In northern Minnesota, one little town is gussing and gassing up again for an annual event that has people flocking to its own main street rather than distant malls on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
The people of Aitkin are hosting the 22nd annual Fish House Parade, a winter kick-off celebration so quirky and unusual that it has attracted as many as 6,000 spectators and worldwide media attention.
Townfolk and visitors, many with silly get-ups such as hats shaped like fish heads, drive or pull decorated fish houses and other floats that tie to the winter-fishing theme through the business district, while spectators clap their chopper mittens and vendors sell hot chocolate and other winter staples.
The parade, conceived by the Chamber of Commerce in 1990, became part of a daylong series of events starting with a pancake breakfast and ending with a stew supper and stores open into the evening.
When this reporter visited in 2005, he encountered parade entrant Norv Pervier of Brainerd motoring down main street on a gas-powered toilet, pulling a wagon with a cardboard likeness of a fish house. The sight was captured in the image above by Star Tribune photographer Richard Sennott.
Handy with tools, Pervier had rescued the porcelin commode from a cow pasture and mounted it on a go-cart. He'd changed the steering mechanism to a tiller high enough for him to hold as he sat on the toilet seat.
One parade spectator watched Pervier putt by and said: "He must get good gas mileage."