays that will light up the night sky — unlike last year, when events were canceled because of pandemic restrictions.

And now?

“We’re outdoors, we’re in a large space, but we tell people to take precautions that they feel comfortable with,” said Lisa Abernathy with the St. Louis Park Operations & Recreation Department.

For the Ally family from Minnetonka, the St. Louis Park event is a welcome return to normalcy.

“It feels really good. Last year we were at home … not being able to get the kids out to do anything,” Fareeza Ally said.

A chance to not only enjoy the festivities but also celebrate 8-month-old Lena Rose’s first July Fourth.

“We came here every year before COVID hit, so it’s nice to be back, be back with the community, have the family out,” Fareeza said.

Families expressed their gratitude for this day and the freedoms new and old it brings.

“Now I feel Minnesota is part of my heart,” Aguilar said. “I feel truly happy to live here.”