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The Edina 4th of July Parade is so popular, reservations are required

The Edina Fourth of July Parade draws in 25,000. Hundreds begin claiming their spots days before to ensure they get a seat.

The Edina Fourth of July Parade draws in 25,000. Hundreds begin claiming their spots days before to ensure they get a seat. Edina Community Foundation

If someone drove through Edina today, they might think something terrible just happened.

The streets are lined with hundreds of blankets and empty chairs, set up and abandoned along the curb. Some have been there since Saturday, as though onlookers fled some catastrophe over the weekend.

But for the affluent home of domineering high school hockey teams, 50th and France boutiques, and the affectionate-to-some-but-not-to-others nickname -- “cake eaters” -- this is all normal. Tomorrow is the city’s annual Fourth of July parade, and people tend to claim their spots nearly a week in advance.

Parade chair Tom Gump says about 25,000 people turn out every year, roughly half the city’s population. It’s the kind of parade where if you’re not watching, you’re in it. It’s nearly 100 units long, composed of all things Edina.

Everyone has their favorites. The wrestling team carries mats along the route, periodically throwing them down for demonstrations. There’s a giant hot air balloon basket with gushes of flame puffing out on cue. Politicians line up to gladhand -- Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar will be present this year -- with Democrats and Republicans carefully arranged so no one gets to march first two years in a row.

Then there are the musical acts -- buckets of them. River City Rhythm, one of Minnesota’s premier drum corps, always makes an appearance. There’s also the thrum of the Minnesota Police Pipe Band, the wheedling of the bagpipes audible for blocks.

The closing act is the coveted Zingrays, a classic-rock cover band known for playing the State Fair.

Parade organizers are not at liberty to disclose the budget. Some of the musical acts come with hard-fought negotiations. But the whole enterprise, Gump says, usually breaks even with the help of corporate sponsors, including Lunds/Byerly’s and U.S. Bank.

To Gump, the parade provides a sense of belonging to the community for one charmed morning. The United States is a divisive place at the moment, and its relationship with its citizens is complicated. In Edina, at least, the mood on the Fourth is one of unfettered celebration.

“There’s a really cohesive feeling around the city,” he says.

Come tomorrow, Edinans will head out to the route and shake the rain off their abandoned chairs, comfortable with the knowledge the’ve found their place.