As spring ends, summer social life heats up with 4th of July gatherings featuring fireworks and picnics. Grab your straw hat, dust off the picnic hamper and load up a cooler for a good time at celebrations in Rochester and throughout southeastern Minnesota.
Here are six fun things to do in Rochester and surrounding communities. They include multi-day festivals, a baseball game ending in fireworks and an old-fashioned band concert featuring patriotic marches and show tunes.
Bandshell Community Park (4th Street and 9th Place SW) and other locations, Austin (507) 437-4561 Austin is a 43-minute drive southwest of Rochester through farm country along Interstate 90. Its five-day Freedom Fest begins with a free jazz concert at the Hormel Historic Home followed by a street dance sponsored by the Austin Junior Chamber of Commerce. The festival concludes with a "grand old Fourth" featuring an Independence Day parade, beer garden, bingo, horse-drawn wagon rides, live entertainment and giant fireworks display at dusk.
Mayo Field, 403 East Center Street, Rochester (507) 289-1170 Nationwide, collegiate or wood bat baseball leagues give the best college players a chance to attract attention from major league teams seeking players for their minor league teams. The Honkers is a collegiate team based in Rochester and is part of the Northwoods League.
On July 1, the Honkers play the Willmar Stingers. Concessions and a Sports Deck happy hour will be part of the fun along with fireworks following the game. General admission is $8, and grandstand reserved admission is $9.
Selvig Park, Harmony (507) 886-2469 The Amish community of Harmony calls itself the "biggest little town in southern Minnesota." Tourism is big in this town of about 1,000 residents, which is a 23-minute drive north of Rochester on Lake Zumbro.
Highlights of the 4-day festival will include a singing contest, bean bag tournament, beer tent, pancake breakfast, free pony rides, an arts and crafts fair and a smoked pork chop dinner. If you love the Three Stooges, don't miss the festival's marathon of their movies.
City Park, Blooming Prairie (507) 583-4472 It's no surprise that tractor pulls as well as pickle and pie judging contests are among the attractions at Blooming Prairie's annual Independence Day festival. This is a farm community at heart. Blooming Prairie is a 47-minute drive southwest of Rochester via routes 63 and 30. This year, it celebrates the 150th anniversary of its incorporation as well as its 43rd annual Old Fashioned Fourth featuring hoola hoop and stick horse racing, car shows, helicopter rides and fireworks.
July 4: Oronoco 4th of July Fireworks
Oronoco Park, downtown Oronoco (507) 367-4405 If you simply want to see fireworks on the Fourth and not too far from Rochester, the display in this lake town begins at 10 p.m. It's about a 16-minute drive north of the city off of Route 52.
July 4: Free Riverside Concert
Silver Lake Park, 7th Street NE, Rochester (507) 328-2200 Fourth of July events in Rochester, include a free performance by the Rochester Concert Band. They'll play traditional favorites such as John Philip Sousa's "Washington Post March" and George Gershwin's Summertime" beginning at 8:30 p.m. on the Silver Lake Park soccer field. It's okay to bring coolers, drinks, food, blankets and lawn chairs, but not dogs unless they are service animals.
Parties at Home Sweet Apartment Home
Many people prefer to enjoy the 4th of July weekend at home. The Rochester Springs at South Broadway apartment community offers a resort-style swimming pool and community clubhouse for holiday gatherings. Four-legged family members can enjoy Independence Day in Rochester by socializing in our leash-free, fenced dog playgrounds.