In the Cambria Town Hall lolls an aged piano. It could be a century old, who knows?
In the dim past townsfolk every Fourth of July would strap that piano onto whatever conveyance could tote it and travel two miles south of town to Wagner’s Grove.
The burg’s Welsh denizens would prop it up in the pasture and commence to singing, socializing, fireworks-ing and otherwise celebrating Independence Day, just as they had done since 1871.
On Monday Cambria will reprise its Fourth of July fete for the 140th time, thereby adding to its distinction of what is believed to be the longest-running string of consecutive July 4 observances in the state.
“It’s been remarkable,” said 80-year-old Ellis Jones of St. Peter, who grew up in the hamlet between Mankato and New Ulm.
He said Wagner’s Grove was a major attraction each July for area Welsh, who approached their Fourths with fervor.
A week beforehand area farmers would gather at the grove to spiff it up. The lay of the land produced a natural amphitheater for musical performances and poetic orations, and later a band stand was built on the site.
As a youth, Jones recalls a local poet regaling the crowd with then-shocking stanzas that riffed on female fashions of the day.
“He said tops were getting lower, the bottoms were getting higher, and he wondered if there’d come a day when the two would meet.’’
When the band stand collapsed in 1963 Fourth of July festivities were moved into Cambria and have remained there — except for on Monday, when activities will again take place in Wagner’s Grove in tribute to the town’s 140th Fourth of July celebration.
Actually, the Fourth was first feted there when Welsh settlers arrived in 1855, but then came a 10-year hiatus during the Indian/settler conflicts and the Civil War.
Cambria’s Fourth of July celebration this year will again include a necessarily brief 1 p.m. parade, which is feat enough for a town of 70 or so residents and two businesses, a saloon and a home hair salon.
Saloon operator Brenda Thorson, also the township clerk, said if it weren’t for the annual appearance of the Courtland Fire Department’s motor fleet, the parade would be a para..., or maybe just a pa.
“It’s three-fourths of it,” she said.