Eden Prairie gathered at Round Lake Park on Tuesday to celebrate the Fourth of July with food, live music, games, and fireworks during the city’s annual Hometown Celebration.
The event went smoothly, defying earlier inclement weather forecasts.
“Based on the morning forecast for the day, I don’t think it could have gone any better,” said Jay Lotthammer, the city’s parks and recreation director, on Wednesday. “I was really bracing for a storm every other hour based on the weather report.”
Lotthammer estimated that this year’s Hometown Celebration drew a crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 attendees, consistent with the turnout of previous years.
“It seems like when the Fourth falls on a weekend or on Friday or Monday, more people go out of town to cabins and such,” he said. “However, when people have to be back to work on Monday, and the Fourth is on a Tuesday, it keeps more people in town.”
Lotthammer was pleased with the afternoon attendance and attributed it to the improved food truck options. This year, 17 food trucks offered various food, desserts, and beverages.
“I’ve never seen as many people there in the afternoon as what I saw this year,” he said. “I think we really stepped up our food truck game in the last few years, so people can come and be in that food court. This year, we added a music duo (the bluegrass band Barley Jacks) under the tent in the food court to enhance the experience.”
According to Lotthammer, attendees now come to enjoy delicious food, socialize with others, and partake in the festivities throughout the day.
“It’s more of an all-day experience,” he said.
The decision to relocate the live music stage to a ballfield, away from the lake, was prompted by the construction of a new ice-rink warming house with restrooms. It will be completed in the fall. Lotthammer reported that the new location received positive feedback from numerous event attendees.
“They really like it there,” he said. “It certainly offers a different feel. It spreads things out a bit more. Some people appreciate the ability to set up blankets on the grass field and not be shoulder to shoulder with everyone.”
Despite the stage relocation, many people still set up chairs on the beach for the fireworks.
“Around 9 p.m., I walked down to the beach area, and it was (busy),” he said. “People were still really packing in to what they think is the best view under the fireworks.”
Lotthammer confirmed that planning for next year’s Hometown Celebration will start soon.
“In about another week, after people have had some rest, we will gather as a group to evaluate and make recommendations for next year,” he said. “We always learn something that we want to tweak or change or add.”
Sparklefest at Round Lake Park on Monday night offered an abundance of patriotic family-friendly fun, specially designed to entertain and engage younger children.
The event, now in its third year, featured inflatables, lawn games, face painting, dancing, bingo, and 13 food trucks.
Lotthammer said the planned fireworks show for Sparklefest had to be canceled due to lightning in the area.
“There was so much lightning in the sky at that point,” he said. “But, unfortunately, we needed about a half-hour more, and we would have had the fireworks.”
Gretchen Haynes, an EPLN photographer and resident of Eden Prairie, attended the Hometown Celebration on Tuesday and captured photos. It was her first time at the event.
“When we watch the fireworks, we usually stay back several blocks to avoid being in the midst of all the people and dealing with parking,” she said. “If we are feeling lazy, we just stay home. We can see the fireworks for five different towns (EP, Chanhassen, Chaska, Edina and Minnetonka) from our screened-in porch.”
Haynes was surprised by the presence of many non-Eden Prairie residents. She had a chance encounter with an older couple who shared their story.
“(The man) proudly told me that he was 84 years old and he married a ‘younger woman’ who was 77 years old,” Haynes said. “They have been married for about 55 years. They were telling me that they came over from Bloomington because someone told them it was a great spot for fireworks. It was their first time coming to EP for July 4th.”
During his welcome speech, Mayor Ron Case read off the list of rules for the park. He noted that tobacco and e-cigarettes are not allowed in any city parks. He laughed and added, “I guess I need to update this now and say you cannot smoke marijuana either!”
Haynes attended the Hometown Celebration accompanied by Isabel Schneider, a journalist from Hamburg, Germany, who is currently visiting the U.S. It was Schneider’s first experience of a July Fourth celebration.
“She was impressed by how many people were there, how friendly everyone was and how so many people were wearing red, white and blue clothing and face paint,” she said.
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