No wake? No problem for annual boat parade

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This is a scene from last year’s Fourth of July boat parade on Crystal Lake in Burnsville. (Submitted photo)

Crystal Lake will host Fourth of July event

No wake? No problem, at least for the slow-moving boaters who will revive an annual tradition Friday on Burnsville’s Crystal Lake.

It’s the Fourth of July boat parade, which starts at 8 p.m. after a 6 p.m. picnic social.

“The water is high. We’ve been on a no-wake restriction for 12 days,” Crystal Lake homeowner Greg Klaus said Monday. “But the boat parade goes slow, so the boat parade by definition is a no-wake parade. The no-wake restriction doesn’t affect how the parade goes.”

Those who don’t live on or near a lake may not realize how entrenched in lakeshore culture Independence Day boat parades are.

“I’d say a lake without a Fourth of July parade is like a hamburger without ketchup. It just doesn’t make sense,” said Klaus, current president of the 52-year-old Crystal Lake Improvement Association.
The boaters — mostly lakeshore residents — festoon their pontoons, runabouts and even jet skis in Independence Day garb. Beth Breeden, a Crystal Lake homeowner for 15 years, said she started a contest for the best-decorated boat in 2011.

“Obviously, red, white and blue is a theme,” said Klaus, an eight-year lakeshore homeowner. “And U.S. and pirate flags are a common theme.”

The city of Burnsville issued the no-wake restriction, which limits all watercraft to puttering speeds that don’t make waves. The restriction, prompted by all the recent rainfall, is in place to protect the 292-acre southeast Burnsville lake’s shoreline from erosion.

“If there were areas on our lake that were dangerous because of the high water level, we wouldn’t encourage the parade to go on,” Klaus said. “But the boat launch is open, and as long as people follow the no-wake, people can boat and the parade will go on as planned.”

By city ordinance, the no-wake restriction kicks in when the water level reaches 934.6 feet above sea level, according to the lakeshore association’s website. The lake’s normal level is 931.62 feet.

A watershed drainage system keeps water moving through several of Burnsville’s main water bodies, from Keller Lake to Crystal Lake to Earley Lake to Sunset Pond and on to the Minnesota River, Klaus said.

“It’s all gravity and watershed,” he said, noting that a 48-inch pipe was installed in the 1970s to transport water away from a then flood-prone Crystal Lake. “Keller is what fills up first.”

Most of the parade participants are residents and their guests, Klaus said. But, Breeden noted, anyone is welcome to drop their boat at the public boat ramp at Crystal Lake West Park and join in.

“We’ve given them root beer floats in the past,” she said of the nonresident participants. “It’s not just for people who live on the lake. Anybody can participate.”

The parade usually features anywhere from a dozen to two dozen boats, Klaus said. Homeowners and their Fourth of July guests often gather on their docks to watch.

“Generally the more boats you have in the parade, the fewer people are watching, because they’re in the parade,” Klaus said.

The general public can watch, too. Public access points are Crystal Beach on the east side of the lake, West Park Beach (also known as Cherry Beach)  on the west, the boat ramp and a public fishing dock.

This year’s event, hosted by lakeshore homeowners Pat and Tony Miller, is slated to begin on Pik Nik Island near Crystal Beach, where boaters are encouraged to tie up and gather for hot dogs, beans, chips and desserts.

Breeden said Tuesday it was uncertain whether the city would grant a permit for use of the island because of the high water.

“Our default location is West Park Beach like it has been in the past,” she said.

The boat chosen best decorated will lead the parade at 8 p.m.

“It takes a good 45 minutes to circle the main part of the lake if you’re going slow,” Breeden said.

In recent years the lakeshore association has taken a greater role in supporting and promoting the resident-managed event, said Klaus, a project manager and supply-chain professional at Medtronic whose wife, Cyndi, is a partner at the Larkin Hoffman law firm. They have two daughters, one at Echo Park Elementary in Burnsville and one at Valley Middle School in Apple Valley.

Life on Crystal Lake is “up-north living with city taxes,” Klaus said. “How many people can have a nice lake experience and then are five minutes from Costco or Sam’s Club?”

The lake has been quieter this season with repeated no-wake restrictions.

“There are two schools of thought,” Klaus said. “The wakeboarders and the skiers and the jet skiers find it a hardship. There are an equal number of people who enjoy the relative tranquility of no-wake. It might be a wash.”