Stillwater officials announced Tuesday that the city’s signature festival, Lumberjack Days, has been canceled amid concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. July 4th fireworks are also off the schedule, along with scores of other popular events.
The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to cancel large events through July 19, a decision Mayor Ted Kozlowski called a prudent but “painful” decision.
“Organizers needed a go or no-go [decision] right now,” Kozlowski said. “Nobody wanted this decision. If we don’t know if we can give them assurance that we can do it, then we can’t do it.”
Lumberjack Days is one of Kozlowski’s favorite times of the year. About five years ago he spearheaded the effort to revive the festival, which draws thousands to Lowell Park on the shores of the St. Croix River for concerts, logrolling, family events and a parade.
The annual celebration was halted in 2011 after the previous promoter fell on hard times and was eventually charged with tax evasion.
Kozlowski and the Locals, a group of Stillwater residents representing a variety of professions, put on the festival. This year’s event was set for July 18-19.
There won’t be July 4th fireworks, either. The city relies solely on $40,000 to $50,000 in donations to stage the pyrotechnics, which draw as many as 40,000 people to town. Most of the money comes from owners of bars, restaurants and hotels. But with most hospitality businesses shut down during Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order, Kozlowski wasn’t sure how much money would come in.
“It was hard, but we have to be responsible,” he said.
Spring’s first event was going to be the grand opening of the Stillwater Lift Bridge and St. Croix Crossing Loop Trail May 15-16. Part of the celebration to open the circular walking and biking trail that runs on both sides of the river called for residents to line the trail and hold hands to set a Guinness World Record.
That event is off. The Cruisin’ on the Croix Car Show, Summer Tuesdays, the Stillwater Half Marathon and Memorial Day programs have also been axed.
“It’s a huge bummer,” said Robin Anthony, executive director of the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a sad time for our community to cancel these historic events.”
All might not be lost. Kozlowski said the city is looking into planning smaller events, even something such as allowing people to bring a bottle of wine, sit in Lowell Park and listen to music — socially distanced, of course.
And when COVID-19 passes, Stillwater will celebrate, somehow, some way, Kozlowski said.
“We are going to do something before the snow flies,” he said emphatically. “We will have a community celebration when we are allowed to.”