Dancing is possible while maintaining a social distance. But it’s more fun to dance while consistently close.
On the 4th of July, Eden Prairie residents and visitors gathered in large crowds at Round Lake Park for the first time since the pandemic lockdowns.
On a sunny, shirt-drenching day when the heat index reached 100 degrees, they swam, ate, listened to music, and lounged in the shade of late afternoon. The Eden Prairie Department of Parks & Recreation personnel and first responders from the police and fire departments were present.
“It felt great to get back to normal,” said Kelly Carpenter, who was attending with her husband Brian and three young children.
“I like seeing people’s smiles – their expressions,” said Carpenter. “I find it easier to connect, to know what they’re thinking.” Passersby still wore plenty of masks, but most of the crowd gave off the vibe of kids let out of school for summer vacation.
Eden Prairie’s diversity was vividly represented. Jeff Strate, one of the Eden Prairie Local News team handing out copies of our first print edition, met people from Alabama, North Dakota, and Wisconsin; from Chicago, small western Minnesota towns, and many local suburbs. Strate heard at least five languages over the course of the afternoon.
Dancing in the crowd
As the sun went down, the band Synergy played a long set of danceable tunes. New EP residents Dan and Cecilia Ray and their two sons had found a nice spot down by the lake to be well positioned for the fireworks. “We just enjoyed relaxing and listening to the music,” said Dan Ray. “My wife and son like to dance, so they got up and danced to the upbeat music. They really enjoyed it.”
One couple perhaps old enough to have been around for the last Summer of Love was swing dancing on the concrete apron behind the sound booth to Dave and Sam’s 1967 classic “Soul Man.” Their lithe, gyrating steps reflected a lifetime of practice and connection as they stepped around each other, joined by others of different ages and colors as the band played “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars.
One of the dancers was Patty Freiberg, wife of City Council member Mark Freiburg. “This is great for our people to come together,” said Freiburg, as he and Patty waited for the fireworks. “People are sitting in the ballfields all the way back to Eden Prairie Road. They’re so eager to connect with each other.”
As night fell, Molly Amrhein and Addison Haried in the Maui Wowi food truck closed out their register with smiles on their faces. One couple put their arms around each other as they watched the show in the sky over the lake. And on Eden Prairie Road, traffic in the right lane crawled along as the caravan of cars slowed to take in the fireworks.