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Editorial: For those of you who stay... and for those who don't

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opinion River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

River Falls Days is here again. Local citizens usually react in one of two ways: They either leave town for the long weekend and escape the crowds and noise, or else they stay put and plunge right in with the many festivities offered.

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For those staying, there's no shortage of things to do. As always, the biggest draw is the two-hour-plus Friday evening parade down North Main and Second streets with more than 100 colorful exhibitor units.

By the way, in case you're superstitious, that parade takes place on Friday the 13th. So our local Chamber of Commerce had good reason for giving the theme name of "Kinnistitious" for this year's River Falls Days.

Again, for those who stay, River Falls Days has something for everyone to sample:

--Daily carnival for the kids

--Burger eating contest Thursday evening at Locust and Second streets

--Live music downtown on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights

--Teen dance at Main and Walnut streets from 9-11 p.m.

--Tractor pull Saturday night on the north end Industrial Park

--Truck pull at 1 p.m. Sunday, also in the Industrial Park

--Lots of food vendors and the beer garden at various times

--Punt, Pass and Kick at 1 p.m. Saturday at UWRF's Ramer Field.

--Kiddie Parade at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the public library

--Talent show at 3:30 p.m. Saturday under the Big Tent, Locust and Second streets

--10K/two-mile run at 8 a.m. Saturday at Glen Park

--Dunk tank, various times, with local celebrities up and down for water dunking,

--Firefighters' water fight, 10 a.m. Saturday, by the fire hall on Second Street

--Fireworks display Sunday night at Hoffman Park.

That's just part of the package. The entire schedule of River Falls Days events can be found in an advertising insert in this week's Journal.

As we all know, River Falls goes relatively quiet over the July 4th holiday. Independence Day fireworks and celebrations happen elsewhere. The quiet gives way quickly the following week with the onset of River Falls Days.

That time is here. So go ahead, pick and choose from all the fun. If you do go away, check our coverage online and in next week's print edition to see what you missed.

Rescue set stage for an amazing Fourth

Anyone not touched by the missing child drama that unfolded south of Prescott last Tuesday into Wednesday could only have a heart of stone.

Hats off to all employees of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department for a masterful job of responsiveness, coordination, crowd control and quiet professionalism. Likewise, the men and women of River Falls, Ellsworth, Prescott, Spring Valley, Elmwood, Hudson and Roberts fire- and ambulance services, and volunteers from so many other agencies that stepped forward to help.

One could sense the urgency in officers' voices late Tuesday morning when the first call for help came in from the Meyer family. All available personnel responded immediately, clearly aware of the perfect storm of scorching hot weather, a lost and vulnerable five-year-old boy, and a ticking clock.

As each hour passed and more people rushed to the scene, the search appeared to scale exponentially. While the region's media turned up the volume on the story through the afternoon and evening, the call for help was amplified through Facebook and Twitter.

Anyone with children or a pet could empathize with the sheer terror the Meyer family must have felt when Scotty first went missing. That anxiety just rose in proportion to the temperature and elapsed time since his disappearance.

Add in potential hazards of steep bluffs, speeding freight trains and the presence of the Mississippi River and it set the stage for a sleepless night for many.

There was a nagging sense of hopelessness when darkness fell Tuesday and volunteers were ordered out of the field, but thankfully, no one quit.

One participant shared her admiration for Pierce deputies and various firefighters' calm professionalism in keeping order amidst 25 search teams comprised of up to 15 people, combing various areas of the neighborhood.

Pierce Lt. Mike Waltz, a search leader, said later that regular practice sessions held to prepare for Prairie Island nuclear plant emergencies certainly helped, but no one had much formal training in organizing a search of the scale and sheer numbers that quickly became involved last Tuesday.

Technology definitely helped, made available in part through the Sheriff's Department's mobile command center, GIS map resources, aircraft and heat-sensing thermal cameras and the ability to patch all departments' communication gear onto the same channel.

There were so many departments and groups that appeared to help, Waltz said Sheriff Nancy Hove is hesitant to try and compile a list.

Among the variety of players -- deputies from the Scott County, Minn., Sheriff's Department; volunteers from the Shafer-Franconia Fire Dept. near Taylors Falls, Minn.; and the parent of an autistic man who also became lost in Burnett County several years ago; as well as the entire third-shift of employees from the Bay City sand mine, complete with light-equipped helmets, who spent the night searching for the lost boy instead of extracting sand.

And then there were the hundreds of people who rose early on July 4th to report to Prescott High School, prepared to spend the day searching.

Then of course there was the unselfish participation by Jason Moser and "Autumn," the senior golden retriever. The pair served up a made-for-TV ending to what could well have been an otherwise tragic outcome. A parent himself with a child roughly Scotty's age, Moser said "we couldn't imagine losing him and would do anything for him."

As one Twin Cities reporter commented when wrapping her stand-up from outside St. Paul Children's Hospital, "It just shows the sense of community that exists among these people in western Wisconsin..."

We've known that for a long time, but last week's action by so many unsung heroes really reaffirms it.

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