Mike Anderson, at the top of the Highland Park Water Tower, stood on the crowded observation deck, looking out against two downtown skylines, the bald fields of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, and trees showing crisp leaves of every color.
“This is the best turnout in five or six years,” Anderson said, dodging a fully uniformed Cub Scout running past him. More than 400 hundred people gathered to climb the 151 spiral stairs up the Highland Park Water Tower last Saturday and Sunday, October 11 and 12.
Anderson, who works for St. Paul Regional Water Services, said weather dictates the choice of weekends to open the water tower. “We try to open it up during what we think will be the best two weekends, and I think we got pretty close.”
The still functional water tower rises 127 feet above the intersection of Snelling Avenue and Ford Parkway in St. Paul. With a 200,000 gallon water tank at its center, the 80-year-old tower is operated by the St. Paul Regional Water services, and opened to the public twice a year.
The stairs in front of the tower are a familiar post for Chy Lee, of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, which offers security services for the event. Lee said he has already been up to the observation deck a few times to take in the panoramic view of the cities.
“They open it in July, but it’s the best now because you can see all the trees changing over,” Lee said. Lee said he often holds this post when the tower opens to the public, but acknowledged that this weekend’s turnout was huge.
There was plenty of activity happening on ground level, as well. The Saint Paul Regional Water Services had information available for anyone wanting to learn about water conservation, while a family-owned farm sold honey and pumpkins from a pickup truck in the parking lot, and countless children played catch with footballs, or dove into leaf piles.
With a smile Lee said, “The Sheriff’s department offers security services whenever they host this event… I prefer to be here today.”
Maura Youngman is a journalism student at Hamline University and an intern at the Twin Cities Daily Planet.