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Stillwater ‘Lumberjack Days’ Back On, But With New Controversy

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(credit: CBS) Nina Moini
Nina Moini joined the WCCO-TV team in August of 2013. She reports f...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This Friday marks the 80th anniversary of the Stillwater Lumberjack Days Celebration.

The festival ended a couple of years ago after a financial scandal involving the past promoter.

This year, the city asked a group of locals to bring back the festival under the new name ‘Log Jam.’

It kicks off Friday, but controversy continues despite the makeover.

Historic Stillwater has a lot to offer, and residents like Laurie Kuepker don’t mind sharing.

“We love how quaint it is here. We walk every day and it’s just a beautiful sight,” Kuepker said.

That’s why it was great news to many when word came from Mayor Ken Harycki that Lumberjack Days was back on this year, as the new and improved Log Jam.

“The town wanted to go back to the roots, which was kind of a hometown festival,” Harycki said. “A little smaller in scale, maybe without the national band.”

But not everyone felt the hometown love. Organizers said any political candidate who wanted to be in the parade had to pay $1,000 — hundreds of dollars more than other group.

Mayor Harycki says the expensive charge deterred candidates from entering. No one raised any questions until this week, when word spread that the group was breaking a state law by upping the price for politicians.

But organizers for the event say they had no idea they were breaking any rules and they were just trying to listen to feedback from the community.

The group, called The Locals, didn’t want to go on camera but talked to WCCO via email.

“The biggest complaint we heard about the past parade was that there were simply too many politicians and they wanted to see more of the floats they remembered from their youth,” said the group’s spokesperson.

The Locals say as soon as they learned about the state law on Tuesday, they changed the entry fee to $375 for everyone.

But the mayor says while he doesn’t think the group intentionally broke any laws, it’s simply too late for many politicians to get organized for the weekend event that could have been a great chance to meet voters and show involvement in the community.

For the people of Stillwater, the main attraction is, and will always be, Stillwater.

“I don’t really care if they are there or not,” said resident Mark Sweet.

Mayor Harycki says he would be confident in using the same organizers next year. Log Jam starts Friday and runs through Sunday.

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