The Founders Day Soirée will still take place this year on August 20 in Marine On St. Croix. But, like everything else these days, it will bend its knee to COVID-19 regulations.
The second annual event will look different than the inaugural celebration last summer, but will still feature many of the same activities.
The event was inspired by a popular French celebration called Soirée en Blanc, or party in white.
“It’s basically kind of a pop up dinner party,” said Charlie Anderson, who helps organize the Founders Day event. “There’s a secret invite and everybody wears white and shows up at a predetermined time. There’s usually live music and dancing and then at a certain time, everybody packs up and poof, they’re gone, just like they’d never been there. So that’s kind of the concept that it’s based on.”
Anderson and the other organizers mixed that idea with the founding of Marine on St. Croix, and came up with the Founder’s Day Soirée. Marine was discovered as a suitable location for a sawmill in 1838, but the mill wasn’t actually founded until a year later. “The first log came off the first commercial sawmill in what was the territory of Minnesota on August 24, 1839,” Anderson said. “So the event commemorates the cutting of the first lumber at what would become Marine Mills and then eventually Marine on St. Croix.”
The event will feature all the happenings of a Soirée en Blanc, with some added midwestern flavor. There will be food, games and live music from the Riverside Hitmen. Guests are encouraged to wear white or, if they’re feeling a little more locally inspired, dress like a lumberjack. A white pine log will be cut with an old fashioned handsaw and will be branded with the year 1839 to commemorate the founders.
The event will be held in Burris Park and will begin at 7 p.m. Tables will all be spaced six feet apart and social distancing will be encouraged.
Anderson is excited to celebrate the history of Marine and the founding of the mill, but said the event is about remembering other pieces of Minnesota history as well.
“This is a celebration, but it’s also important to remember we had a large forested area of the state that built the homes along the whole upper Midwest, down through Ohio and Illinois and Indiana, and we lost a pretty substantial forest at the same time,” he said. “Not to take anything away from the ingenuity or the industry of lumber, but it’s also about knowing that we need to take care of our forests and natural resources.”
The history of indigenous people that called Marine home long before the lumber industry showed up is also part of the celebration.
“The folks that came up certainly weren’t the first people here,” Anderson said. “So the event is also about thinking about the history of the indigenous peoples that lived in the area as well.”
Anderson and the rest of the organizers considered cancelling the event in light of the ongoing pandemic, but decided they could largely mitigate the risk.
“Really with this being what it is and having the outdoor space in Burris Park and the ability to socially distance, we felt we could hold this event safely,” Anderson said. “And we thought if we could also contribute to a sense of community that it was really important to do so, to reconnect as neighbors and friends.”