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Parkettes: History

Excerpts taken from the St. Louis Park Historical Society:

The Parkettes consisted of up to 40 girls each year between the ages of 15 and 17. Each year, trials were held to replace the older girls.

The Parkettes were an independent organization, separate from the high school. The practiced in and around the school, and in smaller groups they performed as the high school cheerleaders.

The Parkette program was a unique program. At the time it was begun there were few opportunities for high school girls to participate in activities. This program provided them with the opportunity to develop self confidence, discipline, and the ability to present themselves well.

In the spring of 1956, someone decided that a dance line would be a wonderful addition to the St. Louis Park spirit. They approached Mrs. Fran Libby with the idea of being the group's choreographer. Her enthusiasm moved the idea forward, and for the next 12 years, she was the dance line leader. All of the girls were from St. Louis Park High School.

For the first years they danced at Park High basketball games and then at the District and Regional games in William Arena. They went on to perform in the Aquatennial, St. Paul Winter Carnival, and many other occasions.

In 1958, they did double duty as the Lakerettes and performed at the Lake basketball games in the Minneapolis Armory. They became well known and were invited to perform nationally on television, at conventions, at the Rose Bowl, and many other events. In 1964 they were invited to act as the cheerleaders at the Viking football games. This continued through 1983 when the Viking Manager, Mike Lynn, decided that he wanted more mature cheerleaders a la the Dallas Cowgirls.

From 1965 until 1983, the Parkettes were cheerleaders for the Vikings. The 1965 Echowan contained the following commentary about the Parkettes: "At seventeen you girls can't ever bend your knees," harped Mrs. Fran Libby, Parkette advisor. With this constant prodding plus strenuous practices, Parkettes achieved near-perfection.

They were asked by the Minnesota State Department of Corrections to be part of a group who entertained at the St. Cloud Reformatory. Touring the cell blocks and seeing the gratitude on the inmates' faces distressed but deeply gratified them.

What they experienced at St. Cloud was different from the joy they felt dancing at the St. Paul Winter Carnival and the excitement tasted whenever they gave a televised performance at a Lakers NBA game. Not quite as exciting as television was dancing at a Vikings football game in freezing temperatures wearing only skirts and sweaters. But gold megaphone charms given the girls who dance at every game more than compensated for the cold toes and frostbitten hands.

The highlight of the year for the girls who danced for the Parkettes was the trips they took during spring breaks. The destinations were varied and included Greece, Italy, Venezuela, the Bahamas, Panama, and Hawaii several times. They often performed for foreign audiences on these trips.

The trips were paid for by the earnings of the Parkettes and the Fan Club. The Vikings and Lakers paid the Parkette organization for their appearance and performance at the games. The Parkette parents sold programs at the Viking games for concession commissions. The girls contributed money from individual jobs such as babysitting.

Being selected as a member of the Parkettes was a commitment that required hard work.