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76 Trombones leading the big parade? No but there will be marching bands. After a 55-year hiatus, Eden Prairie will again have a parade this year on Saturday, May 30th. The parade route will be along Valley View road, starting at the west side of the high school, and then turning right on Eden Prairie Road. With the support and encouragement of the City, the Eden Prairie Lions Club, is organizing what is officially being called the Eden Prairie Schooner Days Parade. The Lions Club is holding its annual Schooner Days event that same weekend.

What did the parade look like 55 years ago? A small parade marched along Flying Cloud Drive near the old Flying Cloud Theater. That theater closed in 1989. The highway was shut down by the Minneapolis Police. This was long before Eden Prairie had its own police department.  A small procession of units, including two Connaughty girls representing the graduating class of 1982, moved down the highway. The viewers were enthusiastic, if sparse.

What brought the local parade back to life? The simple answer is years of persistence by Curt Connaughty and the support of Mayor Ron Case. These two, and especially Curt, were the cheerleaders for organizing another parade.

Curt came to Eden Prairie in the 1950’s to accept a teaching position. He’s been active in the community ever since. He was the high school’s first football coach, he coached track and he became a principal at the high school. Since he retired a few years back, he remains active in the sports scene by being a timekeeper at football games and a starter for track meets.

But why an interest in parades? One clue is that he and his wife Mary have attended the Bayport Memorial Day parade for over sixty years. Another is the twinkle in his eye when he talks about parades. Spry and active at age 88, there is a skip in his gait just thinking about the parade. He enjoys the hard work it’s taken, and will take, to put on the parade. But he is especially proud of the opportunity to bring many facets of our diverse community together to put on and to celebrate a parade.

Connaughty found a fellow parade lover in Mayor Ron Case. The two of them conspired and cajoled the City to approve, and the Eden Prairie Lions Club to take on the formidable task of organizing a parade. Curt heads the committee that has been working hard since last October to make this event a success. They got a bit lucky finding Lion Club President Gary Watkins with an interest for and an understanding of parades. Gary through his business has been active and with the Osseo Lions ROAR parade for many years. His knowledge base has been a great help with the task of defining actions needed, approvals required, and helping ensure the commitment of the Lions Club. Curt, Mayor Ron and Gary have all worked on the committee that has been working hard for months to bring a parade to our community.

Curt is delighted and amazed at the cooperation and support he’s been given with what’s turned out to be a monumental undertaking. Although it’s not the first parade, the committee really had to start from scratch. City staff from the city manager, the police chief, and almost every department have contributed to the effort. The county approved the use of Eden Prairie Road for part of the route. The local radio club, the AV group from the high school, and many local businesses and organizations will be working to make this year’s parade a success.

The theme for the parade is, "We are many, but today we are one.” The organizing committee is working hard to include representation from many facets of our diverse community.

What will the parade consist of? There will be marching bands, drum units, dancers, floats, antique cars, tractors, firetrucks, police vehicles, politicians and many surprises. The announcers for the parade will be located on the footbridge, with a PA system to let everyone know what’s passing.

From 1965 when Eden Prairie’s population was a bit more than 2,000 residents, to today when the population is over 60,000, the village, now a City, has changed dramatically. Most all of the farms are gone, you don’t see horses on city streets anymore, and homes, businesses and parks take up most of the developable land in the city. We may not have a defined downtown, but we have pride in our community and a parade is a measure of that pride, a celebration of community and just an old-fashioned reason to have fun.

The Lions welcome everyone’s participation in the parade. You and your organization or business may enter a unit in the parade, or you can just come out as a family to enjoy the spectacle. For more information, or to request a parade unit application, email Connaughty at or Rick Jensen at