MSUM scraps Fourth of July celebration after 43 years
MOORHEAD - Minnesota State University Moorhead will stop hosting its annual Fourth of July celebration after 43 years because the event is not in line with the university's mission, MSUM's president said Monday.
MOORHEAD – Minnesota State University Moorhead will stop hosting its annual Fourth of July celebration after 43 years because the event is not in line with the university's mission, MSUM's president said Monday. The event cost $35,000 plus the cost of having 25 to 30 staff members work on the holiday, President Anne Blackhurst said. She announced the decision in a campuswide email Monday, saying it "came after a great deal of thought and lengthy conversation" and "with genuine regret." Mayor Del Rae Williams said she was saddened by the decision but understood it was in the university's best interest. "If a school decides they need to focus on their students, you can't argue with that," Williams said.
For most of its 43-year existence, MSUM's Fourth of July celebration was the dominant event for the holiday in the region. The event was scaled back in recent years, and in 2013 Bonanzaville in West Fargo started having its own Fourth of July celebration with fireworks. Blackhurst said in an interview that MSUM's Fourth of July celebration was canned because it did not jibe with the university's goals, or "strategic anchors." The university's three "strategic anchors" are "focusing on student achievement," "embedding and supporting diversity" and "being indispensable to the communities we serve." With those criteria in mind, administrators are "evaluating programs and activities across the university and making, in some cases, hard decisions" about which programs to keep, Blackhurst said. "Even for folks who are disappointed about this decision, I think most people can understand that as a university, our top priority has to be education," she said. MSUM's Fourth of July celebration was geared toward community members and had little student involvement because it took place during summer break, Williams and Blackhurst said. The event was held at Nemzek Stadium on campus until last year, when it was moved to the Bluestem Center for the Arts due to construction on campus. The evening celebration included fireworks, kids' games and music. Blackhurst said the event did bring MSUM some benefits, including community goodwill and introducing people to the school, but that was not enough to merit keeping the event. Eliminating it gives MSUM the opportunity to start new programs and events that better fit the school's mission. For example, Blackhurst and Williams said they were working together with area universities on a back-to-school event to be held this September in downtown Moorhead. To those disappointed to lose the Fourth of July event, Blackhurst said: "I understand completely their disappointment and sense of loss. I hope that they understand the university is really trying to be true to its educational mission." Blackhurst made a similar statement in March 2015, when MSUM forced the shutdown of the Ponderosa golf course because the university needed the land for scientific research. Blackhurst said at the time that the course was "not core to the university's purpose."